Nothing quite triggers the anticipation of a new season of Aussie Rules like the launch of the Official AFL Fantasy competition. Increasing your investment in your favorite sport just that little bit, the rivalry, knowledge and passion that has become part of one of Australia’s greatest past-times is once again about to infect the nation.
No matter how long you’ve played or how much you think you know about the great game of AFL, each season throws up new players, tactics and scenarios that go into selecting your ‘Dream Team’.
The 10 Rules to success discussed here aren’t a guaranteed ticket to victory but they are certainly considerations that you must execute to perfection in order to have bragging rights over your mates, something that as Australians, we all crave.
Many of these same policies apply for the NRL Dream Team competition, however there are some important differences that will drastically change how you manage your side.
Rule 1 – Players Change
Whether it is because of a new coach, new role, new position, personnel additions to a side or the departure of teammates, AFL scenarios change not only every season, but every week. Because of this, it is important not to prematurely categorize players before the complexities of off-season adjustments have been trialed in pre-season.
From the decline of Sam Gilbert and Matthew Boyd to the revitalisation of Tom Rockliff and Dustin Martin, situations present themselves that demand the reconsideration of a player’s Dream Team potential. Throughout the pre-season, Blindside Sport will be publishing analysis on these new scenarios which will identify the over-priced and the bargain selections available in 2014.
Throughout the season, the emergence of new talent, form slumps, injuries, suspensions and byes also impact the fabric of the league. Blindside will be there to guide you through even the toughest of times this year.
Rule 2 – Rookies Win Titles
Identification of the rookies who will excel in a particular season may be difficult, but if you succeed in this, you’re well on your way to Dream Team mastery. As experienced players will know, the rookie benefit is two-fold. Firstly, it allows you to buy cheap players who will still score valuable points without consuming a large chunk of your salary cap. Secondly, and more importantly, their potential price increases will facilitate the purchase of elite players later in the season.
The most typical method of exploiting this is by selling two rookies who have reached their price ceilings, downgrading one to an unfulfilled rookie and upgrading the other to a proven premium. As maintaining a full roster of scoring players is important, you’ll need to stay up to date with which rookies are making their debuts mid-season.
Rule 3 – Go to Extremes
The most common mistake made by Dream Team enthusiasts, experienced or otherwise, is the incorporation of average players into their initial line-up for the season. Your essential aim for the year is to get the best 22 players in the league into your line-up as quickly as possible. In order to do so, you need two things; (1) the great players themselves and (2) a way of making money so that your ‘Dream Team’ becomes an affordable reality.
In your initial side, select as many players as possible that you think will finish the season amongst the top 5 in their position. Obviously you will struggle to combine more that 10 of these players due to salary cap limitations and as such, will need a way to expand your salary cap over the course of the season.
Whilst you may feel more comfortable with Jack Watts or Andrew Walker over less-proven rookies, the reality is that these veteran players aren’t high-scoring enough to be permanent staples in your side and aren’t cheap enough to warrant selection as a ‘cash cow’. As such, it is best to avoid them at all costs!
Rule 4 – Trading Strategy
In what is a massive move that removes a large degree of skill and difficulty from the AFL Dream Team competition, trades are now essentially unlimited for the year with each coach eligible to make 2 trades in every week of the season. This doesn’t necessarily mean that trades can be made without consideration because on more than one occasion during the season, you’re going to want to make more than just two line-up changes in one week.
Adding insult to injury, in 2014, AFL Fantasy has introduced the worst initiative of all time – unlimited trades between Round 1 and 2! Not only does 2 trades per week remove a large degree of strategy, now you have the opportunity to completely re-select your team after 1 week! Goodbye preseason research, it was nice knowing you. It would be great to hear your thoughts on the change in the comments below.
In order to exploit this highly publicised ‘loophole’, make sure you select players that have favourable Week 1 match ups, make unique selections and take risks. There are essentially no consequences to fielding the least tenable side in the competition for one round. Jack Grimes, Shaun Higgins, Shane Mumford; get them in! Select every St Kilda player because they’re facing Melbourne? Sure! Just because it’s ridiculous doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with it.
Rule 5 – Don’t Jump at Shadows
As the old saying goes, ‘it isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon’. In a similar vein to the need to plan your trades, you must remember that every player in your side was selected for a reason. If you identified potential in a particular player, know that their ability will generally be realized eventually. Remember that there are always thousands of other coaches in your position and that should you retain the player you are disappointed in, you will not only gain a trade advantage but you will have a player who becomes increasingly unique as other coaches offload them.
Tip #1: Don’t be deterred by your elite players losing value. Yes, it will make them more affordable for other coaches but as long as you intend to keep them all season, whether Gary Ablett is worth $621,200 or $450,000 is completely irrelevant.
Tip #2: Do not sell a player until you have exploited their entire price growth potential.
Tip #3: Not every player will score over 100 points every week. It is important to keep your expectations realistic.
Rule 6 – Plan for Bye Rounds
The time of the year that separates the boys from the men. Unlike in the NRL Dream Team competition, you may still only make 2 trades during bye weeks in Rounds 8, 9 and 10, however as you’re able to make 2 trades for every week of the season, dealing with byes shouldn’t be the hassle it once was. Despite this, with six sides having a rest each round (1/3 of the competition), odds are that around 10 of your squad members will be out of action. As a result, you need to have a bye strategy in place similar to the one we advocate across every Fantasy or Dream Team platform.
Try to limit your bye exposure to one player in each position. If you have Tom Rockliff (Round 10 bye), don’t have Jobe Watson (Round 10), Kieran Jack (Round 10) and Nat Fyfe (Round 11) in your side as well. As you need to select 10 midfielders in 2014 for your AFL Dream Team, you will most likely select at least 3 players from each bye round. As this is unavoidable, try not to select three elites or three rookies, instead trying to diversify your expense so that regardless of which bye week we’re in, you have a balanced squad taking to the field.
Rookies are also an important consideration as you will need them to fill the voids left by your elite players for at least 1 week in the season.
Tip: In bye rounds for 2014, only your best 18 players will score points! This new rule isn’t relevant to the other rounds of the competition though so don’t be fooled!
Rule 7 – Stay Updated
Unlike in NRL Dream Team and AFL Supercoach, there will be no rolling lockout in 2014, meaning that you need to submit your side for the entire weekend before the first match of the round. Whilst disappointing to those of us who will watch every game religiously, it is a great benefit to the casual coach who knows they won’t miss out on any important information over the weekend.
This lost opportunity means that even more attention needs to be paid to new trade prospects to bring into your team or declining stock that you should offload. As we mentioned in the first rule, changing scenarios are key to the changing potential of a player. Whilst injury news won’t necessarily give you all of the answers, Blindside will fill in the gaps for you along the way, laying down the various consequences of injuries, suspensions, form slumps and everything else that makes an AFL season so thrilling and unpredictable every year.
Rule 8 – Know the System
The only way to ensure your decision-making is as flawless as possible throughout the 2014 AFL Dream Team season is to know all of the finer details of the competition.
This season, there have been no changes made to the scoring system in terms of how points are allocated for match statistics. There are however some important variations that will impact how you manage your side:
- More players who would be considered ‘premium’ midfielders are now eligible as dual-position buys, meaning that you can purchase them in the forwards or backs in order to free up spots in the centre of the park. The more interchangeable players you have, the greater your chances of dealing with byes for efficiently and the more options you will have throughout the season. Think Bartel and Mitchell as defenders.
- You can now select 4 emergencies (formerly 3) – presumably one in every position – so that you don’t have to take a punt on which position you are least likely to need a replacement
- The new trade system has been covered already but make sure you still have a plan.
- The new 6-8-2-6 formation means that point scoring should be higher than ever! An increased focus in midfield should impact your salary cap negatively but will no doubt result in some phenomenal looking teams come the end of the season.
- The salary cap, as in NRL Dream Team, has increased relatively. This will mean teams are stronger from the start of the season and the need to be unique is greater than ever.
This season, in arguably the biggest change, price changes will occur after just 1 round! Instead of the 3-round rolling average that has been implemented in recent years, more recent games will be weighted more heavily, giving rise to what is a game-changer. Rookies will mature earlier, premiums will fall earlier. Teams will develop a lot faster in 2014 than they have in previous seasons, so beware, as your initial selections will bear greater significance than they did in 2013.
In addition to this, a 5-round rolling average will now be used to calculate price changes. This differs from the 3-round system used previously. In essence, if a player scores exceptionally poorly in Round 6, instead of that score holding no significance from Round 10 onwards, it is now a contributing factor to price changes all the way through until Round 12.
Rule 9 – Be Unique
Unless you can predict the future, your AFL Dream Team will have flaws in it. It is as unavoidable as Ryan Schoenmakers errors, Nick Maxwell being a better AFL Dream Team coach than he is a player and Collingwood fans missing teeth. This reality means that each and every week, others will score more points than you and whether you are seeking League glory or Overall prizes, you must learn how to make the 2nd half of your Dream Team season the strongest.
Many believe that if your team at the start of the season is average, your title race is over. They are wrong. The only reason it would be over is if you panic and transform your side into a generic line-up. If you are 400 points off the overall lead with 3 rounds remaining, you won’t catch the leaders unless you have players that they don’t have. Seeing as you will likely have several players between you and ultimate Dream Team success, you’re going to need to purchase (and have faith in) players who others might not consider.
Select Barlow instead of Stanton, take a punt on Kade Simpson over Grant Birchall or look at Hamish McIntosh over Dean Cox. These alternative players aren’t poor players by any means. They are players who have the potential to be stars in their position but aren’t the ‘automatic’ selections that are effectively nullified by the fact that everyone has them. Dane Swan, Lance Franklin and Brendon Goddard are all brilliant fantasy players and there is a reason they are so widely selected, but look to inject something different into your line-up, whether in the form of an undiscovered rookie or an under-rated elite player.
Rule 10 – Enjoy!
At the end of the day, there is nothing but fun to be had from AFL Dream Team coaching. It will expand your knowledge of the game and its players and gives you a whole new appreciation for the sport of AFL. If you’re a Swans fan and you want to select a side of 30 Sydney Swans, you can! That is one of the great things about this game. No consequences!
Look forward to facing off against you all come the opening bounce on March 22nd!