The Brisbane Lions couldn’t have had a better offseason with the quality of players they added to their squad. One of the more unheralded but potentially most valuable is the recruitment of former Essendon defender Connor McKenna. The Irishman isn’t just a key for the Lions; he has huge relevance for fantasy coaches in 2023.
Name: Connor McKenna
Club: Brisbane Lions
2022 Highest Score:
Did Not Play
Career Highest Score:
116 Vs Collingwood | AFLFantasy (2019)
141 Vs Collingwood | SuperCoach (2019)
Did Not Play
SuperCoach Price: $167,500
AFLFantasy Price: $373,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: $235,300
WHY IS HE RELEVANT?
For some seeing Conor McKenna in the fifty most relevant, let alone this high, might be startling. But it’s the perfect reminder that this series is about players relevance, not about scoring alone. What McKenna could become is one of the most vital selections in your starting squad. It’s been a few seasons since we’ve seen him at the AFL level after retiring and moving back to Ireland in 2020. McKenna is a line-breaking defender who can burn away from any opponent when given the opportunity.
In 2019 he had his best season where he had a career-high record of disposals, led the AFL for bounces and had a career-high SuperCoach and AFLFantasy season. In AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, he averaged 70.2, which consisted of a top score of 116 and eight additional scores over 75. His average of 79.8 in SuperCoach featured four tons, three above 110 and a career-high 141 against the Magpies. He had seven further scores over 75, including a 99.
Over his career, he’s closer to a mid-’60s in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and high 60’s in SuperCoach. Those scores and averages might not be appetising, but when you consider the price point were are paying for him, It’s a play with some handy upside. He’s priced at an average point of 42 in AFLFantasy, in the high 30’s in DreamTeam and mid-low 30s in SuperCoach. So based on his price point against his proven scoring potential, there are approximately 30 points per game of value built into him.
In November, Conor chose Brisbane ahead of St Kilda, Port Adelaide and a return back to Essendon. The primary question you have to ask yourself is, why? Primarily it’s a premiership run. He wanted to have a chance at tasting ultimate AFL success, and the Lions, he believed, gave him the best opportunity to do so.
Conor hasn’t relocated over 15,000km from Ireland back to Australia to play in the secondary levels through the VFL. He’s back to play AFL, and while nothing is a certainty, I cannot fathom a world where Conor didn’t pick Brisbane without the club ensuring he has a spot inside that is his to lose.Embed from Getty Images
So where does Conor McKenna fit into the Brisbane Lions structure and plans? Ultimately the practice and preseason trial games will give us the greatest understanding. But from early reports, he’s getting his chance as a rebounder out of the back six. And while the Lions don’t lack speed in the backline with Kiddy Coleman, Conor does add some greater defensive power for the smalls. If anything I think Conor might just have gone past him.
To achieve ultimate success and win a format overall will ultimately be done through successful trading during the season. You win it all by nailing the upgrades and downgrade movements across the season. While success is done through trading, you can set the platform nicely with your starting side.ddddd
Getting the balance right in your starting squad is always hard. That’s no different to any season, but each season does have different nuances. Heading into the 2023 season, one of the most intriguing decisions on how to structure sides this year is what you do at D5. With coaches desperate to run deep in the forward lines and unwilling to go skinny in the midfield, the backline is partly responsible for some pain in our structures.
Throw in that early preseason doesn’t appear to be too many candidates for backline cash cows. Beyond Darcy Wilmont, Josh Weddle, Campbell Chesser and Reuben Ginbey, I’ve seen few being discussed outside of club land for getting a game early.
Enter Conor McKenna. What the selection of Conor at D5 provides in SuperCoach & DreamTeam is confidence that your structure can hold up for the first few rounds. Unlike others in this price point, he provides us with an element of proven scoring alongside seemingly solid job security. Like any player sub $200k, his job is just to make cash, and it’s impossible to generate it when your not playing. McKenna has a history of regular scores of 80+ and even the capacity to get tons. If he can do that early on in the season, he’ll be a hero in the fantasy community.
He is less relevant in AFLFantasy because his price point is just about $400,000. But he’s not irrelevant. Coaches might be forced to restructure their side if some of those names mentioned above don’t get opportunities at round one. A popular structure amongst teams is having two players sub $300k on the field in the backline. Should some of these not eventuate, it’s pretty close to reaching up to McKenna.
The relevance of Conor McKenna in 2023 is almost exclusively in classic formats and not really in drafts. However, depending on your draft, a late flyer as a final selection could be worth a punt.
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