It's that exciting time of the year again when we delve into the realm of fantasy footy! Let's kick on to the defenders! We'll take a deep dive into the hard hitters from 2023, identify potential breakout candidates, and assess the older players who might be showing signs of slowing down. Get ready as we break down the Defender position into tiers for the upcoming 2024 Aussie Rules season!
Aussie Rules Football's golden child Nick Daicos is the top-tier defender in fantasy footy right now. He's only 21 but had a standout 2023 season, even being a strong contender for the Brownlow Medal before disaster struck and Daicos was forced to miss time due to injury. When healthy, if you didn't own a card or you didn't start him in your weekly Aussie Rules side, you were already starting at a disadvantage! He averaged 128 points per game in GameDay Squad, just behind Jordan Dawson. The formula here is pretty simple: if you own a Nick Daicos card, he is must start. If not, trading for one becomes imperative.
James Sicily Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera
The second tier for defenders is a mix of promising young talents and seasoned veterans. Players like Harry Sheezel, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, and Hayden Young are expected to continue their upward trajectory in the 2024 season, showing immense potential. Their growth and performance are too compelling to overlook. Additionally, veterans James Sicily and Jack Sinclair are anticipated to maintain their consistent form this year. Coaches have come to rely on them for their steady contributions, and there's no reason to expect anything different in 2024.
There's a compelling argument that Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera is the league's premier user by foot, and it would be remiss for St Kilda not to maximise his involvement, particularly from defensive 50. The 20-year-old showcased his exceptional talent in the 2023 season, averaging an impressive 17.5 kicks per game. This performance propelled him to new heights in fantasy footy, averaging 110 GameDay Squad (GDS) fantasy points per game. Given his youth, role conducive to fantasy scoring, and undeniable talent, it's difficult to envision his average points per game diminishing in the upcoming season. With his remarkable scoring potential, entering the 2024 season without a Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera player card would be a risky move.
I have full confidence that James Sicily will maintain his consistently outstanding fantasy performance, as he has done for several years now. As Hawthorn's captain and primary distributor from the backline, Sicily appears poised to once again be a staple in weekly starting lineups throughout the 2024 season, with no reported role changes or setbacks heading into the campaign. Sicily concluded the 2023 season as the third-ranked defender, trailing only Jordan Dawson and Nick Daicos, boasting an impressive average of 124 GameDay Squad (GDS) fantasy points per game. While he may not be the flashiest or most glamorous choice, Sicily's reliability round after round is invaluable in fantasy footy. He remains a consistent must-start option for fantasy managers.
We're in Tier 3 territory here, and the upside potential is exciting! We've got a mix of veterans who've been sidelined by injuries or role changes and a young gun who's primed for a breakout season. Keep an eye out for... Keidean Coleman, who seems poised to thrive in the vacant half-back flanker role for the Brisbane Lions following Daniel Rich's departure. Coleman's exceptional foot skills place him squarely in the conversation for the league's best user by foot (NWM looking at you...)—a tantalising prospect for fantasy coaches who have long awaited his breakout. We got a taste of Coleman's potential during the 2023 finals series when he stepped up in Rich's absence. He delivered impressive performances with scores of 89 and 124 GameDay Squad (GDS) fantasy points in the first two finals games, followed by a standout 152 GDS fantasy points in the Grand Final. Admittedly, my enthusiasm might be a tad optimistic, but Coleman's upside is simply too enticing to overlook.
One player who has caught my attention more and more during the pre-season is Richmond's Jayden Short. Short has been a reliable fantasy asset for quite some time now. Following Bachar Houli's departure, Short seamlessly filled the void with his ability to break lines with his kicking—an attribute reminiscent of Houli's prime. However, a positional change to midfield led to a decline in Short's fantasy output, diminishing his relevance. Encouragingly, early signs this pre-season suggest that Short is reverting to his former role. He's been observed taking charge of kick-out duties, with Richmond coach Adam Yze deploying him exclusively as a half-back in match simulations. If Short can rediscover his past form, there's every reason to believe he could ascend to Tier 1 status by the end of the 2024 season.
Several names on this list seem to be flying under the radar at the moment, veterans Mitch Duncan, Dan Houston, Nic Newman, Mason Redman, Bailey Dale, and Angus Brayshaw fall into this category. While these players have demonstrated their fantasy potential in the past, their performances in 2023 were marred by inconsistency, role changes or injury. It's challenging to predict whether we'll see their best form or experience the opposite, as we've witnessed with some of them in 2023. This uncertainty makes it difficult to take a gamble on their fantasy prospects, especially when there's so much upside elsewhere in the defender position for the 2024 season.
I'm feeling a bit cautious and leaning towards a downward trend on Nic Newman as the pre-season progresses. With Carlton's midfield group fully fit and Zac Williams returning from injury in 2024, there's uncertainty surrounding the composition of Carlton's defence. Will Sam Docherty return to his role as the playmaker off the half-back line? Will Zac Williams demand more involvement in the game? Could we see Brodie Kemp featuring more prominently in Carlton's defence this season? While Newman's exceptional form towards the end of the 2023 season warrants consideration, I believe there are safer options available in the defender position with higher potential for success at this stage of the year.
Tier 5 where we find the best of the rest! I genuinely believe come selection time for your GameDay Squad that these guys will be in the conversation at some point in time. Particularly the likes of Jordan Ridley, Elliott Yeo and Jordan Clark. Keep these players-of-difference waiting in the wings and deploy them as you see fit thorughout the season!