None of the top 10 appear to be absolute locks with all their own setbacks or unknowns and if you missed the reasoning why, take a read of The Peril of the 2018 Forwards (Part 1). Tie in that history says 5 of those will drop from the top 10 and another 5 will replace them, it looks to be an absolute lottery at this stage to try and guess.
So what to do now? Well there are many options moving forward (pun intended) – Do you punt on a couple of the young gun forwards (Heeney, Billings) hoping they are young enough to hit the ground running? Do you pick one and then a few of your low $400k with hopes they become premiums (D.Smith, C.Curnow, J.Sicily, R.Lobb (injured still),
J.de Goey, C.Petracca, M.Robinson)? Or do you go full value town starting 3-4 of above and try get good points for dollars spent and skip the top end premiums altogether and only trade in a couple when they fall to round out the line?
If you feel uneasy picking up any of the top 10 priced premiums or betting on a $400k on a mid-pricer (let alone 2 or 3) that may fizzle out, there are a few in the top 11-30 priced forward bin that could be worth starting… Huttabito’s top 6 picks:
Michael Walters ($478,300) – Before I carry on, let me preface this with if you play with a Ross Lyon player, you play with fire. With Fyfe playing injured between Rd7-15, Walters was injected into the midfield on a regular basis and averaged 112 over this period of time – which includes a score of 49 (when no Docker rocked up in the rain to play against Adelaide) to go with a 135, 137 and 172. Fyfe was back to his best from Rd16 onwards which saw Walters 2 following games go for 106 and 88 (97 average) – so less than he was averaging, but definitely enough to lock away top 5 forward, but then also not enough games to draw conclusions. He then suffered a season ending injury in Rd18 on 49 points, but that was on 39% game time and given he usually averages 80%, he was on track for another triple figure score. The most important factor for Walters though is that he’s been training with the midfield group throughout the 2018 pre-season and may well line up in the centre square Rd1, bouncedown #1. If I was to have a guess, Walters and Blakely will be the defender/forward who chop and change from the centre square to support Fyfe and Neale and a Mundy/Brayshaw swapping with the other 2.
Jack Gunston ($474,800) – It was evident before last year begun that Hawthorn were going to struggle which lead to Gunston not being able to back up his 3 years of 90+ average between 2014 and 2016. He did however fall just short with an average of 86.4 so he’s coming in slightly underpriced if he can return to prior form – especially when you consider his 96 average from Rd12 onwards which includes 121, 124 and a 146. If you can’t tell, he does have a huge ceiling and has scores of 131, 135, 144, 146, 149, 151 and 165 next to his name over the last 4 years. Gunston also comes with the added bonus of durability, playing 22 games in his last 3 seasons with 20 games played for the 2 years prior. Hawthorn have that very friendly Rd12 bye and the more I type, the more I am talking myself into him. Be weary though that he CAN drop shockers from time to time (lets be honest they all can), but if you just want those points for overall, there are certainly far worse options going around.
Joe Daniher ($472,800) – You might recall my Essendon team review that I’m calling Daniher a premium for 2018. He has been improving every year since debuting and broke out last year increasing his average by 17 to 86. He showed and Riewoldtesque game style at times last year, often seen running up the wings and providing a rebound 50 target with the occasional ruck relief duties to boost his score. The Bombers should have the drug saga well and truly behind them and combined with self/team improvement, expect a second jump into the 90s and therefore entering premium status. Daniher is also quite durable only missing 2 games in the last 4 years and none in the last 3.
Kane Lambert ($472,500) – Was a rookie on the bubble in 2015 and wasn’t picked up on the bubble as he averaged 37 points over his first 4 games before trolling everyone to average 82 from the last 9 games. Lambert had a slow start to 2017 but really found his role in the premiership winning team and had a strong finish averaging 98 over his last 13 games and 107 over the finals. One thing that is potentially holding Lambert back as a suitable pick is the Rd14 bye and sharing it with the likes of Heeney, Billings and Franklin who may be the more common trade in targets.
Toby McLean ($470,200) – One of the Bulldogs who is responsible for 1 of the top 10 priced forward (Dahlhaus) not being a certified forward lock. McLean has spent majority of his first 25 games across 2.5 years in the forward line and was omitted with a suite of dogs in Rd9 last year as the reigning premiers were sitting 8th with a record of 5-3. He made his return after the bye and began attending centre bounces from Rd14 and in Rd15, was named as a follower as opposed to the half forward line noting his midfield rotations. Since allowing to attend centre bounces, his average spiked to 97.2 for the last 10 games of the season from an average game of 25 disposals and 4 tackles. If he rotates through middle regularly during the JLT series, it’s clear they want his pressure around the ball so could be a smokey to be a top end forward for 2018. He also plays for one of the 4 teams that have that sweet Rd12 bye.
Tom J. Lynch ($467,600) – I know what your thinking, I must be joking after he burnt everyone last year. Lynch plays Riewoldtesque style game too and collects points all around the park, but struggled to cover ground with an injured back towards the end of the year which really hampered his scoring and dropping his average. Gold Coast have a dream opening run over the first 5 rounds: North Melbourne, Carlton, Fremantle, West Coast and Brisbane – teams who he’s averaged 102 against the last 2 years, so the difference in points gained up to the early bye may make him a justifiable starting pick. He’s one of the most prized restricted free agents for 2018 so he’s playing for a big salary rise. A major concern is that no Ablett will mean no delivery to the forward 50, so I ran through some numbers to see what the “Gazza Effect” was. In 2014, they played 15 games together and Lynch averaged 77 compared to his average of 96 without. In 2015, Ablett did not play and Lynch averaged 88. In 2016, they played 14 games together and Lynch averaged 91 compared to his average of 96 without. It’s too hard to draw conclusions in 2017 as Lynch’s back hindered him too much at times. Gold Coasts midfield isn’t as weak as people suggest as they still have the likes of Hall, Lyons, Swallow, Barlow, Hanley, Miller, Weller etc running through it with Witts (who solidified himself as a solid tap ruckman in 2017) feeding them the ball, so I think Lynch will do just fine this season.
So that is 6 of my roughie picks to take advantage of the injured and indecisive top priced forwards and end up as the top 10 overall scorers. For what it’s worth, this is my current line up:
I’m backing in two young guns to hit the ground running for now with D.Smith as an under priced pick who I think will get solid midfield time. Billings is the most risk of being dropped though over the JLT pending roles of the 6 above and there is every chance D.Smith gets upgraded before the start of the season too.
So Coaches, how are you tackling the forward line in 2018?
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