The Right, wRong, Regrettable and Ridiculous of the AFL world on the eve of the NAB Challenge.
Footy is almost back! The NAB Challenge presents opportunities for young players and new recruits alike, but for fantasy coaches, it means analysing new game-plans for any positional changes. It also means uncovering how certain recruits function within certain systems. What impact will Patrick Dangerfield have on Joel Selwood and the Geelong midfield? Will Jack Redden be the tackling beast at West Coast that he was at Brisbane? Can James Aish, Paul Seedsman and Harley Bennell have an influence on their new clubs? These questions may not be answered until the regular season, but the signs could be there in time for Ultimate Footy drafts around the country.
There isn't too much wrong this early in the year. Optimism abounds at all 18 clubs, and fans look to 2016 with an air of confidence. But one thing all fans, players and fantasy coaches must be aware of is the second-year blues. Isaac Heeney, Jesse Hogan and Angus Brayshaw all loom as future stars of the game, but when it comes to Ultimate Footy, be mindful of how hard it is to back up after outstanding debut seasons. This is especially important for Hogan, who after one full season is already earmarked as the Great White Hope at the Demons.
Of course, it wouldn't be pre-season without an off-field scandal. In Ultimate Footy, we don't care so much for off-field scandals, unless it substantially hampers a player's preparation for the season proper. While the various acts of Dustin Martin, Dane Swan, Travis Cloke and co made headlines, surely the most bizarre was the furore surrounding Jeremy Howe's broken finger.
Regardless of how the Collingwood recruit fractured his phalange, any pre-season injury is a cause of concern for any Ultimate Footy fan. Given Howe was touted to roam the Magpies' forward line as a high half-forward, his bizarre injury may have cost him a spot in many Ultimate Footy teams.
The Essendon saga continues on, and no matter which way you look at it, some of the most relevant fantasy players will be on the pine for 2016. Jobe Watson, Dyson Heppell, Brent Stanton and Patrick Ryder are just some of the players who will be missing this year. While it is regrettable, the silver lining is the return of fantasy favourites James Kelly and Mathew Stokes, while fantasy kryptonite Ryan Crowley will also return and could go back to tormenting the best midfielders in the game.
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