The preseason is the time to look at multiple strategies and possibilities. Jade Gresham might not be for everyone in the preseason, but he could be the perfect squad selection for those needing a stepping stone in the forward line.

PLAYER PROFILE

Name: Jade Gresham
Age: 24
Club: St Kilda
Position: MID/FWD

2021 Highest Score: 
107 Vs Melbourne (AFLFantasy)
104 Vs Melbourne (SuperCoach)

Career Highest Score: 
107 Vs Melbourne | AFLFantasy (2021)
131 Vs Gold Coast | SuperCoach (2018)

2021 Average: 
73 (AFLFantasy)
68.6 (SuperCoach)

SuperCoach Price: $299,000
AFLFantasy Price: 
$509,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: 
$498,000

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WHY IS HE RELEVANT?

For some, the inclusion of Jade Gresham in this list might be a little surprising. However, the scoring trends of this young Saint are heading in the right direction. Across his junior career, ‘Gresh’ was a damaging midfield-forward who used his clean hands and breakaway speed from stoppage to significant effect. This ability to be damaging burst player inside the midfield stoppage and provide XFactor inside the Saints forward line was precisely why the club used pick #18 back in the 2015 draft. 

So far in Gresham’s career AFL level, he’s predominately stationed in the forward 50 playing a typical small-forward based on hitting the scoreboard and applying pressure. However, in 2019 we saw the first glimpses of him given more time on the ball. He relished the opportunity to take his disposal numbers from 17 to 22. This role was even more pronounced when Brett Ratten took over as St Kilda coach. In the three games Gresham played under Ratten to finish the year, his disposal average increased to 25. 

From an AFLFantasy/DreamTeam perspective, that season, he averaged 83. It included two tons and six additional scores 90-99. While in SuperCoach, he averaged 84, which consisted of six tons and a further five between 85-99.

He has missed most of Ratten’s reign; he has played just 14 games in the past two seasons due to a stress fracture in his back, then the ruptured Achilles in round three last year. However, in the two full games before the injury, Gresh was on fire, and it’s one of the primary reasons coaches have some expectations of high-value returns at his price point.

He had a 28 disposal game against the Giants in round one last year. It featured seven inside ’50s, five marks, five score involvements, five clearances, three tackles and scored 95 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 82 in SuperCoach. The following week he went even better against the Demons. He had 29 disposals, going at 75% efficiency. He had ten inside 50,s nine clearances, six marks, six score involvements, including a goal. In SuperCoach, these stats resulted in a 104, while in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, it was a career-high 107.

As promising as the start to the season was, the year ended in tears for Jade with an Achilles injury striking early in round three. Sadly, that was the last AFL game for Gresh in 2022. Thankfully, his recovery is on track, and he has been dominating the main training session recently. For those wondering, he’s been training primarily with the midfield group.

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MY TAKE

Jade Gresham has been a much better footballer throughout his career than a fantasy scorer, but that could be about to change. As a junior, he was an elite fantasy prospect. Like his Northern Knights teammate Brayden Fiorini, Gresham was a beast at under 18 levels, where he averaged 122 AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 145 SuperCoach splitting his time between the midfield and forward line. 

Over the past few offseasons, the Saints have been busy with plenty of trade & free agency additions. Some have been brilliant additions like Dougal Howard, while others such as Brad Crouch boggle the mind about why they pursued them. When I look over the St Kilda midfield, the group feels like a collection of Party Mix lollies. Beyond Jack Steele, who is the obvious star and midfield general, it’s a combination that seems to lack continuity as an outsider. Brad Crouch is a handy player but offers no versatility beyond the midfield. Zak Jones has a good turn of pace but has some durability issues. So too does Dan HanneberyHunter Clark should be getting plenty of opportunities, but Ratten seems to use him either on the flanks or the wings. Throw in Jack Bytel, Ryan Byrnes, Seb Ross, Jack Higgins and Brad Hill, and it’s an eclectic bunch. Does Jade Gresham serve the Saints better as a midfielder? Or inside forward 50?

Last season in rounds one and two, the Saints didn’t have either Dan Hannebery or Brad Crouch playing. So was Gresh’s midfield minutes in those two matches causation or correlation? Ultimately, it’s irrelevant in a new season, but for Jade to score well enough to be a player that returns the value, he’ll need to pick up more than just the odd centre bounce attendance.

These salary cap formats are won and lost not at the starting squads but rather in your trades during the season. And for the move to pay off, all it takes is him to have five-six weeks of solid scoring to return value and give coaches a quick scoring and cash injection blitz. Just under twelve months ago, Taylor Walker was a prime example of how form, role and fixture can combine to make the perfect stepping stone.

Sometimes close enough can be good enough. Throughout this series of podcasts, my and other panel members have lamented the depth of the forward options this year. An 80 from Gresham isn’t extraordinary. But six-eight weeks of that is a win. Just two seasons ago, he averaged 84 in SuperCoach and 83 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam. So it’s not a stretch to believe he can get there.

For some coaches, they’ll have no need for Jade Gresham in their preseason side. That’s because they’ll be running a structure that doesn’t require a forward in this price range. For some, they’ll be hoping he’s the one to pick over Stephen Coniglio, while others will be taking both. Of all the formats, SuperCoach is the one that holds the most potential value but shouldn’t be discounted as an AFLFantasy or DreamTeam option in the right environment.

DRAFT DECISION

There is a world where some significant preseason hype could hit Jade Gresham and cause coaches to reach for him. However, I think anything at the F3 range or higher might overvalue him too much. While hoping, he slides to F5 might be too optimistic that he’s still available. I’m comfortable targeting him at an F4 range and hoping for the CBA’s to come his way.

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