Welcome to Mad Monday: State of The Game Report
Today, I aim to take an objective view of the state of AFL Dream Team. The main purpose of this article is to look at the major changes to the game of AFL in the past three seasons, and how it has, and will, affect AFL Dream Team in the future. It is not to criticise the creators of AFL Dream Team, nor is it designed to criticise changes made by the AFL. It aims to offer realistic, easy to implement solutions for the 2013 season, based on these issues.
There have been three major changes to the AFL structure over the past two seasons. These are: the introduction of Expansion Clubs, the introduction of a Substitute Rule, and the re-introduction of Byes (which have occured in two different formats; Multi-Bye Rounds and Rolling Bye Rounds).
Let’s take an in depth look at all three.
For the past two seasons the AFL has seen the introduction of two teams to the competition; the Gold Coast Suns and the GWS Giants.
Affect of Expansion Clubs:
With team lists approximately containing 47 players each, an extra 94 players can now be selected from the total talent pool. Most of these players in their debut season have also been rookie priced.
Expansion Clubs – What it means:
Thankfully for coaches, expansion clubs have worked in our favour, with a large majority of the playing lists being priced as first year/rookie players (including Daniel Harris and James McDonald). Therefore, it can be argued expansion clubs have made it (a) easier to select rookies who are likely to have decent job security, and (b) therefore it has been easier to fit a higher quality team under the salary cap in the past two seasons.
Unfortunately for AFL Dream Team coaches, next season there will be no debut clubs offering a plethora of rookies to choose from, so the advantage from the past two seasons won’t exist. Instead, they will simply offer more players to chose from.
Introduction of Substitutes
Prior to the introduction of substitutes, 22 players from each team were eligible to be selected, and therefore would play four quarters of AFL each week (injuries allowing). Since the introduction of the substitution rule however, only 20 players can been guaranteed full games (per club); a two player drop.
Affect of Substitutes:
Across the past three seasons (2010-2012), there have been an average of 47 players listed (per club) on either a senior or rookie/veteran list. Before the introduction of substitutes, this meant that 47% of all players on a club list were available to play a full game each week. Since the introduction (2011 and 2012), only 42% of players are available to play a full game, with both a green and rest vest affecting two players. It’s important to note that this 4.5% drop is NOT caused by the introduction of expansion clubs.
What is affected is the total number of players who miss out of full games. Previously, 352 players (16×22) of the total talent pool were named to play a full game each week, leaving 400 who would miss out. Since the introduction of substitutions (and the introduction of expansion clubs), there are only an extra 8 players who will play a full game every week (360 players, or 18×20), but those who will not play has blossomed to 486 (a 21% increase).
Substitutes – What it means:
The substitution rule has added significant difficulty in selecting players who will score to their full potential by getting full game time. The best rookies are now susceptible to only playing half a game, and injured players who previously may have been in a condition to come back on late in the game can now have their day end in the first quarter.
Although substitutions only directly affect 36 players per week, this figure represents 9% of the total amount of players selected-to-play. Making it worse, these are most likely fringe players or promising rookies who coaches don’t feel comfortable giving a full game to. This can result in a reduced scoring output, but also lower job security for some of the better rookies (Eg, Gaff in 2011, Morris/Ellis in 2012). In the past two years the prices of rookies with good job security in expansion clubs have offset this disadvantage, but again, it will be far more significant in 2013 when 70% of a (starting 22) team aren’t priced $150,000 or lower.
In 2011, with the introduction of a 17th team, we were exposed to Rolling Bye Rounds. Each week one team would take a break and players would battle it out on the PlayStation at home whilst the other sixteen teams would battle it out on the field. This year, we were exposed to the far more devastating Bye scenario, the Multi-Bye Round. In this format the Byes were all grouped together over three weeks. They sucked! Not only for Dream Team, but also to watch.
Affect of The Byes:
Rolling Bye Rounds: Through the introduction of the rolling bye rounds, every single player was rested a minimum of two times throughout the season.
Multi-Bye Rounds: Through the introduction of the Multi-Bye rounds, every single player was rested only once in the year, but all eighteen teams were rested over a three week period.
The Byes – What they mean:
Rolling Bye Rounds: Although annoying, the obvious strategy was to not pick more than two or three players from each line from the one club. This allowed all players from say, Collingwood, to be benched during their bye round(s), without the possibility of coping a donut (non-scoring player). This was aided by the extended bench spots in the Forward, Midfield and Defensive lines (in the 2011 season only). Overall, they increased the strategic difficulty of the game through selection, but the extended benches countered this and made damage minimal.
Multi-Bye Rounds: In this scenario it was mathematically impossible to not receive donuts, with the lowest possible number across the two weeks being two (taking into account Dual Position Players and additional trades). In reality, most coaches received closer to ten donuts in this three week period. Although the additional trades helped, they were not enough to get through the MBRs unscathed. Overall, they sucked major big ones. Speaking of major big ones, Andrew Demetriou has flaged the possibility of six Multi-Bye Rounds next year – this is a major threat to the enjoyment, and integrity of AFL Dream Team. It lowers the skill required to get a high score over a season, and replaces it with luck, specifically in those weeks.
Negotiating These Issues
The most significant factor to the 2013 season will be the AFL’s approach to Byes. As such, it is probably best to analyse how to navigate them last due to their complicated nature. Instead, let’s look at the affect of substitutes and expansion teams. In regards to the latter, it is reasonable to expect that the competition will remain steady for a good part of a decade at eighteen teams. It is also reasonable to expect that the AFL will likely hold firm on the substitution rule. Given this, the main element that will need to be addressed will be the stat relating to players who are likely to play full games.
Given that there is now a near 5% increase in the number of players that will not be playing full games every week (over the competition), or 9% of those selected each week, it could be argued that there should be a 5% to 10% compensation to coaches to ensure they aren’t adversely affected by subs. In the past two years of the sub rule this has not been needed, as we have been substantially compensated by so many rookie priced options from the Suns and the Giants in their debut season. But next year that won’t happen!
As a player being subbed is more likely to affect team structure than trades, I believe this compensation should come from the total number of players allowed in a team.
Subs Suggestion (without Byes): 32 Players + 24 Trades. (2 player increase).
A 7% increase in player positions would lift the total from 30 to 32 (or near enough). Perhaps an additional bench spot in defence and in the forward line to combat slower price increasing rookies due to substitutions, and to reduce the risk of overall lower scoring is the answer?
When it comes to Byes it’s not as easy to come to a solution mathematically, specifically for Multi-Bye Rounds. Should the AFL deem Rolling Bye Rounds the best option (which would be best-case-scenario), an additional bench spot in every line should help limit the damage, as well as extra trades! Currently there are four trades made available for every five players in a team. Therefore, an extra four players would result in an extra three to four trades.
Rolling Bye Rounds Suggestion: 36 Players & 28 Trades. (4 player & 4 trade increase).
If we are faced with Rolling Bye Rounds in 2013, increase the playing squad from 32 players to 36, and increase a total amount of trades to 28.
Although this suggestion appears a bit extreme, it would more closely reflect AFL playing lists (in size), and the deeper benches would also help combat the effects of Long Term Injuries. Imagine being able to bench Scotland, Murphy, Waters or Ablett when they are injured and the prognosis is five weeks, and waiting it out instead of being faced with trading them out to avoid receiving a donut. It also increases the chances to make more unique squads, and beginners will have a higher chance of selecting the correct rookies, making the game less complicated.
When it comes to Multi-Bye Rounds however, given there would be six rounds of restricted teams for selection, there are three obvious options. 1) Don’t run AFL Dream Team during these rounds, (2) Leave things as they are and simply suggest ‘it’s a matter of luck’ or (3) increase the amount of trades and available players to allow for minimal damage. As option one and two would just not be possible or fair and would affect the games enjoyment, option three is the only true way forward. Again, increasing the depths of benches and supplying an additional trade during these weeks (similar to this year) would seriously lower the strain on teams.
Multi-Bye Rounds Suggestion: 36 Players + 30 Trades. (6 player & 6 trade increase).
If we are faced with Multi-Bye Rounds again in 2013; increase playing squads from 32 (based on adjustments due to substitutions and expansion clubs) to 36 players, and increase the number of trades to 30 (an additional trade per MBR).
Although both the team list and trades available appear high (drastically so), the amount of damage that was done in a single week where one third of the competition was rested was extreme this year. 2013 would be twice as bad. To enusre new players to the concept of Dream Team don’t give up because it’s too hard, and to keep some form of stratergy involved for experienced players, instead of luck, this number seems reasonable. So how would this all work?
Looking Forward to 2013
The AFL is not going to budge on Byes, neither are the AFL players. They are going to occur, and AFL Dream Team needs to adjust to (a) keep interest for its players, and (b) to reflect the changing nature of the AFL. Without adjusting the playing squad of: 7 Defenders, 6 Midfielders, 2 Rucks and 7 Forwards, which reflect the 22 players in an AFL team, both trades and bench spots are the only fair adjustments that can be made without dramatically changing the structure of the game.
A Defensive and Forward bench of around 4 players (yes it reads as a lot) would not only allow for more team depth in tackling Bye rounds, but it would also open up the options to take risks regarding drafting Dual Position Players, injury prone players (Sylvia, Higgins, Grimes etc), or non-elevated rookies. Additionally, a 3 player Midfield bench would increase options for DPP links to both the Forward and Defensive lines, as well as adding that extra depth needed for injuries and suspensions around byes.
MBR based AFL Dream Team Structure:
Defenders: 7 + 4
Midfielders: 6 + 3
Rucks: 2 + 3
Forwards: 7 + 4
How could all these players fit under the salary cap? A simple adjustment of the magic number would help fit all the extra players under the salary and increase an emphasis on selecting rookies. It means players like Dane Swan and Gary Ablett will still be the most expensive players, but a starting value or $550,000 instead of $615,000 would be more likely. Picking 14 rookies/bench players may seem like a huge task, but sites like DreamTeamTalk exist to help you pick rookies, and the AFL have a credited doctor to do the same. More bench spots will equate to more varried teams, and there is always the ‘coaches choice’ option for new players.
Trades would still be limited over a season; meaning you still have to select a good team, and those who use them early will still have to limp into league finals with their set teams like they do every year. League matches (and the Eliminator) could be played fairly through all Bye situations, and elements of luck still exist, without being catastrophic.
AFL Dream Team is by no means a democracy. It is a game created by Virtual Sports, based on the statistics provided by Champion Data, sponsored by Toyota. The public are minor stakeholders and can only make suggestions on changes they would like to see. But what if you could directly make changes? What would you want to change? Have I got the balance right? Or should there be any changes at all? Comment below and share your: State of the game!
Keep Dreaming! – Griff