2016 SuperCoach Average: 98.9
Bye Round: Round 11
When a player turns 33 years of age, it is a fair assumption that their best is behind them. Yes, the legs are getting slower, and yes, it becomes tougher for the body to deal with the rigours of playing at the coalface. All these factors point to a significant decline in their relevance in Fantasyland.
But there is a solution.
Over the past few years, we have seen an increased dependence on experienced players relinquishing their time in the middle for a positional sea change across half-back. Matthew Boyd, Jimmy Bartel, Jarrad McVeigh and Shaun Burgoyne are perfect examples of gun midfielders who have prolonged the twilight of their careers in the defensive half of the ground to good effect.
In an up and coming side with a myriad of young midfielders climbing the ranks, Leigh Montagna appears destined to follow a similar pathway to those listed above. The keys to the midfield have been well and truly handed over to Jack Steven and David Armitage, with the likes of Ross, Dunstan, Acres, Billings and Newnes spending more time in the guts as they develop. If we factor in new recruits Koby Stevens and Jack Steele knocking on the door of the midfield, it would seem logical for Montagna to make way. But as the Saints aspire to return to final contenders, Montagna’s leadership and game sense will allow him to be the general in the back half and launch the St Kilda rebound.
In 2016, Montagna played a fairly even mix of both midfield and back, however, generally plays a mostly uncontested role, where he uses his accurate kicking to benefit his team. Being such a respected and admired player, ‘Joey’ is the type of bloke whose teammates will want to get the ball. This habit of being on the receiving end from teammates is underlined by the fact he averaged 20.1 uncontested possessions per game last year, the highest in the competition for the home and away season. Although the SuperCoach scoring system generally favours those who are able to win their own ball, Montagna scores the majority of his points through metres gained, kicking efficiency and rebounds 50s.
In Round 4 last season, the veteran proved that he has not lost his ability to pump out a massive score, amassing 40 possessions on his way to 150 SuperCoach points against Collingwood. His ability to hit triple figures remains unquestioned, tonning-up on 11 occasions last year. Despite only scoring below 80 three times, the Saints stalwart showed he’s not immune to throwing in a stinker – contributing scores of 45, 64 and 67. But being part of a team which is expected to become more competitive and win more games, Montagna is less likely to frustrate those who pick him. The 33-year-old also seems to be down the list of opposition tags, with defensive efforts more likely to be put into speedster Jack Steven. Despite such a long time in the game, Joey’s hallmark has been his durability – with a low of 17 games in a season since 2006! It doesn’t get much better than that!
Although his age poses the biggest questions mark over his validity as a SuperCoach option, other ‘fossils’ have had a large fantasy output across half-back. Former Dogs skipper Matthew Boyd was in his midfield prime at a similar time to Montagna, however, appeared to be fading into fantasy obscurity when his averaged dropped to 97.6 points in 2014. But the following year, a move to the backline resurged his average back to triple figures and resurrected himself as a gun in Fantasyland. Even in 2016, his uncontested play resulted in an elite output. There are plenty of parallels to be drawn between the Bulldog of 2015 and Montagna this season. Both are seasoned veterans part of teams on the rise, equipped with a footy nous and tidy kicks to boost their output.
Montagna will be doing whatever he can to contribute to the energy of the boys from Seaford, and I’m expecting his loose role to allow him to rack up plenty of points with little fuss. Many coaches are likely to ignore Montagna due to his age, but this means he could be a POD with plenty of upside.