The Wisdom of Crowds

On Picking your Dream Team and the Wisdom of Crowds

I have already changed, re-changed, deleted players, made parallel but slightly different teams, made teams with different bye structures, different guns and rooks ratios, and all manner of other things already this pre-season.

As I am not privy to any insider information (insert Heath Shaw jibe), these moves and counter-moves have been based entirely on the advice, comments, and forum posts of people I have never met. I have no idea whether or not their information is credible or not, no idea whether they are trolling or not and so on.. This got me thinking about the crowd dynamics of pre-season Dream Team selection, and Dream Team itself as a giant exercise in the “wisdom of the crowd”.

To anyone that didn’t watch “The Code” the other week, the principle of the wisdom of the crowd posits that reliable answers can be produced to even complex questions by averaging the guesses (educated or not, serious or not) of a crowd of people. The larger the crowd, the more the average tends towards the correct answer. The best way to get reliable approximate answers is to ask the group every time – the many are smarter than the few. How many jelly beans in this jar? Ask even a medium-sized group of people and you will get a surprisingly accurate answer. What is the answer to a certain question on “Who wants to be a millionaire?” Turn to an expert, and he’ll tell you the right answer 65% of the time. Turn to the audience, the crowd, and they are correct 91% of the time.

So you could hypothesise that in order to be successful at Dream Team, to generate a “correct” answer, all you really need to do is follow the crowd. Judging by how many teams are the same or very similar come Round 1, this is what a lot of people do, consciously or not. Interestingly, all the good and shit advice, helpful and strategic comments, informed and misinformed articles, even out (just like joke guesses in the jelly bean experiment), and most people have pretty much the same team. But, this is where Dream Team and crowds get a bit more interesting…

The key thing to note here is that in picking your Dream Team to win the competition (or even your league), you don’t just need to pick the “right” answers when everyone else picks the right answers (lets just say that it’s 91% of the time for arguments sake), you need to pick the right answers in those cases where the crowd is wrong. In other words, you need to gamble, go against the crowd and win. Not too much obviously, because 91% of the time the crowd will be right, and you will suffer because of this (the number is probably a lot lower in the context of Dream Team, but you get the drift).

Individuals can and do outperform the group choice, but not the same individuals every time. Your outperforming the group is not necessarily essentially related to some special attribute you possess (better information, more rational internal deliberation etc). So again, the best way to get a reliable approximate answer is to ask the group every time. But you won’t win doing this.

The somewhat unique thing about Dream Team is that, from a crowd-choice perspective, unlike the answers in game shows or the number of jelly beans in a jar, there are no real right answers, only answers relative to the crowd – because you are competing against the crowd and your success is gauged relatively in relation to them, you are not in pursuit of an objective answer. There is one out there in the future (a player that will have the highest average etc) but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have him, as long as no one else, or the majority of other people, has him – because it is your points relative to other people’s points that matters, because you are competing against them, not against the maximum possible (hypothetical) score.

Having been reasonably successful in my rookie year of DT last year (top 2% – OK, not that successful, before you all you pros start cawing) having absolutely no DT knowledge whatsoever, past the “cheat sheet” produced by DT Talk, this is reinforced by my personal experience. I picked Suckling on a whim after the Grimes injury and a few other things I vaguely remember (Heppell and Hibberd from the start which turned out to be genius, Lower because I grew up in Norwood and he was mature-age, Puopolo for the same reason), so I felt like I was making my own decisions. But these decisions were already very much filtered through the knowledge of the crowd. In the above cases, I benefitted from the wisdom of the crowd (although not relatively, because most other people did too). But, I also suffered from the crowd wisdomFoley was average, Morton was shit, Everitt was shit, Sylvia burnt me from memory.

So, if you want to finish high in the ranking, go with the crowd every time. Literally, go to your Assistant Coach and build an entire team based on the percentage ownership statistics (under the cap of course). Byes might make this tricky, but that’s probably another argument.

The moral, however, of this pseudo-scientific story is that you will find safety in the crowd, but never GLORY! So grow some balls and go unique. That’s what I’ll plan on doing – until 5 minutes before lockout, when I will pick Goddard even though I think he will have a shit year – because the majority of people have him anyway and so act as relative insurance for my potential loss.

The “unique” approach is of course tempered by the fact that you statistically will not outperform the crowd consistently, so of course there is a hell of a lot of luck involved – which is why, at the end of the year when they interview the winner of Dream Team, the crowd will collectively sigh “That guy??… Really?? Are you serious??”

It will be interesting to see how many teams are the same this year – rookies and a few mid-pricers seem more open in 2012, and there are certain bandwagons that you just won’t be able to afford not to jump on (like Curnow last year for instance). And you can jump on safe in the knowledge that everyone else is jumping on to. If it fails, everyone fails – no relative personal loss incurred.

It would be worth exploring how people knowing the percentage ownership (through the Assistant Coach) affects the crowd-choice dynamic, especially in pre-season, and maybe one of you stats geniuses out there can tell me how that might work. Further to that it would also be interesting to see what happens if everyone takes my advice and picks a “most selected by percentage owned” 30. Likely, everyone’s choices will converge, giving everyone pretty much the same team, and the one fool that chooses their favourite player, against all DT reason, scoops the pot! So, Kurt Tippet fans, your time is now!

Submitted by Supermufacho.


  • Good article

  • You are in danger of following Socrates my friend and drink hemlock following your conviction by the masses. Love a philosophic D’ter.

  • In the same boat with goddard thinking of downgrading him to go a bit unique in the backline but mite kill myself if it backfires n he tears it up in season proper

    • I’ve done the same. Goddard has been an absolute gun but I’m struggling to justify the price atm. New coach brings up a range of possibilities and one is that the NAB scores aren’t just temporary… Will certainly be keeping an eye on him, though!!

  • Interesting article, so I follow the crowd 91% of the time and I should be right…makes sense…a 1 in 10 dumbass ratio :)

    ‘The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the cowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been’ -Albert Einstein

  • Great article @Supermufacho! Really made me stop to think, and I have often thought these exact thoughts – kudos to you for putting it down on paper!

    • The winning team will most probably be the DT equivalent of Homer Simpson’s art… normal to start with, and then shaped and formed in an unique / eccentric way.

  • Nice spin on the crowd mentality and provides wonderful evidence on the success of this site.

    I certainly know from the research that I have done and shared via my articles that this influences the masses either positively or negatively (Sloane anyone?)

    I think the converse is that some people are so desperate to be unique and not follow the crowd, that logic goes out the window and they pick a player to spite the masses ( putting my hand up on that one )

    Once again, great article and nice to have some good variety :)

    • Two people I know… Tackling Tit-Ed and m0nty (of Fan Footy fame) didn’t pick Luke Hodge in 2009 when he was a universal lock as a DEF/MID. He was priced at 83 and then averaged 103 from 21 games. That was trying to be unique and go against the crowd. OUCH!

      • Being unique for the sake of being unique is never a good idea. I’m surprised how often you see it though. “I’m looking for a player that no one else has, how about as a smokey”. Some players are unique for a reason.

    • Sloane = lock

  • “What should worry us is not the number of people who oppose us, but how good their reasons are for doing so. We should therefore devote our attention away from the presence of unpopularity to the explanations for it. It may be frightening to hear that a high proportion of the community holds us to be wrong, but before abandoning our position, we should consider the method by which their conclusions have been reached. It is the soundness of their method of thinking that should determine the weight we give to their disapproval.” — Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy

  • Great work SuperM.

    Love the thinking – love the thought it provokes.

    • Same! Made me think a lot.

      This is fantastic user generated content! Like everything else we post from the champions out there who love to get involved. This is a ripper though. I bet a lot of the ADD guys out there who just see so many words won’t give two shits about this article. This is for them!!

  • Good article. Glad you mentioned Goddard as I have just started questioning his value, but I am too big a coward to drop him for Birchall.

  • Dunno if I agree with thought of going unique to increase your chances. I think you can go a cookie cutter type team but then burn other teams off with smart trading during the season.

    The relatively inexperienced players will start with a similar team to you (prob 91% the same) ; but the experienced players know how to trade well and that’s what elevates them to the elite.

    • Agreed but the crowd principle still applies to an extent. How many times during the season do you see something like; “dear everybody on DTTalk, should I trade dumb for dumb or dumber for dumber?? Need help pls”. Cue everybody going “get on this rookie” or whatever and the decision is made.

      But you are definitely right to a large extent about experienced players and trading. The difference being that experienced players make their own decisions about that stuff. So my argument about information and research not making a difference falls down a bit at that point.

      • Such a large combination of everything… Impromptu went without Goddard – paid off. His trading was great. But his team wasn’t flawless… so much luck involved (as we all know).

        • Dreamteam is much like trading the share market. If you look at the successful fund managers they all have the same major stocks in roughly their share capital percentages of the ASX 200, otherwise you are betting against the crowd and will lose. Where the good fund managers win is their unique picks and trying to move in and out ahead of the crowd. Does this sound familiar? Yes there is luck. External shocks etc(equate to injury). I made the mistake of not having Scotland and Dids, that cost me the overall win last year.
          Research the unique picks, that’s where the difference lies.

          • I love the stock market analogy. Dreamteam is a trading game where the objective is to maximize your profit (ie DT points) subject to the constraint of a salary cap. To extend your comment, the best dream teamers will trade in and out players more effectively than the other players, coming out ahead at the end of the year.

          • umbermberka did you come 14th last year?

          • I do like this analogy, however inside information trumps all.

        • Good lord Warnie, I just googled Impromptu. There’s DT gold in the supercoach discussions! (structure, trading, strategy) Impromptu’s trading to win articles are a revelation

      • Agreed. The smart players will make their own decisions on a trade, whether or not it goes with popular opinion. It’s gaining a clever insight from one or two people and using that information rather than going with the popular consensus that can make a huge difference.

        And a bit of gut instinct and luck always helps along the way!

        • To me one thing comes above all else once you have a strong round one base. Pure luck.
          Last season i made it to number 1 early, next week dropped to third for two consecutive weeks then lady luck left me. Next three weeks lost a premo mid each week on single digits, one was my captain. Dropped back to 150 ish couldn’t claw my way back after that. It was nothing but pure bad luck. FMDT

  • Thanks for the positive comments guys, but you all missed the point of the article. The point of the article is that you should all lock in Mitch Morton as a POD ;)

  • Good article mate. Not too many words, unlike the rucks one. Woah, that was almost a bloody thesis! (That article was tops too!). Love these point-of difference type write up’s that get you thinking outside the square a little.

  • Good work SuperM. Defirrent from the norm. I have to agree with shane, the main diff is the trading. my 1st year I traded too much early and got burnt. Who/ If to trade and put the “C” on each week and a bit of luck will seperate the top elite

  • Fantastic article. the bar keeps getting raised.
    I liken dreamteam to poker at the highest level. most of the top players are of similar ability with luck ultimately plating a big part. getting a flush on the river to survive is like having aplayer get injured in the last five minute instead of the first five minutes

  • Great article.

    Based on the 91% – the one in ten thing. Maybe we should have a cookie cutter team but have 3 PODs. I.e. If you start with a Guns & Rookies strategy with 15 guns & 15 rookies. That means you should try and pick a combination of 3 unique Guns/Rookies.

    If these 3 players end up being a positive move against the crowd then you have a good chance to be in the top 1000 after the first two rounds.

    But at the end of the day. If these 3 players are killin it after 2 rounds the masses might be jumping on them anyways.

    So following the masses and then making some crazy trades like the sort of trading Impromptu did last year – trading out Sandlilands and then trading him back in after a couple of rounds and using 22 of 24 trades by round 14!!! might be the only way to be number one at the end if the year.

  • What is with all you ass kissers? Oooooh you pay nothing for the site, blah blah blah. Is this what the internet is now? You pay for the net, and then people expect you to contribute to every site you log onto. And if you dont…..your views, opinions, responses dont matter?

    So if i visit 50 sites, i better dig deep and contribute 50 times? Not likely. this information is available free on other sites. Break evens etc are available free through other means. This may be a goos site, but it isnt the only site. We dont all get paid to do our hobbies, thats why it is a hobby. YOU choose to do it… dont deserve a “payment”

    If i wanted to pay for opinions i would see a lawyer. as usual the ass kissers will come out and defend… feel free. Try to impress the owners as much as you can….me? Well ill just keep getting my “advice” free like it should be

    • uh huh…

    • I think you’ve missed the point of the article…. haha!

      In all seriousness… I agree with you to some extent! But my gripe will always be with people who expect more from something that is a hobby because it doesn’t meet their expectations. Like you said, plenty of sites out there… but no one forces anyone to come back! If you’re not paying, you can’t complain about things. You usually pay for things knowing what to expect. For me, the $20 to get the break evens and other content on one place on Ass Coach is good for me, but not others. But you get a trial to see if it’s worth it.

      Arse kissing is good. Makes people understand things are appreciated and hard unpaid work is worth it. Even if it is a hobby that you choose to do.

      G’day to my under 12 footy coach in 1992 who coached me as a hobby… I’ll arse kiss all day because he didn’t have to give up his time to do that!

      • Warnie, don’t even bother replying to these types of posts, you just encourage them. If I could get paid for my hobby I wouldn’t say no and nor would anyone else. Jealousy, plain and simple.

        • I get paid for my hobby – by the honour of drinking winners piss and bragging rights for another year.

    • Thank you for your valuable contribution, unceramonius (sic). Just outstanding. You should be very proud.

      With you there Warnie… shout out to Mr Tomlinson for the good times in U12s days!

    • I, for one, agree with you unceramonius, and I’m sure that there are many others- we just don’t feel the need to post on EVERYTHING like clearly some people do. Sure you have the right to voice your opinion, I would never suggest that right be taken away, But what you may not realise n by posting your inane b/s you just embarass yourself- but I suppose you don’t care what you look like behind the cowardly anonymity of the internet.

      Sure dreamteam is a hobby. Some of you just need to find a new hobby. And stop sucking arse, you look pathetic.

      Have a good one :)

    • Sorry unceramonius – you lost me at “This may be a goos site”.

  • Good to see some well thought out articles that involve a bit of critical thinking – wont appeal to the
    14 year olds on here who are busy trying to be first or asking all and sundry who they should have in their team but those of us who like to give this DT caper a bit of thought are thankful for articles such as these.

  • there’s one spot in the DT TALK PENDELBURY league

  • I enjoyed that article, a bit of break form the mountain of statistics and combinations running through my head.

    I think the uniqueness comes via structure and combination of players rather then the % owned of the players themselves. eg I could pick all popular 6 gun midfielders and then go cheap elsewhere.I could have a completely different team to everyone else without picking a single ‘unique’ player.

  • Hrmmm ive never picked a unique for the sake of being different. I have selected uniques based on all available research however.

    Previously i picked Pendleburys breakout year, when it was evident that Buckley had retired there would be more midfield time for him. Got Priddis in his breakout year because of the absence of Cousins in 2007, and the fact that Priddis was an absolute ball magnet at Subiaco. Got Fyfe last year when i read Fantasy Freakos stat that he scored 74 points in a half of football.

    These were all unique, but thats not why i picked them. Point is, if you happen to have 2 or 3 players who are unique in your team, just go with it if you determine that they will have a good year based on all available evidence youve found.

    Ive got 3 unique players based on the % of other teams who currently own them, and to me they are the diamonds in the rough, and the reason why i wont be posting my team on any forums. Last thing i want to do is get a bunch of other people researching them!

  • The paradox that is thousands of people will go ‘unique’ now and not pick Goddard.

    Great article! Certainly provokes thought. Great stuff

    • Haha. Funny this thought had previously crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to risk being left behind.

      • Well I just picked Goddard without even thinking about it to be honest, which is actually silly. In saying that I don’t think he’s going anywhere from my team. Scotty Watters may well have his own gameplan but I doubt he’s such an idiot that his gameplan wouldn’t get the most out of his class players e.g. Goddard.

    • It will be funny when people don’t start with Goddard this year because you can technically argue that he’s underpriced based on his poor 2011.

      I didn’t start with Goddard last year and was thrilled when he tanked. I also started with players like Fyfe and Nahas. However, I had my worst year ever as I also had players like Everitt and did stupid things like sideways trade to get Dawes.

      So getting the unique part right is only useful if you have a good basis for the rest of your team.

  • Do I Give an in depth answer knowing im probably part of the 91%, but the ridicule if im actually part of the wrong 9%, What to do…..

  • For me there are 3 locks that is ablett, Martin and Goddard apart from those 3 and I am going as unique as possible especially in the midfield because IMO there are 12 or so mids that will all average simillar but everyone picks swan, pendles and ablett and this leaves the other 9 or so with bugger all ownership ie. rockliff is owned buy less ppl than glass even though he will avg close to the same as ablett, swan and pendles..

    • How does going ‘unique’ help you if they average similar to two from the cookie cutter?

    • So……..Buddy’s not an auto lock then???
      I personally would put him after GAJ but Definitely before Martin and Goddard.

      • Buddy isn’t an absolute lock because IMO he will average the same as last year where as gaza and martin are 50k underpriced and Goddard 2 years averaged 113 so if he gets back to that form he is well underpriced.. And if u pick someone unique apposed to a popular pick if the popular player does shit than lots of ppl suffer and u don’t ie last year I started without Goddard and it payed of big time !!!! And if your unique player kills it than it pays off big time for you and not many others..

        • Goddard was and still is sulking about losing 2 GF’s, the writing was on the wall, there was a lot of people picked him up later in the season me included.
          This coming season Buddy has had the best preseason of his playing carrier and will be running around in the midfield as well (“same numbers as last year”) I think not.
          Anyway, that’s what makes this site so interesting everyone can voice their opinion.
          Good luck starting with out Buddy jb ……….you will need it.

          • *playing career*

          • buddy played midfield a fair bit last year and when Jordan Lewis was asked if we could expect more midfield time from buddy he said no more than last year.. He is my favourite player and I would love to pick him but I see more value in other less popular picks it’s all about value for money !

        • The problem when you don’t pick the big names like Buddy, is that you get really angry when he has those huge games and you miss out. When he has 25 possessions and 6 goals (and 6 behinds) you forget his bad games and suspensions….well, almost!

  • Top stuff. very thought provoking.

  • An extremely well composed article which boils down to the great DT mantra – ‘you gotta risk it, to get the biscuit’.

    I predict that nabbing a car this year will take BALLS – the balls to choose a bunch of risky mid-pricers. The 91% will go g’n’r and LOSE

  • Thanks for the thought provoking read Supermufacho…nicely written as well.

    While i don’t find any reason to challenge the principle of the wisdom of the crowd which “posits that reliable answers can be produced to even complex questions by averaging the guesses (educated or not, serious or not) of a crowd of people” BUT i do think we need to look behind at what they are most correct at guessing. Your example of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, where on average the audience is correct 91% of the time compared to 65% for the contestant, poses a different type of question than that of finding the best scoring in Dreamteam, in that it is dealing with knowns rather than unknowns.

    Gambling on horses is closer to DT and as guy who loves a punt I know from experience that favorites do not win 91% of the time.

    However, the thing with DT is that the value adjustment delays, combined with the high number of trades permitted, allows for the crowd to keep close to the good/lucky ones who start off well. From there it is all about trading wisdom/instinct/luck and that, as Shane opined above, is where it is won or lost.

    (i was nearly going to write a piece on “Smart Trading” but stopped as this will only be my third season and i don’t yet have that wisdom…in fact I know I’m a trading idiot and that will be my downfall again this year.)

    So, no I won’t be following the crowd, although i will almost certainly be selecting many of the most popular players. I’ll follow my own course…maybe i’ll get lucky.


  • You don’t need to be that unique to be different. One or two choices away from ‘average’ can greatly change your chances. I believe picking Fyfe and Murphy last year, plus both Swan and Pendlebury which not many did, altered my team from finishing top 2000 to top 500. The rest of my team was fairly average, as was my trading.

    This year, with the ruck situation being quite different to recent years, a flood of rookie priced players from one team, and a lot more potential mid price picks than recent years, I think we’ll see a lot more variation in teams. Currently I have three teams mapped out, a pure mid-price team, a balanced team and a GnR team, and I can’t choose between them!

    I believe only Ablett, Giles and Martin are ‘locks’, and to be honest, I really didn’t want to start with Martin due to Richmond’s early draw. But I see more danger in not selecting him now, which is where you need to be careful when being unique. It’s the reason why the people who didn’t pick Hodge in 2009 were just plain stupid, put them behind right from the start, as he had huge upside with little downside risk.

  • I’ve read quite a bit about this phenomenon and have wondered how it could be applied to dreamteam (I saw some bullshit youtube video where a crowd predicted tattslotto numbers, lol).

    I think it would be a fantastic experiment to get 500 people or so to record their expectations for say premium mid averages this year and see how it goes, would be interesting.

    • If you look at the top 6 selected midfielders in the coaches choice i reckon that pretty much answers your questions.

      • Not so much on predicted averages but who the masses think will be the top 6 scorers.

  • I’ve been back on this site every day since December (I know I need help!) and one thing I’ve found funny is players that for no particular reason are in everyones teams and the talk of the town one week and then no one wants them the next. Not because they’re injured or anything just because people become so obsessed with chopping and changing their team that only a bare handful (if that) survive our early team drafts. Early on shaw may as well have been lucifer and every man and his dog (me included) was vowing never to have him again. Now its considered foolish not to have him in. Rockliff was all the rage early on and selwood and thompson, now all anyone can talk about is pendles and boyd. Lids was considered an absolute must and gibbs went from being a no-go, to a popular pick, then disappeared back into obscurity again… you get the jist.
    I’ve got a couple of players in my team that have barely been mentioned all year and yes it does make it tougher to keep them in when no one else seems to want a bar of them, makes you second guess yourself even though your logic for picking them is sound. Its human nature to find comfort in the mass consensus but no greater fulfillment comes from picking a smoky who turns into a fyfe or choosing an unconventional captain one week who goes out and kills it. Good luck everyone this year. Just remember if a big part of your decision making isn’t based on your own logic and gut instinct theres no joy to be had, even in winning.

    • Yeah very true every man and his dog had thomo earlier and now only 5% of coaches own him which is great for me because with his draw I can’t see him averaging less than 110, I think it’s because of the improvement in sloane, dangerfield and van berlo. I have learnt not to look to much into the nab cup and not look at the my team thread. Rather chose a side based on my instinct only..

      • The thing i noticed that scared me in that recent nab game was that no1 from Adelaide really killed it DT wise. They had a massive win but they spread the wealth evenly between them. Is that going to be the case this week? I’m very interested to find out.

  • Great article. There is definitely a crowd mentality toward the guns and rookies strategy which is a proven, solid way of scoring well and getting a good overall finishing position – perhaps even a winning one. What I do find interesting is that each year someone will post (retrospectively) the best starting team of the year. Usually this team is good enough to win DT/SC without any trades being required! No one ever has anything close to this team as it all of the breakout players, some rookies but many of who are mid-pricers. This tells me that if you managed to actually decode the mid-price matrix and pick those right 4-8 players your team will have 17-21 keepers from the get-go and be unstoppable.
    Haven’t done it yet – but I’m gonna give it another shot this year :S

  • I really enjoyed that article, thanks for your effort there – it is well worth considering.

    I always wondered if some kind of super-computer could put together the correct or “best” DT season after it has all finished. There are so many variable over the course of the year, I often wonder what would be the best starting 30, and the ideal trades at the right times to maximize overall points. And how different would that be from the winner’s moves throughout the season?

    Probably doesn’t matter after the season has finished, but it would be interesting to see where you went wrong and how to improve.

    • I would love to see a brilliant mathematician with some decent footy knowledge have a crack at a round 1 team.

  • In DT there is the added skill in picking the correct rookie to play, especially last year with 3 on the bench and covering plaers with byes. How many people had Darling etc on the bench whe he scored a 100 while Krak was on the ground scoring SFA

  • Last!!

    (haha..just kidding!!)

    Super article. Totally related to it.

    W.T.F. was that comment in the middle by unceremonious? It seemed to come from nowhere.

    yeah..I go with the crowd brain, but weird stuff too. Like intuition, dreams and signs, and of course, the magic 8 ball. It told me Crows will finish higher that WCE this year, so I picked more Crows in my DT. :-d

    In the mix up wisdom with instinct, and hope for the best.
    I think the comment about how you trade later in the season is very true. The longer term planning might seperate the amateurs from the pros.