Pre-Season Heroes and Pretenders

Written by Thommo on March 17 2017

Every year they light up the Pre-season, get us excited enough to pick them in our Supercoach teams, and then they flop in Round 1.


They are the JLT pretenders.

Here’s a painful example for you: If you have a weak disposition you may need to look away!

In the 2016 pre-season Jesse Lonergan scored at 1.74 points per minute and Tommy Sheridan scored at 1.06 points per minute. At that rate they should have scored over 100 points per match in the regular season.

But they didn’t, did they?

Now, I am not saying every player who performs in the preseason should be ignored, just look twice before selecting them.

Maybe that’s what the “JLT” stands for in JLT Community Series: Just Look Twice. Or should that be: Just Lock Them?

So who are some JLT Pretenders, or Heroes, this season?

  1. Jack Steele (StK) $347,100 MID-FWD

The man of Steele pumped out a combined 319 points or 106.3 points per match across his 3 preseason matches. Amazingly he only spent an average of 61% time on ground meaning he scored at a rate of 1.64 points per minute. Most players average approximately 100 minutes in a regular season match so at that rate Steele would score 165 points per week.

I know that is not going to happen, but entering his third year Steele has the ball winning ability to break-out in his third year. The move from the star-studded Giants to St Kilda can only help!

Steele was brilliant in JLT4!
  1. Zach Tuohy (GEE) $443,200 DEF

With every big JLT score, the chorus of coaches calling Tuohy the natural successor to Corey Enright grew. His team mates looked to give him the ball at every opportunity and he pretty much ran around with his own Sherrin in the first two JLT matches, scoring 130 and 127. Dangerfield and Selwood cranked up their effort in JLT3 and Tuohy didn’t use the ball as well and his score dropped to 76 points. He did still rack up 25 possessions in that third match, up from his 2016 average of 21.

That gave him an average of 111 points from 92% time on ground that equals 1.09 points per minute, well above his 2016 average of 81 points.

Playing for Geelong will make Tuohy’s life easier but he has never scored consistently across an entire season. After 7 seasons, can he break out?

  1. Aaron Hall (GC) $519,800

Burn me once, fool on you! Burn me twice, fool on me!

Hall can score in Supercoach but Rocket seems to resent his hyper-offensive game style. As he did in the 2016 preseason when he averaged 1.79 points per minute, Hall showcased his ball winning ability in the JLT series. In two matches he scored 124.5 points per match in 81% time on ground which is the equivalent of 1.38 points per match.

Can we trust him in 2017, especially without forward eligibility?

Hall can play but can we trust Rodney Eade?
  1. Josh Kelly (GWS) $473,800 MID

Kelly is soon to be an absolute elite player of the AFL. He can win the ball on the inside and use it well on the outside. With so much talent on the Giants’ list we would expect him to be squeezed out of the midfield but now that Coniglio is injured…

He scored 113 points per match in the JLT Series which works out to be 1.46 points per minute.

I don’t need to tell you how impressive that is, but is 2017 his year to break-out to the elite level?

Remember this face: he’ll be your perma-captain one day.
  1. Clayton Oliver (Mel) $382,500 MID

Second year break-outs: How often do they happen?

If Oliver continues his JLT series form into the regular season, he could be one of the few to achieve that feat. He scored at 1.41 points per minute in the preseason and scored 101, 103 and 122 points in his three outings.

Oliver is a natural inside mid playing for an improving side, so can he break-out ahead of schedule or is it a year too soon?

  1. Shaun Higgins (NM) $426,400 FWD

The paper-mache man played all three matches and scored at 1.42 points per minute. That included scores of 100, 123 and 68 in half a match.

That is huge!

There is room in the midfield at Arden Street and Higgins is a classy ball user so could he become relevant in Supercoach again?

I promise this is the last time I plug Higgins!!!!

Now they are just being cruel!
  1. Jack Billings (StK) $407,700 MID-FWD

Billings wandered around the ground through the pre-season, gathering the ball at will. He didn’t attend centre bounces but still scored at 1.13 points per match from scores of 83, 132 and 70.

Entering his fourth year, Billings is expected to break-out sooner rather than later, but durability issues may hold him back.

Is 2017 his year or is he another preseason pretender?

  1. Zak Jones (Syd) $307,000 DEF

All the talk about Sydney has concerned Heeney and Mills but Zak Jones also spent plenty of time in the midfield in the JLT series. He scored 1.01 point per minute across 3 matches with scores of 114, 54 and 103.

The biggest concern for Jones and Mills was the roles of Kennedy, Hannebery and Parker in the JLT series, with all three spending a large portion of game time outside the midfield. That won’t happen in Round 1.

However we all know there is room in the midfield with the departure of Mitchell and Heeney’s illness, so will Jones receive enough midfield time to improve his average significantly in 2017?

Can Zak play as an inside mid like big-bro?
  1. Callum Mills (Syd) $420,000

As mentioned above, John Longmire seems intent to blood Jones, Heeney and Mills in the midfield in 2017. With the increased midfield time in the preseason, Mills averaged 1.14 points per match with scores of 111, 89 and 38 (from a half of football).

The best and worst part of Mills’s ability is that he is such a great intercepting defender that he may be forced to spend a lot of time behind the ball.

So will Mills become a keeper or is he just another JLT trap?

  1. George Horlin-Smith (Gee) $234,000

Ever the VFL star, Horlin-Smith capitalized on the departure of Caddy to play a mid-forward role in the JLT series. And he did it pretty damn well!

In two matches he scored 119 and 80 points for an average of 1.46 points per minute. Priced at only $234,000 that makes him a valuable rookie option if he’s selected.

If he’s selected…

Which Preseason Heroes can we trust in 2017? (3 choices)

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Let me know which Pre-season Heroes or Pretenders you are considering and who I’ve missed.


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19 thoughts on “Pre-Season Heroes and Pretenders”

  1. I’m not touching any of these, but if I had to take one it would be Mills. I don’t think it matters if he plays in the midfield or not, he has the potential to be this year’s version of Docherty and average around 100 as a running half-back. BUT (there’s always a but) he is still a second year player, and they don’t have such a good SC record. Maybe next year?


    1. The second-season thing is a gross generalization – Cripps, Bontempelli, and Wines all broke out in their second year.


      1. Yes, three players out of all second-year players is an exception. Hence it is a generalisation. Not sure about the “gross” part though – certainly the odds are against Mills being an elite defender this year.


        1. The second year break-out happens but it is so rare it is hard to predict accurately. In the past they have occurred because the player in question is going to be an Uber prenium like Fyfe, Bont and Cripps, has a mature body early like Ollie or is in a great team like Wingard ( and Ollie again). In addition the player nearly always received heaps of midfield time. As seen with Wingard, as soon as he moved out of the midfield and Port’s form dropped his scores dropped too.

          Mills ticks a lot of those boxes. Future gun, relatively mature body even if he’s no Ollie, midfield minutes and a great team. Still a tough call…


        2. Oh, I’m not denying for one moment that it’s the exception rather than the rule, but it can and does happen.


  2. Great article. I’m thinking of rolling the dice on Kelly (is a 22 gamer unlike O’Meara and Beams) and Steele (with Montagna doubtful). Would Nankervis fit in this list?


    1. Damn, I forgot Nankervis! I knew I was missing somebody! Nankervis was a definite JLT hero but he has less risk than most due to his likely solo ruck job and his forward eligibility.

      Kelly I see as a strong chance to average 100-105 but I think he’ll need upgrading to get to a full uber premo midfield. Kelly reminds me of silken guns like Burgoyne and Pendles.

      Steele I worry about. He looked great but my gut senses a trap. If I’m wrong I lose a few points if I am right I might save a big headache.


      1. Steele: Has anyone actually looked at his figures from last year. No evidence of break out material, definitely a trap.


        1. I think the change of club has people optimistic about a breakout. It’s pretty hard work on the fringes at GWS, there’s not much room to move.


        2. Anthony Miles increased his average from 57 at GWS to 99.9 at Richmond the very next season.

          It if anyone can make it happen, it the ex-GWS kids. Fringe 22 at one club straight into the guts at another.


        3. I think it depends to a great extent on what counts as a ‘break out’; I’m very confident that Steele will boost his average to 90-something (80-something at a bare minimum), but not so confident that he will be a top-6 forward by the end of the year.

          I won’t be starting him either way.


  3. An interesting stat was given to me the other day. In last years preseason comp of the top 25 performed players only 4 went on to be top 25 in the real season. And all 4 had averaged over 100 the previous season.
    So beware the preseason bolter with no history.



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