Lock and Load: He clearly enjoyed the year off due to the drug saga that he had a delayed start to 2017 but Michael Hibberd ($545,200) hit the ground running just as fast as he was running away from the bulls in Pamplona with a 124 in Rd5. The points didn’t stop there and he went on to finish the year with an average just shy of 100 which was a career best. He averaged 27 disposals (17 of which were kicks) per game to go with his 5 marks. Needs to learn to tackle more, only registering 9 in his first 12 games of last year, but managed to lay 14 in his final 6, so things are looking up. People are weary on the inclusion of Lever to the Melbourne backline, but he plays a very similar role to Laird who wasn’t affected so one should not expect anything different in 2018 for Hibberd – the Demons will want the ball in his hands to attack from half back. Lock for mine.
Feeling Lucky: With defence rookies looking on the thin side, Angus Brayshaw ($316,700) is a mid-pricer being floated for the D4 position. He scored 83 in the opening game last years before suffering his 4th concussion in 12 months in Rd2 leading him to take indefinite leave to recover. He returned for the last 3 games of the season and scored 91, 83 and 57 so worth his price tag if he can remain fit. He knows how to find the ball and lay a tackle but unfortunately Brayshaw may well be one concussion away from early retirement. Goodwin has stated that he won’t be getting too much midfield time in 2018 as the club hopes to extend his playing career, so he might just slip into a fantasy friendly role across half back. Who knows, he and Hibberd may well be Melbournes version of Docherty/Simpson.
Lock and Load: Clayton Oliver ($612,800) laughed in the face of second year blues and ended up as the 6th highest overall point scorer in 2017 with one of the best consistency ratings for a 22 game player. 2017 saw him with 1 score of 80, 4 between 91-99 with the remaining 17 exceeding 100. Oliver is a ball magnet, clearance king and tackling machine and if you want a midfielder POD, you can’t go wrong with Oliver who is currently only in 6.4% of teams. Another you would feel safe to lock away 2,400 points from the start.
Lock and Load: He went into last season as the second most expensive player, so after an injury affected 2017, Max Gawn ($503,700) is the bargain you line up all night for Boxing Day sales. If you don’t have him, you are in the minority.
Feeling Lucky: Everyone loves a forward who is training with the midfield group and one of the breakout candidates for 2018 is Christian Petracca ($433,300) – especially given he’s now entered the 3rd season breakout category. Opened strong last year averaging 92 over the first 3 weeks before dropping to an average of 84 over the next 5 weeks. After the first 2 months of football had pasted, he dropped back to an average of 74 for the remainder of the season as his endurance fell away. With another full preseason under his belt and natural improvement you should expect more games that replicate his first 8 weeks – but will it be enough to elevate him to premium status? At that price tag, you better hope so.
Money Maker: More than likely just sitting on the fringe of the 22, he may need an injury or two over the JLT series to line up Rd1 but Bayley Fritsch ($117,300) is Petracca’s smoky for the Melbourne rookie who will get games early. As much as you can read into it – he was given a run over the AFLX and showed some pretty decent foot skills. He finished 5th last year in the VFL goal kicking and is known for his ability to read the ball and overhead marking skills. Knows the Melbourne system, playing for the Casey Demons last year and Melbourne said he most likely would have broken into the senior side last year if he was on the list.
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