KFC SuperCoach Plus: The 11 things we learned in pre-season
KFC SuperCoach Plus: The 11 things we learned in pre-season

KFC SuperCoach: 11 things we learned in pre-season

With the pre-season over, time is running out for KFC SuperCoaches to lock in their team for Round 1.

While our rookie bible has been updated, the top-20 mid-pricers have been revealed and Al Paton has revealed his top cash cows of 2021, the intel which has slipped under the radar is what can set your team apart.

We've dug back through the games and the KFC SuperCoach Plus stats to find the nuggets other coaches might have missed to help finalise your team.

Check out our 11 left-field talking points from the pre-season games below.

 

 

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1. THERE IS FIERCE COMPETITION FOR RUCK BENCH SPOT

The R3 position is often used by KFC SuperCoaches to hide away a player we know won't ever take the field. But this year is very different.

Giant Matt Flynn was a popular pick after Braydon Preuss suffered a shoulder injury, but now there are doubts over his role (see below).

But don't panic. There are two more players lining up to challenge for the R3 spot.

Rory Lobb's knee injury has given 203cm Fremantle ruckman Lloyd Meek ($123,900 RUC) a fast lane to a Round 1 debut against Melbourne and the No.1 KFC SuperCoach scorer of 2020, Max Gawn. And don't let the possible return from injury of Sean Darcy put you off picking Meek, who averaged 87 ranking points from seven WAFL games in 2019. Dockers coach Justin Longmuir hinted after his side's pre-season loss to West Coast the pair could play in the same team: "I thought he performed really well again," he said of Meek. "He competed really hard, tried his best to nullify Nic in the ruck … I think he's firming for Round 1."

Meanwhile, St Kilda's recent Supplementary Selection Period signing Paul Hunter ($102,400 RUC) will lead the Saints' ruck division in the absence of Rowan Marshall (foot) and Paddy Ryder, who has requested personal leave from the club.

"Four weeks ago Paul Hunter wasn't even at our football club but within four weeks he's going to play Round 1. It's amazing," Saints coach Brett Ratten said on Wednesday night.

Hunter, who was on Adelaide's list from 2016-19 without playing a senior game, put up some huge numbers in the SANFL last season.

Playing for South Adelaide, he averaged 16.76 disposals, 30 hitouts and 136 SuperCoach points, with a lowest score of 94. He scored 77 points against Carlton last Friday night.

 

ROOKIE BIBLE: SUPERCOACH ROOKIE ROUND 1 BOLTERS

 

 

2. THE 'CASH COW OF THE YEAR' MIGHT NOT PLAY ROUND 1

When Leon Cameron says the Giants' ruck situation is "intriguing", you just know KFC SuperCoaches are going to be left sweating.

Matt Flynn was supposed to generate cash from R3 for most of the season - bar the odd appearance from Shane Mumford - after Braydon Preuss was ruled out for 4-5 months. But Flynn could not have rolled his ankle at a worse time, missing the Giants' win over Sydney in their last pre-season hitout.

Kieren Briggs ($123,900 DEF/FWD) filled the ruck role in that game and had 22 hitouts, five disposals and kicked a goal to tally 81 KFC SuperCoach points.

Here's what Cameron said post-match: "Our rucks (are) an intriguing part at the moment. Matty Flynn would have played this week, but he rolled his ankle. We expect him to be right for Round 1. But young Kieren Briggs jumped up today … he got his opportunity in his third year and he really grabbed it with both hands. His centre bounce work was terrific. We've got spots up for that ruck … it will be interesting to see who fights that out for those two boys."

 

TIPS: HOW TO AVOID ROUND 1 ROOKIE ROULETTE

 

 

3. BRISBANE HAS A ROUND 1 BOLTER

Cam Rayner's ACL injury gave youngster Harry Sharp ($117,300 DEF/MID) the chance to press his claims for Round 1, and he did not disappoint against Gold Coast.

Sharp had 10 disposals and kicked a goal in about 50 per cent game time, recording 52 KFC SuperCoach points. The Lions do not lack options to replace Rayner, with Zach Bailey already slated for greater midfield time.

But Chris Fagan was clearly impressed by what he saw from Sharp, telling reporters after his side's victory over the Suns: "It was a pleasant surprise to see him do so well tonight, I must say. The plan was to give him a quarter at the end of the game but he ended up coming on for Cam. He got a bit more time than he bargained for."

Maybe the defensive rookie we have been craving might come from an unlikely source. "He looks like he's going to be able to play at the level at some point in time," Fagan said.

 

Lachlan McNeil has impressed since arriving at Whitten Oval.
Lachlan McNeil has impressed since arriving at Whitten Oval.

 

4. DOGS BULLISH ABOUT STATE LEAGUE DUO

As KFC SuperCoaches clamoured to add premiums Caleb Daniel, Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae after they dominated Melbourne, many would have missed VFL draftee Anthony Scott.

Available for a bargain basement $102,400 and with FWD/MID swing, the 2019 Footscray best-and-fairest has had an eye-catching pre-season playing as a small defender. He was named ahead of Jason Johannisen against Melbourne, so clearly has his admirers. Scott scored 79 KFC SuperCoach points against the Demons and will rocket above 10 per cent of teams if there's any suggestion he'll debut in Round 1.

Lachlan McNeil ($102,400 FWD), another state league draftee, also had some nice moments against Melbourne. But as a small forward, his KFC SuperCoach scoring is likely to be more volatile.

Coach Luke Beveridge said post-match the pair "haven't put a foot wrong" and "promise to be really important players for us in the future".

 

 

 

5. SAINTS DEFENSIVE DEPTH COULD BE A PROBLEM … FOR US

Depth is a godsend for coaches - unless you're talking KFC SuperCoaches. Saints coach Brett Ratten didn't have to think too hard when he reeled off the options available to him to replace injured recruit James Frawley, who is set to miss up to 10 weeks after hurting his hamstring.

Quizzed about potential Frawley replacements after his side defeated Carlton, Ratten mentioned Jake Carlisle, Tom Highmore, Darragh Joyce and suggested Jimmy Webster or Nick Coffield could step in as a third tall.

That would hardly have filled KFC SuperCoaches with confidence SANFL product Highmore ($117,300 DEF) will debut after originally only being slated for one quarter against the Blues. At least Frawley's injury meant he got greater game time to try and put his hand up.

 

Jordan Clark’s job security might be all that holds him back this year.
Jordan Clark’s job security might be all that holds him back this year.

 

6. THE CATS ARE PLAYING DOWN CLARK HYPE

KFC SuperCoaches thought the defensive rookie crisis had been solved - at least to an extent - when Jordan Clark was close to best on ground in Geelong's pre-season win over Essendon.

It didn't take long before reality set in, though, when assistant coach Matthew Knights played down any ideas Clark was suddenly a certainty for a Round 1 berth. After praising Clark's performance, Knights added: "He's certainly improving as a player and he's giving himself a chance to be up for selection Round 1. But that's yet to be decided. You're still there with 26 tonight so it's a bit of a false economy … and we might have some players coming back into that line-up also."

The Cats still have Mitch Duncan to return and their squad will be squeezed from 26 in pre-season to 22. But surely Clark can't be left out after having 29 disposals, kicking 1.2 and taking 10 marks against the Bombers?

His DPP is great, but the last thing you need is to pay $241k for a player who gets dropped a few rounds into the season.

 

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7. GET USED TO DE GOEY THE MIDFIELDER

The Dusty comparisons started almost immediately. But it was hard not to take notice of the extra time Jordan De Goey ($435,200 FWD) spent as an onballer in Collingwood's loss to Richmond.

De Goey attended an equal team-high 19 centre bounces against the Tigers after the Magpies lost Steele Sidebottom to a calf injury. That blow will no doubt have forced Nathan Buckley to amp up De Goey's time in the middle, especially with Taylor Adams still sidelined. After 27 disposals and 2.2 against the Tigers, will Buckley be able to resist the temptation of De Goey being a greater midfield threat?

"He played nearly exclusively mid and the ball spent a lot of time in our back half, so he was probably happier being a midfielder than sitting forward and not having it come to him. We will explore that," Buckley said.

It might be what helps him take the next step from an average of 80-85 to a genuine KFC SuperCoach forward premium.

 

 

8. MERRETT MAY HAVE GONE TO ANOTHER LEVEL

 

Sometimes it's the little things the best players do which make them a better KFC SuperCoach option than their rivals - think the knock-ons which lead to goals Marcus Bontempelli is so often involved in.

No one doubts Zach Merrett's ability to find the ball, but perhaps the best sign the Essendon midfielder is set for a dominant campaign was the pressure he applied against Geelong. Bombers coach Ben Rutten noted post-match Merrett's pressure points were equal to the career-best pressure numbers he posted in 2019.

"(He performed) outstanding tonight in all phases of the game. We know how good Zach is with the ball, but I think 50-60 pressure points as well just shows his level of determination and his application to his game."

Merrett's ownership has surged to 18 per cent since scoring 126 against the Cats.

 

 

9. WHY WAS JOSH DUNKLEY BACK IN THE RUCK?

 

Luke Beveridge must have known the questions were coming about Josh Dunkley. And while he suggested his earlier comments that Dunkley's spot in the team was in jeopardy had been overblown, some KFC SuperCoaches will have noticed Dunkley being used in the ruck - at least once - against Melbourne. But don't fret KFC SuperCoaches, it certainly wasn't intentional.

"It was by accident today. It didn't happen very often last year, actually," Beveridge said.

"Whether it was Jack Macrae or Marcus Bontempelli or Dunks being that extra ruckman. Usually at centre bounce, we'd at least have Josh Bruce or Tim English there last year." Beveridge said on Monday a miscommunication where English and Bruce stayed forward was to blame. Although Adam Treloar is still due to return, Dunkley's effort against the Demons (170 KFC SuperCoach points) showed how dominant he can be as a centre-bounce midfielder.

 

Dom Tyson could be a midfield cheapie if he gets his body right.
Dom Tyson could be a midfield cheapie if he gets his body right.

 

10. DOM TYSON IS A KFC SUPERCOACH SLEEPER

 

Our KFC SuperCoach BBL investor Daniel Begala is a fan, and so is North Melbourne coach David Noble. It's been five years since Dom Tyson ($243,900 MID) averaged 90 in KFC SuperCoach and the oft-injured midfielder has only managed three games in the past two years. But of all the options $200k-$250k in KFC SuperCoach, Tyson is the one who has slipped under the radar.

Tyson scored 111 KFC SuperCoach points against Hawthorn and could prove a midfield cash cow. Certainly, Noble is planning for the ex-Giant and Demon to be an important part of his Roos engine room: "I like what he can actually bring to our team. He's got great hands, he reads the ball really well in that stoppage. He can play a various number of roles, too - go half-back, wing, midfield, which helps with your rotations. I'm pleased for him. He's put a lot of hard effort and hard work in."

 

MORE: AAMI SERIES SUPERCOACH SCOUTING REPORT

 

 

11. HAWK REINFORCEMENTS MIGHT BE AN ISSUE

 

Most KFC SuperCoaches are expecting Tyler Brockman ($117,300 FWD/MID) and Connor Downie ($117,300 MID) will be locks for Hawthorn's Round 1 team - and the rookies may well be. But it's worth noting the cavalry the Hawks have to come back, something Alastair Clarkson mentioned after his team's win over North Melbourne.

Clarkson noted the Hawks had six or seven players out of their best side in that pre-season game and they include walk-up starts such as Tom Mitchell and Chad Wingard. Don't rule Brockman or Downie out of your plans as they've likely played themselves into Round 1 calculations. But be mindful their senior run could be a short one, pending form of course.

 

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Originally published as KFC SuperCoach: 11 things we learned in pre-season


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