After our deep dive into Matt Burton, we continue our look at the potential elite centre options with Euan ‘go yourself’ Aitken. The 26-year-old confirmed he’ll be picking up where he left off last season, starting 2022 on an edge. Aitken’s comments indicate the reason for this shift is to have a consistent 80 minute edge player to save an interchange but also hinted he may be used at centre later in the season. He’ll also be looking to keep his impressive streak alive of 4 full games without a pass in general play, per Jason Oliver (@JasonNRL).
While not passing may not always be great from a footy sense, that selfish go yourself attitude is exactly the type of thing us fantasy coaches love. Priced at 540k with a break even of 43 (5pts lower than Burton), Aitken became a very rewarding pod for those lucky enough to jump on at the back end of last season, racking up an average of 60pts (adjusted for new scoring) in his 5 x 80min back row appearances, notching a very handy PPM of 0.75. Luckily for us coaches some early season apperances at centre plus a 13min injury effected game in rd25 has him very affordable. Let’s take a look at that 60 average and see if Aitken is the Burton alternative we’re seeking to free up some cash.
I may have been generous giving Aitken half a point in season try assists given that requires actually throwing a pass, but I figure even a blind squirrel can find a nut occasionally (even Will Chambers managed 2 TA’s last year). It appears at even a conservative projection it is fairly evident that there is at least 9 points of value here, making Aitken a very enticing option and a much better value play than Burton. His very solid base coupled with the ability to attack and break tackles makes it seem unlikely he’ll average below 50 given his comments on playing 80mins as well as being a bit selfishness from time to time doesn’t hurt either. However, that doesn’t mean Aitken is the clear cut choice as your keeper centre. With Brown in charge and Tohu Harris aiming for a mid-May return, there’s no guarantee that Aitken holds that edge spot and hasn’t been shifted back into the centres prior to the Origin period.
Ideally it would be great to start with both Burton and Aitken but our salary cap is tight and chances are you’ll have to make compromises. As it stands for me the value in Aitken is too much to pass up in a year where it is increasingly hard to come by. The Warriors have a fairly favourable draw to begin the season which may see Aitken hitting the top end of this projection while the Bulldogs go through an absolute horror murderer’s row run from round 3 to 8 before entering a much more favourable schedule in round 9. The strategy here if Aitken does shift back may be to ride his price rises until Tohu’s return at which point you could pivot to Burton, who at worst would be a straight swap, but likely could see you banking cash. However, if you’d rather avoid the risk and potentially save a trade after the horror 2021 of centre musical chairs we’ve all had then I certainly can not blame you.