A surprise move to the halfback flank paid dividends for the former #1 draft pick. Lachie Whitfield looms likely as a top six defensive option, but has he hit his scoring ceiling?

PLAYER PROFILE

Name: Lachie Whitfield
Age: 24
Club: GWS Giants
Position: Defender

2018 Highest Score: 
150 Vs Richmond (AFLFantasy)
141 Vs Carlton (SuperCoach)

2018 Average: 

100 (AFLFantasy)
99.9 (SuperCoach)

SuperCoach Price: $542,100
AFLFantasy Price: 
$726,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: 
$715,900

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WHY IS HE RELEVANT?

Lachie Whitfield is one of the most dynamic and damaging players on the outside of the contest in the AFL. Over the past few seasons on the wing and now last year off the halfback his elite endurance and sublime use of the ball by foot has been a joy to watch that is of course unless he’s playing against the side you support.

In 2018 he ranked 3rd across the AFL for total marks with only Jeremy McGovern and Shannon Hurn clunking the footy more than him. Whitfield also ended the year ranked 10th for total disposals and 5th for uncontested possessions.

During the preseason an Achilles injury ruined Leon Cameron’s plans for an attacking player with speed off the halfback. What compounded this was that just months earlier they traded Nathan Wilson to Fremantle. Luckily for GWS Whitfield transitioned quickly into the spot and filled the gap left by Zac Williams so well that he went on to receive his first All Australian honour.

From a fantasy footy perspective, last season in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam he scored twelve tons, half of those were over 120 while in SuperCoach he posted eleven tons and three of them above 120.

Not many defenders have consistently been able to deliver and boast of a strong fantasy ceiling, but between rounds, 10-21 Whitfield barely missed a shot where he had just the one score under 90 and averaged 109 in SuperCoach and 114 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam.

Last season wasn’t the only time we’ve got to see Lachie push his average near the 100 markings. In 2017 he scored particularly well after coming back from an AFL enforced the suspension. From his 15 games, he delivered 6 AFLFantasy/DreamTeam tons with three of them over 120 while in SuperCoach he posted five tons with two over 120.

MY TAKE

During the finals series, we saw the return of GWS running halfback Zac Williams, and as a result, we saw Lachie Whitfield move back up the ground to his previous role as a wingman. It didn’t impact his scoring in the two games he played delivering a 124 & 122 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 133, & 135 in SuperCoach. This is the role I expect to see Lachie used predominantly during the season with the occasional stint resting off half back.

One of the negatives about this likely role change is he’ll get little to no chance to capitalise on the possible scoring bump of the new ‘kick-in’ rules. Players such as Alex Witherden, James Sicily and Kade Simpson all are premium defenders and will gain a further bump in scoring given their frequency of kick-ins for their respective clubs. For him to stay inside the top bunch of defenders, he’ll need to find other ways out holding or increasing his scoring options.

My most significant cause for concern is that with the departure of Dylan Shiel the pecking order of who gets the tag/defensive midfielder is now down to 2 meaning it’ll soon be either Lachie or Josh Kelly. Last season when the forward tag was sent to him it impacted him with scores of 66, 65, 67 & 51 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam while in SuperCoach it was 64, 89, 90 & 61. The challenge for Whitfield will be if sides do choose to tag him he’ll need to use the elite tank to work them over.

Whether sides choose to shut him or Kelly will be down to coaching philosophy and the talent with the opposition sides. While the tag is a concern, not every team has a notable and reputable negating midfielder that’s capable of staying with Whitfield.

I don’t predict his average will increase, however, he doesn’t have to given that a 100 defender is still a safe top 6 averaging player. If anything he’s more likely to slide a dip marginally back to his average of what he delivered in 2017 where he averaged 97.

I won’t be starting Whitfield in any format due to some of the concerns raised above, but I certainly plan to have him as part of my completed side as he’s a definite top defensive option in all formats of the game.

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DRAFT DECISIONS

Defenders are becoming a hot commodity early in the drafts, and while I expect Jake Lloyd, Rory Laird & James Sicily all to go ahead of him, he’d certainly need to be in the next bunch of defenders selected. As a defender capable of going 100+ he’ll to get chosen as somebodies D1 but will likely go anywhere from mid second round to mid third round.

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