The backline is a position in the AFL that may not always get as much recognition as other afield, but in season 2017 we were treated to some players who we had no idea could be our next top-tier SuperCoach defenders. This crop of youngsters showed their abilities to read the play and dash off the half-back line like a 200 gamer. In no particular order, I’ve compiled a list of players who not only surprised us this season but proved to have what it takes to become A-grade back men for years to come.
Season Average: 87
With a plethora of rising stars to choose, none caught my eye quite like this young Lions defender who had the highest SuperCoach average out of every Rising Star. Chris Fagan didn’t expose him until Round 14, but the kid didn’t take a backward step. He missed one game from then out, collecting 20-plus disposals in all but two matches. What makes him a superb fantasy prospect is his use of the ball by foot. Witherden finished with more kicks then handballs in every game, and even had 20 kicks in the final round of the year! Brisbane already trust him to take every kick out as shown in the back half of the season, often targets are hit. Finished fifteenth in the competition for kicks per game and seventh for rebound 50’s per game. A lot of Sam Docherty and Hath Show about him, two premier SuperCoach defenders.
Season Average: 77
Ryan had a similar season to Witherden, as he played less than 10 games but made a good an impact as anyone else who arrived in 2017. As a mature age recruit, many were keen to see when he’d get his opportunity. Although somewhat inconsistent, Ryan put up some big scores in his debut year. In Round 19 he collected 25 disposals to go with 14 marks and six tackles for 136 points. But there was none better than his Round 20 performance, on his way to back to back tons, Ryan amassed 28 disposals (21 by foot) and 16 marks – nine of which were intercept marks (one shy of the AFL record). A bright career ahead of him, and when his Dockers are on he’ll chime in for your SuperCoach outfit.
Season Average: 84
Now this is a kid who performed all season long, the 20-year-old was a shining light in a dismal year for the brown and gold. Burton gathered over 20 disposals in 12 of his 20 games this year, setting up inside 50 entries regularly. The defender produced four scores of 100 but it was his ability to score consistently from the 80 – 100 range that sparked interest. If a second-year player can show such stability through a tough year it says a lot about his character, going to be heavily looked at in 2018.
Season Average: 70
Probably one of the most AFL ready and composed number one draft picks of recent time if anyone needed convincing why he went that high, all you had to do was watch and Essendon match this season. Took out the NAB Rising Star award home and rightly so. McGrath is a ball magnet, and he’ll rarely make a mistake across his defensive 50. Collecting 22 disposals on debut was fantastic, but it was his 28 possessions three weeks later that had heads turning. Watch his SuperCoach average rise in years to come, may even get midfield time next season which will boost his ceiling.
Season Average: 69
Was a hot prospect for fantasy freaks in 2017, the former Giant didn’t disappoint the 45% of squads that owned him for most the season. Marchbank began the year in style, with 97 points on his Blues debut against the Tigers and 82 the following week. Intercept marking is key to good scoring for any defender, Marchbank had a patch of three weeks where he completed at least 20 disposals and nine marks. His season average of 69 was widely due to his final few rounds after returning from injury, but another full pre-season will have this kid firing, again proving why he was selected inside the top six on draft night.