I know what some of you are thinking – why would my bench selections be important when they don’t contribute to my score each week?! This attitude will only come back to bite you as the season wears on, particularly when you are navigating those all important bye rounds. As it stands, six teams will take a break in rounds 12, 13 and 14 respectively – this is assuming no Covid chaos forces fixture re-shuffles! More on bye round strategy and planning in a later article.
Why are your bench selections important?
Cash Generation – Picking solid rookies (both on-field and bench) and under-priced gems at the start of the season will lay the foundation for any squad and becomes particularly important when you are looking to make upgrades. By picking players whose stocks have risen, you inevitably won’t need to cough up as much cash when looking to upgrade to a proven performer or under-priced premium. You will also make more cash when looking to downgrade.
In addition, by taking the time to select a bench of decent rookies, you will save yourself some headaches towards the back end of the season. There will be patches within the season where we won’t be blessed with rookies capable of holding a spot on field (i.e., contributing to your score). In these scenarios, you want cash generation from your bench so you can make some easy cash when downgrading them. This will allow you to move on your fattened cash cows and underperforming mid-pricers with greater freedom over who you can trade in, all whilst ensuring you are not left with a spud or ten on your field.
Emergency Cover – Seasoned fantasy coaches have all been there… you’re ready to sit down and watch your lads tear it up when breaking news comes through that one of your squad members is a late out! Generally this is through injury or a niggle coming into the game or just terrible luck in the warm up.
Additionally, as we have come to expect, all professional sporting codes have been heavily affected by Covid-related protocols in one way or another. The AFL is in the same boat. Rewind to round 18 last season, where 15 Sydney and GWS players and officials were ordered into quarantine after attending an international rugby game between the Wallabies and France. This included fantasy gun and member of John’s Juggernauts Callum Mills… Fair to say I wasn’t thrilled but luckily I had a very serviceable 76 from West Coast debutant Connor West. Boy oh boy was I grateful for his services that week! That’s 76 points I wouldn’t have netted if I had no emergency cover. All this Covid-related chaos happened within an hour of the first bounce! Dare I say it, I think 2021 isn’t the last time a game will be affected by Covid-related protocols… strengthening the justification of paying attention to your bench selections.
We’ve already seen the AFLW affected this season, with teams struggling to field a full side and games being cancelled and rescheduled.
Navigating the Dreaded Byes – This goes without saying, but you will likely be without 8-15 players across each of the three bye rounds depending on the makeup of your squad. If you’ve already got 8-10 blokes riding the pine doing sweet F.A, the writing is on the wall for three weeks of pain and donuts all round… Even if it’s only your best 18 that go towards your score for the week. More on bye round planning and strategy in a later article.
In my experience, a lot of leagues between your mates will have no match-ups in the bye rounds, however, it is a good opportunity to make your move up the rankings! My general rule of thumb is to come out of the byes with a better squad than what you started with. Avoid the temptation to side-ways trade your proven premiums on the basis that they are not playing for just one week.
It’s not rocket science, paying attention to your bench selections will set you up well for a successful fantasy season. When picking rookie priced players to start on your bench, it is important to stay up to date with pre-season news, particularly as we transition into the practice matches to be played over the coming weeks. Stay on top of all the ins and outs for each week – for context, in a regular round (Friday night start) teams will drop on Thursday evening about 6:30pm. Be aware that the first five rounds have Wednesday/Thursday night starts. The site/app will also indicate who is playing each week with a green tick next to a player selected for the upcoming round. Also, the byes were mentioned regularly throughout this article, however, I wouldn’t overthink it in the first 5 rounds. Don’t let an unfavourable bye round deter you from picking a player you are keen on! You have 22 trades to make before that first bye round (12) rolls around – don’t panic!
Cheers and happy bench selecting,
Fantasy Fanatic #70