Expert Q&A: How 2020 SuperCoach winner Jason Barnett stormed home for glory

*Editor’s Note: This interview took place in March

Ballarat-based 33-year-old financial planner Jason Barnett never expected to win SuperCoach in 2020. In fact, he may have been inside the top 400 by Round 2 but it wasn’t until very late in the season that he entered the top 10.

Jason started the season conservative. As he puts it: “You can’t win SuperCoach in Round 1 but you can definitely lose it. If you go too many PODs and get them wrong, you can’t catch up – season over.”

But the Bombers fan, whose SuperCoach team is called the Croz Bees, employed an aggressive strategy in the second-half of the season, chasing points of differences, which didn’t always come off, to make up ground and eventually he got across the line first.

HB: Tell us how you won in 2020?

Jason: It was incredibly hard to believe what happened even when I was fairly confident I’d won before the final Monday night game. You never actually go into a SuperCoach season thinking first is a possibility but I was lucky enough to have a few things fall my way throughout the year.

HB: How’d you spend your winnings!?

Jason: Unfortunately due to COVID-19 I was unable to get on the first plane overseas and it’s looking like that’s not an option anytime soon so the winnings are sitting tight for a bit.

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HB: How’d your ranking evolve over the season?

Jason: I was ranked around 10,000 after Round 1 but moved that in to 351st after Round 2. From there it was just a consistent grind, hitting the top 100 in Round 8, and only hitting the top 10 with three rounds to go.

HB: Wow that’s a late surge. What were your big moves and why? Any bad ones too?

Jason: With about five rounds to go I brought in Matt Crouch, Jarryd Lyons and Steven May during the same lockout. They were all under 3% owned and genuine PODs for the home stretch. Around the same time I made a horrible call bringing in James Rowbottom. I was pigeon-holed in to picking a forward that week and there were no rookies available and I couldn’t afford a legitimate premium. Safe to say it didn’t work out too great.

HB: Across the season, who was your best player/worst player and why?

Jason: Bringing in Christian Petracca and Rory Laird before they went to super premium status was critical. If you held out you either lost points or had to pay a mint for them. Rowbottom clearly the worst player for the year.

HB: What do you think went right for you? Luck/strategy?

Jason: Obviously plenty of luck – you can’t control who gets a kick or who gets injured (or COVID-19 changing the rules midseason!). But you have to put yourself in a position that luck can take you the rest of the way and I’d navigated that part OK throughout the season.

HB: SuperCoach and AFL Fantasy are games of luck mitigation, so what strategic principles helped you get ahead?

Jason: Honestly there’s no earth-shattering strategy. Just be as aggressive as possible throughout the season keeping the downgrade/upgrade cycle going as early and often as possible.

Each week there’s only a handful of viable options to trade in (unless you go very outlandish), you just need to find the one that suits your short and long-term goals the best.

I wish I had some genius strategy to share, but just don’t be passive. If you wait too long to make a move and the lead pack has more premiums than you each week, you won’t catch up.

If I run out of trades with a month to go and lose 1000s of ranks that’s fine, at least I gave myself every chance to be at the pointy end. If you’re aggressive and own an extra premium earlier than the bulk of the competition that’s potentially 50-60 points a week on average you can grow your lead.

HB: Do you have a philosophy on how many premos, mid-pricers and rookies?

Jason: I let the rookies dictate this. I look to get as many as I can that are playing with decent job security and work backwards from there. Anywhere between 11 and 13 premiums is fine, as long as the rest of the team makes sense.

HB: What’s your general trading strategy?

Jason: Trade as quickly as I can. From Round 4 until maybe Round 15, I’d be surprised if I didn’t use maximum trades (maybe save some during the bye periods if it makes sense at the time). Again, happy to run out and crash and burn. They pay the same prize for 100th or 10,000th.

HB: You mention some late season PODs, so do you target proven players early on?

Jason: Proven players early, happy to grab points of difference during the second half of the season. They are points of difference for a reason (generally not proven or consistent). Happy to take that risk on for half or quarter of a season, but not the full season.

HB: Do you note breakevens?

Jason: Targeting value/breakevens is the core of SuperCoach. You don’t have unlimited resources for the season so do what you can to make them last. Over the past 10 years the majority of SuperCoach players have embraced this more and more, mostly due to the increased content available from media and different websites.

HB: How do you select a VC/C each week?

Jason: Stick with the big dogs as much as possible. If you’re going a point of difference as captain or vice captain, you’re probably giving yourself a smaller chance of a bigger score. If it backfires, you’ve lost points to the majority who played the obvious choice. You can look at opponents and how teams defend different positions if you are tossing up between a few guys that are close, but at the end of the day don’t try to overthink it. Gawn/Grundy/Neale types are going to be the best option more often than not.

HB: Final thought?

Jason: You can take all the advice you want from ‘experts’ but play SuperCoach how you want to play it. Set your own goals, pick your favourite players if it makes you enjoy the game more. At the end of the day everyone plays for their own reason. If you aren’t enjoying SuperCoach you’ll lose interest very quickly.

HB: Many thanks and good luck going back-to-back!

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