In a home and away season that threw up so many crazy results, the drama was translated across into Fantasyland, with many players coming from the clouds to have an impact, or unexpectedly falling from grace to return to mediocrity. Here are five surprise packets from the backline in 2017:
Coming off a year on the sidelines, there were many uncertainties surrounding the playing capacity of Michael Hurley and his Essendon teammates in 2017. However, the subsequent ban from the drugs saga seemed to have reinvigorated the key defender who had a stellar year which was recognised with All-Australian honours. In SuperCoach, the Dons start was far from electric, averaging 82 over the opening months, however, he hit his straps in the second half of the year, concluding the year with 14 scores of 100+ and a quality average of 102.5.
During his time at the Giants, Heath Shaw has established himself as one of the most fantasy-relevant defenders, with a potent scoring ability. After Round 1, he looked destined for yet another elite season with a score of 118 against the Crows, but from this point onwards the former Pie only managed to break the triple-figure barrier on two occasions. By the end of the season, Shaw was a liability for those with him in their side, and his starting price of $576,500 was proven to be massive overs.
Despite missing out on a Round 1 berth, Sydney half-back Nic Newman was quick to make an impression in his debut season at AFL level. However, the biggest shock of all came in Round 8, where the left-footer was a late inclusion against the Kangaroos. The rookie helped himself to 35 disposals on his way to a whopping 151 SuperCoach points. Unfortunately, barely any coaches were lucky enough to have the score count on their field, but the cash boost was more than handy.
In the same manner to Hurley, Hibberd sat out 2016 with suspension and battled fitness issues early in the season which delayed his return until Round 5. After such a poor offseason, the nuggetty defender comfortably had a career-best year in his first season in the red and blue. He exploded with a 124-point effort against the Tiges on Anzac Day Eve and had a best score of 140 against the Power in Round 14. His average of 99.2 still probably doesn’t do justice to how important he was for the Dees, but he looks set to be a vital cog in their short-term future.
It’s not often you see a bloke break his leg and return the next year at top form, let alone it be a player in his first year! Last year’s pick 23, Alex Witherden established himself as one of the best basement price picks for the year, with his ball use and decision making his strengths. In just nine games, the half-back drew comparisons with Brendon Goddard and scored over 100 three times. His solid average of 87.1 meant coaches could confidently select the Lion on the ground in SuperCoach, even during the fantasy finals series.