With the newly-established AFLX Competition out of the way, clubs and fans alike can now turn their attention solely towards preparation for Round 1 of the season, and what better way to help prepare teams for that important fixture than with a couple of pre-season matches in the JLT Community Series? It’s also a great opportunity for us SuperCoaches to run our eye over certain players and deduce which players we should be looking at drafting into our sides. Today, we’ll be looking at a variety of defenders that you should be keeping an eye on during the JLT Community Series.
Rory Laird | Adelaide | 2017 Average: 100.2 | 2017 Games: 22 | $550,800
With Sam Docherty succumbing to an unfortunate ACL rupture which is likely to sideline him for the entire season, Rory Laird becomes the most productive defender heading into Season 2018. Whilst he wasn’t the most consistent-scoring defender we’ve seen in SuperCoach history (with 10 scores of 90 or less), he did manage to accrue 11 centuries, including a season-high of 147 against the Giants in Round 1.
Regardless of the inconsistent scores at times, it was still easily Laird’s best season to date, and the first time he has managed to finish the season with a 100-point average. To add to the success of his home-and-away campaign, he was also very good in the Crows’ finals series, in particular, their last two outings, where he scored 129 and 106 – with the latter score occurring on Grand Final day.
Despite the terrific individual campaign that Laird had, he, along with his teammates, would still undoubtedly be hurting following their disappointing defeat in the Grand Final. However, he will be determined to make amends to that with a strong start to the season and given he averaged 111 points between Round 1-8 last year, there’s every chance he could start 2018 on fire as well, and you wouldn’t want to miss the boat if that turns out to be the case.
Michael Hurley | Essendon | 2017 Average: 102.5 | 2017 Games: 20 | $563,500
One of the key rules in SuperCoach is to avoid picking key defenders. Whilst we marvel at them being able to do a job on match day, their efforts don’t often translate into many SuperCoach points. However, every rule has its exception, and Michael Hurley is Exception A when it comes to this particular rule.
After a fairly sluggish opening month to the 2017 Season, where Hurley averaged 82 points and scored zero centuries, he suddenly hit a hot streak which lasted until pretty much the end of the season, registering triple-figure scores in 12 of his last sixteen appearances, accounting for an average of 107.6 from Rounds 5-21. A late-season hamstring injury proved costly for SuperCoaches short on trades, as it kept him out of the last two games of the home-and-away season, and as a result, it took the gloss off what was otherwise an excellent campaign for the ball-winning key defender.
However, Hurley did return for the Elimination Final defeat to Sydney, and whilst Essendon was well below their best, Hurley shone with a team-high 122 SuperCoach points. You can pick him in your side with a great deal of confidence heading into the 2018 campaign.
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Callum Mills | Sydney | 2017 Average: 73.3 | 2017 Games: 22 | $403,100
Following an exceptional debut season where he won the Rising Star award, many expected Swans defender Callum Mills to improve even further and establish himself as an elite amongst the competition in Season 2017. That didn’t come to fruition, but the talented defender still had a solid year compared to his previous season, averaging 73.3 SuperCoach points across 22 games, which was only slightly down on his output of 77.2 SuperCoach points across 20 matches in 2016.
Being able to consolidate his debut season with similar numbers in his second campaign probably wasn’t a bad thing for Mills, as it will give him the confidence to know that he can perform at a consistent level in this league, but now the challenge will be put to him to really kick on and establish himself as one of the very best intercepting defenders in the competition now that he has firmly entrenched himself within Sydney’s best 22.
His style of play is perfectly suited to the SuperCoach scoring system as he thrives on intercept possessions and finding targets with his neat kicking action. An average of something around the 90-point mark is not beyond Mills this year and at a price tag of $403,100, that is nothing short of a bargain.
Liam Jones | Carlton | 2017 Average: 77.5 | 2017 Games: 12 | $426,100
After being a much-maligned forward at two different clubs, the writing was on the wall for Liam Jones in Season 2017, with his career at the crossroads and stagnating in the VFL. That is, until, a move to defence sought to save his career. He dominated at centre-half back at VFL level and seamlessly transitioned that form into the senior side, with a score of 100 in his first game of the season. From there, Jones continued to impress with his athleticism, ability to read the play, and his sticky fingers.
In the twelve games that Jones did play in the second half of the season, he would only score one more century and managed three games of above 80, but was scoring at a far more consistent rate than what he was managed when he lumbered around at centre-half forward. With more game time and defence and the ability to be able to have some much-needed continuity at AFL level, there is the possibility that Jones could improve his scoring output and become one of the few SuperCoach-relevant key defenders. He certainly has the attributes to be a worthy selection.
Cameron O’Shea | Carlton | 2017 Average: N/A | 2017 Games: N/A | $166,100
After a stuttering six-year tenure at Port Adelaide, Cameron O’Shea was given a second chance by Carlton as the only selection in the 2017 Pre-Season draft. During his career at the Power, O’Shea never carried too much SuperCoach relevance, but that could all be about to change following a unique set of circumstances.
Injury has robbed Carlton and SuperCoaches alike of one of the most productive defenders of recent times in Sam Docherty. Being a rebounding defender with a neat kick, he is a supremely talented player that will need replacing, and whilst replacing him with a player of similar calibre will be almost impossible, the door has now opened for a spot across Carlton’s half-back line, and the experienced O’Shea could be the man to fill the void. With the likelihood of job security on his side and a relatively cheap price tag, O’Shea should be very much on the radar of every serious SuperCoach club this year.
David Mirra | Hawthorn | 2017 Average: N/A | 2017 Games: N/A | $102,400
Mirra has been a mainstay in the defence of VFL side Box Hill Hawks for several years now and his persistence has ultimately been rewarded, with the 26-year-old final being given a spot on Hawthorn’s senior list. The half-back flanker brings with him a wealth of experience and ability, and will no doubt be looking to stake a claim in Hawthorn’s best 22 throughout the season, particularly given that the defection of Luke Hodge to Brisbane has now seen an opening emerg across the half-back flank. The transition from VFL to AFL is never easy and this will be no exception, but Mirra is more than qualified to be able to make the jump and should score well enough to make some significant cash should he be given the opportunity for the Hawks.
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