Over the past few seasons, Rory Laird has been a dominant and consistent scoring premium. As we enter into another season, I fail to see much change in regards to the fantasy output from ‘The Desk.’

PLAYER PROFILE

Name: Rory Laird
Age: 25
Club: Adelaide Crows
Position: Defender

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

2018 Average: 

107.7 (AFLFantasy)
108.2 (SuperCoach)

SuperCoach Price: $587,600
AFLFantasy Price: 
$782,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: 
$770,700

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WHY IS HE RELEVANT?

In 2018 Rory Laird found a way to take his game to even greater heights. He was once again awarded All Australian honours for a second consecutive season and won the clubs best and fairest for the first time. The prolific and damaging halfback averaged 32 disposals, 21 uncontested, 77% efficiency, six marks, five rebound 50’s and two tackles a game.

He also elevated his fantasy footy game to new levels last year where he scored fourteen tons in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam seven of them where over 120 and just the three scores under 89 across the season. Twelve of his first fourteen matches he posted a score of 100 or more. While in SuperCoach he scored thirteen tons, six of those were over 120 and in his opening twelve games of the year had just one score below 98.

These scores build off the strong fantasy scoring from the season prior where he averaged 100 in all formats and in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam he scored over the ton in twelve matches, while in SuperCoach is was eleven scores of one hundred or more with six of them over 120.

Over the past two seasons, his scores have dipped below 80 in just a mere seven of his 42 games in all formats, while during that same length of time he’s posted 26 AFLFantasy/DreamTeam tons and 24 in SuperCoach.

Since forcing his way into the Crows side as a ‘best 22’ player, he’s been incredibly durable missing just the eight games in the past four years and only two games in the past two years, both of which came this year after fracturing his hand.

MY TAKE

Over the previous four seasons, Rory Laird has been a premium defender, and I still believe that in 2019 it’ll be no different, and at some point in the year, you’ll want him in your side. That said I have two major question marks around the fantasy output of Laird.

Firstly, of all the big dog premium defenders the new ‘kick in’ rules probably aid him the least. Kade Simpson, James Sicily, Jakes Lloyd and Alex Witherden all are the clear first choice kicker, and even without Brode Smith in the side, it was Luke Brown who led the club with these duties. Added to this, while it is limited data the games at lower levels sides that have used the ‘kick-in’ rules almost always chose to run the ball out of the goal square and then kick it long rather than look for a chip out kick near the boundary a game plan that would often benefit Rory’s fantasy numbers.

Secondly, the inclusion back into the Crows side of Brodie Smith will add some much-needed leg speed and procession kicking into the team. While he was absent, the Crows utilised the young talents of Wayne Milera to be the dashing halfback. When Laird played with both of these player makers, it dinted his scoring marginally with scores of 67 and 99 in AFLFantasy and 76 and 84 in SuperCoach. While it is only a small bank of data and correlation doesn’t always equal causation it starts to add another layer of caution that with all three inside the defensive 50 it could be difficult to predict which Crow scores well.

Let’s be clear; you want Rory Laird in your fantasy side during the year. While we may see a drop off in scoring, I see it as marginal and certainly not enough to take him out of the conversation as a top tier defender. You can choose to commence your season with him and ride out any small possible scoring bumps knowing that he’s going to be among the top defensive options yet again. After all, once you have him his price to you becomes irrelevant and you can anchor your defensive unit around him. Conversely, you can make him a priority one upgrade early in the year and hope to pick him up to $60,000 cheaper if Smith and Milera do impact his output.

Whether you choose to start or upgrade to him, the critical thing is you’ll want him in your side well before the crows bye round. If he’s an upgrade target you’ll want to make him one of the first as from round 5 onwards the Crows fixture while already favourable really opens up with matches against Gold Coast (home), St Kilda (away), Fremantle (home), Port Adelaide (away) and Brisbane (away). Remembering he had just one score beneath 100 last year in the opening seven rounds if Laird gets on a tear during this game stretch he may become too expensive to purchase.

Currently, I’m choosing to start him in DreamTeam and use him as an anchor for my side, while in AFLFantasy & SuperCoach he’ll be my first defensive upgrade target.

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DRAFT DECISIONS

A popular trend that’s developing in mock drafts is the early selection of defenders very early. It’s even more common than not to see Rory Laird rightly or wrongly off the board by the end of the opening round. I wouldn’t be opposed to that strategy if I was on the turn at the back end of the opening round knowing that I could secure a strong M1 with my second selection.

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