West Coast were thoroughly deserved 25-point winners against Melbourne as both sides put forward their best lineups in a Round 1 dress rehearsal. In terms of game plan the Eagles were happy to possess the ball in their defensive half and slowly work the ball up the ground, but also quick to counterattack when Melbourne turned the ball over. Conversely the Demons relied heavily on bursting the ball forward from stoppages resulting in plenty of poor inside 50 entries.
What we learnt?
Andrew Gaff & Sam Mitchell: The warm weather only made Gaff’s incredible running power more damaging as he collected 35 disposals (30 uncontested), 14 marks (all uncontested) and kicked a goal. Similarly, Mitchell found space at will amassing 39 disposals (34 uncontested) and 12 marks (all uncontested). Both Gaff and Mitchell are ball-magnets and if you’re looking for a midfielder with the Round 12 bye are fantastic options.
Josh J. Kennedy: Kennedy has to be one of the most under-appreciated forward premiums in fantasy right now. The two-time reigning Coleman Medalist has played 22 games the last two seasons and averaged 87DT and 96SC points, yet as fantasy coaches we seemed to be scared off because he’s a key-forward. The Eagles supply to Kennedy was first-class and he capitalized taking 10 marks (seven inside 50) and could have had a huge haul, but his radar was slightly off and he finished with five goals, four behinds. I can’t see why Kennedy would drop in production this year with the Eagles adding a ball-user like Sam Mitchell to their side.
Nathan Vardy: Although playing primarily in the ruck it was his movement that stood-out. Multiple times he found himself all alone, which resulted in him kicking two goals, having 12 touches and taking five marks. While not relevant in salary cap formats, if you’re looking for a ruckman late in the draft he could be of use.
Last year West Coast averaged 200 kicks, 154 handballs and 86 marks, however, in this game they had 241 kicks, 210 handballs and 137 marks, an output that if sustained would result in a huge spike in fantasy performance. Most of these extra disposals and marks seemed to be coming in their defensive half, which saw the likes of Sharrod Wellingham (31 disposals & 6 marks), Elliot Yeo (28 disposals & 10 marks) and Jeremy McGovern (21 disposals & 10 marks) all have massive fantasy performances. There were no basement priced options for the Eagles in this one but mid $200k options Jackson Nelson and Dom Sheed both were solid without screaming ‘pick me.’
What we learnt?
Max Gawn & Jake Spencer: To fantasy coaches frustration it looks as though Gawn and Spencer will head into Round 1 together. While Gawn had the lion’s share of the ruck time and won 31 hit outs, his work around the ground was rarely noticed as he had zero marks and just the six disposals. Spencer on the other hand made the most of his time up forward kicking three goals and clunking two marks inside 50, a performance I suspect Simon Goodwin will reward with a spot come Round 1. The dilemma now for fantasy coaches is how does this affect Gawn’s output in the season proper. Do we back him in to still produce among the top two rucks or do we wait and observe? It’s someone I’m reeling with myself.
Clayton Oliver: Oliver blew me away in this game gathering 31 disposals (a game-high 13 contested), six marks, five clearances and seven tackles. Oliver has always been terrific in tight but his running patterns and decision marking with ball in hand were a cut above his teammates. Priced squarely in the mid-price bracket in salary cap formats and in just his second season, reaching elite hood would be a big task, but if I’m in a keeper league I’m exploring all avenues to bring him into my side. A star for many years to come.
Christian Petracca: The football world had anointed him the competitions next star after his performance against Carlton two weeks ago, but the Eagles brought his feet well and truly back to Earth in this game. While he was a victim of the Demons poor ball-use inside 50, he was also a culprit, with some skill and decision-making errors of his own. There’s no doubt he has the talent to be a premium option eventually, but I think this game will peg those expectations back to a realistic level and cause people to reconsider if a guy who has played just 17 games can be among the best handful of forwards this season.
This clash with West Coast will serve as a good wake-up call for Melbourne, who were just unable to use the ball effectively under the Eagles pressure. Bernie Vince, now defender-midfield eligible, and Jack Viney were uncharacteristically quiet in this game, but if I’m already on these guys, this performance did nothing to change my mind. The Demons continued to use Jordan Lewis across half-back and through the midfield, I’m not sure if it’s enough to potentially gain defender-status midway through the season, but if you’re 50/50 between him and another midfielder in a draft it could be a worthwhile punt. No basement priced options in this game for the Demons either with rookie Joel Smith not making the side.