While most of us would believe that fantasy sports are only a recent phenomenon, a peak into its background would suggest that they have been around for quiet sometime.
Most football lovers in this country would be well aware of Supercoach or Dream Team which are the AFL’s version of fantasy football. However, whilst these two fantasy versions are nearing the ten year marks of their existence, American’s have been playing these games for decades.
The name Daniel Orkent will mean even less to you than it does to me. But, this is the man who invented the Rotisserie League Baseball which triggered the fantasy sport revolution. Orkent, an editor and writer of The New York Times, developed the concept of drafting players into a team and using statistics to measure the level of success your team achieved. The aim of the game is simply to make educated predictions on which players were going to score the highest scores in each category.
Orkent founded the idea in 1980, but it wasn’t until he wrote an article in Inside Sports in March 1981 titled “The Year George Foster Wasn’t Worth $36” that the concept really began to blossom. Using his influence in the media, it wasn’t long before fantasy analysis became a whole new way of consuming sport. Towards the end of the 1980’s the hobby had spread from baseball to football to basketball and was on the rise. By the time the internet launched in the 90’s all hell broke loose as fans were now able to access real-time statistics and invest more time in perfecting the drafting of their teams.
During the ‘Dot.Com’ era of the new millennium, fantasy sport was no longer a hobby, it was big business. Something which consumed the lives of a lot of sports obsessed individuals. Studies show that over 32 million people currently participate in some form of fantasy sports in America and Canada. A staggering 19.4% of the American male population are members of at least one fantasy sport competition.
Power bound: 2012 Sandover medalist Kane Mitchell is sure to feature regularly at Port.
Now we all know that America takes things to the next level in just about every category, but Australia is quickly catching up in our love affair with fantasy football.
With Supercoach and Dream Team seasons only weeks away, now is as good time as ever to begin preparation on recruiting the best possible squad for achieving success. Whilst it is hard to go past traditional high scorers like Gary Ablett, Scott Pendlebury and Jobe Watson, you can’t have them all. So, the key is to discover the hidden gems and to do so before everyone else learns how valuable they are. And typically they are not the latest first round draftees, rather they are mature age recruits or even recycled players – who often get brushed aside in favour of glamour high draft picks.
We’ve taken the time to delve into a few groups of players who may be just the key to finding your success this fantasy football season.
Mature age rookies are the cornerstone of any decent fantasy team. Dayne Zorko and James Magner were just two of a handful of examples who proved to be golden pickups in 2012. After the success of Michael Barlow the mature age selection has played a pivotal role in ensuring your success.
Kane Mitchell, Kyle Martin, Leigh Osborne and Dean Towers are four names that you should familiarize yourself with immediately. All four are 22 and coming off brilliant seasons in the state leagues.
Recycled: Koby Stevens will be looking for more game time at the Dogs.
New Port Adelaide recruit, Mitchell, has become the fourth Sandover medalist in seven seasons to find the carrot of an AFL list waiting at the end of the season. The former Claremont onballer had a stellar season which saw him collect Western Australian Football’s highest individual accolade. After averaging twenty five disposals a game in 2012, Mitchell was on the minds of not only the Power’s recruiting team but also Collingwood’s. Hard to see the long haired ball magnet not finding a spot in Port’s twenty two.
Kyle Martin has gone from suburban footballer twelve months ago to now on the list of the biggest club in the AFL. Quite a transformation for the former Noble Park midfielder whose first season at VFL level saw him take out Frankston’s best and fairest and represent the VFL after less than two months playing at that level. Whilst Collingwood’s midfield is full of class, Martin could be earmarked to fill the void left by Sharrod Wellingham’s departure to West Coast.
Welcome home: Ben Jacobs appears far more settled in his home state.
Another Frankston Dolphin, Leigh Osborne, has taken quiet a similar path to Martin. Just twelve months ago, Osborne was plying his trade in the Eastern Football League with East Ringwood. In fact, he turned up to Frankston training uninvited and was given a two week trial by coach Simon Goosey. After a dazzling season under Goosey, Osborne finds himself pinching himself on the Gold Coast. And with the list still quiet raw, there’s every chance the skillful rebounding defender might find a regular game.
In similar fashion to Hawthorn’s Isaac Smith, new Sydney recruit Dean Towers has used his athletic prowess to rapidly sprout from country obscurity to VFL sensation. Whilst Smith’s progress was far more rapid, Towers has put together a remarkable season which has seen him not only represent the VFL, and make the team of the year but also win the Fothergill-Round medal for the most promising player under the age of 23 in the VFL. The Swans used pick twenty two on Towers, suggesting how highly he is rated as a footballer and a good indication that he will play some regular football even at the premiers.
After acquiring small forward’s Ahmed Saad from the VFL and Terry Milera from the SANFL at the end of 2011, St Kilda have scoured the state leagues once more. This time unearthing another forward option to plan for a future that will sooner rather than later be void of Nick Riewoldt, Justin Koschitzke and Stephen Milne. And Tom Lee is not foreign to the AFL system, having spent a year at Adelaide as a seventeen year old.
Seeking redemption: Norwood premiership player is back to Carlton for another chance.
In 2008, the Crows selected Lee with pick 60 in the national draft. However, by the end of the following season they sent him packing with twelve months still to run on his contract. How does he found his way back to the AFL list is something quiet intriguing?
At the tender age of seventeen, Lee lacked the desperation and drive that is usually prevalent in most draftees. He openly admits that a lack of maturity and professionalism were the main factors behind his short tenure at Adelaide. At such a young age he couldn’t cope with the pressure of being so heavily scrutinized and having every move analysed on and off the field. So it was hardly his surprise when the Crows sent him back to Western Australia with a year still remaining on his contract.
Now, at 21, and coming off a seventy goal season in the WAFL for Claremont, Lee is a tantalizing prospect. Now that he is finally living up to his potential, St Kilda were willing to trade pick 12 to get their mitts on the hit up forward with the high leap and flamboyant edge.
Whether he can cope with the scrutiny and rigors of professional football are yet to be seen. But, if he can replicate his 2012 form at AFL level then he is a must have in any fantasy forward line.
Jaryd Cachia is another looking for redemption. Having spent two years on Carlton’s rookie list in 2010/11, the hard-nosed onballer was cut loose. The Blues midfield depth resulted in a lack of opportunity under Brett Ratten and meant that spots were scarce. Cachia took his game to Norwood in the SANFL in 2012 where the Redlegs won every game except for one, running away with the Premiership comfortably. With his work ethic never being in question during his time at Visy Park, Cachia was able to add a couple of strings to his bow during his year in Adelaide. With Ratten out and Mick Malthouse at the helm, the damaging midfielder returns to Carlton with a more outside element to his game. Something which was criticised in the past. He may yet be one of the bargains of this fantasy football season given that he can find the ball after having 31 disposals in the grand final.
Finally: At 26, Sam Dwyer is at long last on an AFL list.
Arguably the most common category of players that go overlooked when selecting a fantasy side are the recycled players. Now I’m not referring to Ricky Petterd or Sam Lonergan who are now in yellow and black. By recycled I am talking about three players in particular; Ben Jacobs, Josh Caddy and Koby Stevens. All three were originally top twenty five draft picks, and all three haven’t for one reason or another lived up to their pre-draft billing. But that’s where a change of environment could come into play and revive their stuttering careers and by doing so turn them into fantasy football gems.
The common theme with these under-age weapons is that they have all left home and had to go about their game in a foreign state with less than ample support. Injuries have riddled all three of their careers to date with Jacobs suffering from debilitating ankle problems, Stevens from the dreaded osteitis pubis and Caddy had to cope with stress fractures in his foot amongst an array of other injury hassles.
Ben Jacobs was the schoolboy superstar who was destined for the AFL from a young age. His dominance in the National Championships where he averaged 29 possessions a game, including a bout of leather poisoning against South Australia where he had 47 disposals, earmarked him as a ball magnet of the future. Whilst Dyson Heppell, Andrew Gaff, Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore have stood out from his draft class, Jacobs has been fighting a losing battle at Alberton. Now, at only 21, and with a lot of football left in him, Jacobs appears in a much better place at North Melbourne. Both in mind and in body. His ankle problems appear to be solved and by all reports his leadership prowess has been lauded by Brad Scott. Season 2013 could well be a year of reckoning for the booming left footer.
From the clouds: Dean Towers has sprung from no where to be on Sydney’s list.
It has been no secret that former number seven draft pick, Josh Caddy, has been yearning to come back to Melbourne. After a trade to Essendon failed to eventuate at the conclusion of last year’s trade period, Caddy was left to toil for another year on the Gold Coast. Whilst he was able to play all twenty two games in 2012, he has since admitted that he never truly embraced playing for the expansion club. So after failing to secure a return for him at the end of last season, Caddy and his management went for broke and were able to secure a trade with Geelong which saw their Gary Ablett compensation pick head back to the Suns. Whilst Geelong isn’t quite Melbourne, the effect the switch has had on Caddy has been obvious so far. The word out of the cattery is that midfielder is training the house down thus far. The cats are thrilled with Caddy’s dedication which has seen him finishing high in time trials and shining on the track. It is hard to argue that Caddy’s star is not on the rise.
A midfield comprising Daniel Kerr, Matthew Priddis, Scott Selwood, Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey and Chris Masten is tough for any onballer to find a spot in. Hence the reason why highly rated Koby Stevens finds himself at a second home after three years and only eleven games at West Coast. The Eagles loss is the Bulldogs gain though, as a fresh start and plenty of opportunity in the Dogs engine room should see Stevens fulfill his potential. Eye catching form in the WAFL for East Fremantle didn’t assist Stevens in securing a spot in the star-studded eagles’ line up. Thus, if he can blossom at the kennel then there is no reason why he won’t become a regular player. The tackling machine should add more grunt to support Clay Smith and Tom Liberatore in and around stoppages. Stevens’ game style has been likened to Smith who burst onto the scene last season. In fact, they both grew up in Bairnsdale and their fathers both work at Patties Pies together. With plenty improvement left in the former AFL/AIS captain he is sure to be on a lot of people’s fantasy radars.
Second chance: Former Adelaide rookie Tom Lee is looking to prove a point at St Kilda.
The final two players we are going to indulge you with are two who would have thought that the opportunity of playing at the highest level had probably gone past them. At twenty nine and twenty six, Brett Goodes and Sam Dwyer, may not have thought the day would come where they would here their name called out by an AFL club. But neither would have been selected by the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood respectively, if they were not a big chance of playing. And playing on a regular basis too. After so many years toiling in the VFL, they have more than proven themselves. However, the gulf between the state leagues and the elite level is substantial so it will be intriguing to see how they cope with it.
After living in the shadow of his brother for the majority of his football career, Goodes now has the opportunity to show that the talent in the family doesn’t just reside in Sydney. And for anyone who has watched the half back flanker from Williamstown dispose of the ball, then you know the Bulldogs have found themselves a readymade replacement for Lindsay Gilbee. Goodes has established a reputation as an uncomprimising running defender who makes quality decisions under pressure. With the Bulldogs going through a rebuilding phase, his competitiveness and physical maturity will ensure that he will see a lot of senior action in 2013.
For Sam Dwyer the draft process has become a constant disappointment. Year in and year out he hoped to have his name read out. But it never eventuated. Until last December’s rookie draft where Collingwood snared the run and carry type player from Port Melbourne. And this time he was not even watching the coverage. Instead he was working as an electrician and had his now former coach Gary Ayres, call him to inform him of his selection. The midfielder/forward has been on the cusp of being drafted for the past three or four years. But the fruitless period never broke him, rather it pushed him more and more. Recruiting a twenty six year old would suggest that the Pies are going to use Dwyer sooner rather than later.
So there you have it. A comprehensive and obscure look at fantasy football. Here’s to a successful season.