20/04/2024

2x Brownlow Medallist, Lachie Neale (Photo: Brisbane Lions / Twitter

For these players, they’re consistently at the top of their lines and have shown a history of proven scoring. Let’s look at the players with lower ownership, and why you might want to reconsider them in your SuperCoach sides.

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Rory Laird ($653,100 MID – 7%)

2023’s only player above $700k, Laird’s price tag isn’t as lofty in 2024 yet is garnering far less attention. 

For many, a sour taste was in the throat after Laird’s Round One disaster, a 50-point flop, which many captained (myself included). That sour taste lingered for much of the year.

Looking more objectively in 2024, it was stock-standard Rory Laird following that disaster. Laird only dipped below 100 four times (97, 98, 84 and 93), and went 120+ on 10 occasions.

Laird in the three full years since moving to a permanent on-baller has averaged 116, 127 and 116 again, and this year has the added benefit of no early bye. Adelaide is a team that should rise this year, and we could see a slight bump in Laird’s scoring because of it.

Part of what makes Laird such an elite scorer is his tackling ability, he’s the only player to average 8+ tackles in 2022 and 2023, only two other players went 7+ in that timeframe (Matt Rowell and Jack Steele).

Despite all the positives, grey clouds are looming overhead. Conversations have been had over Laird potentially playing minutes in the forward line, as Adelaide looks to use the explosiveness of Izak Rankine and Josh Rachele through the midfield.

Is this just smoke and mirrors from Adelaide? We’ve seen other clubs do it, Neale and Oliver were just a couple of the high-profile names who had position changes floated but ultimately came to nothing

Laird attended a team-high 60% of CBAs for Adelaide in their official practice match, in which he posted 89 points, less than Matt Crouch, Jordan Dawson and even Sam Berry. Was Laird in first gear against West Coast, only he’d know.

Laird has been a top pick all pre-season for me, but with the position change rumour, compounded by a pre-season game not doing him many favours, I’m on the sceptical side now.

Tom Liberatore ($648,600 MID – 7%)

NINE years removed from his last 110+ season, ‘Libba’ finally cracked the margin again in 2023, his 116 a career-high. Factoring out an injury-affected 20, that average jumps to 121.

Liberatore’s average at Marvel Stadium is remarkably similar, 120.5, which is notable given the Bulldogs play five consecutive games there between Rounds 11-16. Notably, Liberatore’s only bye comes during this stretch.

In 2023, the Bulldogs opted for a more consistent presence in midfield by the way of Bontempelli and Liberatore, whose CBAs both jumped from percentages in the high 50s to ~80%. With Bailey Smith injured, there are scarcely any midfielders who would be expected to take significant CBAs away from Liberatore.

Of course, Luke Beveridge is notorious for doing ‘Luke Beveridge things’, so be wary of Ryley Sanders, James Harmes and others potentially chewing into his midfield time, but I’ve got enough confidence in Liberatore to maintain that number at 80%.

Some concern can be brought forward about Liberatore’s age, who turns 32 in May, although I’d be more concerned if he had a poor recent injury history, Liberatore has only missed three games since the beginning of the 2021 season.

After a positive pre-season game against Hawthorn, scoring 136 points, Liberatore looks set to back up his fantastic 2023. Given that he’s one of the best genuine inside midfielders in the competition, and he’s presenting some value at his price, I’m all about ‘Libba’ in 2024.

Zach Merrett ($650,100 MID – 7%)

Despite being one of the most consistent SuperCoach scorers in recent memory, there isn’t much love for Zach Merrett in 2024.

Merrett has averaged 100+ since 2016, and 110+ since 2020, so why are we so dismissive of him? 

Frankly, he’s a ‘two-season’ player. To elaborate on that statement, I point to his last three seasons: 

2023 – 112 / 121, 2022 – 106 / 116, and 2021 – 111 / 119.

The left number refers to his pre-bye average with the post-bye on the right. Merrett’s price is often one that plunges deepest amid ‘upgrade season’. 

In 2021 and 2022, Merrett’s lowest price came in Round 11, with it coming in Round Nine in 2023. In those three seasons, Merrett’s price bottomed out to an average of $541k, $80k less than his average starting price of $621k.

In 2024, Merrett opens at 650k, thus, he could be gettable at roughly $570k at Round 10k, at least that’s what the history suggests.

Additionally, Merrett’s early fixture leaves something to be desired, only playing 4/7 in Melbourne, amidst playing both South Australian teams at Adelaide Oval, with a trip back to Melbourne in between. 

The fixture very much softens from Round 8 onwards, where they play West Coast, with North Melbourne in Round 10. They play 13/16 games in Melbourne from Round 8 and don’t leave the state from Rounds 15-23.

No early bye means he’s a capable starter, but watch his price carefully, and be ready to pick up come Round 8. 

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Josh Dunkley ($644,000 MID – 5%)

I feel as if when players lose DPP, their ownership often drops far further than it rightfully should, but should Dunkley be in more than just 1/20 teams in the competition?

After averaging 43% CBAs at the Bulldogs between 2020-2022, Dunkley’s move to Brisbane reaped rewards, an 80% CBA rate saw his average jump to 122, before a late-season skid dropped it to 115. 

Dunkley scored 77, 62, 99 and 106 in his final four games with his finals campaign marginally better scoring 113, 103 and 85. Yet, for someone who had one sub-100 score up until Round 20, 4/7 in the games following is a stark difference.

Why did this happen? Potentially a few reasons. A calf injury caused him to miss Rounds 17 and 18 which may have nagged him for the rest of the season. Dunkley then played negating roles in a couple of these games, namely on players like Rory Laird and Caleb Serong, reducing his own ‘counting stats’.

Another contributing factor was the loss of Will Ashcroft. Dunkley averaged 121 with Ashcroft, but just 94 without him. Did the lack of Ashcroft force Dunkley into a more accountable role, was it because it was the final month of the year, or was the workload changed due to a nagging injury, it’s difficult to say, but these factors are all relevant.

In 2024, one of the biggest arguments against Dunkley is the Round Two bye, which truly negates the benefit of the early price changes that all other Round 0 players, excluding Carlton players, would benefit from.

With Ashcroft expected back in the mid-year, I’d be holding off from selecting Dunkley, potentially until his Round 12 bye, but his massive ceiling could prove genius for the risk-takers out there.

Lachie Neale ($617,000 MID – 4%)

The now duel Brownlow-medallist, Lachie Neale is another Lion not garnering much attention in 2024.

Despite a prolific history as a SuperCoach scorer, including going 120+ on three occasions, with a best of 134.4?! Neale might be past those exhilarating heights.

As it stands with Josh Dunkley, a big detractor from Lachie Neale is the Round 2 bye, which makes the selection hard to justify, given there are younger players with better fixtures.

However, unlike some of those younger players, Neale’s role is incredibly consistent. Since 2020, he’s averaged 83% CBAs, he improved on that number in 2023, with 87%.

Whilst no significant recruits have joined, or players have switched into the midfield, Neale may start the year on ‘managed minutes’.

This is due to an off-season groin surgery, which he returned from in Brisbane’s official pre-season match. Despite this, he still managed 124 points from just 65% TOG.

Neale’s scoring prowess is unlike many, and for that reason, he should always be considered, but watch carefully after his bye and try to get him cheaper after that bye.

Darcy Parish ($604,200 MID – 6%)

Of this list, Parish comes in as the cheapest, yet has a history of being a big scorer. Could a punt on Parish put you ahead of the competition?

2023 was slightly down from the two years prior for Parish, whose average of 108 was just shy of the 111 and 114 set by the bomber in 2022 and 21’.

One of Parish’s biggest detractors in his breakout 2021 season was his floor, having five sub-80 scores. Ironically in 2024, the issue is the opposite, lacking the ceiling he once showed.

Parish had only one score under 80 in the combined years of 2022 and 23’, but his highest score was just 142, a score he bested four times in 2021. If he can find his former ceiling, combined with his current less volatile scoring, Parish could bump up his average into that 115 range needed for a Top 8 mid-spot.

As mentioned when discussing Zach Merrett, Parish has no early bye, but a difficult early fixture, although has put up scores of 117, 108 and 142 in the last three games at Adelaide Oval, where he’ll play twice in his first six games. 

Given he’s turning 27 this year, and his price compared to others with his history, I’d take a serious look at Parish and whether he fits your structure. 

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