The Burn List | Robbie Gray

The best thing about a Burn List nominee is that the selection process is often very subjective – someone on my Burn List eternally may in fact be one of your SuperCoach stalwarts, first or second picked each year. So it is with our next applicant, the Power’s enigmatic Robbie Gray.

Taken at Pick No.55 in the 2006 draft, Gray was an absolute steal and has become a star for Port in the years since. He is undoubtedly one of the more talented players in the AFL, and is capable at times of doing things on a football field that not many others can.

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When he is on fire there a few who can match him – his mercurial talent seems boundless when things are going his way, and in SuperCoach terms, he is one of few players in the league who can pull out a 50+ point quarter of scoring, more often than not after an almost scoreless first half.

Gray is priced at $525,500 as a pure forward in 2019, following on from a 2018 where he averaged 97 points per game. That seems reasonable, but let’s dig a little deeper and see how things pan out.

To his price firstly, and that seems equitable for his output, especially given high-scoring forwards are often difficult to nail. However, a word of warning – every year for the past four seasons Gray has dropped price from the start of the season until the end on average just shy of $90,000. The biggest drop was in 2017 when he fell from a starting price of $588,200 to a finish price of $477,000 – even last season, with an average just under the ton, he fell from $504,300 to end at $425,500. How exactly does that come to pass for someone averaging in the 90s or low 100s – and does it even matter if he is still scoring well?

Well, a closer inspection of his 2018 season reveals some interesting stats.

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Early on – up until round 14 – Gray was firing on all cylinders, with nine scores from his 13 games (having missed round one due to suspension) above 90 points, at an average of 106. Impressive stuff.

However, from round 15 onwards – when the whips were really cracking from a SuperCoach perspective – things weren’t quite so bright. In those nine games to finish off the year Gray’s scores included 65, 84, 61 and an injury-affected 37, which all combined to give him an average of 84 points – down 22 points per game from the first section of the year.

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This represents a significant drop in output, and would’ve had a number of fantasy coaches pulling their hair out, particularly leading into and during SuperCoach finals. In those three finals weeks Gray averaged 82 points, with scores of 100, 84 and a paltry 61 in the GF game, despite having 19 disposals and a goal.

In 2017, despite also averaging 92 points per game, Gray also endured his share of ups and downs, both on field and health-wise, particularly with groin and testicular cancer issues. However, during that year his roller-coaster efforts from a SuperCoach perspective continued, as he excelled with scores of 164, 139, 146 and 129, but also had several nightmare games where he totalled 38, 69, 30, 44 and 45.

At the ripe old age – in footy terms – of almost 31, Gray may get more midfield time early on in season 2019 with Ollie Wines absent, he may also have to deal with the influx of new, young talent at Port in the likes of Xavier Duursma, Zak Butters and Willem Drew, all who seem capable of making an impact.

Are there better selections for a similar price?

To my mind there are certainly a few this year who I believe will provide better value.

The pick of the bunch would be Isaac Heeney, Tom McDonald and Devon Smith.

Almost 23 years old, Heeney had a similar scoring trajectory to Gray last season, dropping off in the second half of the year, however he has been touted as finally getting more midfield minutes at the Swans with Dan Hannebery gone in 2019, which should equate to greater scoring power. 15 games above 90 pts in 2018 bodes well for this season.

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McDonald, at 26 years old, has a chance to lead the Demon forward line with Jesse Hogan gone, however it is his running ability and difficulty to match-up on that is unique, especially amongst key forwards. He is super consistent too, with only one game under 74 points all year in 2018.

Smith, a tackling machine, is entering his prime at 25 years of age, and increased his SuperCoach average by almost 20 pts last season. Most notably, his last eight games went at an average of 108 points – and he too only scored under 77 once all year.

Do you take the chance on an aging Gray in 2019? Good luck if you do – he’ll pull out the odd 140+ game which will have you dancing in the streets – but remember the sub-60 point shocker is just around the corner, and might cost you when it really matters.

My fingers still smart from previous burnings. It’s a no from me.

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