When picking your starting team, you generally pick players who are going to fulfill one of the following criteria:
1. Be a top premium for that position that year, or
2. A rookie who will fund upgrades throughout the season.
If it’s not a premium or rookie, then it is a player with past premium history that is under priced due to a prior injured season that will either return to past form and become a keeper, or rise enough in price that they are essentially a higher starting rookie. Regardless, a player is not deemed a success if it doesn’t fit one of the above. For a forward, generally you want to aim for players that will end up in the top 10 come end of season. So we’ll look at the top 10 expensive forwards and assess which ones we should start with.
Many coaches have a no interrupted pre-season policy, which rules out any players that don’t have a full pre-season due to injury. With that said:
Lance Franklin finds his way into my team every year. I also love the way he plays and enjoy watching him, but he’s never one that I start with despite him averaging 90+ in 9 of his last 11 seasons. Why? He’s a key forward, who’s contested marking is suspect on the driest/windless days yet here he is playing a winter sport, and there’s ALWAYS a couple of games in a row he will have sub par scores and drop his price below $450k and that’s the time I jump on board. That’s one reason, the other is that he had surgery on both knees and an ankle in the off-season – recovering well, but may not be seen until Rd1, missing both the AFLX and JLT series.
Issac Heeney was your typical 3rd year breakout player in 2017 despite not having a pre-season due to glandular fever and whilst he came out with a bang, he faded towards the end of the season. With a full pre-season ahead of him, he looked to be a no brainer start until he began to feel sore in the knee before Christmas and underwent surgery where they discovered cartridge damage. He is now the third most expensive forward for 2018 and didn’t begin full training until the end of January.
Jack Billings was looking to be one of the only forward premium locks halfway through February, with doubts over everyone else, however he has gone and done himself a hamstring injury and will be on a modified program for a couple of weeks. This means he will miss the AFLX and has already been put in doubt for the JLT series – which is far from ideal heading into Rd1 for the season!
Toby Greene was travelling through the United States during the off-season before breaking his toe when it hit a wall. He was expected to make a full recovery and return to full training at the start of December, but it is now 2 months later and he’s still not with the main group. Greene will no doubt get suspended at some point in the season too so maybe he will be an upgrade target upon one of his several returns.
Josh J. Kennedy has averaged over 90 the last 3 seasons, so should be a safe bet for top 10 overall points, but given his KPF nature, he will have widely fluctuating scores so can be picked up cheaper throughout the season. The West Coast Eagles have also lost a couple of midfielders and will be looking towards youth this season, which may just mean he gets less service and less goals. You might be thinking but this is the injury section of your article and you would be right. JJK hit the pre-season training track in early December but came down with some ankle discomfort, which resulted in surgery. He is now still in the rehab group and will be on modified training until the start of March.
Then there are players that may be affected by changing team dynamics…
Sam Menagola has only played 25 games of AFL (excluding finals) for an impressive average of 100.1 (99.3 in 2016 (6 games) and 100.3 in 2017 (19 games)) so all things being equal, you’d expect an average of 100 moving forward. Given the fact that he is also the only listed forward for the year who averaged 100+ last season (and you always want the top scorers in your team come seasons end) he looks like he will be a must have. From memory, Menagola scored really well when he got increased midfield time when one of the other midfielders were absent. So, I ran through all his numbers from 2017 and can report than when all of Menagola, Dangerfield, J.Selwood, Duncan and S.Selwood played together (7 games total), Menagola averaged 90.7. When only one of them were missing, his averaged jumped significantly to 106.1 from 12 games. However, he really took his game to the next level when either Dangerfield or J.Selwood was missing, with his average spiking to 119.2 from 5 games. Those few guns above demand alot of points, and with the inclusion of G.Ablett through the midfield, it seems like it will be Menagola will be the one to lose out most. Given his bye and circumstance, I just can’t justify that starting price tag.
Luke Dahlhaus was a very popular starting pick last year and for good reason, coming out of the blocks firing and averaging 109 in the first 7 games of the season. He then became a very frustrating player to own and only managed to average 82.2 for the last 15 games. M.Wallis returned in Rd9 and T.McLean was injected into the midfield for the last 10 weeks, which resulted in Dahlhaus being parked in the forward line for long stints of the game. Dahlhaus has 4 seasons of 90+ in a row (high of 105 in 2015), but his role for 2018 is very much unknown and could be set for just as much forward time if all the other young dogs are fit, firing and ready for the midfield. The one good thing going for him though is that he is a restricted free agent this year and in recent years, players in their contract years have had a stellar year.
Port Adelaide had arguablity the biggest team shake up during the trade period and Chad Wingard and Robbie Gray both welcome T.Rockliff, S.Motlop and L.Thomas (probably not relevant) while Charlie Dixon welcomes J.Watts to the side. Port Adelaide have a lot of decent midfielders, and the classiness of Wingard and Gray may be better utilised around the goals and only heading to the middle on relief duties. Given they also have the early season bye and fully priced, they offer little value and are probably better trade in targets Rd10 to get an extra premium over the main bye rounds. Dixon could be a worthwhile punt given the relatively easy draw and an All Australian ruckman feeding the ball to contested clearance beasts in the middle, but is known for putting up shockers. He averaged 90+ in 2013 and 2017, however averaged 65.5-69.8 in the 3 years between, so who knows what Dixon will rock up for 2018!
So now what? Find out in Part 2 of “Peril of the 2018 Forwards”
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