Expert Q&A: Current SuperCoach leader opens up on what’s worked in 2021

Life-long Collingwood tragic Steven Nikolovski currently sits first on the SuperCoach rankings. The modest 39-year-old Security Advisor plays down his rank but sitting top at Round 11 is no easy feat.

Melbourne-based Nikolovski’s Lovski FC, who notes he has a very supportive wife who allows him to have every footy game on TV each weekend, says “he’s lucky to be top of the SuperCoach mountain”.

But beyond his humility, Honeyball chatted with him, looking to drill into his strategies and philosophies on what’s got him to the top.

HB: Let’s start with an open-ended question. What’s your overall strategy and the underlying principles behind your decision making?

SN: The aim is to always start well and see if you can take out the first weekly prize.  I never really thought I would be playing for overall but when I got to 22nd my strategy changed to; play for overall and the cash leagues will take care of themselves. I have definitely been more aggressive than I have in the past as a result.  I do absorb a lot of information before I make my decisions, like listening to podcasts, trawling through Twitter etc.  

When I got to 8th I joined the Doctor SuperCoach Patreon after religiously listening to their podcasts for years. It’s a great community of like-minded SuperCoach enthusiasts who share their wisdom and opinions. They currently have 7 out of the top 10 players in their patreon which is absurd. Basically, I get all the info and then go with my gut.

HB: This time of the season, the bye period, what’s priority for you when it comes to trades?

SN: My priority this week is to build a little bank to bring in players in off the first bye. I take into account how many players I have in each round, including how many premiums. My Round 13 looks a tad shaky and at this stage will only have 17 or so, therefore I’ll focus on avoiding players from that round. Hopefully I will have 6 trades after the byes are complete.

HB: How’s your bye structure looking? Have you been planning for it?

SN: I think it’s okay. I did plan for them with my starting squad and my trades throughout the year.  I’m not of the opinion they “will take care of themselves”, you should plan as there’s an edge if you’ve planned better than your mates/rivals. I should have 20 players this round so a couple of poor scores will disappear which is nice. As mentioned above my Round 13 bye needs work so I will bring in a couple of Round 12 players after their bye.

HB: The first week of the byes is arguably the toughest all season for trading, any specific thoughts around this round?

SN: Build a bank by bringing in some rookies, even going early on them which I’m normally against.  I went early on Reeves last week which got me to Steele for his 154. I’m hoping Reeves’ shoulder injury is only minor, but this comes back to my new aggressive approach. These are the risks you need to take especially when cash generation can be difficult. The mid-season draft could bring us some nice rookies to bring in too!

HB: More generally, what guides your decision-making with trades each round?

SN: Break evens mostly. I’ve got lucky with bringing in value picks like Dayne Zorko, Aaron Hall and Caleb Daniel at the right time. I do believe most people are too focused on buying and selling at the optimum time. I’ve been happy to go a week earlier than most this year, like Flynn out for Reeves the week just gone.

HB: Without giving too much away, any players you’re targeting or types of player you like to target? For example, proven guns, breakouts, fallen premos, mids first etc.

SN: I still need to bring in two midfielders and two forwards and will be hoping to bring in proven guns. However, the value picks have worked for me this year so I may look at players like Travis Boak etc. Cash generation is the issue.

HB: Likewise any rooks to downgrade to? Or what’s the criteria when you scrutinise rooks, like Bianco, Reeves etc?

SN: Mainly job security through the byes is the criteria. That’s why I avoided Madden, I just didn’t feel like he would play through the byes (I could be wrong of course). I think Reeves is ahead of Ceglar in the pecking order now at Hawthorn so he’s a safe pick, pending the injury concern.  Bianco looked unreal and is a must have, but he has a knee complaint we need to monitor. It’s just when you bring these guys in really, not if.

HB: Looking at your team, firstly what will you do with Grundy!?

SN: Really tough call. If I was playing for league it’s an obvious hold. There really isn’t a more perfect time to lose one of the top players for 2-3 weeks. I don’t know if my new aggressive style will make me trade. Time will tell with that one.

HB: It looks close to complete, how has your season panned out building your side? Have you dodged injury or has it been well calculated?

SN: I’ve been really lucky I think. The only injuries I’ve had, up until Grundy, have been long term and obvious trades. I’ve avoided double downgrades and stuck with one up one down trading which has worked really well in building my side.

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HB: Best starting player this season and why?

SN: Clayton Oliver, just ahead of Jack Macrae. It helps the Dees are going so well but he’s only gone under 114 once and that was the De Boar tag. I wish I had the VC on him for the 200 but I didn’t have a loophole anyway that wasn’t a sub chance. From memory, I don’t think a lot of teams had these two guys from the start. Not starting Neale was a huge win, I thought he was overpriced and I could get him cheaper throughout the year.

HB: Best trade you’ve made this season and why?

SN: When Dangerfield went down, I brought in Sam Walsh via DPP. I’m a bit concerned about the extra attention he is getting and whether he’ll handle it, but he’s been super for me.  Aaron Hall and Dayne Zorko not far behind.

HB: Worst trade this season and why?

SN:  I traded Kosi and Rowe too early but they weren’t bad calls with the players that came in, Poulter and Hall.  The worst is probably Taranto out at round 3.  I just didn’t like his Supercoach to Dream Team differential mainly for his disposal efficiency, but he cleaned that up and has been pretty solid from that point on, until last week.

HB: Final piece of wisdom?

SN: Don’t let other people influence you too much and take ownership of your choices.

HB: Thanks for the chat Steven, good luck staying up top!

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