In the context of every season, the fortunes of teams rise and fall with a win and a loss. A series of losses end seasons by the time a month passes, as evidenced by the doom and gloom surrounding North Melbourne, Melbourne and Carlton as we enter week four.
But in teams, the fortunes of players rise and fall just as quickly. Previous form means nothing when you enter a new season, but in the minds of fans, a player’s esteem is already established. We’re three games into this season, and already the values of players have skyrocketed, or plummeted.
Let’s have a look at some of the players who’ve elevated their standing, and others whose position in the game is looking a little precarious.
VALUE UP – LUKE DAHLHAUS
I’m excited to write about this bloke, because he is unsung. The focus of the Geelong forward line, at least in the press, is Gary Ablett. And rightly so. It’s Gaz – the greatest player of the modern era (five MVP awards challenge you to prove me wrong) and he commands your attention.
But that leaves this little bloke that the Cats recruited from the Western Bulldogs flying completely under the radar, doing the exact things the Cats were missing last season.
The Cats had Daniel Menzel last season – a great offensive weapon, but his defensive skills… well, we’re never going to mistake him for Tony Liberatore in the tackling stakes, are we? He did average a little over two goals per game in 2018, and his offensive impact is extremely valuable, but the Cats didn’t need offence. They needed pressure, and that’s what Luke Dahlhaus brings.
He has increased his tackles per game from 4.24 to 8.00 in the first three games, and has added a goal per game. All of a sudden, the Cats aren’t missing Menzel. They have Dahlhaus, and what he is providing is worth way more than a couple of goals.
VALUE DOWN – JESSE HOGAN
Let’s dismiss his antics right before round one, which cost him his spot in the side and focus on his performances on the field.
Hogan had 47 goals last season, at an average of 2.35 per game.
And how has he gone in front of goals in 2019? I’ll tell you when he scores. He’s played two games, but as the spearhead the Dockers needed, Hogan has provided bugger all in front of goal, providing donuts in both the goal column, and the behind column.
He’s still picking up 18.50 touches per game (a career-high), but Freo fans, is that what you want for this bloke? If this is what you get for the whole year, would you have preferred to keep that pick six?
VALUE UP – LINCOLN MCCARTHY
From 2012-18, Lincoln McCarthy played just 29 games at Geelong. He played five games over the 2017-18 seasons, and he knew his time was up.
He still felt he had plenty to offer, and reunited with old mate, Lachie Neale in Brisbane. It has been an inspired decision. Career highs in both disposals and goals per game, albeit in a small sample size, have thrust McCarthy into the psyche of footy fans, and if that wasn’t enough, his massive hanger against the Power in a ripping game had him on highlight reels all over the country.
McCarthy may fall in a heap, but for right now, he has gone from a guy struggling to stay on the Geelong list to one of the best small forwards in the game.
VALUE DOWN – EDDIE BETTS
Speaking of small forwards… I thought this was going to be the year Eddie Betts bounced back. He looked wonderful in the JLT series – fast, agile and had a sense of danger about him.
It’s as though opposition teams had that sense as well, and they’re playing Eddie as closely as they ever have. As a result, things aren’t looking great for Betts in 2019.
Look away Adelaide fans – Eddie is averaging his lowest disposals and goals per game since 2006. Yep, worse than last year. It is a small sample size in the context of an entire year, but we can only go on what we’ve seen thus far. Eddie needs a big bag soon. And the Crows need him to be the Eddie Betts that doesn’t just look dangerous – they need him to BE dangerous.
VALUE UP – SCOTT LYCETT
How can a bloke who stood tall in a West Coast premiership raise his value even more?
He can do it by going to a new club, and injecting a bit of genuine aggression into the playing group. Lycett is a beast of a man, and his hit on Mitch Robinson late in the Power’s gallant loss to Brisbane was one of those acts that was close to the line of what is and isn’t acceptable, and he copped a fine for his troubles.
But that’s what some teams need.
In 2018, Port Adelaide needed someone to stand up late in the season and show they weren’t going to be pushed around. They needed a big man who knows he is a physical presence, and isn’t afraid to get stuck into an opponent. And they went out and got someone like that.
Lycett let Max Gawn know what he was all about as the Power took care of the Demons in round two, and set a tone for the 2019 Port Adelaide season that others should replicate.
The Mongrel likes a bit of biff, and we like a bit of Lycett.
VALUE DOWN – DUSTIN MARTIN
This isn’t the hatchet job you’re expecting, Richmond fans – fear not.
The reason Dusty is on this list is because right now, he isn’t playing great footy, and will be spending a bit of time on the sidelines after losing his cool. He’ll get it back. Remember when The Fonz lost his cool? That was a dark day for coolness in general, and Dusty losing his almost matches it. The good thing is, coolness returns, and there may be some ‘Happy Days’ left for the Tigers yet.
I liked Happy Days.
What Martin is doing currently would be good enough for most other clubs – he’s still tracking at over 20 touches per game despite being tagged.
The problem for Dusty’s value, at least in terms of this article, is that his previous value was astronomical. It was THE highest value in the league, so a drop off, to an extent, was inevitable.
Martin has a week off to get his head on straight and return to the Tigers as something resembling the player he was last year, if not the year before.
VALUE UP – LACHIE NEALE
So, he only managed to average 30.32 touches per game last season. They’re not bad numbers, are they?
Yet still, he was playing second fiddle to Nat Fyfe and felt he would be better served elsewhere, so off he went to Brisbane to pair up with Dayne Zorko and Dayne Bea…
. oops. And then Beams was gone, and so Neale was forced to do more.
He welcomed the challenge, and the results have been amazing. He currently sits at 38.33 touches per game. So he averaged 30 per game last year, and bumped it up by eight touches per game early in 2019? That’s ridiculous, but it’s happening, and if the Lions continue winning, his value will only rise more.
It seems ludicrous, but could he sit at 40 touches per game after four weeks? Watch this space.
VALUE DOWN – ALEX FASOLO
There was a nice consistency to the numbers of Alex Fasolo for the majority of his career up until 2018, but the wheels have completely fallen off for the former Collingwood player.
His move to Carlton, at this stage, has been as successful as Mick Malthouse’s tenure.
He’s had two games in the navy blue for a return of 7.00 touches and one goal per game. With Carlton’s eyes on the future, is Fasolo part of their plans after this season? It’d take something special from Fas this season to keep a spot on the list, and I don’t think he has it left in him.
Hope he proves me wrong.
VALUE UP – TOM HICKEY
So the Saints had a glut of ruckmen at their club, and something had to give. Tom Hickey packed his bags and headed west, and though he lowered his colours to Brodie Grundy this past round, his work at clearances have added another dimension to the Eagles’ ball-winning capabilities.
Hell, it might even see them elevated to above the thirteenth best midfield by Champion Data, huh?
Hickey isn’t going to be leading the league in hit outs, but I fully expect him to be top three in the league in clearances amongst rucks. He loves outmuscling an opponent and taking clean possession, and we’ll see plenty of that as the Eagles await the return of Naitanui.
VALUE DOWN – JOE DANIHER
A bit harsh, but 2017 seems so long ago now, doesn’t it?
Daniher’s last two seasons have been an injury-riddled mess, and as he sits out for a month with a calf strain, Essendon fans may be forgiven for starting to worry whether they’ll ever see Daniher reach the heights he did when he snagged 63 goals and stamped himself as a future star of the game.
Plagued by Osteitis Pubis in 2018, and already on the sidelines this season, Daniher’s return to prominence has been delayed at best. Essendon would be hoping like hell that it’s not derailed all together.
VALUE UP – BRODY MIHOCEK
You know, I look at games and ‘m a bit of a realist (yet I still have big dreams for The Mongrel, damn it!). Not everyone can be the megastar, and Brody Mihocek will never be Jordan de Goey.
He doesn’t have to be, because what this bloke is providing for Collingwood early in 2019 is exactly the sort of blue-collar work ethic, and no-fuss delivery that every team needs.
Mihocek is unheralded, yet he is currently sitting fifth in the league in contested marks and I had him as one of the best players on the ground as the Pies got over the Tigers.
He may not be fancy. He may not be spectacular. But he is +4.11 disposals and +3.73 marks per game this season. That is a definite value-up player.
VALUE DOWN – BEN RONKE
When you kick seven goals on debut, you’re bound to fall off the pace a little, right?
Well, Ronke has fallen a fair way in his first two games of 2019, and this year looks more like the nervous first year player than he did last season.
He is -4.67 disposals per game and has gone from averaging 1.33 goals per game to kicking just one in his first couple of contests. With just two tackles per game this season, he isn’t bringing the heat either. I reckon the young fella has one week to turn it around, or he might find himself back in the seconds.
VALUE UP – SAM POWELL-PEPPER
There is a very good reason Port Adelaide will put up with off-field antics, the likes of which involved Sam Powell-Pepper last season, and the way the bald bull is going about his footy indicates the Power were wise to do so.
Powell-Pepper, in just his third season, seems to have made the leap Power fans were hoping for. He is +4.27 in disposals per game this season, and has increased both his contested work, and clearances.
Powell-Pepper has been compared by many to a young Dustin Martin (I’ll refrain from using a Dusty cheap shot here in case Richmond supporters get upset at me again) and you can see it in the way he moves with the footy.
Incredibly hard to stop once he has momentum, you get the feeling we are just scratching the surface of what SPP is capable of.
VALUE DOWN – STEELE SIDEBOTTOM
Oh, hang on… Mongrel Punt, what are you up to here?
I watch Sidebottom quite closely, and have noticed that in the Collingwood midfield squeeze, his position seems to have been compromised the most by the arrival of Dayne Beams.
Through three games he is averaging his lowest disposal output since 2011, at 24 touches per game. This is -5.38 on his 2018 numbers. He is down in contested touches, clearances and inside 50s, and is looking like more of an outside runner this season, spending a lot of time on the wing.
His 2018 was spectacular. His 2019, less so thus far. Small sample size, I know, but I pick up on these little things…
VALUE UP – BRAYDEN FIORINI
I’ve mentioned it in another article, but this kid was rated as “poor” by Champion Data before the season started. It may have been justified… hell, I don’t know what ridiculous numbers they crunch, but now in his fourth year, I’m guessing that’ll be the last time he is rated so lowly by anyone.
He has leapt to be +5.42 in disposals per game to this point of the season, and his numbers are up across the board. He is +4.67 in contested touches, and whilst I am sure a lot of the credit in the media will go to players like Sexton, Bowes and Harbrow, the development of Fiorini is one of the key factors in the improvement in the Gold Coast Suns.
Keep your eye on him – he may be about to go through the roof!
VALUE DOWN – BEN BROWN
Unless Ben Brown marks the footy, he’s in trouble, and with copious amounts of defenders getting back to double and triple team him, the chances of him taking a heap of marks are diminishing rapidly.
This is one that isn’t really fair – it’s not Brown’s fault that North has fielded a team that cannot offer him any marking support. It was flagged on this very site last year when Jarrad Waite went down, that Brown needs someone to draw the heat and keep help defenders accountable. He’s simply not getting that this year.
He is down in possessions, marks, goals and pretty much every offensive statistic you can find. With an off-season hip operation, his mobility may not be at the level it once was. he might get back there pretty soon, but in the interim, he’s gone from being a potential Coleman Medallist to a decent forward.
VALUE UP – JACK BILLINGS
Finally! It seems as though Saints supporters have been waiting forever for Jack Billings to arrive, and through the first three rounds, he looks to have got there, at last.
He has jumped from 21.86 disposals to 29.33 per game in the first three rounds of 2019, whilst maintaining the game goal average. It’s no coincidence that the Saints renaissance has gone hand in hand with the improvements in Billings’ game. His combination with Jade Gresham looks to be the remedy that has plagued the Saints for years.
If Billings can continue to impact games as he has early in 2019, perhaps he can make good on the potential he showed early on, and give an AA berth a shake.
VALUE DOWN – STEVEN MAY
Showing up to preseason out of shape, getting suspended for a late bump in the JLT series, and then getting injured in your first game in your new jumper – not exactly the textbook fairy tale, is it?
Meanwhile, May’s former team has racked up two wins and a narrow loss as his current team has dropped their first three games of the season.
For May, perhaps leaving Gold Coast wasn’t such a great move, after all. For Gold Coast, maybe it was the right move in moving him on.
VALUE UP – ALEX SEXTON
Speaking of May’s former team, Alex Sexton did the anti-May and re-signed with the, until recently, struggling club. Not only did he re-sign for four years, but he backed it up with a great start to the season.
That he is posting career high numbers in both disposals (16.00) and goals (3.33) per game should come as no surprise to anyone, but the fact that he has doubled his 2018 output in terms of contested possessions should raise a few eyebrows.
In a team that was supposed to be uncompetitive, Sexton has led the way when competing. His best number for contested touches prior to this year was 5.11 per game in 2016. He’s not ticking over at 8.67 per game.
Sexton is Gold Coast in a nutshell. People expected very little more from him than they’d already seen, but he’s showing them a lot more. And that is exactly what his team is doing as well.
VALUE DOWN – BRAD SCOTT
Yeah, you can get narky at reporters all you like, and give them that fierce Brad Scott… or Chris Scott stare, but you know what would work better? Changing your tactics when Alastair Clarkson effectively counters that which was working for you in the first quarter.
Brad Scott’s boys got the jump on the Hawks, just as they did the week before against the Lions, and just like the week before, the opposition made moves and changed tack, and once they did, what did North and Brad Scott do?
Not much. And they lost. Out-coached twice and beaten to a pulp in round one, Brad Scott is feeling the heat.
VALUE UP – DARCY MOORE
Like Joe Daniher at Essendon, an injury-interrupted 2018 saw his value plummet, but unlike Daniher, Moore has been able to recover and demonstrate just why Collingwood had such high hopes for him as a defender.
He was giving Jack Riewoldt a nice old touch up before the Tiger went down injured in round two, and has rarely been beaten.
For those old enough to remember his old man, his loping, hunched run with the ball is proof enough for me that Mrs Moore wasn’t welcoming the milkman in. He is a chip off the old block.
VALUE DOWN – BILLY LONGER
You’d think with Tom Hickey moving on, the time for Billy Longer to finally shine would be now.
But it’s not. He has been leapfrogged by Rowan Marshall and Lewis Pearce to be the third of two ruck options at the Saints. Remember when there was all this excitement about St Kilda securing his services? Remember when he was going to be the ruckman that led them into the era we are currently in?
The Mongrel remembers, and he also thinks we’ll be forgetting about Billy Longer pretty soon.
VALUE UP – SAM COLLINS
This bloke could not help his value going up.
Not on an AFL list last year, Collins got his reprieve in the form of a shot at Gold Coast, and his safe hands have made a huge difference in their backline.
He now sits at equal fifth in the league in contested marks, with 2.7 per game, and is 12th overall in intercept possessions, with 8.3 per game. His kicking may let him down at times, but when his value was so low to begin with, it is probably the biggest gain of all listed.
VALUE DOWN – GRANT BIRCHALL
The last time Birchall dragged himself onto an AFL field was in round 15, 2017, and as Hawthorn fans check the latest injury news, Birchall always appears as though he isn’t too far away.
Yet he never quite gets back.
He’s now listed as ‘indefinite’ with a calf injury.
Look, I am no picture of health – I strained my hamstring playing basketball against a bunch of nine year olds this afternoon – but I know what it looks like when a bloke’s body is shot. I look in the mirror every day, after all.
Birchall is 31 and struggling. He is one of two Hawks left from their 2008 flag, which gives you an indication as to how long he’s been around. I’m not sure his value has ever been lower. That said, if he plays three games, his value will be higher than it has been in 18 months. The challenge is there.
VALUE UP – TOM STEWART
As a 2018 All-Australian, I’m not sure Stewart’s value could have been any higher, and then he trots out to start 2019 and puts together three ripping games, completely eclipsing his output from last season.
Stewart is +5.24 in disposals, and +5.17 in rebound 50 disposals per game.
When you consider he was good enough to be All-Australian last year, you have a clear picture of just how much he’s elevated his game in 2019. You can pencil his name in as an AA player again this year if this keeps up – he is the standout performer in a very good back six for the Cats.
And there we go. Quite a list of those trending up and those trending down. Got any to add, or any to subtract? Did we get one really wrong? Let us know.
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