THE BLUE CHIP – TOM ROCKLIFF
2016: Games/17 Averages 116 DT/111 SC
There isn’t much more than can be said about this man. Gun, Pig and Magnet are great/common ways to explain Tom, but there have been cracks during his career. Injuries have played their part with no more than 18 games in each of the past three seasons. Perception of how he should play, and even lead his club, has been a common discussion point within the media. At the end of the 2016 there was talk about him going to play at another AFL club. Apparently no clubs wanted the price tag and then amazingly it was rumoured that he wouldn’t have a home at all.
You can only believe half what you see and none of what you hear, what we will find out this year is Tom’s real character. I’m tipping he is up to the challenge of proving the doubters wrong, and I even feel he wants to make the point to those that didn’t want him that they made a mistake. The articles in recent times have been more encouraging, even talk he may keep the leadership. One thing for sure he will have patches of elite scoring this year, expect close if not over the 120 mark average.
BREAKOUT LOOMING – TOM CUTLER
2016: Games/15 Average: 71 DT/75 SC
A genuine draft gem is hard to find. Normally players with breakout potential are broadcast loud and clear via the salary cap articles but with Tom’s awkward price we have heard little about him, which is just outstanding.
To understand just how little it will take in his fourth season to be relevant in draft formats, simply 5 more games and increase to low 80% game time will see his scoring for the season to reach the 1600-1800 range. The same range as Grant Birchall, Josh Gibson, Cameron Guthrie, Zac Williams, Rory Laird and Brodie Smith in 2016. When a player is easily able to rate as D2 but be selected past round 20 you have a gem.
He has shown us he has a great ceiling, with a 139 point career high last year. Kick to handball ratio is impressive and has shown to have the ability to play the running half back role or even the goal kicking wingman, and with Hanley down at the coast, this boy will cut it up.
I’M BACK IF THE COACH WILL LET ME – STEF MARTIN
2016: Games/20 Average: 89 DT/89 SC
Yes, I have been worried during the offseason of what becomes of Stef Martin; change of coach will always change the destiny of many players on a list. Some will come of age in the new environment, while others will disappear and a good example is Jack Grimes: captain at age 21, gone by 27. So what’s on the cards for Stef Martin in 2017?
Well, he is the best ruck option at the club, even though he is one of the shortest rucks in the AFL. He certainly is one of the top scoring ruckmen in fantasy, which he showed in the second half of 2014 and continued that form for the full 2015 season. He has also shown that sharing the role does not work for his fantasy scoring. I do hate to remind us all (including myself) that AFL coaches do not coach for our fantasy scores. Sides at the bottom of the ladder will take the view of short term pain for long term gain. An example of this is Fremantle giving Aaron Sandilands 56 games for 2003-5 – this was three years before he was fantasy or team relevant but it helped build a dominant ruckman for a premiership tilt almost a decade later.
I would generally say a player who is 30 or over in a wooden spoon team with a new coach has rarely got much game time left at that organization. We also have the fact the majority of coaches that have come from the Hawthorn system have followed Clarkson’s views on ruck roles which have not shown to be helpful for points.
With all this concern to be honest he is STILL worth the risk. If signs show he is generally a standalone ruck for the Lions then he could just be the number 1 ruck for 2017. Pick from round 4 onwards and you could have a real bargain.