Brian Lake looks set to return to his very best this year.
Photo: Getty Images
2012 position: defender
2012 price: $255,200
Bye: round 11
Last year's average: 51.6
Last year's high score: 61 (round 5)
Four reasons to have him in your team
1) Run a line through the Bulldog defender's form over the past five years and there is one glaring anomaly: 2011. Beginning the year hobbled with knee, hip and shoulder injuries, Lake underwent surgery, fell out with coach Rodney Eade, lost motivation and played just five poor AFL games. For a man named All-Australian in 2009-10, it is hard to imagine a more startling fall from grace. Lake's previous seasons chart the sort of upward trajectory fantasy coaches love to see. From averaging 52 in 2006, he improved to 78 in 2007 and 99.8 in 2010, a year which convinced many unlucky Dream Team coaches to part with over $400,000 for him at the start of last season.
2) Critically for Lake's chances of rehabilitating himself as an AFL footballer and Dream Team scoring machine, Eade is gone. His replacement at Whitten Oval is Brendan McCartney, and since McCartney's arrival the message from the Doggies has been that they are willing to give the full-back another shot. Six months after publicly needling Lake about his lack of mental toughness, assistant coach Brendan Montgomery lavished praise for the way he had thrown himself into rehab and begun to act as a leader.
3) He should be fit again. Lake spent most of his stellar 2010 season rampaging out of the backline, picking up endless fantasy points with kick and mark combos as the Bulldogs worked their way from defence. Injuries bit towards the end of that year, and he played out the last few games on one leg. It was a dispute over how best to manage rehab from the series of operations he underwent in 2011 that put him offside with Eade and almost cost him his place at the club. Now he is back in the fold, those ops at least give him a fighting chance of rediscovering his best footy.
4) Low risk, high return. Should things go awry, the likely scenario is that Lake fails to win a spot in the Doggies' best 22. The worst result for Dream Teamers would be that he plays each week but turns out to be last year's Brian Lake who consistently scored in the 40s and 50s, rather than the Terminator clone who smashed out 192 against North Melbourne in round 9, 2010. Either way, selecting a dried-out Lake will only cost you a trade. At $255,200 he isn't exactly going to lose you cash.
Unfortunately for Dream Teamers and the Bulldogs, Lake's recent repairs don't come with a warranty. He turns 30 in February, and in all likelihood his best footy is behind him. McCartney's appointment as Eade's heir raises further concerns. Even if Lake can regain desire and fitness, will McCartney allow him to roam up the ground and harvest precious Dream Team points, or will he opt to keep him nearer the goal square as a more traditional holding full-back?
Risk rating: Lake's contract at Whitten Oval runs until 2013, but there are no guarantees and a hell of a long way to go between now and March. Keep an eye on training reports and monitor pre-season games closely. Four Alan Didaks.
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