Nailing your draft


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:

  1. Show up
  2. Come prepared
  3. 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


The rolling lockout and the loophole

lockoutOne of the best features on The Bench is the rolling lockout, and since AFL round 1 runs over 5 days, it’s probably going to be in use in your league at least for this weekend.  It’s also a great chance to have a free hit using the emergency loophole.

Ben has done a great job of restricting the use of the emergency loophole and the rules are pretty strict (link here) but with some careful planning you can still take advantage of it.  Here are the rules as they are written:

Positions changed after the initial round closure in anyway (ie. changes via the rolling lockout) will not be eligible for bench rotation. Even if a position is changed and then returned to the original starting line-up, the system will still record it as a change. This rule prevents a coach placing an injured player on the field to force a player off the bench (eg. the bench player had 11 tackles so I change my tackler to an injured player, forcing the bench player with 11 tackles to come into play).

The basic idea is that you have a player on the bench that plays early in the round.  If he gets a good score, then leave a player that isn’t playing in the lineup.  If he doesn’t, then use the rolling lockout to replace the non-player with your next best player.  The rules are pretty tight so it’s not as simple as it sounds.  The trick is that you must have an injured player (or two) in your starting lineup BEFORE THE START OF THE ROUND.

If that sounds overly complicated here’s a real example of what I plan on doing.  I like to use tacklers for the loophole but any position will do. We had our draft on Friday night, and my two best tacklers are McGlynn and Ward.  I’ve also got Aaron Black, who I suspect won’t get a game in round 1.  The Swans play on Saturday and the Giants and Kangaroos both play on Sunday. So the plan is to have McGlynn on the bench and Black named as tackler.  If McGlynn has a good game then I leave it all as it is and McGlynn will automatically replace Black as tacker at the end of the round. If McGlynn has a poor game then I’ll just use the rolling lockout to replace Black with Ward.

There are two really important points here. Firstly, I have a non-player (Black) and the potential replacement (Ward) playing after the man on the bench (McGlynn). And secondly, Black will be named as the tackler before the start of the round and won’t be touched unless McGlynn has a poor game.

Now this is all dependent on Black not actually getting a game which is far from certain. If Black plays then I won’t be using the loophole this week at all.  By the time the next extended round comes up I’ll probably have a couple of injured players on the list to use.

In our league we’ve had issues in the past where coaches have tried to use this but added an injured player to the lineup during the round and then according to Rules the player does not get replaced by the bench and they’ve finished the round a man down.  So if you’re going to try this make sure you start the round with a non-player in there from the beginning. Good luck!

One more thing to be aware of.  The loop-hole rule is on by default but it can be disabled by your Competition Manager so make sure you check that start of this rule in your competition.