EXPERT Q&A: Former SuperCoach Round Winner Casey McDonald

Casey McDonald is a dad, a school teacher, an Essendon supporter and a SuperCoach round winner. In fact, he’s finished in the top 1,000 in SuperCoach for the past two years.

In 2018, after top scoring nationwide in Round Five and winning $1,000, he finished 878th overall. He proved he was no flash in the pan by finishing an overall rank of 552 in 2019 in SuperCoach as well.

So with that in mind, Honeyball thought 33-year-old Apollo Bay-raised Casey would be the perfect candidate for our opening Expert Q&A series.

HB: Thanks for joining us Casey, hope you’re well. First of all, I always love to know team names and the inspiration behind them. What’s yours?

CM: My team is called ‘Yeah Na Cheers’. It was my group’s non-contact AFL 9s side’s name and I just rolled with it in my SuperCoach team.

HB: Hah, nice and random. So how are ‘Yeah Na Cheers’ going in 2020?

CM: It’s going okay. It’s been obviously a strange year. There’s lots of different people trying different strategies with the mid-pricers and not going with the Grundy-Gawn combo compared to other seasons, I actually usually start pretty average, 30,000-40,000 overall, but think I was about 5,000 after Round One, and I’m sitting at 2,640 at the moment.

HB: That sounds pretty promising then, given how 2018 and 2019 panned out?

CM: In the early part of the season, I find that it just generally takes one really solid round and you can jump 20,000-30,000 just like that. That’s what’s generally happened to me in previous seasons. If you’re going on rank I’d say this has been my best start to the season.

HB: Let’s talk about 2018 when you won a round, which puts you in an exclusive club. Take us through it?

CM: It was one of those rounds where there was a bit of carnage and I probably missed most of that. I was lucky with picking my highest player, Lachie Neale, as my captain. There was a bit of rookie roulette. A couple of my forward line rookies on the bench outscored my on-field ones but the rest were good which was lucky.

I was texting my mate, and he said ‘I reckon you could go top hundred this week’. I was like ‘if I did that I’d be bloody stoked’. But there’s always someone out there that goes crazy with the scoring.

I’ve got two children now and this is back when I just had one child. My wife was trying to put my little boy to bed. It was around that nine o’clock and I was in our bedroom and my wife was in the bedroom putting Jack to sleep. My mate sent me a text saying ‘you won it!’ I was standing in my bedroom with no one to hug. It would have been pretty exciting to have someone around me.

I wrote back ‘I think it’s wrong, let me have a look’. But he was like ‘no you won, you won’. I can’t remember exactly what I did, I might have yelled into a pillow or something because I didn’t want to wake my little boy. I didn’t really believe it.  I had to check it for myself and I still didn’t believe it when I looked at it. It was a two point win.

I did remember checking in the Herald Sun on Monday at work and they had the top five scores. It was a two point win. That’s a matter of a player having a clanger or one of your guns getting stuck on the bench for five minutes too long.

HB: The weeks before that were you pulling big scores and building towards something or was it an outlier?

CM: Overall after Round One I was 43,000. After Round Two I was 20,000 overall. Then after Round Three I was 14,000. After Round Four I was about 8000 and then I won that Round Five, and that put me to 464th overall.

I came out with a bang the following week with a round position of 56,000! Sounds a bit more like luck than strategy. Then I was about 1,500 for the rest of the year. My worst position overall was 3500. I managed to scrape into the top 1000 in that final round which was my goal.

HB: You’re being modest, which we admire, but it can’t all be luck. Let’s talk about the wider strategy?

CM: Generally I liked to go for the big dogs. I’m pretty consistently picking Fyfe, Neale and Lloyd. I try to stick with that aspect of it; getting the ultra premos.

HB: Even if you’re paying a really high price?

CM: This (2020) was the first year I didn’t start Lloyd so that was probably an example of when I thought he was a little bit overpriced at the start of the year and that I might get him a little bit cheaper later.

But it’s a tricky one because, for example, for the last three years I haven’t started Gawn. People generally hang a bit of shit on me on Twitter for doing that and sometimes it does backfire.

I generally only like to pick one mid-pricer. But last year I went Zac Williams and Tom Liberatore. From memory, Williams was about $400k and Libba maybe $350k.  

My thought process was save $100k picking Goldstein over Gawn which allowed me to spread my cash a little bit and get Williams and Libba instead of one premium and one rookie.

HB: All this with getting Gawn later in the year in mind?

CM: Yes, that was my goal. Injuries came as they do. The week I was planning on getting Gawn, I had Zac Williams and Matt Crouch both get injuries.

In the end I think Gawn went down with an ankle injury mid or late last year. It worked until Grand Finals in SuperCoach were Gawn played Goldstein and got 200 and Goldie got 55. I was down the coast and was looking at the scores every now and thought ‘going what’s going on’. In the end, it backfired and probably hurt my rank a little bit. I went from 432nd overall in Round 22 and then I lost 150 points there with that ratio between Gawn and Goldie that weekend which put me to 552nd overall. I didn’t lose too much rank but it cost me in a few cashie grand finals.

HB: This year seems different to the norm. What have you made of 2020?

CM: This year is such a strange year. There was a lot of talk that everyone was going mid-price madness and I really wasn’t keen on it. I find sometimes with Twitter, I love bouncing ideas and I love the super coach community on there, but I’m a strong to back your gut. If you’ve got an idea that you think is going to work, just do it.

The Twitter world has a 100 per cent helped me and I love hearing people’s ideas and helping out people but, for example, I was really keen on starting Michael Walters over Dusty this year. I put out a tweet in pre-season, and lots of people were saying, ‘nah Walters’ scoring is swayed by his half a dozen match winning goals last year. He might get reported, he’s injury prone. Dusty plays every week.’

I decided I’ll just follow the crowd and go Dusty. Then Round Three I traded him out because he’s injured. All I want is Michael Walters and I can’t get him. If there’s one thing that I would say to people is just if you’ve got an idea and you believe in it, just do it.

HB: In a shortened season, cash generation is tricky. What’s your thoughts on that?

CM: I don’t fully wait for my rookies to fatten up completely. I try and move them on. For instance, I think a couple of weeks ago, Noble from his score projection was going to make another $10k. When they get to that point I just generally think I can maybe get ahead on those top ranks by moving him a week early to get a premium. I reckon just building that momentum and trying to get that one premo before everyone else. That’s probably what your top 1,000 people are doing and trying to keep trading to stay ahead of the game.

Obviously that can backfire if you start burning too many trades and I’ve done some sideways ones through injury this year, which I hate doing. But that’s another aspect of this season with those extra trades.

HB: Do you mull over your trades all week?

CM: I’m the kind of person that likes my team to look now how I want it to look by the end of the week. I just like to get it done.

But by Tuesday, you hear that someone’s not training, so I’ll have maybe two or three plans in my mind. Then just cross my fingers and toes for the rest of the week. Then you get smacked with carnage on Wednesday/Thursday night anyway. Rarely does what you hope for ever happen!

HB: How about points of difference (POD)? Do you make an effort to get some unique players in to jump up the rankings?

CM: This year I’m taking a punt with that. I started Josh Kelly this year who might have been in about 10% or 12% of teams. I’m definitely all for it but I like them to be proven players. I don’t like the inconsistency of everyone getting on Luke Parker, because I remember their path. He might get a 50 or 60. I like them to have had a proven history before I just go and say I’m going to get in whoever because they’re unique.

HB: On the converse, how do you decide whether or not to trade in those players who don’t have proven track records but are emerging, like Petracca this year?

CM: Yes, that’s funny. I’ve been screwed over by Petracca before and I was like, ‘nah, not going near it’. But this year I’ve got him in my team. When Dusty went down, I traded to him straight to Petracca.

There’s a few factors. He’s playing more on ball now. He’s attending more centre bounces. He’s winning contested possessions. He’s an impact player who can kick a few goals.

This season those types of players like Dangerfield or Bontempelli, who can punch out 25 disposals, lay a few tackles and also get on the scoreboard, I like them. But I like them to be proven.

HB: Does watching a lot of footy help?

CM: Absolutely. I’m an Essendon supporter and I wasn’t even ‘watching’ Ridley. A few weeks ago, I actually watched Ridley and I’ve seen what he’s doing. It’s different than just seeing it on the stats sheets.

HB: How about picking a captain each week?

CM: Last year I was trying to be a little bit different and it really cost me. I didn’t go Grundy for five or six weeks. I’d make decisions like, Fyfe is playing Gold Coast so I’m going Fyfe. I probably cost myself a few 100 points. Now I never choose the POD captain.

If Brodie Grundy or Lachie Neale is playing on a Friday night, just do it. I think you’ve just got to follow the crowd there because it’s the percentage play.

HB: Picking the wrong captain can make or break your weekend mentally and emotionally too?

CM: Yeah 100%. Also if your vice-captain scores 120-125 on a Thursday or Friday, just lock it in because there’s so many chats on Twitter about trying to better that. If you don’t, someone might do a hammy. Things can happen. You’re risking 240 points to gain maybe 10.

HB: Do you have a VC loophole threshold?

CM: Generally 125 but I’ll probably take 120. But if Grundy got 120 on a Friday night, nine times out of 10 you’re locking that in. But if Neale was playing Adelaide (the team who concede the most) on a Sunday I would think about it.

I remember some people did it with Dangerfield this year and he came out scored a 96. That’s a lot of ranks when you’re losing 40 or 50 points and just trying to be a bit greedy.

HB: Time for your final thought/piece of wisdom for our audience?

CM: Two things, back your gut. Do your research and if you believe in something, don’t let someone tell you otherwise. No one is a professional SuperCoach player. Whether you’ve got a good history, it’s your team, so if you’ve got an idea and it works, do it. Back your gut.

Also, enjoy it. It really got me flat all this criticism around the Essendon Covid game and how the scores were dispersed. It’s a game we play for free. we can win $1000 a week, we can win $50k, we’ve got a great community and people to share ideas. It’s not the organisers’ fault. They’re not trying to do things to help them, it’s fun, enjoy it, it’s a free game, I didn’t like all the negativity about that game. I understand everyone is competitive, but compare SuperCoach to the current state of the world, it isn’t much.

HB: Casey, thanks so much for your time and good luck to you and ‘Yeah Na Cheers’ in 2020!

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