The Fantasy King: Match Up Guys

Filed in Uncategorized by on April 18, 2013

By Mick 'The King' Adams

The upcoming representative weekend should send a sobering reminder to any fantasy player that the annual eight week disruption to the fantasy season is not too far away. For those taking part in draft leagues, this year’s bye/Origin period presents an extra challenge, given the smaller pool of reserves from which to restock your squad. Even without the disruption of byes, the draft system requires a bit more thinking. Players will get injured, suffer unexpected dips in form or just be complete draft busts (*cough* MATEO *cough*). With this in mind, there is perhaps much to learn from the NFL model.

In NFL fantasy talk, a common theme is the concept of “match-up guys”. In a game which has an easy demarcation between offense and defence, the pass and the run, you will often hear phrases like “player X is lining up against team Y, ranked 31st in the league against the run” used as an argument to play a running back who is not a week-to-week starter but is in with a good chance to dine out on an inferior run defence. While Rugby League is obviously a different game, taking a match-up based approach could have some benefits.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I try to solve my dilemma in the halves, which is currently crippling my fantasy team. After finally losing patience with Scott Prince (he of course came good the week after I dropped him- but I’m not going to be THAT guy) I picked up Tom Humble, who was coming off a great Supercoach haul in his Panthers debut. Of course I wasn’t expecting him to replicate the feat, but I had to roll the dice. A couple of weeks later though, I’m ready to move on, and so ask the question- which team gives away the most Supercoach points to halves?

As it turns out, Canberra and Penrith are neck and neck. In fact, across the competition in the first five rounds there is a split hair between the two teams. After six rounds, teams playing Canberra have amounted a total of 4748 Supercoach points; teams playing Penrith 4718. Comparatively, the stingiest team in the league through round five, Manly, have given away a staggering 1000 fewer Supercoach points.

In the halves, Canberra in particular have been atrocious. In the first six rounds, out of twelve starting halfback/five-eighths to have taken on the Raiders, only Shaun Johnson last weekend and Mitch Pearce the weekend before have failed to break 50 points. Conversely, Manly, who are top-ranked in this department also, have only let one out of twelve halves break 50, with Aidan Sezer’s 54 ten points better than the second highest individual score posted by a half against Manly. This came from his teammate Albert Kelly.

Keen-eyed readers will note that both of those scores came in Manly’s only loss of the season, while Johnson and Pearce’s Supercoach failures came in teams who lost to the Raiders. This further supports my findings from a few weeks ago regarding the difference winning makes to the stocks of playmakers in fantasy. It also suggests the benefits of taking a systematic approach to making team changes.

Going back to my ongoing dilemma, going into round six, I noticed that Tom Humble was up against the Knights, a team behind only Manly and the Roosters in ranking third for fewest fantasy points given away. In the halves they were even better ranked, behind only Manly. Especially given they were playing in Newcastle, a Knights win seemed very likely and I wanted Humble gone. Looking at available replacements, it was slim pickings. I did however notice Beau Henry, who was starting for the Titans against the Eels. Surely a victory for the Gold Coast I thought. Looking up my spreadsheet, I found that halves playing in winning teams against the Eels averaged 53.84 points a game. Halves playing in losses to the Knights on the other hand averaged 26.84 points a game.

Ultimately, given Henry’s poor job security, I couldn’t pull the trigger on the move, so kept Humble as my starter. He ended up with 35, Henry with 45. In the end I still would have been comfortably beaten in my head to head match-up, but it’s certainly something I’m going to look into when making team changes from now on, especially with players who are essentially lottery picks as a move from Humble to Henry would have been.

That being said, the Panthers are playing the Eels at home next weekend, which surely means I should give Humble another go. I might well rue my decision to punt him, but I just can’t put my faith in the Panthers enough to retain him. They are a god-awful football team. The Eels might not be much chop either, but they have at least shown signs of life in narrow losses to the Titans and Bulldogs as well as a couple of good wins along the way, so they could well get up against Penrith. The search continues…

Anyway, after six rounds, here’s an updated list:

Fantasy Points Conceded by Team

Wests              4770

Brisbane          4764

Canterbury      4762

Canberra          4748

Penrith             4718

New Zealand  4712

St George        4710 (no fantasy score available for debutante Shaun Spence so I gave him the                     Tigers bench average)

Parramatta       4495

Souths             4477

Nth Qld           4442

Cronulla          4412

Gold Coast      4381

Melbourne       4192 (figure affected by Souths only playing three reserves on Saturday night)

Newcastle       4150

Manly              3726

Syd Roosters   3713

There are a few conclusions that can be drawn from the above table:

1. Six rounds is too small a sample pool to draw any conclusions. The fluctuation of the table from week five to week six, with only three of sixteen teams holding on to the same ladder position, suggests it is too early to make any definitive connections.

2. Nonetheless, some teams are clearly showing themselves to be more obliging of fantasy players. With that in mind, think carefully before bringing in any players about to take on the Roosters or the Eagles. Conversely those teams in the 1-5 ladder slot make juicy opponents if you are looking to make a fantasy buck with a mid-season replacement. 


Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    as the previous owner of tim moltzen, i too thought he would offer great positional cover, but i can sympathise with you in advance as to the disappointing numbers he will put up. prince is now back on the market, and he comes up against tigers next game?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, I've certainly got no love at all for Moltzen, but knowing I had the bye week to mull it over I figured I'd just grab somebody until I can make a more informed choice. I think realistically I'll probably be moving between halves for the rest of the season, trying to use that match up mentality to get players who can get me scores in the short term. Where Moltzen ends up playing against the Broncos will probably decide whether I keep him for the Broncos match (who have leaked fantasy points so far this year) or look elsewhere. It's a pretty sorry selection regardless looking at the available halfbacks.