Mature Age Rookies – FEB2018

Written by Schwarzwalder on February 14 2018

(Originally appeared in the Herald Sun on 13/2/18, written by Al Paton & Kate Salemme)


SELECTING premium players and the top draftees from last year is only the beginning when it comes to SuperCoach.

Everyone knows the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Dustin Martin, Josh Kelly and Gary Ablett will be among the topscorers, while North Melbourne’s Luke Davies-Uniacke, Richmond’s Jack Higgins and Brisbane’s Cam Rayner are among the most popular picks so far of last year’s draftees.

But when it comes to picking a successful side, you need to look deeper into the draft selections and trades of last year and even the year or two before to unlock the key to SuperCoach.

That means searching and finding the diamonds in the rough of the cash cow world — the mature-age “rookies”.

These players will either be your last players on the field in defence, midfield and forward line or become crucial role players generating cash on your bench.

Paul Ahern is one of the most popular SuperCoach picks so far this year. Picture: David Smith
Former Port Adelaide defender Cam O’Shea is great value in defence for the Blues. Picture: Getty

Scroll below to read the top prospects you should consider in each position to fill the cash cow role and who could become key scorers for your side in 2018.

Some you would have heard of, others you may not have. So who do you pick?

We’re here to help.



Collingwood fans were stunned at what their club gave up to secure former Sydney rookie Sam Murray but clearly coach Nathan Buckley has a role in mind for the 19-year-old. After the retirement of Ben Sinclair and delisting of Jackson Ramsay at the end of last year, combined with the departure of Marley Williams at the end of 2016, the Magpies are desperate for a dashing halfback who can also play on the opposition small forwards and it seems Murray will be that man. Brayden Maynard will spend more time in the midfield in 2018 so Murray should get loads of opportunities to impress. Excelled in the NEAFL as a defender where he was rated elite for uncontested possessions and score involvements and above average for intercept possessions, contested possessions, disposals and clearances. The only knock is he has been limited over preseason after arriving from the Swans with a pre-existing injury. A must-have.


Cam O’Shea is the must-have SuperCoach cash cow of 2018 and if you’ve signed up and picked your team already but don’t have him, then you may as well pack up now. O’Shea is guaranteed to play 22 games for Carlton this year, barring something dramatic happening, following the season-ending ACL injury to Sam Docherty. The Blues love to play through their halfbacks and O’Shea, after playing 81 games for Port Adelaide, will be the go-to man alongside veteran Kade Simpson. That means points, points and more points.


One of the more intriguing prospects this year, Dylan Buckley has been thrown a lifeline by GWS and is available for dirt cheap. We know the Giants pluck experienced players to fill roles — Matt de Boer and Tendai Mzungu anyone? — and Buckley can fill a role across multiple positions. The con is he’s only available as a defender and he’s never been a prolific SuperCoach scorer — his best season was 2014 when he averaged 55.8 points from eight matches. He could be a downgrade option around the byes but not solid enough to start with in your side at Round 1.

Former Blue Dylan Buckley has been rookie listed by GWS. Picture: Wayne Ludbey
Alex Morgan is looking for more senior opportunities at North Melbourne after leaving Essendon. Picture: Getty


Another of the forgotten recruits during the off-season, Alex Morgan switched from Essendon to North Melbourne for more senior opportunities and should get them at Arden St. A rebound defender, Morgan should feature during the preseason and is one to keep an eye on before committing to him in your Round 1 side. Hasn’t set the world on fire in the VFL, rated below average for Champion Data ranking points, disposals, contested and uncontested possessions. Still, if he is a regular for North Melbourne and can average around the 60 mark, you’d take it.


Crows fans and SuperCoach players hope Doedee will step straight into the spot in the Adelaide backline vacated by Jake Lever. A former No. 17 draft pick, Doedee plays just like Lever — he was the No. 1 intercept player in the SANFL last season (a stat rated highly in SuperCoach). He also finished second in the Crows’ state league best-and-fairest, behind veteran Scott Thompson. If he’s part of the back six (Alex Keath and Kyle Cheney are other contenders for the Lever vacancy), he’s a safe bench pick.


We couldn’t, could we? Luckless Swan Alex Johnson finally made his return from five knee reconstructions at the end of last year and played nine games in the NEAFL, which was a great sign. He’s been redrafted as a rookie and will likely spend more time in the second-tier competition before featuring at AFL level. Not in the equation at this stage but if he starts tearing it up, we could be tempted as a mid-season downgrade option. Had had to undergo minor groin surgery after experiencing hip and groin pain.

Is Alex Johnson’s luck going to turn? Picture: Phil Hillyard


Missed all of last season with achilles and foot injuries but is back fit and will be hoping to impress in the JLT Series to push for a Round 1 spot. Is behind Jake Carlisle and Nathan Brown, however, as key defenders so where he fits exactly remains to be seen. Job security both back and forward, where he can also play, isn’t great. Pass.


At 26 years of age the former Box Hill Hawks defender finally has his opportunity at AFL level after Hawthorn picked him up in the rookie draft. While available at a bargain-basement price, don’t expect Mirra to earn you much cash this year as he’s most likely at Waverely as insurance should Alastair Clarkson’s side have another horror run with injuries down back. Mirra can play both tall and small, which does work in his favour and racked up the most Champion Data ranking points of any defender to play 10 or more games in the VFL last year.



He was a lock in most SuperCoach teams at this time last year but Mitchell Hibberd failed to live up to a bright pre-season, scoring just 23 points in Round 1 then not making another senior appearance until Round 15. The same theory applies this year — he can win the footy and the Kangas need to blood young players, but it would take a big leap of faith, especially at his elevated price.

Mitchell Hibberd was popular last year. Picture: Michael Klein


Was a popular rookie selection after he was selected for Round 1 last year but lasted only 16 minutes before suffering a serious shoulder injury. Still in the rookie price bracket but is on a modified training program as he recovers from a leg injury. Better options elsewhere.


Irishman broke through for two senior games in his first season, which is a fair effort but scored 28 and 35 SuperCoach points. Pass.



The third-most popular mature-age selection of the draftees from last year so far, Kelly looms as a must-have barring any preseason mishap. Coach Chris Scott has already flagged an early-season debut for the 23-year-old — but we’re expecting him to feature from the outset in Round 1 as the Cats look to inject more speed into its line-up. He will play across half forward but can also push up into the midfield. Use the ball really well and has no trouble finding it. He’s a lock.


The former Demon is the forgotten man after Port Adelaide went on a recruiting spree over the off-season but he could prove the most valuable to SuperCoaches. Barry played five games for the Demons back in 2014 before stepping away from football but after a standout season in the SANFL is ready to give an AFL career his best shot. The 23-year-old has already been labelled as one of the standouts at Power training and assistant coach Matthew Nicks declared him the best runner he has seen. In fact, he said: “It wouldn’t surprise me if we see him a lot earlier (at AFL level) than most people would probably have predicted.” Big tick.

Dom Barry has been a standout at Port Adelaide training. Picture: Tom Huntley


A former top-10 draft pick priced as a rookie? Yes please. Kangaroo Paul Ahern is coming off an ACL injury but after missing all of 2016 and 2017 the former Giant is now fit and ready to get his AFL career started. North Melbourne are in the rebuild phase and their kids are getting plenty of senior exposure so load up on the royal blue and whites. Ahern last played NEAFL in 2015 and impressed by gathering 30 disposals or more five times and is rated elite for disposal efficiency and uncontested possessions, while rated above average for clearances. He’s in my team.



The tenth-most popular player in SuperCoach so far this year, Garlett is expected to be a regular for the Blues this season after being plucked from South Fremantle in the biggest shock of draft night last year. The former No.15 draft pick played 17 games for Gold Coast — and didn’t set the world on fire in SuperCoach — before walking away from footy to deal with a family matter but has vowed to make the most of his second chance. He has been on a modified training program and did not compete in match simulation late last month, so that is a concern. If he doesn’t feature in any preseason matches SuperCoaches won’t have any indication where he’ll play or if he’ll suffer the Pickett curse we touched on earlier. He’s worth the risk and is in my side but I’ve got some concerns. Can we trust him?

Jarrod Garlett in action at Carlton’s pre-season training camp. Picture: Michael Klein
Crow-turned-Sun Harrison Wigg expects to be fit for Round 1. Picture: Richard Gosling


Former Crow Wigg was a lock before he fractured his foot in early December but a fortnight ago said “I’m available for Round 1 at this stage.” The 21-year-old won’t feature in AFLX or the JLT Series and so could be held back for some match fitness before earning his debut. Will be a very late addition to thousands of SuperCoach sides if he’s picked in Round 1, so don’t forget about him. Even if he plays NEAFL in Round 1, you’d think his senior debut wouldn’t be too far away — the Suns need senior bodies in the midfield.


Every footy fan is hoping Jack Trengove finally gets a clear run at an AFL career after the former No.2 draft pick has battled so many injuries and setbacks but he’s not really in the SuperCoach frame. Won’t be in Port’s best 22 at the start of the season but could be a downgrade option mid-season if he finds form and wins selection.


The rookie draft often throws up a few surprises and it was definitely a shock when former Blue Nick Holman landed at the Suns after a stellar season in the SANFL where he won the Central District best and fairest. Gold Coast need experienced bodies in the midfield and Holman, despite being on the rookie list, should feature early and be a good contributor both for the Suns and as a SuperCoach cash cow. He averaged 26 disposals and seven score involvements in the SANFL last year and was rated elite for contested possessions. All good news in SuperCoach land.

Do the Blues have a specific role in mind for former Sun Matt Shaw? Picture: Richard Gosling
Brayden Ainsworth is a tough inside midfielder.


While most of the SuperCoach cash cow attention has been on fellow recruits Cam O’Shea and Jarrod Garlett, Shaw has also come into the Carlton system after seven seasons at Gold Coast. He plays his best footy across halfback or on the wing, which suits the Blues perfectly given the serious injury to Sam Docherty. Shaw could slot in alongside O’Shea down back and is one to watch over the preseason, although he is one of the more pricey cash cow options, so tread carefully. His best SuperCoach season came in 2013 when he averaged 72.8 points from 18 matches. The 26-year-old’s average usually hovers around the 60 mark, which would be handy as a bench option.


All the SuperCoach noise at West Coast is around Liam Ryan and Nic Naitanui but last year’s No.32 pick Brayden Ainsowrth could be a smoky. The 19-year-old is a midfield bull and with the Eagles looking to replace Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell, Ainsworth could be a ready-made replacement. He’s already played against senior bodies in the WAFL Colts and was a standout, ranked second for disposals and fourth for clearances. He was also prominent in the Under-18 Championships, winning more clearances than any other player. Has been selected in the Eagles’ AFLX side, so we’ll get an early look at him. One to monitor.


Is 2018 the year Nathan Freeman finally makes his AFL debut? He is a cash cow in waiting but his body is the massive question mark given he breaks down at training and in the VFL, so how will he go in the pressure-cooker that is AFL level? Has had an interrupted pre-season but has completed his own program and was involved in some of the Saints’ match simulation last week, which is a promising sign. Wait and see if he features for the Saints during the JLT Series as that will give us an idea if he’s close to a debut.

Nathan Freeman is one of the top cash cow options but will his body hold up? Picture: Getty


One of Gold Coast’s prized top-10 picks in 2016, Brodie played just the three senior games last year so is still available for a reasonable price. He didn’t light up SuperCoach, averaging just 42.7 points in those games but performed really well in the NEAFL, rating above average for disposals, contested and uncontested possessions, clearances and score involvements. With another pre-season under his belt, the 19-year-old could be ready to find that form at AFL level. Keep an eye on him during the JLT Series.



After delisting Zac Clarke and Jonathon Griffin the Docker replenished their ruck stocks with a couple of mature-agers and Jones is one of those from East Perth. He’s quick and has good endurance for his size, while he can also push forward and kick goals. Will be behind Aaron Sandilands and Sean Darcy in the pecking order. Bench option as captaincy loophole.


Meek is a good athlete for his size, is clean at ground level and his ruck work is impressive, ranked fifth for hit-outs to advantage in the TAC Cup but will obviously be behind Aaron Sandilands and Sean Darcy and possibly Scott Jones in the pecking order. Like Jones he’s not a dual position player but could be a ruck bench option to use as a captaincy loophole.



West Coast is looking to inject more speed and x-factor into its team and mature-age recruit Liam Ryan is one who should be given plenty of opportunities. The 21-year-old is expected to be unleashed for West Coast in their AFLX matches after showing glimpses of brilliance while training with the forwards over preseason. The only concern with Ryan could be how much time he spends as a small forward — last year SuperCoaches were burnt by popular cash cow Jarrod Pickett who averaged just 46.2 points as a small forward and was in and out of the Carlton side. Ex-Hawthorn recruiter Gary Buckenara says Ryan plays like superstar Cyril Rioli.

Liam Ryan has a heap of talent. Picture: Getty
Stewart Crameri will cost you more but is he worth it? Picture: Peter Ristevski


While about $55,000 more expensive than the cheapest of last year’s draftees — No.1 pick Cam Rayner costs $202,800 — Crameri is at an enticing price given he should slot straight into Geelong’s forward set up as the club looks for more avenues to goal. The concern is Crameri has played only two games since 2015 after his drugs ban in 2016 and hip issues that restricted him last year. He had his best SuperCoach season way back in 2011 when he averaged 83 points as a Bomber but since then has averaged 78.5, 72.4, 68.0, 43.4 and 58.5 in his two games in 2017. The plus is he should get plenty of supply from the superstar Cats midfield so there are points to be grabbed but can he perform well enough to cement his spot in the best 22? He’s not in my team at this stage, not sure the reward is good enough to justify the risk.


Fremantle has been a SuperCoaches dream for cash cows with Luke Ryan, Alex Pearce, Sam Collins, Tendai Mzungu and Michael Barlow all popular money-making picks in recent years and Sam Switkowski could be the next cab off the rank. Plucked from the VFL where he played as a small forward for Box Hill last year and booted 19 goals from 12 matches, it is his speed, pressure and competitiveness that catches the eye and is something the Dockers desperately need up forward. He’s not huge, listed at 178cm and 70kg, but the Dockers need a player of his ilk as Hayden Ballantyne nears the end of his career and Michael Walters spends more time in the midfield. Definitely on the watch list and should be given opportunities during preseason.


GWS desperately needs a nippy small forward to ramp up their forward pressure after being too top heavy last year and little-known draftee Zac Giles-Langdon could get first crack at the role. The 22-year-old was selected with pick 56 in the national draft and is ready to go after spending the last two seasons playing against the bigger bodies in the WAFL for Claremont. He has great endurance and elite running and foot skills and can also push up the ground. Keep an eye on the Giants during the JLT Series to see if he features and keep your eyes peeled for their Round 1 side. One to watch with interest.

Bayley Fritsch in action for Casey in the VFL. Picture: Getty


Last year it was Mitch Hannan, this year it’s Bayley Fritsch. Melbourne now has a bit of a history of plucking players from the VFL and turning them into valuable role players. The Demons know Fritsch well, with the 21-year-old playing for the club’s VFL affiliate Casey last year where he booted 42 goals from 19 games. Melbourne is looking for a small forward to help Jeff Garlett and could turn to their No.31 pick in last year’s national draft, who at 81kg should be ready to step straight in if needed. Coach Simon Goodwin said last month Fritsch had been a “standout” during preseason and has slotted in seamlessly alongside the forwards. The Demons obviously rate him highly and have a role in mind otherwise they wouldn’t have used such a valuable pick — the Demons also held pick Nos.37 and 48 — to bring him into the club. One to watch over the preseason with his elite kicking and he makes the most of his scoring opportunities.


Schache finally found a new home with only minutes to spare in the trade period and everyone will be hoping the new Bulldog can reach his potential. But he doesn’t have the scoring power just yet to justify picking him in SuperCoach.


Clever small forward who applies pressure … sound familiar? The cousin of Cyril and Daniel Rioli was restricted by hamstring injuries in his first year on the Eagles list but expect to see him at senior level this season. The question is when?

Kayle Kirby is a cult figure at Collingwood but not quite at that level in SuperCoach yet. Picture: David Smith


Kayle Kirby is a goalkicking freak who booted 42 majors to finish second in the VFL goalkicking. He was given a taste of senior footy in Round 23, scoring 32 SuperCoach points. We should see more of him this year but his scores are likely to be very hit or miss given he doesn’t do much apart from kick goal.


Traded from Port Adelaide to West Coast, Ah Chee will cost you more money than you’d like but he’s looking for more midfield time and should get it. He dominated in the SANFL and was the No.1 ranked mid-forward in the league for Champion Data ranking points. The 24-year-old should feature from Round 1 but given his price tag, watch him closely in the JLT Series to gauge his scoring potential at his new club. Averaged 64.7 points in his best season, 2016, when he played 11 games for the Power.


The former Magpie didn’t play a senior game last year in his return from a drugs ban and didn’t light it up in the VFL, either. Has been given a lifeline by the Giants as depth given he can play a variety of roles as a key position player or back-up ruckman. Played his best footy in 2013/14 but is too inconsistent. Pass.

Jordan Gallucci will play forward for Adelaide in 2018. Picture: Calum Robertson
Harley Balic’s price tag may be too high. Picture: Daniel Wilkins


Plucked from Footscray in the VFL, Gowers has been in the AFL system before as a rookie with Carlton where he played mostly as a halfback or on the wing but was moved forward last year. Luke Beveridge likes to give players an opportunity but Gowers is on the rookie list and priced at $117,400 because he’s been in the system before. Pass.


The former Docker was a very popular downgrade option last year before he took time away for personal reasons and was then traded to the Demons. Is more expensive but has potential given he rates well for pressure, disposals, contested and uncontested possessions and score involvements. Melbourne is looking for another small forward to help Jeff Garlett, could Balic get his senior opportunities inside 50?


Adelaide’s top pick in the 2016 national draft, Gallucci is being groomed as a small forward to replace the traded Charlie Cameron. He’s been a standout at training and there is a spot there for him if he wants it. Played his best footy in the SANFL late in the year last year, when he won at least 100 ranking points in four of his last five games. He’s more expensive than Cam Rayner but could be worth a punt if his JLT Series form (and scoring) is good. He does his best work in tight, rating elite for contested possessions and clearances.


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4 thoughts on “Mature Age Rookies – FEB2018”

    1. Who? I can’t keep track with who Brisbane sends out onto the park these days…

      Kidding obviously.. but I can’t see him being Supercoach relevant these days.



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