Expert Q&A: Pragmatic SuperCoach Top 30 Finisher Matt Forrest On Finding Value
Journalism university student Matt Forrest is a pragmatic man. His pragmatic style led him to finish 29th in the 2018 SuperCoach rankings and he rarely drifts far beyond the top 1000.
Matt, who is a 24-year-old Hawthorn fan who studies at Swinburne University in Melbourne, is an analysis contributor for popular SuperCoach podcast/website Jock Reynolds.
But it’s his pragmatic analysis of the fluctuations of prices and averages which sets him and his team ‘FozDaddyFC’ apart.
With all that in mind, Honeyball thought they’d catch up with Matt, who’s been playing SuperCoach for the past decade albeit not seriously during high school, and discuss his philosophy.
**Please note this interview took place midway through the 2020 season but the answers remain relevant ahead of 2021**
HB: Obviously you went top 30 in 2018 but have you had any other big years?
MF: None that are in the top 500. I regularly crack the top 1000. Finishing 800-1000 happens relatively often. I try and hit the top 100 but I’ve only every reached there once.
HB: Fair enough, so take us through 2018 when you finished top 30?
MF: It was a really funny way to start the year. It was the first year I decided I probably wasn’t going to play SuperCoach. I didn’t have a team up until the weekend before the season started. None of my friends were playing. I didn’t really see any reason to play. I just got a bit of an itch with a week to go. I listened to a few podcasts, I looked at team selections and based my rookies off that and picked the premiums from years before. I started well and kept playing and managed to finish top 30.
HB: Love the blasé approach. Take us through that original 30-man squad layout?
MF: I basically wanted to start with as many premiums as I could so I picked blokes I could rely on like Tom Mitchell and Jack Macrae. Blokes who I thought could play 22 games in the season and average 110-plus was what I was going for in midfield. In the back line and forward line I was trying to take advantage of dual position players and blokes I thought could finish in that top 10-20 or generate cash who I could upgrade later on. It was about picking blokes who I knew had a good SuperCoach record.
HB: Did you take any risks?
MF: Not really, haha.
HB: OK, so you must have nailed the rookies?
MF: I managed to do pretty well on the rookie basis. I really didn’t do much research going into the year. I relied purely on the SuperCoach community on Twitter to help me out. I didn’t really know who I was supposed to be selecting and who’d played well in pre-season as I hadn’t paid attention.
HB: This feels like an example that you can over-think SuperCoach and AFL Fantasy?
MF: It was a stroke of luck. I cannot attribute it to any genius on my part. People had spoke about these blokes, people were keen on them and they got picked Round One, so I ran with them. I didn’t do much research.
One thing you can’t do is over-think it. You’ve got to go with your gut in certain circumstances.
HB: Beyond your layout and moves, take us through the 2018 season, how’d you get to top 30?
MF: I was top 4000 from memory at the start. I had a history of starting pretty slowly and building into my season. It was the strongest start I’ve had in recent memory. It gave me a bit of confidence that I could make something of the year as long as my team didn’t fall around me. I managed to push through that early stage and work on it pretty nicely.
HB: Any particularly good decisions along the way?
MF: There was one decision that I rue to this day. It wasn’t a good decision. Josh Kelly went down with a groin injury and Leon Cameron said he’d be out for a week. I thought I’d hold and build my side around him. He ended up missing four weeks. He sat on my bench the entire time.
I’ve done the maths retrospectively and I realised I wanted to trade him to Jack Macrae but I didn’t. I waited to trade him in later. If I’d traded him, I would’ve done better. It was one of those decisions where I decided to hold which cost me. It’s one of those things you can’t rely on anyone’s injury reports.
HB: Ouch, I’m reluctant to ask, but I have to, do you know where you would’ve finished if you’d traded him immediately?
MF: Just outside the top 10 but that is reliant on things, it’s a snowball effect. I would’ve finished 12th from memory. I brought Macrae in later in the season, so that might’ve changed things up. Doing the maths it would’ve bumped me up about 15-20 positions.
HB: So it was outside the cash prizes which softens the blow! Take us through how you decide on captains every round?
MF: I really just base it on previous history against teams and match-ups. I started the season with Gawn and Grundy. You can’t really go wrong with them. Usually one of them is going to provide a good captain score. It’s just a case of seeing who’s playing who, if a team tags or not, brings up the question of using a gun midfielder or if a ruck is up against a rookie ruck, for example.
HB: And you capitalise on the VC loophole?
MF: I take advantage of that as best you can. It makes a massive difference if you bomb out on your first selection, you’ve still got a second chance.
HB: How did your trades strategy look throughout 2020?
MF: It definitely changes from week to week. Some weeks I’ve planned ahead and I know who’s going to drop in price. I know I’ll be able to afford them a couple of weeks down the track. I base my team around brining them in later.
Other times I’ll mull it over and ponder how to get in everyone I want. I usually have a pretty good idea of who I want. For example, I’ve been trying to get Haynes and Jake Lloyd the past few weeks.
HB: Sounds like you’re on to it! Do you have a spreadsheet or keep a watchlist?
MF: I use the watchlist on the SuperCoach page. I consistently put players in there and remove them when I’ve got them. In terms of price projections, Brice Mitchell is very handy on Twitter. I use him a lot. I base who’s going to drop to what price around that and consider what I’ll be able to afford.
HB: How do you make those calls? Crunch averages? Wait on prices?
MF: I base it on the way they’ve performed that season with averages and if that’s better or worse than the past. If they’ve had an injury early in the season, that’s something which will affect their average a bit, like Mitch Duncan this year.
I really base it on their average to what I expect them to score in comparison to their price output. I try to get in blokes who have relatively high ceilings. They might average 100+ the whole year and then come out with 150 which is going to bump up their score. I try to find a balance with consistency and high ceilings.
HB: With guys like Duncan or Tom Stewart in 2020, their averages are distorted by earlier injuries. Do you pay more attention to three-game or five-game averages?
MF: It’s a really good indicator of how a player is going recently. But the smaller sample size can be distorted as well, in a different way. If you’ve played one really good game and a few bad games, they look better than they are. That can mislead. It might be a one-off or the perfect circumstances. It’s about taking in everything available to you.
HB: Some amateur coaches might fall into the trap of seeing a player have two or three good weeks and trade that player in. Is that taboo?
MF: Not necessarily. I guess it really depends on if the score comes from a role change or if they’ve just had a couple of good weeks or they were carrying an injury and have come good. You need to weigh all that up. You’d want to base it on a permanent position change. You want to do your research on that.
HB: So does your trading strategy evolve as the season goes on?
MF: It does evolve to an extent. You’re always trying to upgrade one and downgrade one but some weeks you cannot do that as rookies haven’t played as consistently as you’d have hoped and the money isn’t generating as quickly as you’d hope.
This year is a really good example for that with the fixturing, rookies are getting short runs in the side and then cast out for a few weeks. Some players have been tempted to trade them like Marlion Pickett earlier in the year. He’s come back and made another $100k. If I was patient, I would’ve made more.
You’ve got to be a bit more patient with your trading and your premiums. That’s the goal in this season, with 17 rounds, it’s hard to get that 22 players that’ll score you 105-110 points per week without sacrificing your cash generation too much.
HB: Let’s talk more about cash generation in 2020 because a lot of coaches have found it very hard.
MF: It’s been more difficult this year I’ve found than other years. That third trade has been really handy to have to generate some extra cash. It gives you access to more cash when you downgrade two players and upgrade one. It’s really important with cash generation, which isn’t there, that you take advantage of reduced price premiums.
Zach Merrett dropped in price heavily and he’s someone who can still pump out a 130. It’s targeting those guys who are hovering around the $480k-$530k who are capable of going big rather than trying to get, for example, Clayton Oliver at the peak of his price. Even if he’s a really good player, I wouldn’t spend $730k on him.
HB: So you’re very conscious of prices?
MF: I try to watch that as best I can and be really aware of how the price is moving, more than anything else. This year is a bit different. It’s the year to find value. In the past I might’ve looked to bring in a $600k-$650k player who’ve been playing well. This year with reduced rounds, you need to pick the premiums at the best price.
HB: Finally, we always love one piece of advice or wisdom for our readers?
MF: One thing I try to follow every year is to follow my gut. It seems really basic and simple but there’s 1001 different opinions on how to formulate your side and build your side. Everyone has their own way to go about it. To reach your preferred side is unique to you. The players you think will do well isn’t the same as others. Back yourself and don’t forget sometimes people may be disingenuous with their recommendations.
HB: Thanks plenty for your time Matt and good luck to FozDaddyFC finishing the season on a high!