The pre season is upon us! In the lead up to round one i'll be covering one player from each team that you may have otherwise not given a second thought to for your squad in 2017. Any fantasy coach can pick an established elite, but it's 'the other guys' that will inevitably decide your team's fate. Today we focus our fantasy thoughts on...
It's only fitting that we have an Xmas eve birthday boy to analyse this week. Happy 23rd birthday Hayden Crozier! (For Saturday). The high leaping, silky skilled number 20 draft pick (2011) has taken taken time to develop with the hope of him becoming a regular in the Fremantle forward line.
Things didn't exactly go according to plan, prior to the 2016 season Crozier had only put together 34 senior games. In and out of the team due to form and injury issues, it was a make or break year for the Eastern Rangers product. The Freo 22 has been a tough team to crack since his debut, but with all their 2016 issues, Crozier took his opportunities and managed to put together a respectable season that fantasy coaches should take note of.
Ross the boss threw Crozier down back to give Fremantle some class coming out of the back half last season, the plan seemed to work and he inevitably made the position his own for the majority of the year. He averaged 16.6 disposals, 5.4 marks and 3 tackles across the 16 games played after making his way into the team in round 4. Not a bad stat line for someone who had never reached a dozen disposal average in a season and had a previous best fantasy average of 58.3 in 2013.
Crozier's place in the team has always been questionable, others have generally stood in front of him in the queue and despite some promising performance in the WAFL, he would find himself out of the team as quickly as he was in. The big issue for Crozier was his consistency, being a medium sized forward isn't always the easiest position to play, the move to the backline was a blessing last season and perhaps a test from Ross to see if he could indeed string consistent games together. Now here is where it gets interesting for fantasy coaches, between rounds 10 and 16, Crozier managed an average of 90.8. He was a model of consistency during those six rounds and went for scores of 88,107,87,84,89 and 90 before cracking his largest score of the season three rounds later for 114 vs Sydney. It's that patch of form which makes him come into consideration.
AFL.com.au have listed him just outside Fremantle's best 22 for next year...although there are more than a handful of questionable inclusions to that team. The back six for Fremantle is far from set in stone and players such as Ibbotson and Johnson have age/injury against them while Sheridan could find himself further up the ground next year. The battle for Crozier here won't be with those players however, it'll be against the likes of Langdon, Tucker and Weller - all roughly the same age and all have similar attributes they can bring to the team. It'll be pre season form that gets at least two of those four across the line for round one.
Pundits have Fremantle making a sharp turn around in 2017 up the ladder again with the return of some key players, i'm not as convinced. Despite the additions of Fyfe, Sandilands, Bennell and Johnson to name a few, Freo will be knocking around the 8-10 position on the ladder with a handful of other teams. So the opportunity for easy fantasy scoring from winning games could be hard to come by, although should be easier than last season. Ross needs to change his playing style, he has stated that himself, to compete with the top teams these days. Could a more attacking style of footy prove beneficial for players like Crozier? Don't forget, Ross is the sultan of spin and take what he says in the pre season with a grain of salt. Game style will be a hot topic over in the west during pre season matches, make sure you tune in to some Fremantle games.
A +33 point increase from 2015 was a huge bonus for the few savvy coaches that hopped on the Crozier train, particularly with his dual position FWD/DEF status (onw only a DEF in 2017). The price increase alone made him a worthwhile inclusion as he became a handy link over the byes before trading him up to a premium when he topped out. The price hike certainly won't be anything near that this upcoming season, you could realistically only expect a 5-8 point increase if he manages to push his disposals up around the 20 mark and perhaps gets on the end of one or two more uncontested marks per game. He's capable, but opportunity will be the deciding factor here with Ross to decide his fate.
A talented player on the rise with added flexibility and going into his sixth season...can we trust what Ross Lyon has in store for Crozier?