Apologies for butchering the English language with the title but I hope it caught your attention. In this article with the help of AFL Fantasy data guru Jaiden Popowski I am going to do a deep dive into the concept of not starting your season with a full complement of 30 green dots and why the right red dot might be the key to bettering your success in AFL Fantasy.
As we all know in the AFL Fantasy game the key to finishing high in the rankings is early cash generation, being able to quickly upgrade fattened rookie to premiums but are there any advantages with loopholes, sacrificing some small amount of cash gen. and how important are they?
In case you haven’t been living in AFL Fantasy land and are a first time player how a loophole works is best described as using a non-scoring player to bring on field, so your Vice Captain (VC) player receives double points, or an Emergency (E) receives their allocated points. When and how to do this and what score to accept have been highly debatable across the Fantasy Community.
The concept of the loophole began in 2011 when a partial lockout was first introduced, mostly for Thursday Night games and the occasional Friday when later round matches were on a Monday. Astute fantasy coaches were quick to look at VC and E loopholes when those opportunities arose. Calvin even wrote an article about it claiming he invented the term loophole although he has always advocated for 30 green dots at the start of the year.
Early on the most common way to use the Loophole was in the second bench ruck position, fantasy coaches would pick a rookie priced player to come onto the field with a regular ruckman taking the E on the bench. This play was considered low risk given only one, maybe two players were a chance of being a late out compared to the other DEF, MID and FWD positions. Some AFL Fantasy players even experimented with the Emergency E loophole but as mentioned doing so in DEF, MID and FWD was considered risky and rarely did a suitable opportunity arise. Generally, a score of 115-120 or more was considered good to opt for a VC loophole and 70+ for an Emergency. In reality it didn’t happen all that often, maybe a handful or less times a year.
However, in 2020 things changed, firstly the second ruck position became a Utility originally making loopholes a touch tougher and secondly Covid-19 f*#cked the AFL season and to some degree the AFL Fantasy game however it bought with it the concept of a full round rolling lockout. The full rolling lockout made loopholes a lot easier, especially for the E loophole because provided you had a decent trade option in the later matches you could keep that as a safety blanket for any late outs.
2023 was considered the peak for loopholes and it all started in Round 1, during the season red dots often come around naturally, but a larger than normal percentage of top coaches actually started with them.
The VC loophole was an obvious one for most serious coaches and how the top 1000 coaches used it shows us just why it is so important to be considered on a week by week basis.
For most coaches it was used sparingly, only when the VC had an absolute burster as shown by these stats where a 132 average was taken. Some top coaches were prepared to take much lower however, including our winner Matt Mottram who with his team Mottram’s Marvels did take a 120 in the very first round. When you consider the Captain average for the very best coaches was just 112 taking anything above that makes sense. So, picking the right VC is crucial and could make the difference of a hundred AFL Fantasy ranking positions for the average player, a hat for the good players or even the difference between a HiLux for the best.
Now what about some Emergency loops?
A 111 by St Kilda’s Jack Hayes in round 1 who was a common R3 provided the option to loop him onto your field. For those who wanted to do this there was a clear cut man waiting in the wings being Brayden Preuss who was under suspension after looking like the Giants number 1 ruck all preseason. Preuss would go on to average 100 across six rounds before his season derailed, however those points and cash generation were critical in helping Mottram’s Marvels win the car at the end of the year.
The other big Round 1 loop was Nic Martin who was sitting at F7 for a lot of Fantasy coaches. His 130 is the best debut fantasy game ever and it was a no-brainer to get those points on the field. The obvious option here was a player who had already been highly touted in the Gold Coast’s Elijah Hollands. I know runner-up James with his team of Shuckas had Elijah Hollands from the beginning and used him with Nic Martin and a few others during the year. Hollands also proved to be a good scorer at the back end of the season when he finally got his chance.
In total of the Top 1000 coaches 148 coaches looped Nic Martin along with 94 for Jack Hayes in Round 1. Across the full season 10,577 emergency scores were taken, so 10.6% of the top 1000 coaches with an average score was 78.4.
Interesting in Round 1 Martin and Hollands weren’t the only Red Dots. 117 players from the Top 1000 also had Nathan O’Driscoll and 88 had Sam Skinner.
Skinner would prove to be a bust scoring 33 in two games when injury struck but O’Driscoll hit gold when he registered back to back 100’s in Rounds 4-5 again providing that much needed cash generation and potentially points for some lucky coaches.
So how do we use this knowledge in 2023?
In all honesty 30 green dots is still a great way to start the season as evidenced by the fact more than 50% of the top 1000 did it last year but if the right opportunity exists having that red dot for Round 1 could be an equally smart way to play, even more so if rookie options are light on for us.
The rookie ruck situation this year is pretty grim so that looks like being the way a lot of people may opt to play for the VC loophole. There are not many rookie rucks even being touted as possibilities this year. Just remember if you do go that way be mindful of your R3 having a game before your VC, I have already seen teams with Samson Ryan (Richmond) being posted and the Tigers have the traditional season opener so he is off the table for me.
Other players worth considering strongly are those with DPP flexibility like O’Driscoll (MID/DEF) and Hollands (MID/FWD) had last season, this gives you options of covering two lines for the price of one. There are a few potential candidates to look at this year that take my eye and I have them on a watch list for this very reason.
Angus Sheldrick SYD (MID/FWD), James Tsitas GC (MID/FWD), Corey Wagner FRE (DEF/MID), Blake Drury NM (MID/FWD) and Campbell Chesser WCE (DEF/MID) are all names I have jotted down and there could be more.
Just remember to use your loophole wisely but look for opportunities and most importantly plan ahead, you never know it the right loop might just have you sitting in a brand new Hilux at the end of the year.
Follow @AaronDelaporte on Twitter.