(Last year finished 1st)
Predicted Average: 1744
Last year I predicted the Vipers would finish 5th but Jero decided to make moves this league hasn’t seen before and brought in a host of contributing players to get his team into finals and the second UKL premiership. The biggest move was the trade that saw Vipers move on Heeney, a traditionally untouchable player, in exchange for Nick Riewoldt and Birchall. Vipers also traded David Swallow who was out for the season in exchange for Broadbent and snapped up NDS in the draft. The Viper’s finals campaign mirrored that of the Bulldogs as they came from 4th to win three in a row to take it home. NDS retired in the off-season but everyone else remains and as a result the Viper’s premiership window remains wide open. The 2017 version of the Vipers might be even stronger as they’ve been able to swing Caddy forward and topped up their midfield with Kieren Jack and Sam Gibson. They can also elect to move Hartlett into their defence later in the season but for now he remains a midfielder.
Breakout Player – Curtley Hampton
A breakout year for Hampton would be a well-deserved reward for the Vipers who patiently held on to him for zero games played in 2016. Adelaide have a plethora of rebounding defenders and holes in their midfield which is great for Hampton. Even if Hampton “only” becomes a rebounding defender it seems to be a productive position within Adelaide with the likes of Laird, Brodie Smith and Seedsman all scoring well. If Laird pushes into the midfield that can only mean more ball for Hampton with his biggest risk coming in the form of other fringe players fighting for a similar spot. The timing could be especially handy now that Malceski has retired.
Time to Slide – Josh Caddy
I’m not buying into Caddy at Richmond. I recall Caddy having huge wraps on him as a junior ball magnet but he’s never really taken that next step to replicate it at AFL level. This may have been due to playing team roles at Gold Coast and Geelong but I can’t see that changing at Richmond. Caddy will swing between the midfield and forward line in 2017. Being forward eligible lowers the bar of expectation from a fantasy perspective but I’m predicting Caddy to drop almost 10 points from his average which will put him on the cusp of a starting forward.
Special mention: Nick Riewoldt – “Surely he can’t do it again, can he?” – coaches since 2013
Make or Break – Shane Mumford
When firing the Vipers have probably the best, and comfortably top 2, ruck divisions in the league with their Gawn/Mumford combo. Mumford played 21 home and away games in 2016 but looking back reveals that Mumford has never achieved that number of games in any previous season. Considering the way Mummy plays I was expecting a lot of the missed games to be a result of suspensions I can’t find a record of Mumford ever missing a game through suspension. The unfortunate reasons for games missed comes down to injuries with Mumford missing swaths of previous seasons and usually in the back end of the year. Vipers generally give up points to their opponents in their defence and midfield so if Mumford goes down it will mean the loss of their biggest point of difference.
That’s a Bold Strategy Cotton, Let’s See If It Pays Off For ‘Em…
The Vipers had a pretty safe and vanilla off-season. They covered fairly well for the loss of NDS and Malceski and could even afford to drop Walker and Bird with Caddy swinging forward and drafting Hrovat. They didn’t enter the preseason draft until pick 20 and have already traded away their 2018PSR1. The shifting of draft picks in order to bring in established players makes sense as long as their team is in premiership contention. Selling off early picks means that they’ll need to really capitalise on any sliding players at future drafts to make sure the next generation of Vipers are ready to step up when the older players fall away.
The Vipers will be expecting to make finals this year and anything less should be considered a bust. Their 6th ranked midfield isn’t as bad as it looks. Most teams except the Badgers and Barbarians are within 30 points of each other. None of their players look like they are about to seriously drop away and they have pockets of improvement possible from Thurlow, KK, Fiorini, Hrovat, McLean and Keays. A premiership team doesn’t need an overhaul and Vipers have really only filled the holes where they need to. Should they get an unfortunate run of injuries then they may wish they still had a few more assets to trade with but you often can’t have your cake and eat it too. Vipers showed the league last year that it pays to pull the trigger especially when your rivals are unwilling to.