by Al Paton (@al_superfooty)
After months of talk and hype, some footies were finally kicked in anger — and we learned plenty about who to pick (and who to avoid) in our 2016 SuperCoach teams.
Here are the players who caught our eye in the first week of the NAB Challenge.
HAWTHORN v CARLTON
New Blue Sam Kerridge ($137,600 mid/fwd) started the pre-season comp with a SuperCoach bang, smashing out a huge 122 on the back of 28 disposals and eight tackles. Those are the sort of numbers he was putting up in the SANFL last year when he couldn’t break into the Crows’ best 22. Teammate Dale Thomas ($308,700 mid/fwd) did enough to tease us with 101 but Bryce Gibbs, very attractively priced this year at $444,600, managed just 19 touches and 69 points. It was a case of the usual suspects at the Hawks with Josh Gibson (142), Grant Birchall (139), Sam Mitchell (139) and Jordan Lewis (123) all posting big scores — but they will all cost you plenty. The best SuperCoach story for Hawthorn this year could be Billy Hartung ($319,600 mid) — can he become a regular weapon without the sub vest? The battle to fill Jarryd Roughead’s spot up forward isn’t much clearer with Jack Fitzpatrick (62 SuperCoach points), James Sicily (54) and Tim O’Brien (58) all showing glimpses.
FREMANTLE v RICHMOND
Thinking of leaving out Nat Fyfe ($670,600 mid) after those stories about his dodgy back? Might have to think again. He came on at halftime and did as he pleased, showing no signs of any injury on his way to 58 SuperCoach points. Michael Barlow ($505,300 mid/fwd) is locked into plenty of teams after a game-high 131 points on the back of a promise to spent more time in the midfield this year. It’s hard to read too much into the scores here with Richmond fielding a half-strength side but Lachie Weller ($206,900 mid) and Darcy Tucker ($117,300 def) did enough to warrant another look after scoring 81 and 72 SuperCoach points respectively. Potential defensive cheapie Sam Collins ($117,300 def) had just two handballs. Not ideal. Shaun Grigg top-scored for Richmond with 105 but you’d be a brave person to put him in your SuperCoach team. Of potentially more value are mature-age rookie Adam Marcon ($102,400 mid) and Nathan Broad ($117,300 def), but let’s see how they go when the Tiger top-liners return. Top draft pick Daniel Rioli ($157,800 fwd) struggled with just four disposals.
ST KILDA V NORTH MELBOURNE
Another game between two mismatched sides, with St Kilda missing most of its stars then sitting Jack Steven and Jack Billings on the bench for the second half. Billings ($455,100 fwd) scored 56 before then and could be a breakout contender. Anyone want to get back on the Jack Newnes train? He was very good with 118 points and at $489,600 won’t break the bank. Seb Ross ($365,900 mid) should get more of a crack in the Saints midfield this year after racking up 26 touches and 129 SuperCoach points. Of the potential bargains, Blake Acres (72) was handy but can you justify spending $256,700? Jade Gresham, pick 18 in last year’s draft, scored one point fewer and is $112,000 cheaper. The Roos had a pretty even spread of contributors with Mason Wood (109) and Majak Daw (98) near the top of the scoresheet, but both are likely to be on the fringes when the real stuff starts. Top draft pick Ryan Clarke ($117,300 mid) caught the eye with 83 SuperCoach points. Add him to your watch list. Ex-Hawk Jed Anderson ($223,900 mid/fwd) had a sparkling third term and finished with 56 points.
SYDNEY V PORT ADELAIDE
ADELAIDE V WEST COAST
Two words: Eddie Betts. You don’t see 202 SuperCoach points too often, even in the NAB Challenge. But if you’re looking for value, new teammate Wayne Milera ($175,800 fwd) might be of more interest after scoring 84 points from his first AFL hitout. Dean Gore ($123,900 mid), better known as the “steak knives” in the Patrick Dangerfield deal, showed he’s worth more than that with 85 SuperCoach points. Popular backline pick Brodie Smith ($415,500 def/mid) didn’t exactly set the world on fire — 17 disposals, 52 SuperCoach points — but he outscored a rival for his spot in Paul Seedsman ($324,700 def/mid). When a former baseballer top scores for West Coast, it tells you something. No disrespect to Corey Adamson ($117,300 def/mid) but Adam Simpson would be hoping some other names are outscoring him by Round 1. Most of them didn’t play yesterday but SuperCoach prospects Elliot Yeo ($443,300 def/mid) and Liam Duggan ($229,800 mid/fwd) did, and they barely troubled the scorers. Let’s see how they go when the Eagles take their next game more seriously.
GOLD COAST V BRISBANE LIONS
Lots of SuperCoach options on show in Burpengary for both Queensland teams. Lions youngsters Rhys Mathieson and Ben Keays (both $117,300 mid) did enough to justify their spots on the pre-season watch lists with 70 and 61 points. At Gold Coast the player who shot into calculations was Darcy MacPherson ($102,400 mid), who racked up a large percentage of his 108 SuperCoach points from 10 tackles. He needs to be upgraded from the rookie list to play in Round 1 — watch this space. Daniel Currie ($163,200 ruck) showed a bit partnering Tom Nicholls but rebounding defenders Kade Kolodjashnij ($482,200 def) and Nick Malceski ($383,300 def) both flopped. The Suns’ standout was Jesse Lonergan ($345,300 def/mid) with 23 disposals (16 contested) and a game-high 126 SuperCoach points. A proven ball-winner at junior level, Lonergan is an interesting breakout contender especially considering he can be picked in the backline. Monitor his midfield time closely when the Suns’ fab four — Gary Ablett, Jaeger O’Meara, David Swallow and Dion Prestia — return.
This article originally appeared in The Herald Sun.
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