Jonathan Brown’s AFL SuperCoach pre-season insider tips
I love this time of year.
Everyone is flying, and everyone is having the best pre-season ever.
Us KFC SuperCoach players are just like any footy fans, we all get caught up in the good news stories coming out of the 18 AFL clubs.
Every young player is ready to take the competition by storm, players returning from injury are burning up the track and it seems everybody is promised "more midfield time" - and more SuperCoach points.
But we need to remember clubs are selling hope. I can tell you I never told a journalist I was having my worst pre-season ever, even though that would have been an honest answer more than once.
For coaches and players, this is actually a pretty nervous time.
They are all trying to get their overall fitness up and work on team cohesion and nailing the finer points of the game plan.
But there is a degree of caution because you don't want to be going at 100 per cent six weeks out from the start of the season. You're not winning any awards for backing into a pack to take a kamikaze mark or a crazy attack on the ball, but you open yourself up to injury if you go in half-hearted. And you can have the greatest pre-season of all time and still cop bad luck.
I was having one of my best pre-seasons ever (really) in 2012 when Goose Maguire went third-man up in a training session - we weren't supposed to fly third man-up but he thought he was Gary Ablett Senior and Alex Jesaulenko rolled into one - and his knee smashed into my face, putting me in hospital 10 days out from Round 1.
Fingers crossed nothing like that happens to any player this year, but we do have two superstars of the game returning from long-term injuries who are of great interest to everyone playing SuperCoach.
Tom Mitchell has stepped up his recovery from a broken leg and will play for the Hawks in their first Marsh Community Series game against the Saints. And Sam Docherty is looking good as he makes his way back from two years out with knee injuries.
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Even though Docherty has had a year longer out of the game, I'm picking him over Mitchell.
Michael Voss had a similar injury to Mitchell in 1998 and came back the next year to make the All-Australian team. But he was in excruciating pain all year and had to have a metal rod removed from his leg at the end of the season. Vossy will go down as one of the toughest players of all time, mentally and physically, so that gives you an idea of the challenges Mitchell faces this season.
We know he's a professional and he will win the footy but I'm not expecting him to hit top gear until the second half of the season - when I can pick him up at a lower price than his starting value of $630,900. For that cash I'd rather have Patrick Dangerfield or Marcus Bontempelli.
Docherty will step back into his role as a distributor across half-back, and he's just $436,100 - nearly $200,000 cheaper than Mitchell.
We'll get a good look at Mitchell at Moorabbin. A key moment will be when he does something that tells him, 'Yep, I can do this'. Those are the glimpses we should be looking for as SuperCoaches. Here are the other players I'll be keeping a close eye on from the Fox Footy commentary box.
Max King - don't dismiss his four goals in St Kilda's intra-club - nobody likes getting beaten by a teammate. He's in my forward line at $123,900.
Chad Wingard - Flying this pre-season after managing just 14 games in his first year at the Hawks. I want to see him in the midfield.
Rowan Marshall - How much will Paddy Ryder eat into his ruck time? I don't want to spend $598k on a player who will only be on the ball for half the game.
Dougal Howard - Awkwardly priced but scored much better as a defender, which is where Ratts will play him.
Dan Hannebery - If you're looking for value, do you take a kid or the forgotten hero of SuperCoach? Remember he averaged 96 in his five games last year off a very low base. If you can get 100 points a week for $400,000 and change we'd all take that.