New coach Alistair Clarkson delivered some surprise AFL Fantasy gems for us in 2023, including Harry Sheezel who proved to be the ultimate value selection of the year in AFL Fantasy giving owners an average of 97 in his first season.
As these young Roos begin to mature, I would expect their game style to evolve to a point where they move the ball quickly inside 50 and give opportunities to their big full forward Souv Larkey, which could reduce scoring from their backs and possibly give further avenues for scoring among their midfielders and half forwards.
As we enter 2024, there are a number of these young Roos who we expect to take the next step for our fantasy sides, and hopefully deliver some strong scoring.
Jy Simpkin who after back-to-back seasons having a 95.5 AFL Fantasy average, had a howler by his standards. He gave his owners a measly 75.8 AFL Fantasy average, but contributing to this were 3 injury-affected games (48 in round 5, 7 in round 12 and 23 in round 17). While we all want players who can stay healthy, 2023 seems to be an outlier as he had missed only two games in the five seasons before this. For those who are nervous about others going past him in the North Melbourne midfield, he is still their captain, and at worst in 2023 attended 55% of CBAs. Given North will need seasoned bodies around their young core, he is someone to consider.
Another undervalued option is Luke McDonald. Gone from the backline of North Melbourne are Ziebell, Hall, and Harry Sheezel (potentially). This leaves a large void across half back, and the one name who will remain on that line from last season is McDonald. He had a post-bye stretch of games where he scored 85, 111, 84, 87, 31, and 86 which coincided with Ziebell being the sub more often, as well as Sheezel spending some time in the middle.
The Breakout Contenders
George Wardlaw looks like he could be one of the better midfielders in the competition if he can improve his tank, stay fit and remain on the upward trajectory he is seemingly destined for. An AFL Fantasy average of 65 in 2023 is way under what we should expect in 2024, and a number of the scores that contribute to that average were either injury or sub affected.
Tristan Xerri was finally going to be handed the keys to North’s ruck department but got injured in the past couple of days. It’s unclear on how long he’ll be out for but hopefully, he will be right for round 1. He comes into the season with a 66 AFL Fantasy average next to his name in 2023, but he will be the sole ruck for the first time in 2024. His scoring profile reads similarly to a Reilly O’Brien at the Crows, so an average around that 85-90 range feels attainable if he can recover from his face injury quickly.
Is it ok to place a first-year player in as a breakout? Maybe not, but I firmly believe Colby McKercher will explode onto the scene in 2024. He has a huge underage fantasy scoring pedigree (average 117 in the National Championships) and is touted to replace Sheezel in a half-back role to ease him into AFL football. It’s unfair to predict a 95+ AFL Fantasy average on a first-year player, but having seen Daicos, and Sheezel in their first seasons, I believe this is a guy who could thrive at AFL level this year.
The Stash Options
North have several young players at their disposal, all of whom deserve to be stashed on a keeper league roster. Top of the list is Zane Duursma – pick 3 in the 2023 draft. Others who will have opportunities with other departures include Will Phillips, Josh Goater and Callum Coleman-Jones. Watch these guys over pre-season to see if they receive more opportunities or better roles.