Expert Q&A: Tales of glory & near-victory from last year’s winners & top 10 finishers

In the shadow of glory, there’s always tales behind the success. In our Honeyball Magazine earlier this year we spoke to the 2020 AFL Fantasy and SuperCoach winners and those who’d sat top of the rankings too.

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With the final stretch of rounds coming up, we thought we’d look back over their tales of victory and near-victory, looking at what went right and wrong, with the benefit of hindsight.

The exercise may offer a learning curve and assist your 2021 plans.

2020 SuperCoach Winner

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.

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 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: So even the winner can make a bad move! 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: How’d you manage your trades?

Jason: 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 extend your lead by.

2020 AFL Fantasy Winner

Sydney-based 48-year-old Christian pastor Trent Sutcliffe plays plenty of Fantasy sports but he achieved the AFL Fantasy holy grail of taking out the top prize in 2020, despite trading in Mark Blicavs for a final round score of 37.

HB: Tell us about the win?

Trent: It was an amazing ride. I was close to the lead early which meant I focused exclusively on AFL Fantasy. I was in the top three for the last 10 weeks or so and hit the front five weeks out. I didn’t get that stressed until the last round. My worst trade was easily Mark Blicavs in the final round. That was a stressful game because I initially had Daniel Rich in my side all week, but when it rained so I second-guessed myself and took him out and he got 100. Blicavs was on 3 or 5 at half-time and I was chucking the toys out of the cot. With him playing ruck, I thought he’d go well but he got smashed. I needed Lachie Hunter to hold his ground against Josh Dunkley and he did more than that. I needed Taylor Adams to beat Adam Treloar and it worked out. It got stressful watching Blicavs play.

HB: Best and worst moves?

Trent: I had three moves which my season hung on. The first was when Max Gawn was injured. I’d just got into the top 10 and thought it was make or break. It’s when the rookies all over the ground were starting to get to the end of their price rises. Marlion Pickett was at M8, so I thought Oscar McInerney will score more than Pickett. I decided to downgrade Gawn to McInerney and use the cash to upgrade Pickett to Taylor Adams and a rookie upgrade in defence to Jackson Thurlow.  I felt Gawn couldn’t play successfully with that shoulder so he’d drop a stack of value, so I felt it was time to trade him now or never. Those trades made the most difference and taught me the importance of trading for value across lines.

The second key trade was looping Lachlan Sholl and Damon Greaves the last three weeks in defence. The rolling lockout enabled this. They scored almost premium prices from the bench. That cash freed up the money for the last important trade which was from Stephen Coniglio to Tom Rockliff who I captained when he went amazing in the second last round.

HB: Food for thought for a few weighing up what to do with Whitfield this week!

2020 SuperCoach top 10 finisher

Passionate Melbourne Demons fan Isaac Wengier’s side WHALEOILBEEFHOOKED sat top of the 2020 SuperCoach rankings for six rounds last year but eventually slipped to finish ninth overall in a roller-coaster finish.

HB: Take us through the year?

Isaac: I was top until Round 13. Then I went second to fifth, back to second, then dropped to 11th. Round 17 was where I really stuffed up with 2098. I had some really average rounds too. I thought I wasn’t even going to make top 10 but I had a strong finish.

Round 3 I was sitting pretty but I got really affected by that postponed Essendon-Melbourne game. To finish ninth and even be first, I was really shocked and shows not everything needs to go your way. It was best 18 but I had Gawn, Devon Smith, Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca. There were six in total. I did well to bounce back.

HB: Big moves for year?

Isaac: Having Jayden Short from the beginning was my ultimate POD. He went from start to finish, which wasn’t why I picked him. He was under-priced and broke out, with Bachar Houli missing some footy. Petracca was in my side from the start. He was the perfect breakout example so I had a few good ones who lasted.

HB: You were leading until late, so what went wrong?

Isaac: The thing that cooked me was bringing Viney back in after he got injured. If I didn’t think with my Dees glasses on and my loyalty, I probably would’ve finished higher.

HB: When you were top, how’d that affect your trading?

Isaac: I brought in Hugh McCluggage who was low ownership when I was flying. When I was top, I was being safe. When I started dropping is when I got creative. I didn’t know how to play that. It didn’t work for me. I’d never led it before. Safe is better when you’re on top. You want the people around you to think, ‘he’s got him so I need to get someone who might score better’ and might score poor. There’s a lot of luck.

2020 AFL Fantasy top 10 finisher

Melbourne-based Brisbane Lions fan Nick Millar sat top of the AFL Fantasy rankings for several rounds in 2020 before eventually finishing up fifth, earning him the vaunted hat, leading to the Tour de Hat.

HB: Tell us about your 2020?

Nick: What a year. People say 2020 was rubbish. For a lot of reasons it was but for AFL Fantasy it was great. So many innovations, rolling lockout, bye averages, three trades a week, and no waiting… COVID-19 hit, and I lost interest for a while. I threw the rule book out, made a few moves I probably wouldn’t have otherwise and rolled the dice. Suddenly I was 103rd and sniffing that beautiful hat stench. From there it was a wild ride, culminating in me taking seven billion selfies in the hat that dreams are made of (Tour de Hat continues for those playing along at home).

HB: You were first for a bit?

Nick: Correct! For a while I was the king of Fantasy land. Pigs in mud were jealous of my happiness. As far as higher rank goes missing Bont and not grabbing Rockliff early enough killed that off I suspect. I botched a couple of captain choices, which is very underrated and why Calvin is easily the most important Trader. I threw in a few Hail Marys late (such as dropping Titch and bringing in Tim Kelly) but old mates such as Tredda and Trent had got a little too far ahead.

I’d left my last round captain to the last match of the season and was sitting in the mid-teens, sweating on Rocky to climb back up. Fortunately he pigged. The drama wasn’t to stop there. At sixth I was dreaming of my next MS Paint when the post-game stat changes came through and I moved into the top five. An unexpected but not undeserved bonus. Thanks @FantasyGods!

HB: What were your big moves and why? Any bad ones too?

Nick: Trading players out at the right time was key to my rise, but also not being afraid to pull them back in later if they picked up.  I cut and replaced Lloyd, Whitfield and Titch, and then I dropped Titch again. I picked up Rocky towards the end although not early enough, got ROB at the right time, got Neale early. I had Parker as a POD for a good chunk of the season and held Gaff despite worst intentions. I also carried around spuds like Cahill and Butler most of the year and would like to thank them for nothing!

My biggest regret though was about 4-5 weeks before the end I had a choice between Fyfe and Bont, I jumped on Fyfe thinking he’d get forward status and Bont would get tagged. Wrong!

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

Nick: Lots of things, I wasn’t afraid to trade out premiums, and trade them back in. People also say don’t sideways trade premiums. You can always sideways trade premiums. It’s a great strategy.

I had the bare bones at the outset, I made the right trades early, and moved cash indiscriminately. I got to the top end and then played relatively defensively, while others crashed out playing aggressive catchup. I had a relatively modest injury run.

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