The Fantasy King: Year in Review Part 1

Filed in Uncategorized by on August 16, 2013

By Mick 'the King' Adams

Fantasy finals begin this weekend, and for many thousands of fantasy coaches this means some last minute tinkering and agonising over who to put in and who to leave out. This number does not include myself however, with PriddleUpTheMiddle finishing embarrassingly close to the bottom of Making The Nut’s Supercoach league and beginning Mad Monday in earnest. However, rather than put on my best French Maid’s outfit and do a runner from a taxi to the Coogee Bay for a drunken afternoon of public urination and casual misogyny, I’ve decided to do the responsible thing and look back at the year that was. If for nothing else, I need to have a long hard think about what went wrong. So stretch it out boys, for PriddleUpTheMiddle season 2014 has begun. I do remain severely tempted to drink away the pain of drafting Feleti Mateo with the second overall pick though.

Over the next four weeks I’ll be looking at those who rose, those who fell, and how next year shapes up. Before all that however, I’m going to consider the ramifications of the much-vaunted pointscoring changes in the Supercoach competition, which we were assured would address the marked imbalance between forwards and backs in the fantasy hierarchy. Along with the addition of the long-overdue draft system, the increased weight placed on attacking stats was a welcome and necessary amendment to the Supercoach platform, and meant that players not only had to deal with a draft for the first time, but essentially draft blind, with the stats and points scored in the previous season no longer holding water.

 So how much of a change did the amendments bring? The short answer is not too much. In 2012, the top 100 pointscorers at the end of year was split 67/33 in favour of forwards; through round 22 of this season we are at 62/38. It’s a slight correction, but not one that couldn’t fathomably revert back next season.

At the top end the change is a little more pronounced, with seven of the top 20 players so far in 2013 coming from the backline. That’s a sharp increase from the three who made the cut in 2012. A staggering four backs are in the top ten (all playmakers- Maloney, Reynolds, Thurston and Sutton), an amazing stat when you consider that Ben Barba was the highest ranked non-forward of 2012 at 14th.

Interestingly, none of the three backs who made the top twenty last year have repeated the feat in 2013. The aforementioned Barba has not played a great deal of footy this year (he has “played” in fifteen but was a passenger in many of them), and has been by any standards a bust given his high draft ranking. He improved as the year went on, posting his first fantasy century of the year a few weeks ago before being felled by injury, but for the most part his general disinterest has had a massive effect on his fantasy value. With Gold Coast and Brisbane seemingly his only possible destinations next year, I’ll be following the Barba situation with interest. Though Brisbane look to be favourites, I wouldn’t be too excited about Barba as a fantasy option if he ends up there. It’s an okay team but not too much more. That Titans team on the other hand would be instant premiership contenders with a rejuvenated Barba at the back and I would expect to see a return to his terrific fantasy form of 2012.

The other fantasy backline stars of 2012 who have not hit the same heights this season are Benji Marshall and Cooper Cronk. The former’s troubles have been well documented here and elsewhere, while Cronk’s fall (from 19th to 59th overall) is a little misleading given that he played in all but one of the Storm’s regular season matches in 2012 but has already missed three games in 2013. His average has dipped from 59 to 57, which doesn’t really suggest a slide. He may be the best halfback in the competition right now, but he is no more than a second-tier option in fantasy. It does point to the fact that draft players should not rush to pick up their halves too early in next year’s draft, with Cronk being one of eleven halfbacks with an average exceeding 55.

One of those eleven is not surprisingly Adam Reynolds. After a promising but ultimately middling rookie fantasy season (he was my fantasy rookie of the year but essentially by default, with nobody really standing out from the pack) Reynolds has become a genuine fantasy star in 2013. It is hard to quantify the influence of the pointscoring changes in this however. Certainly by any measure Reynolds has improved from his debut season, as have his once-high flying Rabbitohs, who really need to right the ship in tonight’s huge match against the Sea Eagles. This leads to the reasonable conclusion that his fantasy stocks would have improved scoring changes or no.

The influence of the forced dropout stat has been pronounced however, and Reynolds, who has a wonderful kicking game, has benefited greatly. He has 20 forced dropouts for the year, which is an average of one a game. That means a six point increase on his week to week average, which in 2012 would have seen him comfortably break the top fifty (he finished 64th). Competition-wide, he trails only Thurston, who has an astounding 29 for the season. Daylight is third, with Todd Carney at 15 the only competition for Reynolds and Thurston.

Reynolds should go from strength to strength in 2014 and beyond- he certainly has all the talent in the world. The Rabbitohs’ form over the past month as they have coped without Inglis and Sutton is very troubling however, and suggests that Reynolds won’t necessarily hit the same heights in fantasy. Through round 17’s victory against the Warriors, Reynolds had 21 try assists in sixteen matches. He has had only one in the four matches since- a drop from 1.31 a game to 0.25. Every other attacking statistic calculable in fantasy has been similarly affected since Sutton and Inglis went down. It all points to what I have been saying all year- with few exceptions (Thurston being the most obvious), you really need your fantasy halves to be playing in winning teams.

From 1-13 there are few better teams on paper than the Bunnies. Go beyond that however and you have a worryingly thin squad. Inglis, the Burgess brothers and Nathan Merritt have all shown signs of brittleness in the past, while Mick Crocker and Roy Asotasi (the latter is off to Warrington in 2014; the former surely won’t be at Redfern next year either) have missed more games than they’ve played in recent years (since joining Souths in 2009 Crocker has played in less than sixty percent of their matches). With no signings for 2014 announced yet and a few young players departing (along with Nathan Peats, who I think will be a great fantasy pick-up at Parramatta next season), Souths fans, and those with Reynolds in their fantasy squads, should be praying for an injury free season. If they get it, I don’t know where the ceiling is for either.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a bit off track there. The basic fact of the matter is that the pointscoring changes may not have been as pronounced as they might have been, but have made a clear difference, especially in the halves. With a number of solid options for next year however, I doubt I’ll be drafting anyone in the backline with my first couple of picks. 


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