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KFC SuperCoach 2020: The Phantom analyses and rates every draftee ahead of the new season

As an 18-year-old out of high school, some draftees will take time to develop. But some will star and become KFC SuperCoach gold in 2020. The Phantom rates every player drafted and their junior numbers.

The Phantom, The Advertiser

Subscriber only

February 10, 2020 9:58am

Will every player drafted be KFC SuperCoach-relevant in 2020? Not even close.

But find out who definitely is and who might surprise in The Phantom’s complete national draft analysis.

LEGEND

RATING: 5 - Lock him in

RATING: 4 - Consider

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

RATING: 2 - No to start with

RATING: 1 - Avoid

1. Matt Rowell (GC)

Mid, $207,300

2019 U18 Champs ave: 132

NAB League: 171

Like 2018’s No. 1 pick Sam Walsh, Rowell enjoyed a near-perfect junior career, dominating at every level. And he’s justifying the hype over summer at his new club.

RATING: 5 - Lock him in.

2. Noah Anderson (GC)

Mid, $202,800

U18 Champs ave: 107

NAB League: 143

The 188cm Anderson, who was just as dominating in front of goal as he was at the contest at junior level, is a star-in-the-making. But he’s unlikely to feature in the midfield on a regular basis this year and might not be worth the starting price.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

3. Luke Jackson (Melb)

Ruck, $198,300

U18 Champs ave: 109

WAFL Colts: 161

There’s plenty of Brodie Grundy in the athletic big man, who has plenty of tricks, and his elite tap-work is matched by an ability to follow up at ground level. But it will take some time before he gets anywhere near the Collingwood star’s level.

RATING: 2 - No to start with

4. Lachie Ash (GWS)

Def, $193,800

U18 Champs ave: 102

NAB League: 129

Ash’s junior numbers are matched by his standout ability to break the game open from half-back, but the premiership-contending team he was drafted to is not short on quick, skilful playmakers.

RATING: 4 - Consider

5. Dylan Stephens (Syd)

Mid, $189,300

U18 Champs ave: 89

SANFL: 81

In the SANFL, the 18-year-old did his best work on the outside, but he’s shown he’s clean and creative on the inside. And his endurance – and left foot – is turning heads at the Swans already.

RATING: 4 - Consider

6. Fischer McAsey (Adel)

Def, $184,800

U18 Champs ave: 97

NAB League: 87

If he does earn a Round 1 debut – something coach Matthew Nicks has suggested is a chance – expect the skilful, 195cm McAsey to play a SuperCoach-friendly intercept role in defence in his first year.

RATING: 4 - Consider

7. Hayden Young (Frem)

Def, $180,300

U18 Champs ave: 106

NAB League: 129

The damaging left-footer, who ranked first for intercept possessions at the national carnival, fits new coach Justin Longmuir’s want for an increase in skill level at the Dockers.

RATING: 5 - Lock him in

8. Caleb Serong (Frem)

Def, $175,800

U18 Champs ave: 129

NAB League: 123

Serong, who has drawn comparison to Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray, will be a popular SuperCoach name in the future, but can he break into the Fremantle midfield during his debut season?

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

9. Liam Henry (Frem)

Mid-Fwd, $171,300

U18 Champs ave: 92

WAFL Colts: 133

Fremantle’s Academy gun can switch between the forward line and midfield, in the mould of new teammate Michael Walters, but is set to be eased into senior football after a late-season injury in 2019.

RATING: 2 - No to start with

10. Tom Green (GWS)

Mid, $166,800

U18 Champs ave: 111

NEAFL: 68

Green’s contested-ball numbers at the 2019 under-18 carnival were the best ever recorded by Champion Data and he could develop into a Patrick Cripps-like midfielder. But the GWS engine room will be a tough one to break into this year.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

11. Sam Flanders (GC)

Mid-Fwd, $162,300

U18 Champs ave: 112

NAB League: 121

In a side now packed with young midfield talent, Flanders’ ability as a strong-marking, explosive forward with great goal sense – in the mould of Demon Christian Petracca – will see the 18-year-old jostling for a Round 1 debut.

RATING: 4 - Consider

12. Kysaiah Pickett (Melb)

Fwd, $157,800

U18 Champs ave: 76

SANFL Reserves: 91

The tough, aggressive excitement machine doesn’t need many touches to have an impact and fills an immediate need in Melbourne’s forward-line.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

13. Will Day (Haw)

Def, $153,300

U18 Champs ave: 88

SANFL U18s: 132

The smart defender, who boasts terrific foot skills on both sides of his body, recorded a disposal efficiency of 92 per cent at SANFL under-18 level and 82 per cent at the under-18 championships. But 2020 is likely to be a development year for Day.

RATING: 2 - No to start with

14. Miles Bergman (Port)

Def, $148,800

U18 Champs ave: 74

NAB League: 90

Bergman suits Port Adelaide’s want for more speed and versatility and could feature as a high-half-forward from as early as Round 1, especially with recent injuries to Ollie Wines and fellow draftee Jackson Mead. He’s never been a big ball-winner, but he’ll have an impact.

RATING: 4 - Consider

15. Cody Weightman (WB)

Fwd, $144,300

U18 Champs ave: 79

NAB League: 89

The small-forward, who was the leading goalkicker at the under-18 carnival, has drawn early praise from his more-experienced teammates after an impressive first pre-season.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

16. Cooper Stephens (Geel)

Mid, $139,800

U18 Champs ave: DNP

NAB League: 92

The scoring potential is there for the strong-bodied midfielder, who was one of the highest-rated juniors in the country before breaking his leg in 2019. But it’s a tough midfield to break into, especially when you haven’t played a competitive game since April last year.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

17. Brodie Kemp (Carl)

Mid, $135,300

U18 Champs ave: 101

NAB League: 106

Transformed from key-defender to tall-midfielder late last year and thrived, starring for Vic Country at the national carnival. But he’s been added to the long-term injury list at the Blues and won’t be seen at the top-level for a while.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

18. Mitch Georgiades (Port)

Fwd, $130,800

U18 Champs ave: DNP

Port Adelaide footy boss Chris Davies, this week, described the Power’s top four draftees as “physically capable of competing” and more ready than last year’s trio. But Georgiades, who missed the entire 2019 season due to injury, is down the SuperCoach pecking order.

RATING: 2 - No to start with

19. Sam de Koning (Geel)

Def, $126,300

U18 Champs ave: 61

NAB League: 59

The 200cm defender lost just two of his 25 defensive one-on-one contests at any level last year. But, despite averaging six intercept possessions for Vic Country, he won’t be SuperCoach relevant any time soon.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

20. Sam Philp (Carl)

Mid, $121,800

U18 Champs ave: DNP

NAB League: 125

He was overlooked for Vic Metro’s squad, but the explosive midfielder, with pace to burn, stormed home in the NAB League, posting a SuperCoach ton in each of his final seven matches.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist
 
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21. Thomson Dow (Rich)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 48

NAB League: 102

The younger brother of Carlton’s Paddy, Dow tallied 23 disposals or more in four of his five NAB League matches last season and won 52 per cent of his possession in a contest. There’s a few ahead of him at the Tigers, however.

RATING: 2 - No to start with

22. Deven Robertson (Bris)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 128

WAFL Colts: 153

The tough ball-winning midfielder, who captained WA to a national under-18 title, broke Sam Walsh’s disposal record at last year’s carnival and averaged 128 SuperCoach points per game. A must-have if he can squeeze his way into a strong Brisbane side.

RATING: 4 - Consider

23. Dylan Williams (Port)

Fwd-Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 30

NAB League: 90

Williams had his draft year cut short by a back injury, but there was still plenty of glimpses of his talent. The 18-year-old averaged 13 disposals, six score involvements and two goals per game in the NAB League and might pop up inside 50 for the Power this year.

RATING: 2 - No to start with

24. Harry Schoenberg (Adel)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 121

SANFL Reserves: 89

The 18-year-old’s hands are brilliant at the contest and he also wins plenty of football on the spread. It will be a new look Crows’ midfield in 2020 and Schoenberg has fantasy star written all over him.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

25. Jackson Mead (Port)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 105

SANFL Reserves: 100

The strong-bodied, versatile Mead has impressed at Alberton over summer and might be worthy of an on-field spot in SuperCoach this season, despite the recent hamstring injury.

RATING: 4 - Consider

26. Will Gould (Syd)

Def, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 99

SANFL: 88

The ready-made defender, who played an important role in Glenelg’s drought-breaking grand final win, delivering with precision from the back-half, in the SANFL could play 22 games this year without a problem.

RATING: 5 - Lock him in

27. Jeremy Sharp (GC)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 82

WAFL: 68

The outsider midfielder is an elite runner with terrific skills and the Suns traded up on draft night to gain access to the 18-year-old, who played six senior games in the WAFL last year. Sharp should get an opportunity in the Marsh Community series.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

28. Josh Worrell (Adel)

Def-Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 75

NAB League: 93

There’s plenty of Justin Westhoff in the versatile 195cm Victorian, who played in each third of the ground last year. But Worrell has done most of his pre-season work in defence and looks likely to start his AFL career in the back-half.

RATING: 2 - No to start with

29. Finn Maginness (Haw)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 87

NAB League: 113

The Hawks’ new endurance king, who averaged 21 disposals, five tackles and 113 points in the NAB League last year, has the body to step straight into senior footy in 2020.

RATING: 3 – Watchlist

30. Harrison Jones (Ess)

Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 63

NAB League: 75

The 194cm Jones is a developing big man, who led all key-forwards for score assists per game in the NAB League in 2019. But he’s not SuperCoach-relevant this year.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

31: Charlie Comben (NM)

Ruck-Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: DNP

NAB League: 79

The developing big man, who averaged the second-most contested marks at the under-18 championships, has done some nice things in his first pre-season at North Melbourne but we’re unlikely to see him at the top level this year.

RATING: 5 - Lock him in (as your R3 loophole)

32: Trent Rivers (Melb)

Def-Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 94

WAFL Colts: 149

Rivers starred at last year’s national under-18 championships with his ball-use and speed from half-back – traits which appear to address the needs of a Melbourne side looking to bounce back.

RATING: 4 - Consider

33: Brock Smith (Bris)

Def, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 69

NAB League: 100

The 188cm defender is tough, hard to beat one-on-one and could play a role in Brisbane’s defence, like Noah Answerth did last year, in his debut season.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

34: Jack Mahony (NM)

Mid-Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 105

NAB League: 114

The 176cm small forward, rated by Champion Data as the 14th-best player in the draft, led the national carnival for score involvements and score assists and is ready to go after impressing over summer.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

35: Flynn Perez (NM)

Def, $117,300

Dnp

Averaged 16 disposals and four intercept possessions in the TAC Cup in 2018 as a bottom-age player but missed the entire 2019 season with an ACL injury.

RATING: 2 – Not to start with

36: Elijah Taylor (Syd)

Mid-Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 67

WAFL Colts: 108

Taylor was rated as the most-talented by WA under-18 coach Peter Sumich and his speed, class and x-factor would add another dimension to a developing Sydney forward line 2020. His scoring potential isn’t as high as some but he could force his way in.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

37: Keidean Coleman (Bris)

Mid-Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 53

NEAFL: 80

Physically-ready after playing 18 games for the Lions’ reserves, as part of the club’s Academy, last season. Coleman booted 11 goals as a forward before impressing as an intercepting-defender in the second half 2019. Tough side to crack, though, despite his versatility.

RATING: 2 – Not to start with

38: Nick Bryan (Ess)

Ruck, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 74

NAB League: 80

The athletic, ball-winning big man, who averaged 13 disposals per game in the NAB League, might be SuperCoach-relevant one day but it won’t be this year. Or next.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

39: Chad Warner (Syd)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 89

WAFL Colts: 156

The tough, inside midfielder was the No. 1 contested-ball player at WAFL Colts level last year and only Luke Jackson averaged more SuperCoach points per game. Should score well if he gets an opportunity.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist
 
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40: Jay Rantall (Coll)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 83

NAB League: 121

Given the strength of the Collingwood side and the former Australian junior basketballer’s ongoing development, a debut still seems some way off. But Rantall, who won both of the club’s pre-season 2km time trials, should score well when it does come.

RATING: 2 – Not to start with

41: Francis Evans (Geel)

Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: DNP

NAB League: 82

The 182cm forward booted five goals in his two NAB League appearances last season but that’s where his involvement in elite-level junior football started and finished. But I’m not about to start doubting recruiting mastermind Stephen Wells.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

42: Ronin O’Connor (Adel)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 66

WAFL Colts: 92

O’Connor’s contested-possession rate of 55 per cent for WA last year highlights his ability to win the ball at the contest. Despite his height, the 191cm midfielder, who captain Claremont to a WAFL Colts premiership, will be behind a few at the Crows for a while.

RATING: 2 – Not to start with

43: Noah Cumberland (Rich)

Mid-Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 73

NEAFL: 35

As a member of the Lions Academy, the 18-year-old played five matches for Brisbane’s reserves side in the NEAFL last year, mainly as a forward, finishing with 10 disposals, four tackles and two goals in the grand final win over Southport.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

44: Will Martyn (Rich)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 58

NEAFL: 38

Another Lions Academy member who became a Tiger. Martyn played five reserves games for Brisbane but it was his form in the NAB League – 28 disposals and 132 points per game – which stood out.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

45: Trent Bianco (Coll)

Def-mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 98

NAB League: 118

The ball-magnet doesn’t win a lot of football in a contest but makes up for it with his efficiency. Bianco, who captain Oakleigh Chargers in 2019, is smart with ball in hand and uses it well on both sides of his body.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

46: Hugo Ralphsmith (Rich)

Mid-Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 49

NAB League: 88

The athletic running-machine spent most of his draft year playing as a forward but he also showed an ability to run and carry through the midfield. Richmond will let him develop in the VFL – there’s no rush.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

47: Sam Ramsay (Carl)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: DNP

NAB League: 120

He missed out on Vic Metro selection and was the 173rd-ranked player in the NAB League after 11 rounds. But the 180cm Ramsay moved into the midfield in Round 12 and only Matt Rowell averaged more SuperCoach points from that point. The left-footer scored 135 points or more in every game he played as a midfielder.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

48: Lachlan Gollant (Adel)

Def-Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: DNP

NAB League: 59

At 70kg, the 189cm Gollant, who boasts terrific hands, is a long-term midfield prospect at the Crows.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

49: Callum Jamieson (WC)

Ruck, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 62

WAFL Colts: 118

Jamieson was the second-ranked ruckman at WAFL Colts level for disposals, contested possessions and hitouts-to-advantage in 2019 but don’t expect to see him in the AFL for some time.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

50: Cam Taheny (Geel)

Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 67

SANFL: 70

One of South Australia’s most-talented draftees battled inconsistency last year but he booted 11 goals in the first three SANFL League matches of his career, proving he’s already a difficult match-up for more-senior opponents.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

51: Jake Riccardi (GWS)

Fwd, $117,300

VFL: 63

After booting 38 goals in 2019, the 195cm forward won the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell medal as the VFL’s best young player and the Giants didn’t go after the mature-age forward to fill their NEAFL team.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

52: Ryan Byrnes (StK)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 57

NAB League: 119

The 18-year-old, who wins the ball at the contest and away from it, starred in the NAB League last season, averaging 26 disposals, 12 contested possessions and five clearances. He might surprise if given the opportunity.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

53: Louis Butler (WB)

Def-Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 67

NAB League: 104

Butler, an impressive runner with great versatility, averaged 23 disposals for Sandringham across half-back last year but the Bulldogs are blessed with ball-winners in that area.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

54: Bigoa Nyuon (Rich)

Def-Ruck, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 53

NAB League: 84

The athletically-gifted teenager still has plenty of developing to do but the potential is obvious. The 196cm Nyuon averaged five intercept possessions and two marks playing as a defender last year, while also impressing in the ruck.

RATING: 2 – Not to start with

55: Trey Ruscoe (Coll)

Def-Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 82

WAFL Colts: 102

The 190cm Ruscoe averaged 20 disposals, six inside 50s and five clearances playing a midfield-forward role at WAFL Colts before moving to defence at the under-18 championships.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

56: Ned Cahill (Ess)

Mid-Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 79

NAB League: 102

Despite showing glimpses of his ball-winning ability further up the ground last year, Cahill is likely to start his career inside-50 after booting 23 goals and averaging four tackles, six score involvements and two score assists in the NAB League last year.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

57: Josh Morris (Haw)

Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 38

SANFL Under-18: 113

The 186cm forward struggled at the national carnival but dominated at junior level in the SANFL, booting 33 goals from seven under-18 games. Morris is a terrific set-shot for goal but he’ll take some time.

RATING: 2 – Not to start with

58: Ben Johnson (WC)

Def, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 65

WAFL Colts: 111

Johnson is a lightly-built running-defender, who is just as impressive bursting away from the back-half as he is locking down an opponent. Fits the Eagles mould but he’s unlikely to push past any of his new teammates this year, despite playing league footy in the WAFL.

RATING: 2 – Not to start with

59: Jaxon Prior (Bris)

Def, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 66

WAFL Colts: 145

Despite the strength of the Lions side, a readymade ball-winning defender, who averaged 28 disposals and seven intercept possessions per game at junior level (WAFL Colts) is straight on the fantasy watchlist. Especially when he made the step up to senior footy with ease.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist

60: Jy Farrar (GC)

Fwd, $117,300

SANFL: 47

He might have only played two SANFL league games as a Crows top-up player but Gold Coast saw enough of Farrar’s eye-catching athleticism and speed. But he’s one mature-age recruit who may not be SuperCoach-relevant.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

61: Michael Frederick (Freo)

Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: DNP

SANFL U18: 93

The twin brother of Power rookie Martin, Frederick dominated the SANFL under-18 finals series, tallying 20 disposals and three goals in the semi-final before winning the medal as best afield in the grand final.

RATING: 2 – Not to start with

62: Riley Garcia (WB)

Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: 85

WAFL: 57

The 175cm midfielder averaged 24 disposals, 11 contested possessions and six clearances for WA in the first three matches of the under-18 championships before tearing his ACL in the fourth.

RATING: 2 – Not to start with

63: Lachlan Johnson (Ess)

Mid-Fwd, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: DNP

NAB League: 94

The son of Brisbane premiership star Chris might have been quiet in his four other NAB League appearances but in Round 2, Johnson finished with 27 disposals, 19 contested possessions and 161 points. But he won’t play in 2020 due to a knee injury.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

64: Leo Connolly (StK)

Def-Mid, $117,300

U18 Champs ave: DNP

NAB League: 89

Lightly-built outside midfielder averaged 20 disposals and five rebound-50s in the NAB League last season but, despite his elite skills, is unlikely to graduate from the VFL in 2020.

RATING: 1 - Avoid

65: Tom Hutchesson (GWS)

Mid-Fwd, $117,300

SANFL: 61

The Giants drafted the mature-ager, who averaged 14 disposals and four score involvements last year, from the Crows’ SANFL side for a reason so expect to see him at some stage in 2020.

RATING: 3 - Watchlist
 
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Am I reading this right ? North Melb midfield rated number 2 in the comp???
Surely not
Theres a few anomalies there I would have thought... Eagles defence at 12 right up there - Hurn, Gov, Barrass, Sheppard, Jetta & Schofield. Pretty sure at times over the last couple of season we've conceded an alarming number of inside 50's and the defence kept us in it
 
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Andy McGrath set to move from half back to full-time midfielder in potential boon for Bombers, Supercoaches

Essendon fans and SuperCoaches alike have long hoped Andy McGrath would make the transformation from good ordinary half back to superstar midfielder. Is this the year?

Chris Cavanagh, Herald Sun

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February 11, 2020 5:02pm

FOXSPORTS0:37

No plans for AFL name change

AFL: The AFL says there are no plans to change the name of the men's competition to be consistent with the AFLW.

A fitter and stronger Andrew McGrath is hoping to morph into more of an inside midfielder this year after working closely over pre-season with new Essendon assistant coach Blake Caracella.

McGrath spent much of his third season in 2019 on a wing for the Bombers, but has long had his sights set on being an elite inside onballer.

Would this be enough to catapult him from SuperCoach tease to real deal?

McGrath has always shown promise, but never really produced in SuperCoach, averaging 71, 71 and 74 across his past three seasons. At $399,400 he represents an intriguing prospect as an inside midfielder.

Watch every match of the Marsh Community Series AFL pre-season comp LIVE & On-Demand on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

Andrew McGrath is ready to get his hands dirty as an in and under midfielder. Picture: Sarah Reed

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The 2016 No. 1 draft pick latched on to teammate Dylan Shiel last season in a bid to learn more about the midfield craft and has spent much of summer harnessing the knowledge of former Richmond assistant Caracella.

“Blake’s been an awesome mentor in the short period of time I’ve had with him,” McGrath said.

“He’s seen it all at Richmond and coached some amazing players and an amazing group and just to pick his brain about certain things about what they do and ask him about certain players that I idolised growing up is pretty cool. He’s added a different twist to our midfield and has a few new ideas so it’s very refreshing.”

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McGrath said while he had not put on significant weight over the off-season he felt his body was ready to spend more time on the ball this season.

“It’s a fine balance,” McGrath said.

“You want to get as fit as you can and as strong as you can. Sometimes those two don’t work hand-in-hand. But I feel like I’m stronger than I was last year and more capable to play that role.”
 
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North Melbourne stars battling to get to Round 1 fit as Jack Ziebell and Jared Polec recover from injury

North Melbourne hopes key defender Robbie Tarrant will play in the pre-season comp after foot surgery, but two of the club’s most important players are fighting their own fitness battles.

Jon Ralph, Herald Sun

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February 11, 2020 4:28pm

FOXSPORTS0:56

Demons down Roos on day 1

AFLW: Melbourne have opened their AFLW season with a victory as they came from behind to beat North Melbourne 22-20 at Casey Fields.

North Melbourne captain Jack Ziebell is in increasing doubt for Round 1 after barely training with the Kangaroos’ main group since Christmas.

A series of niggling calf complaints have put Ziebell in a race to play against St Kilda on Sunday, March 22.

After the latest soft-tissue damage to his calf Roos medicos backed him off again for three weeks, with Ziebell only just starting to run again.

Ziebell battled similar issues last summer but managed to play all 22 games in 2019, filling a critical midfield role for stand-in coach Rhyce Shaw, who eventually won the job full-time.

This time there is genuine doubt given the club’s medicos do not want to push him without a solid training base and risk another injury.

Wingman Jared Polec is also being managed with a foot injury and is no certainty for Round 1 despite having played the last 54 games straight.

Polec finished seventh in the best-and-fairest last year but is one of the club’s best kicks inside 50 and ball-carriers.

Having had foot issues before, he picked up the soreness early and doesn’t need surgery but will also need to show he is fit enough for Round 1.

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Jack Ziebell is battling calf problems. Picture: Michael Klein

In 2015 Polec played only five games due to a navicular injury that some doctors had suggested might see his foot fused, ending his AFL career.

The Roos do not believe the injury is connected to those issues but have given him time to ease the pain before ramping up his training again.

The Roos play an Arden St intra-club on Friday ahead of their opening Marsh Community Series clash against the Western Bulldogs next week.

Veteran defender Robbie Tarrant will start running again next week after a procedure to address a painful foot injury that was hampering his summer. Tarrant had been suffering from Morton’s neuroma, a painful condition in the ball of the foot.

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Will the AFL become AFLM?

Is this the year? Three SuperCoach stars in waiting

But the Roos, who have lost defender Scott Thompson to retirement, are confident Tarrant will play in the Marsh Community series, with North Melbourne also squeezing in another practice game against Melbourne before their final Marsh game against Sydney in Hobart on March 9.

Majak Daw will also see plenty of pre-season action, with coach Shaw backing him after a strong pre-season.

The Roos have been impressed by exciting small forward Jack Mahony in match simulation and believe he could play in Round 1 if he continues his form.

A smart forward who finds space and uses the ball well, he is one of several players who will be desperate to fire in the four games ahead.
 
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The players primed for a Round 1 debut from your club

There is still the Marsh Community Series auditions to come, but a stack of young stars are already banging down the door. See who is closing in on a Round 1 berth at your club.

Jon Ralph, Herald Sun

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February 12, 2020 7:00am

FOXSPORTS0:37

No plans for AFL name change

AFL: The AFL says there are no plans to change the name of the men's competition to be consistent with the AFLW.

Uncapped youngsters have been putting in the hard yards working towards a potential Round 1 berth, and some have already impressed track watchers.

At many clubs there are several spots up for grabs, while at others a debut won’t come easy.

Who is primed for an early debut at your club?

Jon Ralph rates your potential early debutants.

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ADELAIDE

No.6 draft pick Fischer McAsey is already pushing for a Round 1 debut as a key back with hard inside mid Harry Schoenberg coming with a bullet and second-year small forward Shane McAdam finally fit enough to push for Marsh Series action.

The Crows could blood Fischer McAsey in Round 1. Picture: AAP Image/Scott BarbourBRISBANE

Gun junior midfielder and Larke medallist Deven Robertson hasn’t missed a beat and will play Gold Coast in clash on Saturday alongside many of the kids including dominant NEAFL midfielder Tom Berry and Ely Smith as they audition to break into the senior side.

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CARLTON

David Teague has already told fans to cool their jets on pick 17 Brodie Kemp given his ACL rehab that could take most of the year while pick 20 Sam Philp has taken on a full load as an inside midfielder with real pace in match simulation and should see some Marsh Community Series action. He might not debut early but he has some tricks that have excited the Blues fans.

COLLINGWOOD

No.40 draft pick Jay Rantall has barely put a foot wrong with impressive match simulation form and time trial wins but needs to break into an elite midfield. No. 45 pick Trent Bianco hasn’t been far behind him as a classy half back in a team that lost James Aish and has Travis Varcoe injured.

(L-R) Pies 2019 draftees Trent Bianco, Trey Rusco and Jay Rantall.

Essendon

Harrison Jones (pick 30) and Nick Bryan (pick 38) were both taken as developing talls and were the Dons’ only picks within 50 given their trades of the previous year. Exciting ruckman Sam Draper will only come back in the second half of the year after his knee reconstruction last year while on the verge of an AFL debut.

Fremantle

Track watchers are impressed with No.7 draft pick Hayden Young’s summer form while Caleb Serong should win early action, having played as a forward in match simulation, but No. 9 pick Liam Henry is only easing into training after a knee cap injury last year.

Geelong

No Jordan Clark-style bolter for the Cats this year but No.50 draft selection Cameron Taheny is already impressing as a lightning quick forward. Cooper Stephens (pick 16) and Sam De Koning (pick 19) have made solid progress but won’t be ready for an early debut.

Cats draftee Cameron Taheny has caught the eye at training. Picture: Peter Ristevski.

Gold Coast

Lock in the club’s first two draft picks Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson for Round 1 debuts barring injury, while Izak Rankine burning up the track after his injury-plagued 2019.

Rookie Connor Budarick is a potential Round 1 bolter given his impressive form.

GWS

The club’s No.4 pick Lachie Ash and No.10 pick Tom Greene haven’t put a foot wrong, meaning they are both chances to debut in Round 1.

Ash gives GWS a point of difference across half back, mixing fearsome attack on the footy with daring kicks inboard to leading targets, while inside bull Greene has also stood out in match practice already, with both set to get meaningful Marsh Cup minutes that could lead to early debuts.

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Hawthorn

The Hawks couldn’t be happier with the summers of Will Day (pick 13) and father-son Finn Maginness (pick 29), Maginness won a time trial over summer and while Alastair Clarkson doesn’t mind giving away debuts regardless of birth date its a midfield that has Tom Mitchell coming back so will be hard to crack into.

Melbourne

Luke Jackson couldn’t have been more impressive as the No.3 pick, playing ruck, midfield and forward in match simulation. But he would have to get past Tom McDonald and Sam Weideman, with Kosi Pickett’s best eye-catching on the track but the young Demon still finding consistency that will result in a VFL start to the season.

Luke Jackson has even been playing as a midfielder in match simulation. Picture: AAP Image/Scott Barbour

North Melbourne

The Roos couldn’t be more excited about small forward Jack Mahony, a draft slider after injuries in 2019, after strong work in intra-club match play.

He is a clever forward who finds space and has already been earmarked as a possible early debutante given the Roos are trying to find their next star small forward.

PORT ADELAIDE

Captain Tom Jonas has already lauded the athleticism of No.18 selection Mitch Georgiades, a tall forward, and Jackson Mead’s poise as a half forward after being taken at pick 25 as a father-son. No reason why the Power won’t play the kids early if they are ready as they did with so much success last year.

RICHMOND

Uncapped second-year midfielder Riley Collier-Dawkins has had a flawless pre-season after an excellent VFL finals series and is ready to take the next step, but competition for spots in the midfield has never been harder.

As the Tigers joked yesterday, they will likely find a spot for one-gamer Marlion Pickett, while marking tall Callum Coleman-Jones has taken another step after a single game in 2019.

Riley Collier-Dawkins faces a tough ask breaking into the Richmond midfield.ST KILDA

The Saints first pick in the draft was midfielder Ryan Byrnes (pick 52) ahead of quality ball user Leo Connolly (pick 64) but the influx of mature-aged talent means competition for spots is tough so an early debut might elude them.

Sydney

Isaac Heeney has already been blown away by No.5 draft selection Dylan Stephens, who can seriously use the Sherrin and won a summer time trial for the Swans. Don’t rule out an early debut, while strong-bodied Will Gould has played a season of senior footy before being drafted.

New Swan Dylan Stephens has drawn praise from teammate Isaac Heeney. Picture. Phil Hillyard

West Coast

Callum Jamieson is a developing ruckman taken at pick 49 so will take some time, while Ben Johnson is a beautiful ball user but might take some time to break into an elite side.

Western Bulldogs

No. 15 draft selection Cody Weightman hasn’t put a foot wrong, with Dogs players continually mentioning his X factor and ability to conjure a goal from nowhere. But with small forwards like Sam Lloyd, Bailey Dale, Tory Dickson, Will Hayes, Mitch Wallis and Rhylee West in front of him, can he crack a debut early? The Dons aren’t ruling it out.
 
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Dion Prestia says there are two big ways Marlion Pickett has improved his game over summer

Darling cops injury hitch

Chris Cavanagh

Herald Sun

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February 12, 2020 5:21pm

Reigning Richmond best-and-fairest Dion Prestia believes “hugely talented” teammate Marlion Pickett only scratched the surface of what he is capable of last year and has grown significantly as a player over summer.

Pickett debuted in last year’s Grand Final, gathering 22 disposals, three clearances and nine score involvements in the Tigers’ 89-point crushing of Greater Western Sydney.

A mid-season draftee last year, the 28-year-old produced the performance just over four months after playing his last WAFL game for South Fremantle.

Marlion Pickett made his AFL debut in a premiership victory. Picture: AAP

Prestia said Pickett had learnt plenty across his first AFL pre-season and there had been tangible signs of his improvement on the track.

“I’d definitely be picking him in SuperCoach,” Prestia told the Herald Sun from a shoot for Kayo Sports on Wednesday.

“He’s been absolutely amazing, really. Coming into the team halfway through last year and playing in the VFL and then the AFL premiership is pretty impressive. He hasn’t missed a beat all pre-season.

“He’s done every session and he’s looking pretty good. I can’t wait to see what he’ll produce this year having a full AFL pre-season under his belt.

“I think it’s pretty awesome for him to come into a midfield with (Trent) Cotchin, (Dustin) Martin, (Shane) Edwards where he doesn’t have to be the best player. He doesn’t have to stand out and make all the decisions. He can just be himself and play his normal game which I think is going to be the best thing for Marlion.”

Pickett has not missed a beat during pre-season at Richmond. Picture: Sarah Matray

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Prestia, who joined Richmond from Gold Coast Suns at the end of 2016, said he knew from personal experience that it took time to adjust to a new club and a new system, adding that Pickett would benefit enormously from having had a full pre-season at Punt Rd.

“It takes a while to get your head around the game plan and get to know our running patterns, how we defend and how we move the ball,” Prestia said.

“So for him to be able to do what he did on Grand Final day after only a couple of games with us was incredible.

“I know when I first came to Richmond it took me more than a couple of weeks to get used to that even after doing a full pre-season.

“Now he’s got a whole pre-season under his belt and I think that’s where he’ll get his improvement – knowing where to run and knowing the ball movement.”

Pickett has a bargain-basement SuperCoach price this year of $123,900.

Richmond meets Collingwood in its first game of the Marsh Community Series on Sunday, March 1.
 
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Carlton midfielder Sam Walsh identifies key area of growth in his game heading into 2020

Sam Walsh produced a stunning debut season in 2019 to win the AFL’s Rising Star award. But don’t expect any second year Blues from the 19-year-old, who has spent the off-season in the gym and working on a key facet of his game.

Chris Cavanagh, Herald Sun

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February 12, 2020 5:38pm

FOXSPORTS0:30

McKenna returns to Ireland

AFL: Essendon has suffered a blow a month before Round 1, with defender Conor McKenna returning home to Ireland indefinitely.

Carlton young gun Sam Walsh has identified contested ball as a key area of improvement in his game as he looks to build on a bumper debut season.

The 2019 Rising Star winner, Walsh averaged 25.2 disposals but only 9.6 contested possessions across 22 games for the Blues last season.

However, after a second summer in the gym further building his body, the 19-year-old is confident he will be able to take his game to a new level in the thick of the action.

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Sam Walsh is determined to improve his contested ball game in 2020. Picture: Getty Images

“On the back of last year I learnt so much,” Walsh told the Herald Sun from a shoot for Kayo Sports Wednesday.

“The contested element of the game is something I want to keep working on. You look at the best players in the game and how skilful they are around the contest and that’s something that I want to try and keep improving on with my game as well.

“The biggest thing for me heading into my second pre-season was to maintain my running but put on a bit more size.

“I’ve been able to do that so far and that’s just the natural progression with doing the second year of weights and getting to know what the pre-season looks like for me.”

Despite being led by Brownlow Medal favourite Patrick Cripps, Carlton’s midfield group is ranked the worst in the AFL by Champion Data.

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However, the group helped propel the Blues to a strong second half of the season in 2019 and Walsh said greater continuity would help ensure significant growth.

“Hopefully we get a bit more continuity through there,” Walsh said.

Walsh was a no-brainer for the AFL Rising Star award. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

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“On the back of winning games in the back half of last year we tried to keep it pretty simple in the midfield and play to our strengths. I think that’s something we’ll take into this year and hopefully keep on working together to help each other.”

Walsh said co-captain Sam Docherty was on track to feature during the Blues’ pre-season matches and nominated the club’s top draft pick from 2019 — Sam Philp — as a player to watch.

“Sam Philip is really exciting with his speed and power and there’s a few younger guys that are also putting their feet forward,” Walsh said.

“There’s great competition for spots and they (the draftees) are asking heaps of questions and learning a fair bit so it’s pretty exciting times.”

Walsh was one of the Blues’ best players in 2019. Picture: AAP

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The predicted top SuperCoach scorer at every club

Which SuperCoach stars will maintain the rage in 2020 and who is set to go to another level? We predict who will lead the way at every club. Plus, your chance to vote on the top scorer for all 18 teams.

Dan Batten, Herald Sun

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|February 13, 2020 8:03am

Predictions of a player improving on last year’s average or even maintaining it can leave us with egg on our face.

Adelaide ball-magnet Rory Laird was a notable example last season. Scoring more SuperCoach points than any Crow with an average of 108.2 in 2018, the defender fell to a season average of 96.8 in 2019.

On the flip side, who would have predicted then SuperCoach forward Rowan Marshall – who missed out on selection in Round 1- to be St Kilda’s clear top scorer of 2019?

While some clubs require some guesswork, there are sides with clear SuperCoach standouts who top the charts year in, year out.

Adelaide

Predicted top scorer: Reilly O’Brien ($517.3k, RUCK)

Predicted average: 105

Set to rise: Rory Laird ($525,800, DEF)

Move over Matt Crouch and Rory Sloane, there will be a new SuperCoach king at West Lakes in 2020. We saw Reilly O’Brien burst out of the blocks when the durable Sam Jacobs went down with injury last year and then overtake him as the No. 1 ruckman when he returned. Without Jacobs at the club, more will be expected of O’Brien and he should build on his 95.3 average of last year as a SuperCoach rookie. The scoring potential is definitely there, registering five 110-plus totals in 2019 -including a mammoth 181 point total. Could he be a possible alternative to Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy? Meanwhile, teammate Rory Laird should return to his SuperCoach best after a down year.

Brisbane

Predicted top scorer: Lachie Neale ($658,500, MID)

Predicted average: 115

Set to rise: Hugh McCluggage ($510,700, MID)

Lachie Neale was averaging close to 130 for the first half of the season until opposition sides finally opted to tag the prolific ball-winner. He should receive that extra attention again in 2020, but Neale’s elite tank and work around stoppages will ensure he still leads all comers at the Lions. Young star Hugh McCluggage might not be far behind, along with Dayne Zorko and Jarryd Lyons.

Carlton

Predicted top scorer: Patrick Cripps ($635,900, MID)

Predicted average: 120+

Set to rise: Sam Docherty ($436,100, DEF)

Contested beast Patrick Cripps has been close to 120 season averages in his last two seasons. With a better side around him in 2020, Cripps is every chance to surpass the elusive 120-mark. The Blues won five games in the run home and the clearance specialist produced scores above 150 in two them. It will be Cripps by the length of the Flemington straight in Carlton’s SuperCoach race, with defender Sam Docherty returning to his former SuperCoach glory.

Collingwood

Predicted top scorer: Brodie Grundy ($705,900, RUCK)

Predicted average: 130+

Set to rise: Brayden Sier ($242,700, MID)

Speaking of a one horse race, Brodie Grundy has the highest scorer stakes sewn up at Collingwood. Grundy has been the top scorer of the competition for the past two seasons, finishing with season averages of 130.5 (2018) and 130 (2019). Adam Treloar is another option to consider in the middle with Grundy putting it to him on a platter, while Brayden Sier should increase his SuperCoach average significantly with greater midfield opportunity.

Essendon

Predicted top scorer: Zach Merrett ($573,600, MID)

Predicted average: 105-110

Set to rise: Darcy Parish ($465,400, FWD/MID)

Zach Merrett certainly has a point to prove after being ousted as vice-captain and expect the SuperCoach stud to respond in kind. The Bomber ball-winner has been the major SuperCoach player at the The Hanger since his career-high 111.5 average of 2016. He is unlikely to reach those heights with the Dons’ pre-season injury woes, but he should add to his 2019 season average of 105.6. Otherwise, the Bombers are devoid of SuperCoach relevance, with Dylan Shiel the only real contender for Zach Merrett’s throne, while Darcy Parish is a potential riser.

Fremantle

Predicted top scorer: Nat Fyfe ($651,600, MID)

Predicted average: 120+

Set to rise: Andrew Brayshaw ($382,800, FWD/MID)

Injury has been the only thing stopping dual Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe from owning the No. 1 SuperCoach title at the Dockers since 2014. Fyfe has finished three seasons with an average of 120 points or more and finished with the eleventh most SuperCoach points last home-and-away season despite missing two games with injury. Michael Walters will take the silver medal for scoring at Fremantle and don’t be surprised if former No. 2 draft pick Andrew Brayshaw finishes in their top-five points scorers.

Gold Coast

Predicted top scorer: Jarrod Witts ($541,300, RUCK)

Predicted average: 95

Set to rise: Hugh Greenwood ($463,100, FWD/MID)

The Suns have SuperCoach relevant players at the cheaper end of the scale, but Jarrod Witts should end 2020 as their top scorer for the second straight season. The underrated ruckman averaged a touch under 100 points and won more hit-outs than any player in the competition in 2019. But don’t pick him in SuperCoach – he is coming off pre-season foot surgery and is no competition to ruck behemoths Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn. Former Crow Hugh Greenwood is one to watch with FWD/MID eligibility and could be just behind Witts at the Suns.

Geelong

Predicted top scorer: Patrick Dangerfield ($625,500, MID)

Predicted average: 120+

Set to rise: Jack Steven ($361,700, FWD/MID)

Despite losing his forward status in SuperCoach, think twice before leaving Patrick Dangerfield out of your side. Dangerfield shaved six points off his SuperCoach average from 2018 average compared to 2019 but with Tim Kelly gone, expect the superstar to boast a 120-plus average at season’s end with increased midfield time. Gun teammate Mitch Duncan will be somewhere in the top-three while new Cat Jack Steven is likely to show glimpses of his best.
 
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GWS

Predicted top scorer: Lachie Whitfield ($604,100, FWD/MID)

Predicted average: 115

Set to rise: Stephen Coniglio ($549,500, MID)

It will be a tight finish between stars Josh Kelly and Lachie Whitfield for the highest average, but Kelly hasn’t played a full season since 2016. Whitfield looms as the likely top scorer for that reason, averaging 111.1 points in 2019 – 115 without his injury affected score of 46. Expect him to reach that mark and be the No. 1 forward in SuperCoach. The Giants have an embarrassment of SuperCoach riches with Tim Taranto, Stephen Coniglio also likely to be around the mark.

Hawthorn

Predicted top scorer: Tom Mitchell ($630,900, MID)

Predicted average: 120

Set to rise: James Sicily ($509,500)

Closing in on a Round 1 return, clearance machine Tom Mitchell will be the clear SuperCoach leader at Hawthorn – as he was in his Brownlow winning season of 2018. Expecting Mitchell to repeat those phenomenal numbers – averaging 1291.1 points per game – may be unrealistic, but there is no one who matches Michell’s scoring power at the Hawks. Young gun James Worpel and intercept defender James Sicily will likely battle it out for second place, with the latter looming as one of their best SuperCoach options.

Melbourne

Predicted top scorer: Max Gawn ($697,100, RUCK)

Predicted average: 125

Set to rise: Clayton Oliver ($593,900, MID)

Don’t let that pre-season injury deter you. Max Gawn has said he is on track for Round 1 and he should comfortable sit atop Melbourne’s SuperCoach scorers list. Gawn has scored the second most points of any player over the past two seasons, edging close to a 130 average in both seasons. His pre-season setback may curb his influence somewhat, but not enough to justify going without him. His teammate Clayton Oliver fell below a 110 average for the first time since his debut season, which he should improve on in 2020.

North Melbourne

Predicted top scorer: Todd Goldstein ($609,400, RUCK)

Predicted average: 105

Set to rise: Tarryn Thomas ($339,900, FWD/MID)

Todd Goldstein proved his best form isn’t behind him just yet. Goldstein amassed seven 120-plus scores in his last nine matches averaging a formidable 128.1 points. While he is no spring chicken, the 31-year-old is set to be a top four ruckman and the points leader at the Roos. Coalface specialist Ben Cunnington won’t be far behind, while talented youngster Tarryn Thomas looms as a potential breakout, but he is at an awkward price.

Port Adelaide

Predicted top scorer: Scott Lycett ($550,600, RUCK)

Predicted average: 105

Set to rise: Dan Houston ($484,400, DEF)

It was a topsy-turvy year for Scott Lycett in 2019, but he still managed to average six points below Power top scorer Travis Boak. Without sharing the ruck duties with Paddy Ryder, Scott Lycett should go to another level, while Boak, who turns 32 this year, may drop off a touch. A midfield move has been mooted for SuperCoach defender Dan Houston, which could catapult him into premium status.

Richmond

Predicted top scorer: Dion Prestia ($550,200, MID)

Predicted average: 105-110

Set to rise: Tom J. Lynch ($388,800, FWD)

Hang on – no Dusty? Dion Prestia’s finish to last season was unheralded in SuperCoach land, averaging an impressive 111.9 points from Round 10. With Trent Cotchin’s prominence likely to be reduced and Dustin Martin being used as a weapon up forward, Dion Prestia should finish 2020 as the Tigers top scorer. Meanwhile, look out for an increased SuperCoach output from a fully fit Tom Lynch.

St Kilda

Predicted top scorer: Sebastian Ross ($530,900, MID)

Predicted average: 100

Set to rise: Jade Gresham ($456,300, FWD/MID)

Ruckman Rowan Marshall was the clear standout last year for the Saints. However with Paddy Ryder expected to share duties with him, it could see Sebastian Ross usurp the young ruckman as top scorer. Ross has delivered modest SuperCoach returns in recent seasons, averaging between 94-101 points each year since 2016. But points are set to be shared around in a new-look Saints side. Others to watch out for are Jade Gresham if he receives greater midfield minutes and Jack Steele if he is no longer tagging.

Sydney

Predicted top scorer: Jake Lloyd ($591,400, DEF)

Predicted average: 105+

Set to rise: Jordan Dawson ($467,800, DEF/FWD)

Jake Lloyd has been the comfortable SuperCoach leader the past two seasons and he is the favourite to do it again in 2020. Sydney love to get the ball in his hands out of defence and he generally adds a handy 10-15 points to his total each game playing on from kick-ins. Midfield bulls Josh P. Kennedy and Luke Parker still have plenty of fight left in them but are unlikely to reach the heights that Lloyd can. Youngster Jordan Dawson, who will partner Jake Lloyd in defence, is another option with upside.

Western Bulldogs

Predicted top scorer: Jack Macrae ($668,900, MID)

Predicted average: 120+

Set to rise: Patrick Lipinski ($441,500, FWD/MID)

SuperCoach gun Jack Macrae will be competing for points again with both Josh Dunkley and Marcus Bontempelli, but expect the ever-reliable midfielder to come out on top. Macrae was by far the best Bulldog in 2018, averaging 127.1 points per game, but was challenged by his two prolific teammates last season. Picking two of the three Bulldogs seems risky but the ball-winning trio finished all finished in the top six points scorers last season.

West Coast

Predicted top scorer: Andrew Gaff ($583,200, MID)

Predicted average: 110

Set to rise: Nic Naitanui ($457,800 RUCK)

As the likes of Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey receive the plaudits, consistent wingman Andrew Gaff goes about his business in the background. Gaff had 27 disposals or more in every game last season, averaging 107.2 points per game in 2019. He should benefit from Tim Kelly’s arrival with another class midfielder dishing it to him on the outside. Yeo and Kelly will challenge him for their top scorer, along with Nic Naitanui if he can stay on the park.
 
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