FORWARD LINE FRENZY
The forward line is a difficult to position to navigate at the best of times. You rarely have premiums to fall back on, and the “locks” that you had selected in December are injured or playing a different role than expected come February.
But fear not, fellow SuperCoachers. I have been challenged to break down the difficult path, in an attempt to find true value in this year’s crop of forward line talent that we have available.
In years gone by, the SuperCoach gods occasionally bless us with a premium midfielder, who played just enough minutes in the forward fifty to get dual position status. Last season we had Patrick Dangerfield, Josh Dunkley, Tim Kelly, and Travis Boak. These four players were the top scoring forward line options over the course of the season, with only Rowan Marshall (a Ruck/Forward eligible option) averaging more than the lowest player’s score (Tim Kelly’s 104.2 average). However, Marshall dipped below on total points due to missing two games, and for this analysis, we will be primarily looking at the total points accumulated over the course of the season.
This year, the same gods that blessed us twelve months ago have cursed us. We have been gifted Lachie Whitfield and Dustin Martin, however in return we had to sacrifice Dangerfield, Dunkley, Kelly, Boak, Marshall and Worpel to appease them. That is six of the top ten scoring forward eligible players gone from the board, and that isn’t including LekDog’s favourite: Caleb Daniel. Whitfield and Martin join Michael Walters as 2020’s only forward eligible players to average 100+ points per game last season.
So how are we able to accumulate the total points required to make a competitive forward line? It’ll take a bit of creativity and thinking outside the box, but where’s the fun in going with the norm in SuperCoach?
If you were to think positively, six of the top ten forwards are gone, which means there are six spots up for grabs in 2020. And using my moderately sized brain, I will try to decipher who that may be.
I have broken the top 20 scoring forward options for 2020 into three different groups.
The first category’s players are typically younger, or have adopted a new role, whether that’s at a new club or in the same system. In this grouping we have two of the top four scorers, Isaac Heeney (2069 @94.05) and Dustin Martin (2000 @100.00). Heeney has been a perennial breakout option for the last few seasons, however hasn’t reached his lofty potential yet. It was confirmed at the end of 2019 that Heeney played through 2019 with an ankle injury, and has been fully fit throughout the preseason, bar a thumb injury that he has now recovered from. With Sydney transitioning into a younger side, the 23 year old is primed to take on more midfield responsibilities, and hopefully this results in him eclipsing the 100ppg mark. Dustin Martin did (just) average 100 points per game last season, which was his lowest season average in 2014 (99.5). Nothing suggests he will start declining, or start playing a forward only role, so expect him to hover around the 100-115 average, depending on how dominant he wants to be each week.
A few other players who aren’t as “lockable” slot into this improving category as well. #9 Darcy MacPherson, #11 Christian Petracca, and #18-20 Jordan Dawson, Darcy Parish and Connor Rozee are all expected to reach and exceed last years efforts, mainly due to their youth and added responsibility.
MacPherson (1798 @81.73) played 22 games last season for the first time; finally breaking into that fortress of a line up known as the Gold Coast Suns. In his 9 games after his bye last season, he had four scores over 90, as well as three in the seventies. This isn’t too much to read into, but he featured heavily in Gold Coast’s midfield in the first Marsh Series game against Geelong on the weekend, so I can’t see his 81-point average going backwards.
Christian Petracca (1788 @81.27) put the SuperCoach world on notice with a massive score in the first Marsh match up. Another perennial breakout option, he is looking much fitter than he has in previous years. One concern is Goodwin said after that Marsh series match that Petracca’s midfield minutes were a “week-to-week proposition.” He obviously looked the goods on the weekend, and even last season he was #11 in total points in 2020’s forward line options.
Jordan Dawson (1723 @86.15) missed two games yet still had a very strong average for a relatively unknown commodity. Going into 2020, however, he is seen as a breakout SuperCoach option. In his last five rounds in 2019, he had two tons and two 93’s, and there’s been plenty of talk about Dawson’s role being slightly adjusted to a half back option with the potential to play some midfield minutes. He scored well off the half back flank for the Swans in the first Marsh Series match, however Sydney were missing Jake Lloyd and Callum Mills. Hopefully we can see the three of them together so we know how he will feature alongside the star backmen. A SuperCoach-friendly role will definitely see his points increase this season.
Darcy Parish (1714 @85.7) is another player who’s had a continued upward trajectory since entering the league, but hasn’t popped just yet. He is continuing to earn midfield minutes, whilst also featuring as a half back, as well as a high half forward. Having midfield eligibility is huge for Parish, as he wouldn’t get looked at in the same light if he were just a midfield eligible player. When he pushed into the midfield last season he had scores of 137, 120 and 110 in a three-week stretch, so hopefully he can move to a more permanent midfield spot.
Connor Rozee (1710 @77.73) really bucks the trend, and will offer us an exciting SuperCoach prospect in just his second year. Plenty of talk about playing a midfield role, combined with 108 points in 57% game time during the Marsh series gets a lot of SuperCoachers jumping for joy. When Wines and Gray return it’ll be interesting to see his production, but hopefully Port opt for youth and keep him in the guts.
Hugh Greenwood (1194 @ 85.29) didn’t finish in the top 20 last year, however he is predicted to increase his output now that he’s with the Suns. Barring injury, he should play every game, so he would only need to maintain his average of last year to score 1876 points, which would slot him into #7 on the total points list. He is expected to play more of an inside midfielder role at the Suns, rather than the small forward who pinch hit in the centre that he played at the Crows. This change of role should see his scoring ability trend upwards, and you could see that as early as the first Marsh Series game, where he scored 109 points.
The category identifies those who may drop away a bit, and while some may finish as a top 10 forward, they probably won’t average as much as they did last year. Last year’s #1: Michael Walters, and #3: Gary Ablett, are the first on this list. Walters (2217 @100.77) had a career-best year in terms of SuperCoach, averaging 100+ for the first time. In fact, it was 12 points per game better than any other year (88.9 in 2014). He played more midfield minutes, which helped account for more points per game. However, with Fremantle having a new wave of young midfielders coming through, he may be forced to spend more time up forward than what he did in 2019. One other statistic that is probably worth mentioning is that he kicked two match-winners in two games in a row, which saw his scores bumped up to a handy 110 and 127. These two scores aren’t responsible for his whole season average being 14 points per game better than what he’s ever done before, however it is worth mentioning that he received approximately 20 points for the match-winning point, and 30 for the match-winning goal.
Gary Ablett (2009 @95.67) is another player who saw a midfield role diminish last season. Gary will be 36 this season, and is kicking the bucket in a SuperCoach sense. Last season was the first time since his debut year where he averaged less than 105 points per game. With more forward minutes coming for him this year, don’t be surprised if his average plummets again. I wouldn’t be surprised if he missed games throughout the year, too. It’s very hard to see him maintain a top-10 position this year.
Jack Ziebell (1999 @90.86) was fifth on the total points for 2020 forwards last year, and while he’s a lock for a game every week he’s available, I can’t see a small forward maintaining an average of 90 this year. After the bye last year he moved into a relatively exclusive midfield role, which saw him pile on five tons (four being 120+) in nine weeks to finish off the season with a nice points boost. However, when he played exclusively forward, his scores ranged from anywhere between 43 and 100+. He may be someone who sneaks into the top 10 in total points this year, but I don’t think he can maintain a 90+ average on the year.
Tom Hawkins (1884 @85.64) finished sixth in total points, after having a monster year in 2018 (2036 @101.8). However, the 32 year old has only averaged 100+ once in his career, and is much more accustomed to averaging from 65-85ppg. I can’t see a scenario where he contributes more per game than what he did last season, especially with Esava Ratugolea returning to full fitness after missing a chunk of games last year, and breaking his leg badly the year before.
Luke Dahlahus (1788 @85.14) has been on a downward trend since averaging 104.5 in 2015, with last year being a resurgent spike as he moved clubs. However, like Ziebell and Walters, I expect he’ll feature almost exclusively as a small forward. He finished 10th in total points last season, but I can’t see him clinging onto that top 10 finish in 2020.
Sam Reid (1724 @78.36) apparently finished 17th in total points out of this year’s crop of forward options, and to be honest I’m a little surprised. He did play 22 games, which always helps, however he should slide out of that top 20 this year pretty comfortably. He is a consistent 55-70ppg average-player each season, with last year being his best season. He is more likely to slide back to that 70 points per game, as his role at Sydney isn’t changing, if not already diminishing due to younger options like Nick Blakey stepping up.
The third category touches on players who I can’t see increasing or decreasing their output too much, so I lazily lumped them into this category together. This group features #7 Jack Darling, #8 Jeremy Cameron, #12 Lachie Whitfield, #13 Tim Membrey, #14 Charlie Cameron, #15 Ben Brown, and #17 Tom Papley.
Jack Darling (1859 @84.5) and Jeremy Cameron (1856 @92.8) are both key forwards who score well. Both are relatively young (27 and 26 respectively), and while Darling has consistently averaged around 85 for the last two seasons, Cameron’s rise in average coincided with his Coleman Medal-winning season. Although it’s hard to predict whether he’ll win it again this season, he will be in the conversation throughout the whole season. I don’t see their outputs declining this year, as they are both important cogs in their teams’ forward lines. Cameron is probably a little more attractive, especially if he can play 22 games. His ability to move up and down the ground, collecting disposals and setting up goals, as well as kicking bags himself, make him a great prospect.
Lachie Whitfield (1780 @111.2) is arguably unfairly ranked, as he is an uber premium option, and at his average he should be outstandingly the number one forward this season. However, his inability to play out a full season really hinders his ability score bulk total points. He only managed 16 games last season, but still ranked 12th in total points, so plenty will select him and cross their fingers and toes hoping he stays fit. However, rumours circulated suggesting he had ankle surgery in January, and while that hasn’t been confirmed by GWS (as far as I’m aware), ankle injuries are nasty. It is unclear whether that will affect him at all, but he hasn’t featured in GWS practice matches just yet.
Tim Membrey (1768 @80.4), Ben Brown (1750 @79.5), Charlie Cameron (1755 @79.8) and Tom Papley (1724 @78.4) all feature highly in the overall rank, however none play a very attractive brand of SuperCoach football, and all four rely on kicking bags of goals to score well. They all played 22 games last season, which really boosted their total points, but only Membrey averaged 80+, and none look like their role is changing enough to be an attractive selection.
That’s it from me, community! How are you structuring your forward line? Is it a couple of premiums and plenty of rookies, or are you betting on some midpricers to finally blossum? Let us know in the comments!