Last season Luke McDonald was one of the most damaging scoring defenders in the back half of the year. Was it a sign of things to come? Or just an outlier?
Name: Luke McDonald
Club: North Melbourne
2020 Highest Score:
123 Vs Melbourne (AFLFantasy)
144 Vs Collingwood (SuperCoach)
Career Highest Score:
133 Vs Brisbane | AFLFantasy (2018)
144 Vs Collingwood | SuperCoach (2020)
72.5 (AFLFantasy) | 90.6(Adjusted Average)
SuperCoach Price: $512,900
AFLFantasy Price: $692,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: $669,700
WHY IS HE RELEVANT?
If you could hit ‘ALT-CTRL-DEL’ on the 2020 year, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have too many North Melbourne fans trying to stop you. Sadly for them, it was one of the worst years on recent memory.
Like in everything, you can always look for the bright sparks in the dark moments to give you hope for a brighter tomorrow. And that’s certainly what Luke McDonald’s season delivered. He averaged 20 disposals last year, up five per game more than 2019. Averaged five rebounds 50’s, up two from last year. He had more inside ’50s, increased handballs and clearances and capped it all of with winning the clubs best and fairest.
It wasn’t all roses for Luke; he started the year from a fantasy footy perspective quite slowly. In the opening seven rounds of the season, he averaged 62 in SuperCoach and had just one score over 80. While in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam he averaged 50 (adjusted average 62) and scored over 60 in just two matches.
From round eight until the season completed he averaged 118 in SuperCoach, with only one match he failed to score over 94. Luke didn’t just sneak over the triple figure mark, but he constantly among the top scoring ceiling players in defence each week. His top five scores in the final eight games of the year were: 144, 138, 136 131 and 121.
During the final eight games of the season in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam he averaged 88.2, it included a 123, 121, 118 and three 80+ scores. If you were to look at as an adjusted average (current year x 1.25) to try and replicate a full season he’d have an average of 110. In the last five weeks of the season only Lloyd, Laird, Crisp, Stewart & Houston average higher.
2020 wasn’t just a drastic outlier. McDonald has shown over his career that he can deliver some fantasy friendly numbers. Back in 2017, he averaged 83 in SuperCoach which featured five tons and an additional four scores between 90-99. While in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam he averaged 85, scored five tons and had five more scores between 90-99.
Beyond his impressive scoring capacity, what also makes McDonald extra tempting to select is the value that he offers coaches. Even though he’s priced as the 10th best AFLFantasy/DreamTeam defender and 17th in SuperCoach he’s priced approximately 20 points per game below the scoring rate he delivered in the final half part of 2020.
Given the challenges coaches have found building a starting squad, getting some inbuilt value to a premium scorer like McDonald is crucial. Should you look to McDonald over a Rory Laird or Lachie Whitfield you’ll be saving anywhere from $50,000-$100,000+ depending on the format you play.
Luke will also likely be unique ownership prospect in starting squads. With many choosing to pair the likes of Jake Lloyd, Lachie Whitfield and Rory Laird as the starting three defensive premiums.
If he does replicate the back half of 2020 into this new season, you’ll have both picked up a value selection and a likely point of difference in your side. The perfect platform to start the season.Embed from Getty Images
One of the major reasons I cannot advocate for starting Luke McDonald is I do not believe the preseason game/s he plays will give you enough confidence to select him, especially in the limited trade formats.
In the preseason clubs are looking to take the game on and create match synergy between the whole side. For an AFL side, they get two games against opposition to test, trial and execute the preseason plans.
We rarely see teams employ taggers, heavy defensive tactics, or look to possess the ball in defensive 50 heavily. As a result, we often see quite ‘open’ football that doesn’t truly reflect the in season pressure and defence.
My point being, the things that helped McDonald flourish as a fantasy player last year cannot be proven in these games. That means your decision would be based predominantly on a hope that he retains that scoring rather than anything current.
For that reason, I believe he’s an upgrade target in DreamTeam & SuperCoach. In AFLFantasy, given the multiple ‘use or lose’ trades, you can be more adventurous with selections. In that format, I’m not opposed to starting him, ensure you have both a points threshold and be on an early season role watch to the Roos game style.
It was a dream scenario for owners in the draft last season. Just 14% of UltimateFooty leagues drafted for Luke McDonald with an average draft position of 287. At that price, he was easily the biggest bargain pick of 2020.
This season, if you wish to own him, then it’ll cost you substantially more. While he has the scoring potential to be a clear D1, he’s also no certainty to average 90+. With the backs available this season I’d be nervous having him as my top defender in my side.
If I could land him as a D2, I’d feel more comfortable that even should he regress in scoring I’m not leaving my defensive line too exposed.
The time to sell him in a keeper league was when he was on a hot streak late last season. Now, you won’t get anything ‘better’ for him that what he’s shown he can deliver. I’d recommenced holding and then hoping that last years form is the new normal for him.
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