So you want to win The Bench? It all comes down to one thing: Nailing the draft. Get that right and you’ll sail through the season, stuff it up and you’re headed for the wooden spoon. This guide will run through a solid preparation strategy. We play the standard rules with 3 mids, 3 forwards, 1 ruck & 1 tackler on the field plus an emergency. Our squad size is 20, so I’ll base the article on that, if your rules are different you’ll need to adjust for that.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Show up
- Come prepared
- Pick the best players
And that’s it. Easy right?
Seriously though, whether you have a live draft (ours is held at a pub, there will be 50 of us this year…) or it’s done online you’re at a massive disadvantage if you’re not there. The autopick features for an online draft are pretty cool but nothing makes up for actually being there and being able to react as things change through the daft.
Preparation is everything. Some coaches like to bring a laptop, I just use a printout. Either way the lists of players you bring on the night are going to make or break your whole season. Most of the work actually gets done before the draft starts. Your basic requirements are 4 lists of players (one for each position).
Know your plan and stick to it
You should start with a clear idea of how your squad is going to look at the end of the draft. My basic target squad is to end up with 7 mids, 7 forwards, 3 tacklers & 3 rucks. You can vary that a bit, but you need to have a decent spread to cover injuries and byes. As the draft progresses keep track of how many players you’ve got in each category separately so you end up with the right numbers at the end.
First few rounds – Pick the best player available regardless of position
While some coaches start with a plan to pick a particular player type in particular rounds, I find the best approach is to just pick the best available regardless of position, in the early rounds anyway. In general that means picking player types that other coaches don’t. If you have a late draft pick and there are a lot of rucks taken in round 1, you are probably better off picking a forward, mid or tackler. That approach can and should be followed in the next few rounds as well.
Fill your round 1 line up
By round 8 (or 9) you should pretty much have filled out your round 1 team. We see the odd exception, spare rucks are often popular. Coaches that picked injured players (Tex Walker was a good example last year) early often grabbed a spare forward before filling the squad.
Plan for the byes
This is actually pretty easy, and there is no point in setting yourself up for a loss by having all of your best players out in the same week. As a bare minimum start doing this after you’ve filled the starting line up, but I actually start doing this from round 2. Keep track of which weeks your players have their byes. Ideally you want a spread of players with byes in different weeks, especially across the mid & fwd categories. In order to field a full team through the bye weeks you will need a minimum of 14 players (two rucks, two tacklers, 5 mids & 5 forwards) and that’s assuming you’ve spread them properly so no more than 2 mids/fwds with a bye in any week and the rucks & tacklers on different weeks. If you’ve got players that can play multiple roles (someone like Rocky or Priddis can play mid & tackler) you could get away with one less. After that you’re just filling out the rest of the squad to meet your original squad structure.
When to pick the roughies
Jarryd in round 1 or 2. Jordan probably never. OK seriously, views on when to pick speculative players vary a lot and it’s pretty common to see that secret late draft superstar you wanted get taken a few picks before you could get him. Some coaches start taking speculative players as early as round 9 once the starting line up is filled. I don’t really think about it that way and prefer to just include the speccy players in my regular lists and just keep picking the best available. What that means is if I really want a particular player, I just move them higher in my list. Sometimes a lot higher.
Don’t pick Libba
I’ve had him the past two seasons and he’s been awesome, but not this year. Make sure you cross off any major injures from your player lists. There is nothing worse than realising that first round draft pick has done an ACL and that you’ve got a massive hole to fill. And yes, Libba probably would have gone round 1 if he was fit. There are sure to be a few coaches that pick him still.
Get your player lists right
If you’ve followed everything above, all you need to do is pick the best player off your lists each time. The real secret is getting the players in the right order on those lists. That is worth its own article or probably four articles. Good luck. See you at the draft. AC