Well, here we are. Just over five months since season 2019 began, we’re staring at the very end of another gripping home-and-away campaign.
Three rounds left in the season and there is plenty to play for everywhere you look.
Despite what many may think, the Brownlow Medal race is alive and well and the Coleman Medal has taken a twist, with Jeremy Cameron in doubt and potentially missing a second week.
In the AFL stock market there are three categories: buy, hold and sell. If you’re a keen follower of the game and are looking to invest your time wisely, look no further than the below and keep notes on what happens on a weekly basis.
Buy: Young Gold Coast talls
Regular readers would know I remain optimistic about Gold Coast’s future despite the constant bleakness surrounding the club. Into the final stanza of the season, the Suns are struggling with a few injuries and general lethargy kicking in given the lack of incentive. This isn’t uncommon among struggling clubs, and what it tends to do is shine a light on players in the defensive half of the ground and anyone able to stand out in dire circumstances.
Ben King had just five disposals but made the most of his limited opportunities against an undersized Collingwood defence, kicking three goals. The young forward has been given an opportunity at senior level, and it has been seven goals in the past fortnight against two top-eight teams known for their defence that has really made him stand out.
Charlie Ballard and Jack Lukosius were the two others who gave Gold Coast fans great hope coming out of the rare MCG trip. Neither is playing in the position they’ll make names for themselves in; however, both showed key traits to suggest they’re long-term players who offer a lot. Of course there are high expectations on Lukosius, who has been great since moving to defence.
His best performance to date came against the Magpies, with 21 disposals at 76 per cent efficiency, nine marks and seven rebound 50s, and the one aspect of his game that stands out is his kicking ability. Lukosius generally makes good decisions and is pinpoint accurate with his kicking, which holds him in good stead going into the future, when he’ll be pushing high up onto the wing regularly.
At 195 centimetres, Ballard has held down a key defensive post out of necessity this season, although Mason Cox’s injury meant he was able to learn from the likes of Steele Sidebottom and Will Hoskin-Elliott as smaller players. Ballard had 22 disposals, 15 marks and eight rebounds, and it was his ability to read the play as well as his precise kicking that gave a glimmer of hope.
The 20-year-old has the raw attributes and athleticism that every club loves in a young player, and we’ll see special things when he is unleashed onto the wing to maximise his overall ability. His intercepting is impressive and his kicking will be a weapon. Gold Coast has a number of talented young athletic talls, and keeping them will be super important.
Buy: Shaun Burgoyne
While we’re on the Suns, if I were Stuart Dew and the hierarchy, I would be buying stocks in Shaun Burgoyne. Rumours that the club is offering Burgoyne a two-year deal have started to emerge and it’s exactly the type of signing Gold Coast should be making. Into his 18th season, Burgoyne hasn’t slowed down at all, with a large part of it coming down to his versatility.
Burgoyne is still an important part of Hawthorn’s team due to his ability to play any role required of him. In 2019 alone Burgoyne has played on the wing, as an inside midfielder doing the grunt of the contested work, as a lockdown defender and as a key rebounding option. Other than the Sydney game in Round 14, Burgoyne’s kicking has been typically precise and he has been charged with taking on the corridor kick more than most other Hawks. While pace isn’t on his side, Burgoyne’s ability to play close to his man and a strong tackling ethic means he won’t often be outpaced, making his accountability one of his greatest traits.
The Suns chasing Burgoyne is straight out of the Luke Hodge-to-Brisbane book, and the 36-year-old has the commanding presence that young players would feast on. Burgoyne’s experience as a heavily relied-upon rebounder would allow him to marshal the troops and play as the ‘quarterback’, particularly when Gold Coast is on the attack. Most of what we’ve seen from Burgoyne in 2019 has been consistent with his output from the past few seasons, and maximising the wealth of knowledge on offer here is a great starting point for Gold Coast. The Suns need to try and convince him to join.
Hold: Orazio Fantasia
Fantasia is a fan favourite, but his form in his last five matches has been horrible. Fitness and difficult defensive match-ups have played a part, but Fantasia has averaged eight disposals, two tackles and kicked four goals in that period of time, with a couple of weeks off in between. With a heap of talk mid-season about how well Fantasia was going and that he may want to head back over to South Australia, the 23-year-old is now in danger of heading the other way with the support base.
Injuries have marred Fantasia’s career, robbing him of the ability to perform at a constantly high level. Fans hold onto the 2016-17 period, when not only was he was the most dangerous player in front of goal but his pressure and clean kicking was maximised up the ground. The end of 2018 and the start of 2019 certainly meant the fanfare was justified mid-season, but it’s in situations like these for an injury-riddled player that a fresh start may be necessary.
We have seen many times how injury-prone players with good talent have flourished in a new environment, under new leadership and with different fitness staff looking after them. Lincoln McCarthy hasn’t missed a game for Brisbane this season and has proven to be an important part of their team despite playing just 29 games in seven years at Geelong. There gets a point when a player suffers from so many injuries, often recurring, that their current club simply doesn’t know what to do with them. Hawthorn is a club that has thrived in their fitness department, taking in many players who have had injuries throughout their careers and turning them into 20-plus-game-a-season players.
Ten years ago it was Shaun Burgoyne who left the Power and went to Hawthorn despite there being huge question marks about his knees. It could be time Port Adelaide makes a similar move with Fantasia. He’s contracted for another two seasons and the Bombers would be keen to hold, and it’s certainly not the time to jump off if you’re a fan of his. For his own career, though, he may want to explore his options.
Sell: Most of the competition
There are three clubs playing for the premiership and the rest of the teams are bang average. Geelong is a prime straight-sets candidate given the lack of flexibility in the club’s game, while GWS is still trying to cope with injuries and don’t have a killer instinct that can put teams away with ease. Collingwood needs a just-before-finals draft to field 22 players, while Essendon’s injury list is quickly being overlooked. At this rate we’ll get a Collingwood-Essendon elimination final from the Holden Centre.
The final team that makes it will come from the enigmatic Port Adelaide, who can run in waves and overpower an opposition just as easily as it can become stagnant and confusing with absolutely no threat in attack. Adelaide is in a shambles internally and a finals appearance would mask many an issue, while Fremantle can beat the good teams because Ross Lyon still has the ability to outcoach certain coaches, but the Dockers’ injuries are to some of their most important players structurally. That leaves the Bulldogs, who will probably win the flag if they somehow sneak into the eight, because that’s how they operate.
The final three rounds are sure to provide great entertainment and excitement, and it’s best we live in the moment. If we take a step back and look at things too closely, we’ll realise there aren’t that many good teams for the business end of the season.