Over the past few years, he’s been one of the most consistent defenders in the game. After a ‘quiet’ season and with a new coach, is Rory Laird headed back to a triple figure average?
Name: Rory Laird
Club: Adelaide Crows
2019 Highest Score:
134 Vs St Kilda (AFLFantasy)
124 Vs St Kilda (SuperCoach)
SuperCoach Price: $525,800
AFLFantasy Price: $719,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: $700,600
WHY IS HE RELEVANT?
In what many considered ‘down season’ for the Adelaide superstar, Rory Laird still had phenomenal numbers across the season. In 2019 he averaged 28 disposals & 5 marks per game. Across the AFL he was ranked fifth for total effective disposals, sixth for uncontested possessions, 11th for total intercepts, 12th for rebound ’50s and 18th for disposals.
Last season in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam he posted eight scores of 100 or more, but just the one above 120. Added to these tons were eight scores between 90-99 and only three below 80. With a seasonal average of 97 and the lowest score of 74, it’s easy to see why Laird was a popular premium in 2019.
In SuperCoach he averaged just shy of 97 across the year and barely disappointed owners with a terrible score. With a seasonal low of 73 and only two scores under 80, he was a picture of consistency. Laird also showcased some of his strong scoring with eight tons, three of them over 120 and an additional six scores between 90-99.
In isolation, Rory Laird’s 2019 season looks strong. And it was, however, coaches that started with him would’ve been hoping to see a similar return to his 2018 season.
That year he scored fourteen tons in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam seven of them where over 120 and just the three scores under 89 across the season. While in SuperCoach he scored thirteen tons, six of those were over 120 and in his opening twelve games of the year had just one score below 98.
These scores build off the strong fantasy scoring from the 2017 season where he averaged 100 in all formats and AFLFantasy/DreamTeam he scored over the ton in twelve matches, while in SuperCoach is was eleven scores of one hundred or more with six of them over 120.
Since forcing his way into the Crows side, he’s been incredibly durable missing just the eight games in the past five years and only two games in the past three years.Embed from Getty Images
His scoring ceiling wasn’t on display as much in 2019, but his consistency certainly was. To average in the high 90’s and have approximately only 1/3 games reach the ton is impressive. This highlights his scoring basement and that even if he fails to ‘ton-up’ for you, he’s not the type to burn coaches with reduced scores.
What was the ‘cap’ on the scoring? You can build plenty of narratives. And rather than it being one I think it’s a combination of several. However, one of the most significant differences in personal for Adelaide in from 2018-2019 was Brodie Smith. He is one of the Crows best running players but also arguably the best user of the ball by foot. The club loves to get the ball into his hands and at times that meant Laird was overlooked. In addition to this Wayne Milera was also being used alot off the half-back. Rory was still able to score well, but with these two arguably stronger users of the ball by foot, he lost some ceiling.
However, a new era has arrived under Matthew Nicks, and like with any coach, an element of caution must be given. What game style do they play? What position will he play? While I don’t believe he will be too impacted with what Nicks and the Crows choose to do, it is a factor we need to consider.
By the time round 23 comes around, I believe every coach will want him in their side. He has been so good for so long and given I can’t see a drastic scoring cliff. I think he still ends in most coaches completed side.
However, when it comes to players like Rory Laird who have high consistency but can lack ceiling coaches have two thought process to consider. Neither is ‘wrong’, but we default to one over the other.
Start him and build around it. This approach is where you pick safe, reliable and consistent premiums in your starting squads. Someone who will not destroy you with scores in the 50’s and 60’s. What they may lake inconsistent ceiling, they make up for in minimal scoring deviation.
The other is to take on the reliable guy and pick those with high ceiling. Players that are capable of putting an average of 110+ over six weeks. The players who can very quickly set your starting squad apart from the pack.
Which side of the fence do you land on with your premium defenders? Your answer to that will tell you whether you should start or upgrade to Laird.
A popular trend that’s developing in mock drafts is the early selection of defenders very early. It’s even more common than not to see Rory Laird rightly or wrongly off the board by the end of the opening 15 selections. For me, he’s certainly worth a second-round selection, but I’d personally be targetting him as a very early third.
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