Expert Q&A: 2021 SuperCoach winner Em Challis on five key things that went right

Em Challis, aka SuperCoach Mumma, was a popular winner of the 2021 SuperCoach AFL season on Sunday, finishing 162 points clear with a final round score of 2,491 after hitting top spot late in the year.

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The Geelong barracking mother-of-three has long been a contender so her success comes as no surprise, built around a sound strategy, good network and shrewd decision-making.

Honeyball chatted to Em to tap into her knowledge on how she managed to win the $50,000 in 2021.

HB: Firstly huge congratulations to you! I’ve gotta ask, how will you spend the money?

Em: I really tried not to spend the money before I got it. I started to think about $5k just because I thought by Round 22 I had a chance at that. I really want to take the boys to Queensland, go to the theme parks maybe go to a resort as well. But definitely going to try and save some/most it for the long term. Be a little boring, mortgage school fees etc.

HB: You were first by about 200 points heading into the final round and with a trade up your sleeve. How did it pan out?

Em: At the start of Round 23 I had Tom Stewart on the bench in my defence and Jack Ziebell on my forward line bench. I had saved my last trade and had to decide who to get. I would have loved to get Jake Lloyd but decided not to use the trade so early in the round. Unfortunately, Lloyd got his highest score of the year with a 154.

I could have traded in Rowan Marshall or Jack Crisp but needed to trade Stewart on the Saturday night. I ended up saving my trade until the second last game of the year. I was worried about #4’s team Black On White who I was pretty sure would captain Darcy Parish.

I had the choice between Nick Hind or Jake Stringer and decided to fight fire with fire by picking Stringer. In the end I could have kept Alec Waterman who scored an 82! I was at the supermarket buying washing powder when I realised that I had actually won. I was so tired and overwhelmed that I had a half glass of champagne and went to bed early!

HB: Haha, that’s unbelievable! Well played. So let’s look longer term, can you give us five things that went right for you in 2021 leading to your triumph?

Em: 1. I think my starting side and structure helped me have a good start. Going heavy in premiums in the defence and lighter in my forward line help me find a lot of value.

My starting structure went like this:

  • I started with 4 premium defenders (Rory Laird, Tom Stewart, Jordan Ridley, Jayden Short)
  • 3 uber midfielders (Jackson Macrae, Zach Merrett and Patrick Dangerfield), 2 value mid picks (Sam Walsh and Tim Taranto)
  • 2 premium rucks (Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn)
  • 1 premium forward (Josh Dunkley), 1 value pick (Zak Butters) and 2 cheap bargain picks (Jack Ziebell and Jarman Impey). I got a couple of 50/50 decisions right such as Walsh vs Patrick Cripps and choosing Impey over Paddy Dow.

2. I tried to find value in my picks. I avoided starting Lachie Neale and Jake Lloyd which helped field a strong team. I also tried to identify when players had a role change and get on them quite early. I wanted to watch the player in the new role for a few weeks before I traded them in but managed to get several players at a good price.

I got Dayne Zorko at $485k in R7 who didn’t really have a role change but I needed a forward in my team to replace Dunkley. I thought his scoring potential could improve because he had been giving out too many free kicks and had poor disposal efficiency. I also got on Aaron Hall quite early (thanks @Pistol_DRSC) in R9 for $419k. He missed the first round but it was quite evident that he was a ball magnet in the back. I also have to mention Jack Steele who I got in R11 for $563k who had an excellent second half of the year.

3. Even though I sought value there was times that I paid close to ‘full’ value for players. Sometimes you can overthink selections and it is as simple as getting the best player you can afford. I bought Marcus Bontempelli for $602k in R7 who went on to score 107, 155, 128, 159, 125, 149, 143 and 156. He dropped off at the end but really gave me that boost in the middle of the year. Special mentions also go to Clayton Oliver who I got in R5 for $612k and managed to get his double ton in R10.

4. Saving trades early meant I still had a trade at R23. Definitely the extra two trades helped me with this but I really tried to avoid too many luxury trades early on in the year. I usually run out of trades very early but this year was different. My starting team definitely helped me but I also tried to be more patient with my players and back my choices. In R22 I had to make a choice to trade Stewart who was out for the year, however with Kieren Briggs on my bench I suspected I had cover in R23. I thought Shane Mumford would be rested for sure. I decided not to trade Stewart because I was very worried about players getting rested in the last round and wanted to save it as long as possible. 

5. Ask and take advice. I always have listened to a lot of podcasts, read a lot of articles and been in many chat groups. I love talking and discussing SuperCoach! Over the year I had developed a small group of people who I regularly talked to and who were my sounding board. It is important to ask for advice but also be able to develop your own clinical thinking and decision making. There were many times where someone would have an out of the box idea I hadn’t thought of, that really helped me. It is important to have a community around you to share ideas, tell you an idea is crazy and be there through the highs and the lows.

HB: Brilliant advice. On the flip side, not everything goes right for a winner, does it? Tell us a few fails from your year?

Em: Definitely true. 1. Being scared of anti-PODs. In the second half of the year I chose some players I had avoided and ended up bringing them in because of their high ownership. Probably should have stuck with my gut.

I purposefully avoided Dusty Martin and Josh Kelly at the start of the year. I decided to start Josh Dunkley instead of Dusty in my forward line and was unsure about his form. I traded Dusty in Round 15 mainly because he was highly owned. He was rather average and then got injured!

I also avoided Josh Kelly the start of the year mainly due to injury concerns. I was lucky to avoid his role change and poor scores, however when he started to play more midfield time he started to score really well. I traded in Kelly at R14 which was the weekend he rolled his ankle for the first time. Again I should have hold my nerve with my gut feeling about him. 

2. I still made plenty of rookie mistakes with my rookies! Trading James Jordon in Round 5 for $205k was probably one of my worst mistakes. I needed to trade out Butters and decided to get Oliver and needed the cash to cover the trade. Not only did Jordon peak at $405k in R17, his consistent high scoring for a rookie hurt. While he was a rather reliable 80, I was frantically having to loop less reliable rookies.

This mistake actually probably forced me to upgrade my midline first. I also traded Tom Highmore in R10 thinking that he would be unreliable in the byes, gee whiz his 111 would have been super handy in Round 13.

I also probably missed out on one of the rookies of the year with Lachlan Bramble. His first two scores of 54 and 45 were not inspiring and I had other trades I needed to do. Not owning Bramble hurt even in the last round when Jeremy Sharp and Jai Newcombe were dropped and everyone had cover with Bramble except me. However, I have learnt that you can always turn injuries and mistakes into a positive. Just don’t give up!

HB: Wonderful Em, thanks so much for your time and insights and enjoy the winnings! Well deserved!

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