The arrival of Damien Hardwick at the Gold Coast Suns heralds a new era and a wave of fresh opportunities for AFL fantasy coaches. Hardwick is known for implementing game styles that can significantly enhance the fantasy value of players in certain positions, while potentially diminishing it for others. This coaching change at the Suns is particularly intriguing, as it opens the door for identifying undervalued players, potential breakout stars, and those worth stashing for future gains in AFL Fantasy leagues. With all these considerations in mind, let’s delve into the heart of this article where we’ll explore these promising AFL fantasy options under the guidance of Coach Hardwick’s new regime.
Rory Atkins consistently defied expectations last season, remaining a fixture in the side even when it seemed he might be dropped throughout the year. However, with the arrival of a new coach, Damien Hardwick, there’s uncertainty about how Atkins will be valued within the team. From a fantasy football perspective, Atkins does the right things. He often takes kick-ins, smartly positions himself for easy marks, and accumulates extra posessions, all while playing from a fantasy-friendly position off the halfback line. This season, it’s essential to monitor his role closely. If he appears set to play regularly, Atkins could be a viable option. Yet, it’s worth noting that his increased usage last year coincided with injuries to other Gold Coast defenders. This season, with a healthier squad, his time on the field might be more limited, but he remains a player to watch.
Ben Ainsworth is a bit of a dark horse in the realm of AFL fantasy, especially as a forward. More often than not, he’ll net a nice score around, making him a solid pick for your F3 to F5 range forwards. However, he might be placed higher this season given the scarcity of forwards. Last year, he found himself on the wing quite a bit, which was a move that paid off in terms of AFL Fantasy, keeping him around the ball more, nudging up his point tally. However, with a new coach, the dynamics could shift in several ways. Ainsworth has his roots as a midfielder, and there’s this tantalizing possibility that he might be pulled back into the middle, depending on how the new coach sees his potential. But I think it’s more likely he remains in a similar role as last year. Based on last year’s averages, Ainsworth actually ranks as a top 25 forward, which might see him picked earlier in drafts than he probably should be. But, timing is everything. If you play your cards right, he could turn out to be a real value pick in your draft. Keep an eye on him!
Connor Budarick has been seriously unlucky with injuries over the past few years, suffering back-to-back ACL injuries in 2021 and 2022. It was a relief to see him make a comeback in Round 23 of 2023, and even more of a relief when he put up an impressive score of 83 in the final round of the season. Budarick was an underage fantasy standout, playing as a midfielder, but now as a halfback, he’s in an equally fantasy-friendly role. The challenge, though, is the crowded halfback line at Gold Coast. There are quite a few players similar to Budarick in that position, making it tricky to predict how they’ll all fit together and rack up fantasy points. But if Budarick can get a decent run, free from injuries and with consistent playtime, he could turn out to be a really handy option for your fantasy team. Keep an eye on him, especially if he starts showing signs of his underge AFL Fantasy form.
The Breakout Contenders
Joel Jeffrey, previously seen as a forward in past seasons, experienced a shift in his role last year. Midway through the season, he was moved to the half-back line where he seemed quite at comfortable, and while he didn’t amass huge scores in this new role, he possesses the ideal qualities for an intercept defender. He’s got the ability to take marks, coupled with commendable skills and athleticism. However, with the arrival of a new coach, it’s a bit of a mystery where he’ll be positioned in 2024. If he’s given a similar role to last year, Jeffrey could emerge as a strong option, especially considering the current scarcity of forwards in AFL fantasy. His adaptability and potential in multiple positions make him a player to watch closely for the upcoming season.
Bailey Humphrey’s 2023 season showed promising signs for his potential in 2024. He had a bit of a slow start initially, but once he gained some time in the midfield, his true potential began to shine through. His scores improved significantly as a result, demonstrating his capability in this role. In a recent article, Humphrey himself acknowledged that he felt fatigued during 2023, which impacted some of his performances. However, with another preseason under his belt and his versatility in playing both in the midfield and forward, he’s shaping up to be a future star. Given his evident skill set and the growth he’s already shown, Humphrey is certainly a player to jump on now in AFL fantasy. There’s a strong belief that this young talent is on the brink of a breakout in the near future, making him an exciting prospect for AFL Fantasy teams.
The Stash Options
When you take a look at the Gold Coast Suns’ ruck department, the options for life after Jarrod Witts seem pretty limited. That’s where Ned Moyle comes into the picture. He’s highly regarded within the club, and should Witts face an injury or decide to retire earlier than expected, Moyle appears to be the one ready to step up. However, with Ethan Reed also in the mix developing into their future ruckman, he might just be a stop gap option until the youngster develops. For AFL fantasy players, he’s not someone you’d expect to see on the field soon, but he’s worth stashing away. He averaged a solid 94 in the VFL last season which indicates he has the tools to be a good fantasy scorer. When the Suns transition in their rucks in the near future, Moyle could become a more relevant figure, so keeping an eye on him could pay off.
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