Chook’s Rooks – Round 8
A record number of rookies are on the verge of their first price rise. Are you giving any of them the time of Sam Day?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not the strictest Dream Team coach going around. All the Merv Gray Autos players know they’re free to enjoy a few beers on the weekend as long as it’s not going to affect their ability to tackle like a rabid dog or kick bananas from the pocket on match day. No one’s going to get their knickers in a knot if you play out of position at MGA Stadium, especially if you’re a defender or forward who wants to have a bit of a run through the centre. Go for your life! Collect those easy mark-kick combos! Hell, you might even get yourself some dual-positioning eligibility for next season. Sure, maybe if I was a bit tougher on them, I’d start to see the players begin to implement some of the moves we’ve been practising in training, like the one where you handpass to your opponent (+2), tackle his arse to the ground (+4) and win a free kick (+1) which you slot through the big sticks (+9) for a total of 16 points. But I’m not that type of coach, the one who has rules for every little aspect of the players’ lives. Until now. I’m bringing in a dress code for my MGA boys and it’s pretty specific, too. If you want to prance around in turtle necks, Joel Selwood, then that’s fine. Swanny, you think that woollen knit will keep you warm during the winter months? Well go ahead and wear it, son. Don’t worry Sammy Mitchell, I’m not banning the Borat-style swimsuit that you seem so attached to and you’re right to keep on wearing those pink fishnet singlets, Pendles. BUT IF ANYONE EVEN LOOKS AT A F*&%ING GREEN OR RED VEST, YOU CAN PACK YOUR F%^&ING BAGS FOR GWS!
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a coach who hasn’t been shafted by the new sub rule this year, but just because we’re all feeling the pain doesn’t make it any better. The worst victim of the vest in round eight was Adelaide defender Brodie Smith, who was coasting along nicely until his fourth-quarter cameo against the GC Suns produced just 11 points. Not only did that screw coaches who had him on the ground this week (no prizes for guessing who that included), but it rooted those who had him on the bench as well. That measly score didn’t just put the brakes on Smith’s price rises, it chucked them into reverse, too. One of the most promising cash cows in the backline lost a little over $10k and shackled him with a massive breakeven of 106. The plummeting price won’t concern you if you’ve already decided that Smith will be your eighth defender, of course, because you’re keeping him for the year. If you had him tagged as a cash cow, however, then now is definitely the time to take him to market. Gold Coast forward Liam Patrick also scored terribly after copping a vest in round eight, although Patrick had close to three quarters to have an impact on the DT scoreboard and only managed five points, living up to the predictions that he’d be an inconsistent scorer.
By this stage of the year, the rookies you’ve had from the start really need to step up in the scoring department if they want to keep their price heading skyward. That’s clearly a fact not lost on our young guns, with 10 players who started the DT season at rookie price pumping out scores above 70 in round eight, including an unprecedented five who cracked the century. The best of the lot was Hawthorn midfielder Shane Savage, who knocked up a Swanesque 144 in the Hawks’ comeback win against St Kilda. He’ll step on to the SCG in round nine with a new BE of -5 after his Rising Star nomination-winning performance. Melbourne multi-purpose player Stef Martin was the Demons’ highest scoring player in their insipid loss to North Melbourne, collecting 108 DTs, while the Gold Coast’s ruck-rover combo for the next decade, Zac Smith and Dave Swallow, each reached triple figures against Adelaide. Western Bulldogs midfielder Tom Liberatore responded in the best possible way to being rested in round seven, amassing an even 100 on his return.
Elsewhere, the news is not so good. Thankfully there are still downgrade targets rolling towards us, because the breakevens are getting a bit out of reach for some of the boys. Other than Smith, the biggest breakeven belongs to Essendon mid-def Dyson Heppell, although he’s one that’s capable of reaching the 91 that he needs to hold his $293,600 price tag. Perennial sub Andrew Gaff, of the much-improved West Coast Eagles, dropped $5 grand this week and is due another drop with a BE of 79, while teammate Jack Darling, who is developing a habit of starting games like a steam train but finishing like a team stain, has a highish BE of 66. I’d be sticking with the latter for a while longer and simply hoping you haven’t got the former. Luke Tapscott and Nick Lower owners have some decisions to make, with the Melbourne forward and Fremantle back seemingly at or at least nearing their ceilings. Both need 58 to breakeven in round nine, with averages a touch over 60.
If you were thinking of off-loading Tapscott, Lower or someone else you think might have done their dash, then there a bunch of options available. No less than 11 players are on the brink of their first price rise, although that includes four Gold Coast players whose bye this week means we can sit on them for another round. So if it’s okay, I may look at Tom Lynch, Steven May, Joe Daye and Sam Day in more detail another day. Hey, why don’t I just go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? I just may! What’d ya say? Anyway, that leaves Hawthorn duo Isaac Smith ($92,500, mid-fwd, BE -75) and Paul Puopolo ($92,500, def, BE -74), Essendon’s late replacement Michael Hibberd ($92,500, def, BE -67), St Kilda’s Arryn Siposs ($92,500, fwd, BE -13), Port Adelaide’s Simon Phillips and Sydney’s f-bomb dropper Nathan Gordon (both $96,700, mids, BEs 2 & 6) and Brisbane’s Bryce Retzlaff ($97,600, def-fwd, BE 15). The Hawks pair have been the highest scoring of the lot, with Puoplo in particular looking at home at the top level. Both received treatment for injuries during the St Kilda game (Puopolo shin, Smith knee), but returned to the field. Keep an eye on the team sheet this week. While by no means a direct replacement for injured defender Stephen Gilham (and certainly not for ruckman David Hale), the Hawks’ growing injury list can only help the job security of these two. It’s still questionable for me, with the likes of Cyril Rioli and Cam Bruce to return, but you’ll make worse decisions this year than taking a chance on Puopolo or Smith. The fact that Hibberd only got a recall due to a late out tells you something about his place in Essendon’s best 22, but there’s no doubting his talent. Funnily enough, Siposs might have the best job security of the lot, even though he hasn’t scored as highly as some of his peers. The coach seems to be fan and must begin to embrace rebuilding now that their premiership window has been slammed shut. It’d be easy to say “let’s laugh at Retzlaff” after his 16 on the weekend, but his first-up score of 46 is probably more indictive of what we can expect in the future.
Hawthorn’s Luke Breust, a $92,500 forward, started his first match as a sub but got his chance earlier than expected after Gilham’s injury forced the key defender off in the opening term. In a ridiculously high-scoring game by the Hawks, Breust got in on the action with a 70. Heavily selected mid-def Ben Jacobs didn’t do much to appease Port and DT fans desperate for a new hero, but it’s far too early to write him off yet. More impressive in the same game was Sydney midfielder Luke Parker, who didn’t debut until the final quarter but racked up seven touches after ditching the green vest. He looks a real prospect. I’m not as bullish about Gold Coast ruck Tom Nicholls, although 45 points wasn’t the worst first-up effort.
Let us know in the comments whether you’re holding or folding on Tapscott, Lower and others. If you’re folding, who are you picking up off the deck. Fingers crossed that whoever it is avoids making a fashion statement in a green or red-coloured vest.