In the ever-unpredictable realm of AFL fantasy, the Western Bulldogs’ surprising miss from the finals last year, after recently appearing in a grand final in 2021, stands out as a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of football. This was a particularly disappointing outcome given the promising shape of their list, signaling that something different must be in the works for the upcoming season to alter their fortunes. With the need for adaptation and innovation clear, this year could see new players stepping into varied roles, potentially unlocking fresh opportunities for AFL fantasy scoring among certain players. This article aims to delve into the Bulldogs’ list, identifying undervalued gems, breakout contenders, and stash options for the future, offering fantasy coaches insights into players who might just tip the scales in their favour.
Lachie Bramble’s move from Hawthorn to the Western Bulldogs certainly piqued interest, marking an intriguing acquisition that seemed to underscore the Bulldogs’ quest for enhanced outside run in their trade strategy. It’s clear that Bramble, with his capacity for swift movement across the ground, embodies this pursuit, though whether he’ll predominantly feature as a small defender or pivot to an outside midfielder role remains up for debate. Should Bramble find himself in the defensive half, the challenge might be steeper for him to rack up significant AFL fantasy points. Conversely, a stint on the wing could see him posting some respectable numbers, an angle that gains an extra layer of appeal given his classification as a defender in fantasy leagues. Bramble has previously flashed signs of being a competent AFL fantasy contributor, so he’s one to watch with keen interest as the preseason unfolds.
James Harmes is certainly another player to keep an eye on this season, especially considering his history of producing decent numbers when slotted into roles that suit his playing style. His impact on AFL fantasy scoring has historically been contingent upon his position on the field; playing forward or in defense typically doesn’t bode well for his fantasy output. However, should he secure a role within the midfield—be it as a gritty inside player or taking on a tagging role—Harmes has demonstrated the ability to deliver respectable fantasy numbers. Adding to the intrigue is his listing as a forward in AFL fantasy this season, a position of scarcity when it comes to high-scoring options. Last season, the Western Bulldogs employed a tight midfield rotation, which arguably limited their flexibility and the ability to leverage key players like Bontempelli in more dynamic roles around the ground. With indications that the Bulldogs might be looking to diversify their midfield rotation this season, Harmes could very well find himself a part of the midfield group, potentially boosting his fantasy relevance and offering a unique advantage to fantasy coaches scouting for forward-positioned players who can rack up scores in the midfield.
In 2020, Nick Coffield was on the cusp of a breakout, showcasing the kind of form that hinted at a star in the making. Unfortunately, a series of injuries over the subsequent seasons stalled the momentum he was building, leaving fans and fantasy coaches alike wondering what might have been. Now, with a fresh start at the Western Bulldogs, there’s renewed hope that Coffield could rekindle that upward trajectory. While his exact role within the team is yet to be defined, there’s speculation that Bailey Dale’s potential move forward could pave the way for Coffield to bolster the Bulldogs’ defensive line. Moreover, the possibility of him taking on a wing position also looms a scenario that could positively impact his scoring potential. Coffield is certainly another player to monitor closely, as his versatility and potential for resurgence make him an intriguing prospect for the season ahead.
The Breakout Contenders
Ed Richards emerged as a breakout contender last season, showcasing the traits of a capable AFL fantasy player from the half-back line. Despite his promising performance, he didn’t quite hit the average of 80 points necessary to be considered a definitive breakout in fantasy terms, yet his progress still makes him a topic of interest for our podcast discussions. With Bailey Dale potentially moving into the forward line, Richards could assume a more central role as the primary distributor from the half-back, potentially leading to an increase in his fantasy scoring. This scenario positions him as a player I rate highly and strongly recommend targeting in upcoming keeper league drafts. Richards’s ability to influence the game from the backline, combined with the prospect of an enhanced role, suggests he could offer significant value to fantasy coaches looking for players with upside.
Given the scarcity of forwards in the 2024 AFL fantasy season, attention turns to players like Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, whose freakish talent and knack for taking marks and kicking goals set him apart. While it might be premature to expect big scores from him, Ugle-Hagan is poised to be a valuable asset for fantasy teams. Particularly if he manages to notch up a few extra marks, kicks, and goals this season, his average could hover around the 70 mark. This improvement would not only boost his fantasy relevance but also make him a very viable option for coaches looking for forwards who can consistently contribute to their team’s performance. Ugle-Hagan’s potential for growth and impact on the field makes him a player worth targeting, especially in a season looking for standout forwards.
I’ve really rated Caleb Poulter since his junior days, particularly for his fantasy scoring potential, and he didn’t disappoint in his first season at Collingwood, where he put up very promising numbers as a rookie. The game has evolved in a way that doesn’t necessarily favor wingmen like Poulter, but considering his impressive underage performances and what he’s demonstrated at the AFL level in his first season, there’s room for growth. Last year’s numbers might not have been overly impressive, but considering he was a mid-season draftee who needed time to adjust to AFL standards again, I’m not putting too much stock into them. With another preseason under his belt, Poulter could very well be a player to keep an eye on.
The Stash Options
There probably isn’t a bigger fan of Harvey Gallagher than me. I urge everyone to take a look back at his junior numbers to understand my excitement. Notably, Gallagher was an overager in the talent league in 2022, initially playing as a small forward. However, a strategic move halfway through the year shifted him to half-back, where he posted some huge numbers in the final few games of the season. His time in the VFL for the Western Bulldogs has seen him play mixed roles, and despite an injury-interrupted year last year, Gallagher turned heads with performances like a 29 disposal and two-goal game, not to mention his impressive runs off the halfback flank that landed him on the Western Bulldogs’ highlight reels. Western Bulldogs fans believe he has what it takes to make it at the AFL level, and if he does, he’s bound to be a fantasy-friendly player. While he might not make a significant impact this season, assuming it will be his debut year, holding onto him for the future could be wise, as he has the makings of an AFL fantasy star.
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