Expert Q&A: Indomitable Lachlan Hunter’s proven formula for annual success

Lachlan Hunter has the name of an AFL star but he’s a Maths/Science teacher who is a SuperCoach superstar in his own right, with a miraculous record over the past decade which includes a fifth place finish.

In fact, 28-year-old Essendon supporter Lachlan has finished inside the top 100 in SuperCoach overall rankings five times in the past eight years, including his fifth place in 2013, and has never finished lower than 2500th.

Lachlan’s ‘hunterpunter’ have finished 101st (2012), fifth (2013), 1878th (2014), 920th (2015), 1219th (2016), 767th (2017), 2449th (2018) and 111th (2019).

In 2020, he’s currently ranked 107th in SuperCoach but his record goes beyond that format. He’s also currently 178th overall in AFL Fantasy and third in AFL DreamTeam this year.

He’s also previously finished 23rd in BBL SuperCoach, fifth in Horse Racing SuperCoach and 459th in EPL Fantasy, which he’s most proud of given there’s six million competing.

Lachlan, who plays field hockey and futsal in his spare time, is an avid watcher of all sports, to the point where his girlfriend is now taking after him, sitting 200th overall in SuperCoach for 2020.

So Honeyball couldn’t ignore Lachlan’s feats and decided to catch up for a chat to understand his winning formula.

HB: Gday Lachlan, thanks for agreeing to chat to us, how’s hunterpunter going in 2020?

LH: Starting to move up the rankings. SuperCoach is my favourite form and I’m coming 107th with one upgrade to go and possibly some side swapping of premiums to navigate the byes.

HB: Your record cannot come down to luck. How do you do it?

LH: Always need a bit of luck but I feel that sticking to some of my key principles has allowed me to churn out some consistent results. Maybe it’s luck I need to get to that elusive title!

HB: You’ve never finished worse than 2,500th in SuperCoach so you’ve got a proven formula. Can you explain it?

LH: I think it’s all about wanting to get the best team possible as quickly as possible. I see the mid-pricers as not being able to get there as they’re a bit hit and miss. I try to study and figure out who the top six and eight are in each position and try to get them in my team by Round 12-13. I’ve stuck with that since my early teams as it has worked. That’s my formula.

This year has been a bit different with the shorter season and more trades. I’ve been able to take more risks and they’ve paid off.

HB: How do you lay out your original team?

LH: It all depends on where the rookies are presenting themselves. I like the guns and rookies approach. If there are plenty of rookies in the midfield I would go lighter in the midfield with premiums.

I like to choose a ruck/forward loophole at the start of the year (as long as there isn’t an obvious playing rookie ruck). I don’t like just choosing the cheapest ruck, not like Conroy. I like DPP flexibility throughout – especially with rookies.

I try to avoid picking potential breakout players. They are so hard to pick. This is the reason why I avoided pre-season hype players in Darcy Macpherson, Jordan Dawson, Hunter Clark and Andy Brayshaw. It means I sometimes miss players that breakout that many people have but overall I think I come out on top. I like to prioritise the guns and maybe finding some value in some guys that have done it before and might be coming back from injury.

HB: So once the season is underway, in the early stages how do you trade?

LH: The goal is to get to full premiums as soon as possible to get the points on the board. I normally give myself a couple of correctional trades if required but after the first couple of weeks it’s about prioritising trading out rookies first.

HB: Do you mull over trades all week or just spend an hour or two on it?

LH: In the early days of playing I probably would take more time to decide but these days I probably don’t spend as much time. I tend to watch many of the games, especially this year, so I often have a good idea about what players that I’m likely to target, either rookies or premos, and back my judgement. I do like to have a plan moving forward so often have potential targets a couple of weeks in advance. The three-week price cycle helps with this. As soon as someone has an injury affected game like an early concussion, for example, they are on my radar to bring in 2-3 weeks later.

Current hunterpunter team

HB: Do you wait for rookies to max out, or move them on to generate cash?

LH: I guess it depends. This year I have actually moved them on quite quickly which has worked for some rookies and not for others. With the increased number of trades this year I think we could afford to be more aggressive with trading them out. In saying that, moving Marlion Pickett out early this year was a wrong call that I made. But it is important to recognise that rookies are there to make cash so that you can reach that full premo team so I think you can’t become too attached to them.

HB: Does your trading strategy evolve as the season goes on?

LH: I like to spot trends in the data. For instance, the rucks have been scoring well this year, especially sole rucks, which has led me to picking guys like the Big O (McInerney) in recent weeks and starting with Ceglar, which didn’t up working so well.

HB: Do you target points of difference (PODs) and do you trade proven players or speculate?

LH: I’m probably someone who doesn’t really target the massive PODs. I like to stick to my rules and target the big guns and the value players who are at the bottom of their price cycle due to an injury so that I can finish my team as quickly as I can.

HB: How much cash do you leave on bench/emergencies?

LH: Most of my cash is on field. I don’t really like picking expensive rookies just to sit on the bench or have a big war chest for too long. Cash left on bench equals points lost.

HB: Do you play in a league? How do you balance up league versus overall rankings?

LH: The focus has always been overall. Most of the leagues I am in the focus is on group success in terms of getting the league as a whole as high as possible. In saying that I am in a couple of school-based leagues with teachers and students and that’s always fun to do well in. 

HB: I’m going to test your memory but can you take through how your 2013 season panned out when you came fifth overall?  

LH: I remember having a lot of cash in that year. I’d worked the rookies really well. I had quite a few of the premiums. I did come home really late with a really, really strong team. I recall I had Will Minson as my pick of the year which is ironic, as he’s definitely not a player I’d select in my team these days. I was naïve a few seasons into SuperCoach. He averaged 114 in that year. That’s 20 points better than any other year he had. I had him in that year which was a huge point of difference which rocketed me up the leader board.

HB: What was the logic behind him?

LH: With all my decisions it’s looking at the trends in the data and the patterns with scoring for players. Rucks this year are scoring really well. I think it would’ve been something along those lines in 2013 with rucks scoring well and Minson having a prolific role in the Bulldogs team with lots of stoppages.

HB: A bit fresher in the memory is 2019 when you finished just outside the top 100. Tell us about that year?

LH: Like every year I came home really late. It’s the way I set up my teams with the guns and rookies approach. I think those with mid-pricers have early success but they fall off as they haven’t had enough cash generation throughout the year.

I came 111th in the end which was my best overall rank for the year. In the last few rounds I was going up 20-30 spots every week.

Current DreamTeam rank

HB: Which players catapulted you up in 2019?

LH: I had all the big guns like Clayton Oliver who was doing really well late in the season. Bontempelli was scoring big at the end. Even Travis Boak was really good in the forward line and he was an early pickup for me. The big one was getting Bachar Houli with Richmond having 7-8 matches in a row at the MCG where he scores really well. Having him in the back-end of the season was really good to catapult me up near the end. I got him cheaper midway through the year. He often has an injury that brings his price down. I like to pick up players who have had an injury as it means their price has gone down and you can pick them up at their lowest point. Houli has done it before rather than picking up breakout players who you’re hoping will do well.

HB: So this year is a shorter season so it’s hard to generate cash plus with rookies getting rotated out would you advocate for stepping stones?

LH: In general I don’t do it. I did make a move three weeks ago when Max Gawn had a massive breakeven and I was evaluating my team and I realised I wasn’t going to generate enough cash with rookies such as Ling and Rivers who were sitting on my bench. I thought I’d get Gawn out of the team, even though I’d just brought him in, bringing in Oscar McInerney, Jy Simpkin and Tom Stewart all in the same week to try get some more cash in the team. I saw a role for McInerney as a ruck-forward playing sole ruck in the Brisbane team with Archie Smith and Stef Martin out of the team for six weeks or so. I saw him going up $150-200k in a month or five weeks which could narrow the gap to Max Gawn who had a massive breakeven. It was a different way to generate cash needed to complete my team. Obviously that’s turned out to be really good with Gawn missing a few weeks and still having a massive breakeven and Oscar is narrowing that gap.

HB: That’s a great move in hindsight. Oscar is a point of difference (POD) with a bit of ownership now but he’s still rare while Gawn’s obviously been out. Any other PODs?

LH: Getting on Ridley early on was a good move. He’s not normally the type of player I’d pick but early on I realised we needed to do things a little bit differently in 2020. We’d seen some consistent form in preseason with Ridley and his first few weeks his lowest score was a 90. I bit the bullet and brought him in to the team. Before last week he’d not gone lower than 90 which has been a really good pickup.

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HB: Just to interrupt he was a player with pre-season hype? So did you need a few boxes ticked early in the season to go with him?

LH: I did need to tick a few boxes. As an Essendon supporter, it’s a bit of a reverse bias. I often don’t pick Essendon players as I might overrate them a bit. I did want to see him but now he’s one of my favourite players as an Essendon supporter as I see his value as third man for marks and spoils. Essendon look for him a lot to move the ball out of the back 50. He’s an important and sustainable player.

HB: Any other PODs?

LH: It’s not really a POD but not many people went with Jake Lloyd early this year because he was so expensive. I love having the top guy in every position in my team. I think it holds you in good stead. I didn’t start with him but I brought him in just before he hit a good run of form 7-8 weeks ago. He’s been awesome in that time.

My girlfriend is also into SuperCoach and is doing really well as well, in fact she’s up to 200th exactly. She hadn’t got Jake Lloyd and she hated every time their opposition would kick a behind and he’d take a kick-in. She finally brought him in last week and at the end of the game we see a photo with him with ice on his ankle!

HB: Final piece of wisdom?

LH: Just have fun with it. It is a game after all. I love it because it makes a match that I would otherwise find irrelevant quite enjoyable cheering on a Jake Lloyd kick-in or Big O contested mark.

HB: Thanks so much for your time and good luck chasing that elusive title!

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