KFC SuperCoach: All the best premium options in defence
The Phantom's KFC SuperCoach pre-season is here.
And the first session is all about the premium options in defence.
Here are the must-have players at the top-price, the next in line and those who are flying under the radar.
Jake Lloyd (Syd) $656,400
The Sydney star has posted a KFC SuperCoach ton in 45 of his past 54 home-and-away matches.
That's it. That's the description.
Well, it could be. But there's more. Lloyd finished with the equal-fourth-highest KFC SuperCoach average in the competition last year. He had more kicks than any other player in the minor round and ranked first in the competition for effective disposals, fourth for rebound 50s and fifth for metres-gained.
Rankings helped by the fact the skillful right-footer played on with 90 of his 94 kick-ins last. And with the new rule forcing the player on the mark to stand a further five metres back in 2021, that 96 per cent mark could be in trouble.
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The only question mark is around his $656k price-tag. Is he overpriced?
There's a case, sure, given the scores may even out across the 44 players on the ground a little with the return of standard quarters (you can find the full analysis on this here).
In short, highlighting the increased scaling at the top-end, there were 182 140+ scores in KFC SuperCoach last year - 16 more than in 2019 despite a total of 45 less games being played.
Lloyd had four of them, after just one the previous season, so another 122-point average may be a stretch.
The Phantom's Verdict: You're picking him for his consistent three-figure scores and, arguably, the best KFC SuperCoach role in the competition. Not for the value - you can do that elsewhere. Said he was a "little bit injured" last week but, hey, my foot would be hurting too if I had that many kicks. I wouldn't worry just yet.
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Rory Laird (Adel) $564,800
Your elsewhere could start here.
Laird is priced at an average of 105 - three points less than his career-best All-Australian year of 2018.
Great, right? That's probably just his base line.
At the height of Adelaide's struggles, the ball-winning defender moved into the midfield in Round 9 last year and starred, averaging 118 points per game in the run home. Laird had 37 disposals in Round 10 and 25 or more in each of his final five matches.
And, after leading the Crows for contested possessions, clearances and ground-ball gets from Round 10 - and with the departure of Brad Crouch - he's likely to assume the same role in 2021.
The Phantom's Verdict: Yep.
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Lachie Whitfield (GWS) $561,600
Whitfield is unlucky to miss out in the section above - just like he was in Round 3 last season.
The skillful Giant copped a heavy knock in the first quarter against the Bulldogs and was taken out the game in the second term.
He finished with eight KFC SuperCoach points to his name.
And, obviously, that score counted towards his overall average of 104.
Take out the injury-affected performance and Whitfield's average was 110 - aligning with his career-best 111-point mark from the previous year.
Since Round 9, 2018, Whitfield has scored 85 KFC SuperCoach points or more in 39 of his 44 non-injury affected matches, with 29 KFC SuperCoach tons.
Some will raise the issue of his durability but apart from the four games he missed with a broken collarbone in 2019 - another impact injury - Whitfield has ran out in all-but three games for the Giants since Round 20, 2016.
The Phantom's Verdict: He was a great pick as a forward last season and is probably even a better one as a defender in 2021.
Luke Ryan (Freo) $576,500
After pushing his average from 90 to 96 in an impressive third year in the competition, Ryan exploded in 2020, posting 13 KFC SuperCoach tons on his way to finishing with the second-highest average of all defenders to have played five or more games.
There's no shame finishing runner-up to Jake Lloyd.
But if you look past his slow start, which included three scores of less than 80, Ryan averaged 116 from Round 4 onwards and passed the 100-point mark in 12 of his final 13 games.
In his fourth year in the competition - after being drafted from the VFL as 20-year-old in 2016 - Ryan was the No. 1 ranked player for intercepts and rebound-50s.
And, like Lloyd, the 186cm Ryan is a beneficiary of the recent play-on rule, running out of the square, adding to his kick tally, with 74 of 89 kick-ins last year.
He ranked No. 3 in the AFL for kicks per game as a result.
The Phantom's Verdict: Huge 2020, and I'm tipping him to finish in the top-six, but I think he's one who will lose a few points as the scores - and scaling - even out.
Tom Stewart (Geel) $538,000
He's not getting a lot of love from the KFC SuperCoach community so far this pre-season, featuring in just 9.7 per cent of teams as of February 1.
But there is, indeed, plenty to love.
Stewart posted seven consecutive KFC SuperCoach tons to finish the home-and-away season, before scoring 151, 94 and 101 in the Cats' last three finals.
In fact, if you take out the injury-affected 18-point score in Round 4, Stewart averaged 106 points per game, again, showing there is plenty of value in his $538k price-tag.
The Geelong star took more marks than any other player in the competition and rated elite for disposals, rebound 50s, effective kicks, effective disposals, metres gained and score launches for a defender.
He's proven his consistency, too, scoring 84 points or more in 30 of his 36 matches in the past two home-and-away seasons.
The Phantom's Verdict: You have to scroll a little find him, but that definitely shouldn't put you off.
CAN THEY MAINTAIN IT?
Luke McDonald (NM) $512,900
In 2019, McDonald finished the year in defence, averaging just 60 KFC SuperCoach points per game and failing to win more than 20 disposals in any of his 13 matches.
Fast forward 12 months and, following a brief stint in a defensive midfield role, McDonald was crowned North's best-and-fairest after a 10-game stretch in the run home which saw him average 25 disposals and 116 KFC SuperCoach points across half-back.
He not only became one of the club's best ball-winners, but the competition's.
The 26-year-old confirmed recently that he would settle in defence in 2021 and declared he's only getting started.
"I'm not resting on my laurels and I really want to keep improving and try to be one of the best defenders in the competition, to be honest," McDonald told the club's website.
But, given his previous scoring history - averages of 67, 84, 64, 53 and 66 in his first five seasons in the game - if I had to pick one player to fit in this category in any position, it would be McDonald.
The Phantom's Verdict: Not only did he find the ball at will, McDonald hit the target with 159 of his 196 disposals from Round 10 onwards. But I've just got too many questions. Do North become more direct under David Noble? Do opposition sides let McDonald run around by himself if the Roos improve? Is he even that good?
Jordan Ridley (Ess) $547,700
Speaking of hitting targets, the numbers say the reigning Bombers best-and-fairest is the best ball-user in the competition.
Of all players to average 16 disposals or more, Ridley's efficiency of 87.5 per cent is No. 1.
Ridley averaged 18 per game and 266 of his 304 total disposals were effective.
And, while he may have only played nine games in his first three seasons on the list, the right-footer hit the target with 113 of the first 130 disposals of his career.
Ridley also rated elite for intercept marks, contested marks and spoils for a defender, proving he has multiple avenues of scoring.
The Phantom's Verdict: Ridley's 2020 was the definition of breakout and his efficiency is likely to keep him in the top-six mix again in 2021.
Sam Docherty (Carl) $496,000
Remember this guy?
Only 6.6 per cent of KFC SuperCoaches seem to at the moment - at least in a good way, anyway.
He's the guy who averaged 109 and 114 in consecutive seasons before his horror injury run.
In those two years, Docherty posted a SuperCoach ton in 33 of the Blues' 44 matches.
He struggled for consistency last year, finishing with a 92-point average, but still managed to pass the 100-point mark on five occasions - all of them in excess of 117.
I think we should just be concentrating on the fact he played all but one game in 2020 after previously not playing since Round 23, 2017.
Docherty is recovering from off-season ankle surgery but is ahead of schedule according to the Blues.
The Phantom's Verdict: The introduction of Adam Saad and the return of Nic Newman will be interesting, but I'm starting to talk myself into it.
Steven May (Melb) $507,900
This is how the Melbourne defender finished 2020: 115, 110, 149, 102, 58, 122 and 123.
And it must be noted, May was switched forward against the Dockers in Round 16, resulted in the sub-60 performance.
That's serious scoring.
The former Sun took 91 kick-ins last year - only Lloyd took more - and he played on with 82 of them. As a result, May rated elite for kicks, effective kicks, disposals, effective disposals and metres gained as a defender.
He barely received a mention in KFC SuperCoach prior to his standout finish to last year, but he did average 82 or more in each of his final three seasons at Gold Coast.
The Phantom's Verdict: I'm not saying I will pick him but, on form, and given his effectiveness by foot - something not all that common at the Demons - he should be in more than 0.9 per cent of KFC SuperCoach teams.
Shannon Hurn (WC) $477,800
He still posted two big scores - 138 and 152 - last year, but the next gen of KFC SuperCoach defenders have well and truly gone past him.
Originally published as KFC SuperCoach: All the best premium options in defence