It’s All About The Numbers – Fantasy AFL

While Twitter and the blogosphere has been gripped by the rolling maul of Ruddmentum (and to me, the much more amusing Crean – Get On Top movement) these past weeks, I have been gripped by a much more difficult activity. As a generally non sporty person, though as an avid sport watcher, I occasionally try to work out what goes on in the world of sport, get initiated into places that are almost foreign to me. This year, it has been plunging into the (mostly male) world of Fantasy Football – in my case, AFL Dream Team and Supercoach. As with politics, it’s all about the numbers.

Being in a NSW workplace as I have been all my life, I am the only person I know who plays AFL fantasy football. I am fully aware that if I was a teacher in Victoria, I would have had to develop a pretty sophisticated understanding of the workings of the comps, both to keep up with Monday morning staffroom conversations, but also have something to talk about down at the pub on a Friday night. A female teacher friend of mine, in order to have something to talk about, decided to have fun with the concept some time ago and selects a team each year that contains players selected entirely on the basis of their names being a double entendre. Hence, Sidebottom, Suckling, Swallow (x2), Goldsack, Ryder, Plowman, Johncock… (you get the picture). For me, though, it’s a case of having no pressure to be some kind of King of the Staffroom, it’s purely diverting and fun.

In order to help fuel the obsessions, there’s a whole internet community dedicated to the numbers and machinations of the two fantasy football competitions. Amongst the best of these are Dream Team Talk, which features the occasional Youtube show with three friendly blokes talking at a pub; Supercoach Paige, which features one of the few women who talks fantasy football; a page with an amusing title picture, Sargeant Supercoach and probably one of the more interesting projects attempting to emulate 1970s football language, Jock Reynolds. These weeks have been spent trying to work out what all the numbers mean. That’s why my Twitter feed has me following a range of DT and SC experts, all talking in a foreign language. That’s why I’ll have commentary on which sauce bottle Rudd has shaken followed by cries of “Broughton isn’t rebounding the ball in the NAB Cup game”, “Ross Lyon really hates DT coaches”, “This game in Renmark has produced awesome numbers for Port”, “Swan is a definite lock”, “What do you mean Tom Mitchell isn’t playing???”, et cetera. As with any concept foreign to me, it fascinates with its coruscations.

Despite the best efforts of members of this very friendly and helpful Twitter crew (especially fellow Giants member and Dream Team Talk contributor, @RLGriffin85 and that outstanding AFL news source, @janinemcglynn), I still don’t entirely understand how the numbers work. This includes the differences between Dream Team and Supercoach. Both use quite different statistical formulas. All I have worked out really is that some players touch the ball more and get involved in the game, which gives them more numbers. But champion players like Adam Goodes and Nick Malceski aren’t really all that good for the fantasy competitions. Even my favourite player in the AFL, Kieren Jack, is barely mentioned. Apparently it hurts him to be playing with other champion players. What I have learned, however, is that the games are actually outstanding learning activities – especially in terms of providing a workout in terms of statistics, mathematics and speculation based on evidence. This is why parents shouldn’t get too worried if their children like a bit of fantasy football activity.

As an exercise in attempting to understand this world of numbers, statistics and the like, I decided to select two teams in each competition. One is my regular all sides team – the one where I have attempted to listen to all of the advice and tips from the various sources. The other is my Northern States team, consisting of players for the Sydney Swans, GWS Giants, Gold Coast Suns and Brisbane Lions. This is partially because I wanted to track how players from the Swans and Giants go in the competitions, and partially because I am very fond of any team operating in the “league states”. This is why the DT / SC crew like giving me advice on my all sides team, but are sometimes profoundly puzzled by the Northern States team. They possibly don’t understand what it’s like for a Western Sydney boy to have four sides north of the Murray to watch. Plus, they have the torrent of “coaches” asking questions about their legitimate teams. “What about Fyfe?” is more pressing than “why don’t any of these teams have cheap rookies that will get a game?”

Here are my Northern States teams – the Northern States teams are both named in honour of the Flamboyant Icon of Northern States AFL, Warwick Capper.

Dream Team

Dream Team Northern States

Super Coach

Northern States Supercoach

Then there is the All States team, built from all of the rumours, comments, research.

Dream Team

Dream Team Regular Team

Super Coach

Allstates Supercoach

Summarising the gap between my political Twitter friends and the Fantasy Footyheads, almost no-one took up my invitation to join my “Flamboyant League”, also named for Mr. Capper. That is to be expected though, the worlds have almost no intersection.

Today is the big day for Fantasy Football chat and last minute panics as the numbers of changes that can be made becomes restricted. The Crean Bun Fight barely rated a blip yesterday in their world. Brad Crouch’s non selection for Adelaide made more of an impact. I hope they all remember it really is just fun rather than a reflection of their abilities as people. But maybe that’s just the view from an isolated Sydney person. Ultimately, however, I’m glad this type of thing exists. Otherwise, we’d all just be more than a little depressed about the state of play in this country.

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2 thoughts on “It’s All About The Numbers – Fantasy AFL

  1. Nice write up. Fantasy Football is very much a balance of statistical knowledge, emotional control, and an understanding of the two methods (Dream Team vs SuperCoach) of scoring systems.

    I thought I’ll try and clarify some of your pondering’s, which is easier to do than in the 140 characters twitter provides, it may also interest your readers. If not readers, now would be a good time to skip to the next comment.

    Although similar to Dream Team, (3 points awarded for a kick, 4 points awarded for a tackle) mathematically SuperCoach differs from its counterpart largely by how it values these scores at the end of the match. In any one SuperCoach game, there is a maximum limit of points which can be awarded, and these are distributed retrospectively amongst every player involved. Disposal efficiency and value of the disposal/play (to the end result) is therefore worked into an amalgamation at the end of the game, and scores adjusted for each player accordingly.

    In DreamTeam, where a crumbed kick for goal would be worth 9 points (3 for a kick, 6 for a goal), in SuperCoach, the same kick my be awarded near on 20 points, if it came from a run down the wing rebounding out of defence, kicked from 50 meters out on a difficult angle, under pressure, and soars through at goal post height as the siren sounds to win the team the match. Why? Because the ball movement and goal scored is weighed much heavier on it’s value to the result of the game than just the statistic of the kick itself.

    A perfect example of this is Leo Barry’s mark in the 2005 grand final. Although immediately in both DreamTeam and SuperCoach it was only 3pts (the value of a mark), in SuperCoach it was retrospectively scored closer to 40pts due to it being a contested pack mark, under pressure, by a defender, stopping a forward play, that ultimately won a team a grand final.

    There is great value to this scoring system in analysing how a player influences a game. A player may have 30 possessions, all of which result in turnovers, and have a great Dream Team score, but the player who had 20, hit every target, and resulted in ten scoring plays would score more. However due to the retrospective nature of the scoring system, in an amalgamation which lacks transparency, I much prefer the simplicity of ‘mark + handball = score’ (3+2=5). It also allows for accurate live scoring, which SuperCoach could not possibly do.

    As for your comment about rookies in the Northern States, it’s largely due to the teams rather than the states themselves. Sydney for example have had players exit who were in their reserves team (Trent Dennis-Lane for example), but had Kurt Tippett join the team, who will start in their A-Grade team. Essentially, Sydney have only added to their list of quality players, meaning a rookie would have to prove themselves ahead of established players, as well as fringe players who are in and out of the team, such as Tony Armstrong, Mitch Morton, Craig Bird, etc just to get a game.

    GWS are in a similar boat, in that they have a mass of new talent, but no one has really left the club (except Luke Power, who will be replaced by Gilham. Compare this scenario to Port Adelaide, who had nine senior listed players from their A-Grade team depart; it’s much easier to find rookies from this teams line up, as the competition for spots is lower.

    By the way, call it an emotional hunch, or a hypothesis by evidence, but I think you’ll find Keiren Jack will dominate both competitions this year.

    • Thanks Robert for that – makes a lot more sense now. Using the 2005 Grand Final as an example is always a good idea in relation to me.

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