Rookie guru reveals his KFC SuperCoach gems
It is a relief to return to some kind of normality in KFC SuperCoach.
Twenty-minute quarters and a 22-game season should restore the familiar product that we have grown to love - and sometimes hate - over the years.
KFC SuperCoach 2020 was fun with added trades and matches every day of the week, but I suspect coaches are craving a season free of the frustrations that came with an unprecedented year.
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FULL ROOKIE BIBLE: WHICH CASH COWS SHOULD YOU PICK?
While The Phantom is knee deep in SuperCoach AFL research and Tim Michell's phone is overflowing with team screenshots, I am feeling a touch underprepared following a career-best finish in the top-700 last year.
Although, the 5000-word Rookie Bible might tell you otherwise.
Here is my first team reveal of 2021, have at it.
Jake Lloyd (Syd) $656,400
Lachie Whitfield (GWS) $561,600
Liam Duggan (WCE) $448,600
Denver Grainger-Barras (Haw) $184,800
Lachie Jones (Port) $139,800
Jacob Wehr (GWS) $117,300
Tom Highmore (StK) $117,300
Isaac Chugg (Coll) $102,400 Fwd
Where's Rory Laird, you ask? We will get to that later.
Swans ball magnet Jake Lloyd is safe as houses and it would take a brave coach to go into 2021 without him following 16-straight tons last season.
The injury-affected score of eight points from Lachie Whitfield in Round 3 means the GWS Giants star offers supreme value, priced at an average of 104.5 despite averaging a formidable 117.3 points from his last nine games in 2020. The latter average is a better reflection of his potential output, with 20-minute quarters allowing his fantastic endurance base to be a significant weapon this season.
Liam Duggan was a player I watched closely as a member of my KFC SuperCoach Draft side in the back half of last year and his returns were impressive, scoring five tons and averaging 96.1 points.
He was a major beneficiary of the Eagles' possession play in 2020 and there has been talk of inside midfield time for the Eagles playmaker - which interests me even more.
But if lucrative signing Zac Williams is fit and firing at the Blues in his promised centre-square role, it may force a reshuffle of my side with Duggan making way.
The cheap defenders loom as the most reliable rookie line, with mature-age options and ready-made youngsters on offer, which is why I have opted for three on-field rookies - Denver Grainger-Barras, Lachie Jones and Jacob Wehr.
Grainger-Barras is the intercept king of the 2020 draft class, averaging 75 points against senior bodies in the WAFL last year, and a Round 1 debut beckons for the key defender.
Jones has a tougher ask getting into the Power's best 22 but also held his own in the SANFL, where Wehr and Tom Highmore (bench) also hail from as mature-age running defenders.
And watch out for dirt cheap DEF/FWD Isaac Chugg during the pre-season, who has been mooted as a Round 1 chance at Collingwood.
Lachie Neale (Bris) $721,800
Clayton Oliver (Melb) $656,700
Rory Laird (Adel) $564,800, Def
Patrick Cripps (Carl) $523,700
Matt Rowell (GCS) $495,100
Will Phillips (NM) $198,300
Tom Powell (NM) $153,300
Luke Valente (FREM) $123,900
Sam Berry (Adel) $117,300
Connor Downie (Haw) $117,300
Alex Davies (GCS) $102,400
After scouring for midfielders around his price, it occurred to me - why don't I just stick him in the guts and pick Whitfield instead?
In all my previous teams I have looked to take advantage of 'midfielders' in defence and the forward line, but I see Whitfield as a better choice than most of the $550,000-plus mids.
Injuries and the inflated scores from 16-minute quarters have made me sceptical of the top-flight mids aside from Lachie Neale and Clayton Oliver, who should go back to their mammoth possession tallies they amassed in season's past.
Clearance machine Patrick Cripps frustrated coaches last year but he looked to be playing hurt for most of the season.
I will assess his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery before locking him in.
At M5 I have toyed with underpriced ball-winners Tim Taranto and Ben Cunnington but have settled on Gold Coast prodigy Matt Rowell.
His mind-boggling scores in his first four games were a sign of things to come and if he is 100 per cent fit, I see no reason why he can't average more than 110.
Speaking of talented ball magnets, Roos draft duo Will Phillips and Tom Powell shape as KFC SuperCoach stars of the future and should get ample opportunity this year, while Luke Valente may finally get his first crack at the big time after an impressive pre-season.
Max Gawn (Melb) $751,400
Brodie Grundy (Coll) $648,200
Josh Treacy (Frem) $102,400, Fwd
The idea of Braydon Preuss was tempting but I have settled on the set-and-forget approach.
The same argument of inflated scores can be made for this pair, with Max Gawn boasting the most expensive starting price in the history of KFC SuperCoach.
However, he opens 2021 with matches against Fremantle, St Kilda, Essendon, Geelong, Hawthorn and Richmond.
While he will inevitably drop in price, you can expect monster returns during this period, and he is in less than 40 per cent of teams.
Brodie Grundy had a middling year and still averaged 120.7 points - greater life balance in 2021 should translate to greater KFC SuperCoach output.
Josh Dunkley (WBD) $560,200, Mid
Rowan Marshall (StK) $557,200, Ruck
Dustin Martin (Rich) $541,600, Mid
Jack Ziebell (NM) $257,900
Nakia Cockatoo (Bris) $123,900, Mid
James Rowe (Adel) $117,300
Corey Durdin (Carl) $117,300, Mid
Eddie Ford (NM) $117,300
I started Josh Dunkley as a midfielder last year and he performed well before his injury early in the season, so the opportunity to pick him up forward is a gift.
It is unclear what the Bulldogs' centre-bounce set-up will be with the arrival of Adam Treloar, but at least Dunkley won't be playing in the ruck thanks to the arrival of Stefan Martin.
Rowan Marshall is perhaps the biggest lock in the forward line with more ruck time as Paddy Ryder enters his 16th season, while Dustin Martin has been a regular fixture in my starting side over the years.
I was without Dusty last year from Round 5 after deciding to trade him and wasn't affected a great deal - besides the round he scored 184 - so I am not completely sold, but he is a good fit for now.
Jack Ziebell doesn't strike me as a rebounding defender but if the Roos decide to play him as one, he is difficult to ignore at that price - remember, Devon Smith became a consistent scorer in that role at the end of last year.
Perennially-injured talent Nakia Cockatoo and mature-age goalsneak James Rowe round out my team and if both are picked in Round 1, they'll stay there.
Blues small forward Corey Durdin is on my bench after impressing in his first pre-season.
He debuted at senior level in the SANFL as a 17-year-old, suggesting he may be ready for an early AFL call-up.
Originally published as Rookie guru reveals his KFC SuperCoach gems