13/04/2024

With the first SuperCoach lockout weeks away, ‘The SuperCoach Sanctum’ look at some ‘Points of Difference’ defenders that should have your eye.

Check out the first episode of The SuperCoach Sanctum here!

Premiums:

Dan Houston (DEF – $593,100 – 7%)

With options aplenty in the defensive line in 2024, are we overlooking a 2023 Top 6 defender and All-Australian debutant? 

It was a breakout year for Houston, who had the 4th most points for defenders and 6th for average points per game in 2023 (106.1). His peak came after the bye, averaging 133.4 in the five games that followed the break, including a monstrous 176 at Marvel Stadium against the Blues. 

Whilst his highs are high, his floor is a standout issue amongst other top-end premiums. Houston had five sub-80 scores in 2023, including two 60s in the final four games of the year. 

Despite the floor, Houston is quite the flat-track bully, his average jumping to 114 when playing at Adelaide Oval, featuring only three sub-100 scores: 86, 93 & 85. Port Adelaide play 4 of their first five games at games at Adelaide Oval, and 7 of their first 10. 

Given the new fixturing changes, Port Adelaide also has the ‘best’ bye, as they only have one, and they share it with just one other team, Fremantle.

Houston is in the prime of his career, turning 27 in May, and is a scorer who doesn’t rely on kick-ins to make an impact. I may have just sold myself on Houston.

Jayden Short (DEF – $551,200 – 2%)

It’s a new year, and Jayden Short is back in the fold as a SuperCoach option in 2024.

After attempts in recent years to switch him into the midfield and as a wingman, Short looks ready to reclaim his half-back role under debuting senior coach Adam Yze.

In 2023, when Short took three or more kick-ins, he averaged 106.5 points, which would sit him right in that Top 6 range. 

Unfortunately, history is not on Short’s side, and whilst a small sample size is intriguing, his career suggests breaching the 100-point mark is not for Jayden Short. In the last four years, Short has averaged above 95, but never over 100, a mark he’s never reached in his career.

If you think a more mature Short, settled half-back, can finally have that 100+ season, then he’s someone to consider, although I’d tend to look elsewhere.

Lachie Whitfield (DEF – $519,000 – 2%)

It’s a siren song from Lachie Whitfield, one that suckers us in every year, yet with another full pre-season under his belt, can he get back to his best?

Despite now being five years removed from his 111 average, suckers like me still hold some faith he can reach those heights again. Whitfield was close in the back half of 2023, averaging 107 after the bye, with two scores of 130+.

2023 saw Whitfield play 21 games, the most since his 2018 season, so his typical unreliability is potentially in the past.

Whitfield’s skill is unquestioned (partially why I think he’s always an option worth considering), which is demonstrated by his rankings for Effective Disposals, Rebound 50s and Kicks per game, all of which are top 15.

The Giants love the ball in Whitfield’s hands, demonstrated by Whitfield taking 106 Kick-Ins in 2023, 5th amongst all players in the competition, providing a relatively safe floor.

One for the risk-takers is Whitfield who offers the most value of the discussed defenders. Not one for mine, but a big Round 0 could open my eyes.

More AFL News:

Swans too strong for Giants in unofficial Battle of the Bridge 

‘It definitely surprised me’: Milera humbled by unexpected leadership appointment

McKay is back, Guthrie injured: The latest from Geelong and Carlton’s pre-season match-up

Mid-Pricers:

Connor Budarick ($301,200 – 4%)

It’s hard to suggest many defensive mid-pricers in 2024, but Connor Budarick, at $301k, is currently ticking all the boxes.

Having garnered attention due to seemingly taking up a ‘Jayden Short’ role, Budarick looks set to attack a full pre-season under new Gold Coast Suns Senior Coach Damien Hardwick.

A full-preason is massive for Budarick, who ruptured his right ACL in both 2021 and 2022. Budarick played just two games in 2023, the final two, for scores of 71 and 83.

More notably, in these two games, Budarick took four, then three kick-ins, early signs of a potential role under ‘Dimma’.

Lachie Weller won’t be seen for a while, given he’s recovering from his own ACL tear, so Budarick’s job security looks quite safe, but it’s one we’ll get a much better look at across the community series and Round 0.

If you’re looking for a genuine value option in the backline not named Zac Williams, Budarick is the standout, but we’d need to see how he fares before Round One.

Nas Wanganeen-Milera (NWM) ($475,800% – 6%)

Due to the DPP changes, there’s a lot of talk about players like Karl Amon and Nic Martin, who could be potential standouts in defence due to reported role changes. Have we forgotten about NWM?

Already entrenched in the Saints’ defence and as a kick-in taker, NWM is showing all the signs of a typical ‘third-year breakout’ player. 

NWM took 104 kick-ins in 2023 en route to an 85.1 average, yet from Round 10 onwards, he averaged 94.3. What is most likely to cap Wanganeen-Milera’s ceiling is his teammate, Jack Sinclair.

Using our sample size already presented, NWM averaged 97.2 when Sinclair attended more than 30% of Centre Bounces (CBAs), that average dropped to 84.6 points when Sinclair had a sub-30% CBA count.

Frustratingly for us SuperCoaches and Sinclair, is that he’ll reportedly miss both pre-season games, so we can’t get an accurate representation of what NWM’s output could be.

For that reason alone, I’d be passing on Wanganeen-Milera, and it’s also because the next player looks genuinely enticing.

Mitch Hinge ($474,300 – 1%)

It’s been a long start to life in the AFL for Mitch Hinge. Limited opportunity in Brisbane brought on a move to Adelaide, in which a shoulder injury in Round One, 2021 saw an early end to his season.

An opportunity arose again in 2022, but it was the year just gone when Hinge played his best footy to date. Like a flipped switch, Hinge turned it on following the bye, averaging 97.8 in a 10-game span.

This rise was due in part to increased kick-in load. Prior to Adelaide’s bye, Hinge averaged 1.5 kick-ins a game, which rose to 2.6 following the bye. Notably, Hinge played on from all but one of his kick-ins in 2023.

In this back-half of the year, Hinge was his best in wins, averaging 106 in Adelaide’s wins compared to 92.1 in losses. Given Adelaide is a team many have tipped to make the Top 8; more wins will be beneficial for Hinge.

Like Houston, Hinge is better at AO, although it’s not as significant. Hinge averages 100.6 in Adelaide and 95 away. Adelaide play 10 of their last 16 games at Adelaide Oval, including four out of five between Rounds 13-18.

Entering his 8th year in an AFL system, Hinge will be a part of the leadership group for 2024, capping off a pre-season in which Hinge signed an extension through to 2026.

Hinge isn’t a traditional breakout candidate, but one who’s aware of the rigours of an AFL pre-season. If you’re looking left-field, this would be my top candidate.

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