Under the steely, beautiful blue-eyed gaze of Luke Hodge, this player has been whipped into shape for 2019 so a break-out season, and selection in the +10 Club, is merely a formality.
Welcome to The +10 Club…
Name: Alex Witherden
Bye round: 13
2018 average: 83ppg
2018 games played: 21
Why will Witherden improve by 10 points?
There are so many reasons for Witherden to break-out in 2019, you could write a novel about this guy. The most obvious statistic is that he is a high-ish draft selection (Rd 23, 2016) entering his third season but the “Third year break-out theory” is highlighted so often it is little more than a cliché. A player entering his third year isn’t always ready to break-out, but in Witherden’s case he actually does fit the profile.
After a fantastic start to his career in 2017, when he averaged 24 possessions and 87 SC points per game in his first nine matches, Witherden got a little lazy in his preparation to start 2018. By his own admission he enjoyed a little too much Christmas cheer and didn’t turn up in the greatest of shape for 2018 and he didn’t feel like he played his best footy until late in the year. He still averaged 83.8ppg up to the bye with three scores over 100 points, but he lifted this to 92.3ppg post-bye (not including injury in Round 22). Thankfully he has quickly worked out what is required to play footy at the highest level and turned up for the 2019 preseason in good shape.
As well as being fitter this season, the new kick-in rules will help him improve marginally. If you look at his kick-in statistics from 2018, he has taken the kick-ins 187 times in his career and played on 80 times, which is 43% of the time. If he lifts that figure to play-on 70-80% of the time, he should benefit by approximately 5-7ppg. The only proviso to this is that Brisbane don’t seem to have a ‘designated kicker’ in 2019 so he probably won’t take any more kick-ins than he did last season.
While he won’t benefit from the kick-in rule as much as some other defenders, he should remain quite loose in defence this season. The Lions traded for Marcus Adams who, if fit, will do the heavy lifting down back. Harris Andrews will swing forward and back as the Lions need, meaning that Witherden shouldn’t be forced to play a lock down role too often. With luck he will float free, racking up uncontested ball at will.
Finally, the most simple reason for Witherden to improve in 2019 is because he is slightly discounted. He suffered an injury on 15 SC points in Round 22, 2018 that has given him the equivalent of a 3 point discount on his starting price.
While that discount isn’t a huge selling point, I call it the icing on the Witho-cake.
Why won’t he improve?
Witho’s biggest problems in Supercoach is that his game style isn’t really suited to the scoring system. True he can rack up possessions, gathering 30+ possessions three times in the second half of 2018, but they are mostly uncontested disposals. In fact only 19% of his possessions come in a contest and of his 7.2 marks per match, he averages less than 1 intercept mark per match. Good for AFL Fantasy, not so much for Supercoach.
In a year with quite a few high averaging defenders in Lloyd, Laird, Whitfield, Simpson and Sicily, it is a concern that Witherden may increase his average but get caught in the No-man’s land of the low 90s where he is just short of the top 6 defenders.
Alex Witherden has all the hallmarks of a genuine break-out contender with the added benefit of the new kick-in rules. His uncontested game-style will probably prevent him from reaching the Supercoach elite but his statistics do match Jake Lloyd’s quite closely (Jake Lloyd averages 22% contested possessions per match) and an average of 95ppg seems achievable. Even though that average leaves him just short of the very best defenders, he should sneak in to the lower end of the top 6 defenders. Not bad when priced to score 83ppg.
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