Nobody has questioned the fantasy potential of Rowan Marshall. Since his breakout season in 2019, we’ve known about his potential to be one of the best-scoring rucks in fantasy football. However, with the retirement of Paddy Ryder, the need and the opportunity is for Marshall to elevate himself to fulfil his potential.
Name: Rowan Marshall
Club: St Kilda Saints
2022 Highest Score:
163 Vs Hawthorn (AFLFantasy)
173 Vs Hawthorn (SuperCoach)
Career Highest Score:
163 Vs Hawthorn | AFLFantasy (2022)
173 Vs Hawthorn | SuperCoach (2022)
SuperCoach Price: $506,600
AFLFantasy Price: $808,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: $828,700
WHY IS HE RELEVANT?
It happens in fantasy football every year where the metaphoric ‘red sea’ parts and coaches are given an absolute selection gift. While it is the early Crow, Rowan Marshall is one of the less controversial and easier selection decisions. The catalyst was the retirement of Paddy Ryder. At his best, Ryder was one of the best tap ruckmen in the game and added a strong dynamic to the St Kilda lineup. However, the result was that he and Marshall often split ruck responsibilities and cap each other’s fantasy output.
Even with a ruck share, we still saw glimpses of his fantasy-scoring ability of Rowan. Last year in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, he averaged 91.2 across the season. Over the year, he scored nine tons, and his top two were 131 & 163. Alongside this was seven scores under 80. While for SuperCoach, his average of 92 consisted of five tons, 113, 124, 125, 156 & his career-high 173. To go with these five tons is eight scores under 80.
Overall that statistic line is fine. But it’s not the true story. The retirement of his good friend Patrick Ryder has opened up the opportunity again for him to be the lead ruckman and no longer be second fiddle. Thankfully, we’ve got some encouraging data splits that inform us of a potential fantasy football premium output. Last year the combination of Ryder/Marshall was used in eleven games. He averaged 78.5 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 75.8 for SuperCoach. However, Marshall played in ten matches with Paddy, and in those games, he averaged 105.3 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 109.8 for SuperCoach. A differential of 26.8 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 34 in SuperCoach.
This isn’t just a ten-game data stretch; that’s designed to use data to create confirmation bias. This trend is seen across the 2021 season also. In the seven games Marshall & Ryder played together, Rowan averaged 77.7 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam & 89.4 in SuperCoach. However, in the six he played solo, the scoring average for AFLFantasy/DreamTeam spiked up to 103.7 and 109.3 in SuperCoach. That’s a differential of 26 points per game in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 19.9 in SuperCoach.
The scoring of Marshall playing as the #1 ruck isn’t just something that we’ve seen spurts of for a few games and nothing more. In 2019, Marshall was forced to play through the ruck, and we saw some exceptional scoring. In AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, he averaged 99, scoring twelve tons with three over 120. Then, he went on a seven-week stretch of consecutive hundreds, averaging 114. For SuperCoach, he averaged 110, featuring fourteen tons and a nine-week run where he averaged 129.
Watching coaches flip-flop on Rowan Marshall in the offseason was exceptionally fun to spectate. One minute they’re excited to start him due to the absence of Paddy Ryder. The next minute, they’re fading on starting him due to a long-term injury to Max King. Honestly, it’s one of the most bizarre narratives developed in the offseason. The only similarity between Max’s injury and Rowan himself is that they share the same team. However, they do not, under any circumstance, have any connection to the role that Marshall will play in 2023.
Assuming that the absence of the Saints landmark key position player means Marshall must play as a primary forward shows a general lack of understanding about the Saints list. Beyond Rowan, the only pure ruckman they have on the list is developing Max Heath. If push came to shove and he had to play at the elite level, I’m sure he could, but he’s not pushing Rowan out. Next in line is a few part-timers, Tom Campbell and Jack Hayes. The latter should be the clubs leading relief ruck candidate after overcoming his ACL injury in 2022. Lastly, it’s the new draftee Isaac Keeler. He’s the club’s last-line option in the ruck and will take significant time to develop to be ready for play at the AFL level. Rowan is a lock to be the club’s lead ruck and take the primary share in the #1 role. Others will play a relieving role, but that will be a small percentage clip and not significant enough to rule Marshall out of fantasy football relevance. He is and will be the saints #1 ruckman.
This narrative was squashed by Rowan himself with an interview with channel seven reporter Mitch Cleary. He clearly states within it that he will be the Saints leading ruckman and, more importantly, that he’s stronger and healthier than ever.
Rowan Marshall is embracing the burden of being St Kilda’s number one ruckman. Farewelling his veteran sidekick, Marshall is in career best shape and delivered an insight into his new coach’s hard edge. https://t.co/5zYfOfFT4D @cleary_mitch #7AFL #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/mqGDs72fxq— 7NEWS Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) January 28, 2023
Another core reason behind his relevance in 2023 is that the long-heralded kings of the ruck division have seen a significant change. Over many years, it was Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn’s domain, and everyone else wasn’t worth considering. But over the past few years, the 115-120+ averages have started to drift south, and the next generation no longer has to ascend as high. Alongside that, players like Gawn, Grundy & Sean Darcy have all got some serious internal competition for how they’ll structure and be used as the #1 midfielder. We can all speculate, but ultimately, outside the clubs, we are guessing. Beyond Tim English, he has the easiest and most clear pathway to pushing the upper end of scoring of all rucks in 2023.
And lastly, it’s the inbuilt value. Earlier in the article, I highlighted the proven scoring pedigree of Rowan when he’d been allowed to play as the #1 ruck. That’s not just a historical piece from 2019, but backed up for the games in 2021 & 2022 when he was allowed to play in this space. He presents anywhere from ten to twenty points per game of value.
Twelve months ago, I was very public in my stance that I didn’t believe a ‘set & forget’ strategy was the right one. That turned out to be right, as value options like Braydon Preuss & Jarrod Witts across formats were highly valuable. We do have some value options to consider at R2. In 2023, the combination of Marshall alongside English is a viable starting ruck combination. Yes, a set & forget strat is viable this year.
Marshall can also provide you value and low risk with him at R1 and run some value prospects at R2. Earlier in the preseason, we discussed Darcy Cameron, while on this article’s corresponding podcast, Jordox highlighted Scott Lycett as a viable prospect.
So whether he’s R1, R2 or just someone you are watching as an upgrade target Rowan looks destined to determine the direction of coaches fantasy football seasons. The fact that he’s in 40% of DreamTeam, 42% of SuperCoach & 36% of AFLFantasy teams tells you he will be relevant in 2023.
Tim English will be the first ruck taken on the draft day across formats. In comparison, Rowan Marshall will be taken somewhere in the first handful. For some, it’ll be #2, while others will back in the ‘name’ appeal of Brodie Grundy or a Max Gawn ahead of him.
Marshall isn’t a first-round selection and should only be selected there if your league has some variables that spike the relevance of rucks. I’d be open to considering him in the fourth round, but based on how I like to draft, he’s likely someone I’ll not end up drafting at the range of his average draft position.
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