What to do with Clayton Oliver?

Sunday evening, the Herald Sun confirmed what had, until that point, been a rumour. The newspaper reported that Clayton Oliver had suffered a hamstring injury and could miss up to four weeks of football. As a result, the fantasy community now has one of the best scorers of the season unavailable and teams are left pondering what to do with Clayton Oliver

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You Can Hold

Can you hold Clayton Oliver? Yes! It might seem odd to do it, but there’s genuinely a world where this could be a play. One of the reasons behind it is that Melbourne is yet to confirm the severity of the hamstring. That he could play out the last quarter with a hamstring injury might lend itself to not being a severe or a traditional injury. In 2023, we’ve already seen players like Sam Docherty and Tom Stewart return from injury well ahead of previously communicated timelines. This is Clayton’s first in-season soft tissue injury in his AFL career, so you could find a level of optimism to hold.

It is risky to play this out, especially in AFLFantasy, but that doesn’t mean it should be immediately discounted as a play. For example, if you are an Ollie Hollands owner, you could loophole his score from the bench with the Blues playing Friday night. A 70+ score is well within his capacity, which might be enough if you can continue an upgrade cadence with your other non-forced trades around it. Unquestionably you’ll need some luck to make this playout work, but at the very least, you must look at the option.

Holding him in DreamTeam and SuperCoach is a more viable play than AFLFantasy due to the limited number of trades available and the upcoming bye rounds. In these limited trade formats, I don’t know of any team with 20+ trades left, with many remaining in the middle portion of the teens. Coaches have to ask themselves in trading out of Clayton whether they will be able to find the cash generation and trade capital to get him after he returns from injury. In an ideal world, I don’t think anyone wants not to own Oliver in the run home. So choosing to trade out means you must create a pathway to owning him again. Something easier said than done.

Another element that we could hold is the impending multi-bye rounds. In SuperCoach & DreamTeam, we’ll run with a best 18 on the field during rounds 12 & 13 before. And thankfully, with only four & two teams respectively missing, they are arguably the two easier bye rounds to navigate without him. So yes, you’ll potentially have three weeks down on the premium output, but the fielding of the best 18 scorers in these bye rounds does minimise the impact for on-field scoring.

Do you have to hold? No! Do you have to trade? No! There are multiple ways of playing this game, and multiple approaches can and have resulted in success. The key here is to know yourself, your team, your appetite for risk & the outcomes you’re aiming for.

Imperfect Timing

There is never a good time for a player of Clayton’s scoring to be missing. The one upside is that owners who’ve had him for the majority of the year have been able to bank his phenomenal scoring and now have the salary space on top of him to be able to afford anyone they desire across any line.

The annoying part of the timing is that some of the best options ripe for the picking have next week off with their teams bye round. For example, Jack Steele looked like a million dollars and, due to a few injury-related hiccups, looks back to his best. Similarly, Andrew Brayshaw looks to have gotten over his sore knee after scoring well in the previous two weeks. Throw in Jack Sinclair, Lachie Neale, Luke Parker and Caleb Serong; we have many nice options.

They’re still all in play for teams with a league focus and don’t play through the byes. But if your focus is ranks, I cannot advocate trading into someone who’ll only be available for one week rather than the next.

Captaincy Consideration

Have you done some bye-round planning yet? And by that, have you created a visualisation plan of what your team looks like both now and again heading into round 16? While you might still need to complete the puzzle pieces, have you got the cadence and plans set up so that you know what the rhythm of your trades looks like? If not, I encourage you to do so as a matter of urgency.

Creating a plan like this makes life so much easier for many reasons, but for one of them, it helps inform the pathway to a ‘complete team.’ Some might be tempted to use the cash on top of Oliver to move him from one elite premium and split it into a couple of ‘almost’ or ‘hopeful’ premiums. While I understand the intention behind it, the reality is I couldn’t advocate for that as a strategy.

With Clayton Oliver, you have one of the most reliable 100+ scorers and someone who, in 2023 and years prior, has been one of the safest performers going around. It’s why often he’s had either the VC or C left on him for the year. But, regardless of a tag, the weather, the opponent or the game scenario, he finds ways to score well.

Everyone plays the game differently, and that’s the beauty of it. However, I’d only advocate trading Oliver to someone you feel comfortable placing the C or VC on most weeks. Don’t skinny down your captaincy options to try and force a completed side faster. Oliver is one of the best in the game, and I’d only be considering options that are inside the same scoring criteria.

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Popular Moves

Saturday night, there were two types of fantasy footy coaches: Zach Merrett owners and those without him. Merrett posted a monster 158 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 162 in SuperCoach against Richmond. He does make an obvious addition with matches against West Coast, North Melbourne and Carlton until his bye week off. Throw in that he maintains your bye structure, presenting a compelling case for trading into him.

The only caveat I’d throw in here is that historically players coming off the back of such a dominating game like this often receive extra attention from the opposition the next week. Don’t be surprised if the Eagles go all out to limit the impact of Zach. West Coast has been using a tagger recently, so don’t be surprised if one comes. It’s not a reason to fade him as an option, but coaches should know it is a possible outcome.

How many more weeks will people find a reason not to trade into Rory Laird? He’s coming off the back of six consecutive tons in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and hasn’t dropped his scores under 97 in SuperCoach since round two. He’s bottomed out, with him just starting to make back some of the money he leaked due to a poor round one and a few red-vested ‘precautionary’ games.

There is still some concern in the community that his ‘calf niggle‘ is still an issue, but the reality is all we can do is make decisions with our information. And we have a player averaging 114 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and SuperCoach in the past five, and he is moving well. If you’ve gone this far without Laird, this Oliver injury could present the last ‘cheap’ space to trade into him.

Later in the week, I’ll release an article about some potential DPPs that’ll be added to the game next, but I’m optimistic we’ll receive Sam Walsh as a forward. Currently averaging over 110 across the formats, he looms as a genuine threat to Tim Taranto and Josh Dunkley as the top-averaging forward of the year. Getting your hands on higher-priced players like Walsh can be hard, but with Clayton’s injury, this could open up an easier path to getting him.

Is 2023 the year that Marcus Bontempelli finally wins himself a Brownlow Medal? After being an elite performer for most of his career, it’s finally translating to all formats of fantasy footy this year. Over multiple years ‘Bont’ has always been a top-tier scoring performer in SuperCoach, but he’s gone to another level this year. Nine tons from his ten matches, three scores over 140, and an average of 128 alongside him currently being the top scorer in the game make it hard not to desire to own him. While in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, he’s ranked seventh highest for averages amongst pure midfielders, eighth for total points and hasn’t dropped his scoring under 90 all year. Throw in his five-round average of 119, and it’s pretty good reading.

Lastly, one demon down and another step up? That could be the case for Christian Petracca. In SuperCoach, he’s ranked sixth overall for total points, seventh by average and is on a run of eight consecutive tons. While in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, he’s averaging 104.2, comprising six scores over 100. If you believe Oliver’s absence creates a bump in Trac’s midfield presence and scoring power, then he has the historical pedigree to match it with the best scorers in the game.