Expert Q&A: 2018 SuperCoach Top 10 finisher Sam Kent on chasing PODs

In 2018, SA-born and bred Geelong fan Sam Kent won $1,000 when he sneaked into the SuperCoach top 10 in the final round, buoyed by a point of difference (POD) strategy which paid off literally.

Sam was a 20-year-old Uni student in Adelaide back then with plenty of time on his hands to spend on SuperCoach and AFL Fantasy.

He employed a relatively casual POD strategy which helped him climb the rankings in his first season of SuperCoach, having always previously focused on AFL Fantasy.

Now 22 and working on the family farm in Millicent in country SA outside Mt Gambier, Sam has less time to devote to SuperCoach and AFL Fantasy so we won’t mention his current ranking but still he rejoices in his 2018 success, which had its share of luck but is an example that any player can succeed at this game.

So Honeyball caught up with Sam to discuss his miraculous 2018 and how his POD strategy worked and how others can try employ it.

HB: Thanks for joining us Sam. First of all, we always like to know what’s your team name?

SK: Kentucky Fried Chiqon, because I’m Sam Kent. I did that when I was a lot younger. Last year they changed the character limit, so now I’m Kentucky Fried. It kills it a little bit!

HB: Haha! Let’s jump straight in 2018 then, how’d you finish 10th?

SK: Yeah, it was actually 11th so I thought I was unlucky. In the last round I was 25th overall going into it and I had absolute beauty of a round. I ended up ranked 25th overall for the last round and it put me up to 11th spot, so I was spewing I didn’t get the top 10. Then I found out the person who came second was disqualified because he had two teams so it bumped me up to 10th.

I was studying at Uni, I was initially spewing I missed out on a grand but two weeks after the season was done, the Herald Sun put up a list and I was in there as 10th. I thought they’d made a mistake. They explained it and I got $1000 and a little cheque, it was pretty cool!

HB: Gotta ask, what did you do with the money?

SK: Haha I can’t remember. I was at Uni so it probably went towards a couple boxes of UDLs and Bacardis! I’d gone from having $150 a week to having a $1000 in there, so it went pretty quick.

HB: Obviously, you had a pretty good year in 2018. Can you take us through some of the strategy or things which you think went right for you?

SK: Yeah, the main thing I was doing in 2018 was getting points of differences. More than anything, I was trying to not get people that everyone had. What won my season was in Round Three Josh Kelly was injured and Dustin Martin was in career-best form and pumping out 150s every game. I was going to trade him in and I was ranked about 10,000th or something. I thought there’s no good just doing that because I’m going to be getting the same points as everyone else. I went with Jack Macrae instead and that’s when he went on a real hot streak of 180s and 190s. That was a bit of a point of difference. When Martin wasn’t going really well scoring 70s, I was getting 180-190s from Macrae as captain.

HB: Was there a reason why you went for Macrae. Did you do some research and feel like he was due?

SK: He was still fairly young in 2018. I just liked watching him as a player. You’ll find my team is full of players I actually like to watch, which is why Yeo is in my current team. The year before Macrae was pumping out consistent 110s and I’m not a huge Dusty Martin fan, so I decided to go Macrae over Dusty.

HB: Any other PODs in 2018?

SK: Yeah, actually Joel Selwood I had in the 2018 team. He wasn’t in the top eight averages in midfield but he was second that year for total points because he didn’t miss a game and he was just consistent. He was getting me hundreds nearly every week. I had a look through the top 100 SuperCoach teams in the last few rounds and I don’t think anyone else had him. In the second last round he pumped out a big 180 which was helpful.

HB: Going with the POD strategy, there must be some weeks where you’re missing out big time and you slip down the rankings?

SK: Yeah, some weeks I was trying to do a bit too much or get technical with it didn’t work. One week, I cost myself like about 140 points or something chasing points in a point of difference captain when everyone was going for Tom Mitchell when he was averaging 150 in 2018.

It was a Sunday game and I was tossing up whether to go Mitchell or Macrae all morning. I ended up going to Macrae, he had just come back from a hammy and wasn’t going as well in the second half of the season. I decided to go with him but he pulled a hammy in the second quarter on 20 and Tom Mitchell got about 190. He was getting tagged that game anyway so was on track for 60-70 and then did his hammy to rub salt into the wounds.

HB: The POD captain strategy is interesting because it can go one of two ways. Did you do that often?

SK: Yeah, I like the risk. I always seem to put someone else as captain. I tried Bontempelli earlier this season. That didn’t work out very well!

HB: So how do you decide which POD is going to be your captain?

SK: I’ll look at match-ups and the previous weeks of what teams have bene giving up to defenders or midfielders. If there’s a dominant ruckman against a lesser ruckman I’ll usually lock them in. I like to take risk on the midfielders most of the time.

HB: Do you look at spreadsheets?

SK: Spreadsheets are good once I get my head around them but quite often I find myself staring at them for 20 minutes trying to actually figure out what I’m reading. I like to follow Brice Mitchell on Twitter. His stuff is so handy.

HB: But you don’t make your own?

SK: I’m shocking at Excel. Otherwise I probably would. I tried in 2018 but it was a disaster!

HB: So talking about some of your POD captains, were there any examples when you pulled them off successfully in your top 10 2018?

SK: Yeah, it was around the start of the year when I was really rocketing up the rankings in the first sort of Rounds Three to Eight. That’s when Jack Macrae was just going nuts and no one really had him. He was in like 3-4% of teams. I was lobbing him in as captain every week and it was delivering.

I remember one week I failed my VC on someone and I couldn’t decide who to go captain. I was tossing up Jake Lloyd, I’ve never had him captain, but he had a pretty good match-up. He was playing Essendon who’ve given up lots of points to defenders. The other option was Tom Mitchell but I couldn’t lock in one or the other.

So before the game, I was just changing the captain from Jake Lloyd to Mitchell until it locked out and it ended up on Lloyd and he got like 105 or something, which I was pretty disappointed about. But then Mitchell had a pretty average game and everyone else had him so I gained about 50 points from that.

HB: Hahah! So you literally were sitting there before lockout just flicking the ‘C’ between the two?

SK: Haha, I kept clicking captain on either of them and let fate decide. I looked back on it and if I’d got Mitchell I would’ve ended up 12th or 13th overall, so I’m grateful that worked out. Lucky it went the way it did.

HB: Let’s backtrack a little bit more. I always like to ask like when you started the season, how do you lay out your team?

SK: I tried my hardest to stay away from mid-pricers because very rarely they pay off. I’m a real guns and rookies kind of guy. I just try and keep it spread over all positions. That way you get the best rookies in each spot on field. Otherwise you’ll end up with four rookies in your defence on field and two rookies in the midfield and you might have three midfielders on the bench that are doing better than your four defensive rookies on field.

HB: If you miss rookies, do you try flip them around despite paying up to get the good ones?

SK: I try not to as much as I can, but sometimes they’re such good value you have to burn a trade and fix up the selection you made at the start of the year. Players get hyped up, they come out and they’ll score 40 in their first game and just look absolutely terrible. There’s always one or two players that come out and score like 90 or 100 game one that no one’s talking about.

HB: Also how do you generate cash early in the season while your rookies are fattening up? Do you trade around premiums who don’t start well and seem overpriced?

SK: Not really a lot. A lot of people play the breakeven game and I just think that uses too many trades. Whenever I bring a premium in, I try and bring people in that I want there at the end of the year, even if they’re injury prone players, so to just take a risk. Even Fyfe, I don’t think he’s ever played a full season but he’s nearly always one of the first selected in my team every year.

This year when everyone was bringing in Viney after the first game I thought it was a wasted trade as I can’t see him being a top eight pick so I stayed away from him. That’s looking like the right call.

HB: So you’re always thinking what’s the final 22 I want?

SK: Yeah, pretty much. I don’t want to bring in too many stepping stones. Sometimes it does have merit to bring in someone. But usually the people I bring in I want there at the end of the season because there’s just so many trades you need to burn that you don’t account for from injuries and stuff.

HB: Does your trading strategy change as the season evolves?

SK: I don’t really have a strategy as such. I just look at my team and try to get rid of the people you don’t want there or that are starting to lose value. You want to try improve your lines as evenly as possible.

HB: POD players have low ownership for a reason, so they are obviously risky, so how do you decide who’s worth getting in?

SK: Yeah, sometimes it’s just worth taking the risk, and they can put you ahead of the mob.

I don’t actually do too much research really. I don’t even listen to many podcasts as much as I used to. In 2018 when I was at Uni, I was listened to all the podcasts and was getting information from as many people as I can, but now I’m not at Uni, I don’t have as much time as I’m working. I can’t commit quite as much time to that, but I usually still try and watch six or seven games a week. There’s not too many I miss so that’s really where I’m doing my research. When I’m watching the game I’ve always got the live scores up on the phone. It’s a pretty good way to take notice of who’s doing on your radar.

HB: So you trust your eye, so to speak?!

Sam’s final trade in 2018 was to upgrade Martin to Grundy

SK: Yeah that’s why I brought in Ridley early this year. I watched him and he looks exciting. He reads the ball well, takes a good mark. That’s paid off.

HB: So we need to level with the readers, that your 2019 and 2020 seasons haven’t gone overly well. But that may be a good cautionary tale in the volatile nature of the POD method. What’s happened?

SK: I don’t think it’s as much about strategy. I’m just not as lucky as I was in 2018. I think I got a bit cocky as well. I was always a lot better at Fantasy than SuperCoach. I registered for SuperCoach as the second one in 2018 I just got a real good start on SuperCoach and started focusing more on that and got to know the game better.

I didn’t even know about the lock bubble or anything like that at the start of the season so I had to learn about that and sort of keep going as the season went on and now I know everything about it but I can’t seem to make a right move on anything.

HB: OK let’s finish off back on 2018. How far off winning overall were you?

SK: I think it was about 500 points. I remember first and second were fairly close together and then third was like 300 points behind them. I came in at 10th spot and like 20th to 30th or so was all within about 200 or 300 points.

HB: So not really within grasp but close-ish?

SK: Yeah, looking back I went through week-by-week and figured out if I did the perfect week, like best rookies on field and best captain, how many points I’d have ended on. I figured out I would’ve beaten the winner by 500 points by the end of the season. I had a lot of time on my hands!

HB: As always we’ll wrap up with a final thought or piece of advice for SuperCoach players?

SK: Everyone try not to burn too many trades this year even though it seems hectic. It’s a year like no other one with coronavirus, games everywhere and everything like that. You’re still going to get to the end of the season and wish you had 10 more trades so be very careful with your trades.

HB: Wise advice. Thanks for your time, Sam, and good luck with the Kentucky Fried for a late season surge!

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