Renaissance man, fantasy relevant?
Following the departure of Dylan Walker, I believe Manly will look to Karl Lawton to fill the role of hooker/backline cover + middle forward. This role was actually very fruitful for Walker, and we could see Lawton playing 40 minutes a game on return from ACL in the early rounds of 2023.
As at 16th December as per the Manly Sea Eagles injury update on their website, Lawton was completing the later stages of his strength and running training component of his rehabilitation from his ACL injury. According to this report, he will be looking to “rejoin the group in the new year”. Lawton injured his ACL on Saturday 4th June, 2022, and the Sea Eagles play their first match ironically on Saturday 4th of March, 2023, a full 9 months post injury. Typically, this would be enough time for ACL rehab, but with Lawton having a Welch-esque history of injuries, Manly may look to play it on the safe side, particularly given the round 2 bye, and wait until they are 100% confident he is ready to go.
Once he is on the park, Lawton represents a really interesting option. I am a little sad they didn’t preserve his centre dual, because it would be extremely useful this year. I expect Lawton to take on the “Dylan Walker role” from the last few years, spending some time in the middle of the park, covering the backline and edge back row, and even spending some time at hooker. This role ranged between 10 and 80 minutes in 2022, but averaged out at 47 minutes, which is more than enough to generate cash for Lawton.
In 2022, Dylan Walker averaged 33.4 fantasy points in this role, which would be good for about $230k-$240k in price rises for Lawton in a similar role. There was some inflated minutes in a few games, but even the 25-50 minute games Walker averaged 30.5 in 38.5 minutes, which would still be good for over $200k in price rises. We have a decent sample of Lawton playing in this role (12 games) and his PPM is actually marginally better than Walker in the same role, so this is a very realistic projection for Lawton in 2022.
Furthermore, if anything happened to Lachlan Croker, Lawton is potentially the #1 hooker at Manly, with Nathaniel Roache the only other hooker on the 30 man roster. The danger for Lawton would be the addition of Cooper Johns, who they may look to use in this role for round 1 if Lawton isn’t quite ready to go.
In short, one to keep an eye on for TLT, and if he is named I would suggest he represents a strong buy. More than likely, I expect him to be a buy in round 6 somewhere, where hopefully Manly ease him in via reserve grade so we can have our cashies mature first.