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Fantasy ramifications of proposed 2024 season opener fixture

This could be awkward!

Fantasy in 2024 could be like no other due to the floated fixture to kick off the season.

Nothing is in concrete as yet, but a change to how the season starts has been sent out to clubs for feedback which involves the home-and-away games starting a week earlier with a couple of standalone games in Sydney; namely Giants v Pies on Saturday night and Swans v Dees on Sunday afternoon.

While this would be absolutely fine if it was a split round (ie. the two Sydney games on what would be the long weekend, seven games on the traditional round one)… but the article states that second weekend would feature all 18 clubs playing. This means those first four teams will have a bye at some point in the first few weeks.

This is messy.

For the purpose of this, let’s consider how I think it may look in reality (I have zero intel, just using my brain!).

Sat 9 Mar (GWS v COLL) to Sun 10 Mar (SYD v MELB)

Thurs 14 Mar to Sun 17 Mar – 9 games

Thurs 21 Mar to Sun 24 Mar – 9 games

Thurs 28 Mar to Mon 1 Apr – 7 or 9 games
Could this just be 7 games here?

Thurs 4 Apr to Sun 7 Apr – 9 games

Thurs 11 Apr to Sun 14 Apr – 7 or 9 games
Could this just be 7 games here?

Thurs 18 Apr to Sun 21 Apr – 7 or 9 games
Could this just be 7 games here?

NOTE: With Anzac Day (25 Apr) falling on a Thursday, could a bye happen prior to this? Melbourne v Richmond has been a ‘traditional’ game the night before Anzac Day in recent years… and obviously Essendon play Collingwood. Could Demons and Magpies have their bye in round six to give them plenty of time ahead of their earlier Anzac fixtures. Meaning Tigers/Bombers potentially play Thursday of round six to give them greatest break possible?

There are a number of machinations for the fixture – and obivously Fantasy isn’t a big stakeholder in how things are done, but we play by the ‘rules’ we are given and would need to change things to fit.

The key issues

As mentioned, if it was a simple split round with 2 games on the first weekend and 7 on the other, there would be no drama. Our problem for Fantasy is that having 9 games in that second weekend means that first weekend is almost like a split round that is to be played “in a few weeks’ time”.

Round one was split in 2014 (click here) which saw us play one Fantasy round across the two weekends. This was a weird round one regardless for anyone around then, but that is a story for another day.

Some people have mentioned on social that we could add scores from that first weekend to wherever it sits in the fixture (ie. retroactively apply score for a future round). Honestly, I don’t think this idea can or should be entertained. Firstly for the mechanics of it – hard to implement, messy with trading, team make up and how it would flow on back end … but secondly, for the simplicity of our game. We play by pretty simple rules that are, hopefully, accessible for all.

We have both Fantasy Classic and Fantasy Draft to consider.

Before we even think about these, many Draft leagues book in the long weekend (the mooted time for these opening games) to hold their drafts. This sucks for organisation and tradition! But obviously we can work around this. Another aspect is that we usually see the pre-season games a fortnight before round one … does this mean that we might have a split round of pre-season matches, too? Ahh… that’s going to be weird!

How Fantasy could cope with the proposed fixture

I haven’t spoken to anyone that matters about this, so these are things that have run through my big head over the last couple of days since hearing it floated on the weekend. Now that it’s public, I thought I’d pop down some ideas.

a) Run the season as 25 rounds

We’re at 24 rounds now after the introduction of Gather Round. This opening weekend could just essentially be another round. Although this Herald Sun article has some questionable things as there are things that are factually wrong, there is a suggestion that a third game (Gold Coast v Richmond) could be added to the opening weekend. This could mean that round one (as I have called Round 0 above), has six teams playing.

If we were to call it a round for Fantasy Classic, we could have a wildcard for round one where there are unlimited trades ahead of round two; the first 9-game round of the season. Just pick players from the competing teams, wipe it for the next round.

Whether we go with bye round rules for this opening round or not, I’m not sure, but we probably would for the future ‘extra’ bye round.

PROS: Adds another week of Fantasy fun. Different strategy. Bit of a ‘free hit’ (although I have nightmares about this from 2014).

CONS: Salary cap challenge to fit a team in? Confusing? If you don’t get a team in for this weird round, you’re no shot at a prize? League match-ups would suck based on this being called a round.

b) Ignore this weekend

Let’s pretend it didn’t happen. We can carry on and prepare for the ‘true’ round one.

Unfortuantely this would be the teams who played that opening weekend would have two byes during the season and therefore would play ’22’ Fantasy games while the other clubs play ’23’. Bye rounds could be treated like they usually are (extra trade, best 18), but there would be some strategy in initial team selection for Classic and drafting for Draft to consider these early/extra byes.

PROS: More time to get teams sorted (good for registrations) and keeps the game a little more normal and simpler to understand. Avoids a weird free hit round that might put off some people from entering. Easier for Draft, but remember you can start your Draft league at any round.

CONS: Feels weird not having every game count in Fantasy. Having some clubs with an extra bye seems odd.

Other thoughts

There might be some other ways to make this work, but the two above are probably the most logical.

I’ll reiterate that retrofitting scores simply couldn’t work. Nor would going back to applying averages (been there, done that … hopefully never have to consider it again!).

Realistically, I hope they scrap the idea. I see the merit in taking over the Northern market for that weekend – although it is the weekend after the NRL is in Vegas, so doesn’t really serve the complete purpose (while the cat’s away…). If they do it, make it a split round – that will make our lives easier.

Full disclosure … what I want from the game is as many people playing. Once upon a time, I was all about the challenge and having more strategy. This is great for a certain number of Fantasy coaches (addicts!!), but not totally accessible for all. That’s where my thinking has shifted in the role that I am.

I want the game played by as many people as possible. a) because I love it and want people involved, but b) which is selfish, our little part-time gig/hobby can increase… but the flow on effect for you, the player, is that prizes increase… more money is put into the game to improve it. It’s all well and good to want greater challenges, etc, but we should all want the product to improve and that only happens with bums on seats.

Thanks for listening to my Ted Talk!

Whatever happens, I am sure there will be a lot of things thrown around by the big dogs … and they will listen to the coaches who live and breathe the game. We are all important stakeholders in the Fantasy game and despite me saying the above about bums on seats, integrity of the game is important. How that all looks in the various fixture scenarios will be an important factor. It’ll be a balancing act.

I guess we will know more in November when the fixture is released…

Post your thoughts in the comments!

Co-captain of DT Talk since we started this thing in 2007. Best finish was 13th in 2009... that was a long time ago. Follow on Twitter: @WarnieDT

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Zac Dawson
Zac Dawson
5 months ago

Could we see those opening games just counting as part of round one and GWS and Sydney players etc get double points like other fantasy sports (e.g BBL SuperCoach style)? Could at least potentially be interesting strategy how many of those players you pick knowing they’ll have a bye not long after

5 months ago

I doubt that Collingwood would have an Easter bye, because the Easter Eve match against Brisbane is meant to be a yearly thing now. Also, gather round would be odd with less games. I reckon rounds 5 or 6 will cop the byes. A terrible scenario for Fantasy.

W Hazell
W Hazell
5 months ago
Reply to  Warnie

Beginning released today. Would be interested in Warnie’s comments. May also warrant podcast/forum show to canvass opinions. Essentially 4 games (2 NSW & 2 QLD) “opening round” and then Rd 1 with all teams. Very messy for Fantasy. Not sure of a solution and to some extent depends a bit on when the 6 teams from opening round skip a match- hopefully this is all the same round as otherwise it is a nightmare to sort a fantasy solution.

If they skip a round in the future I would favour a carry over system:

  1. If you pick players from these 6 teams for the open round they are also locked into your Rd 1 team.
  2. For these locked players there would need to be an escape clause if injury or non-selection for Rd 1 however. You would be able to replace only if they were non-playing.
  3. The price of these players change between opening round and round 1 as per normal.
  4. You can still select new players from opening round in your round 1 team at their adjusted price.
  5. When the teams have a bye later on to make up you have the option of including an open round “locked” score in your best score (limit as usual up to a certain number of players total)

This would require some type of opening round function on the system where you see those players selected and their scores up until the relevant bye round when you may utilize this score.

This brings in strategy of rooky and premium selection for opening round as there is the issues of collecting price increases and also future round high scores. You may chose to do no opening round selections and just see how they go also (more info for Rd 1 selection) but risk losing a boost later on when they have a make up bye round.

Over and above this the only other question would be should the players chosen from opening round be variable (0-30), limited to a certain number ( 6/18 teams -maybe 10 players) or prescriptive to a certain number (maybe 6- 1player from each team).

Making things too complex has the risk of “rogering” everyone right at the beginning leading to huge drop-out. The KISS principle if just ignore opening round but I cant see how you can ignore the opening round as it is too many teams and selecting players from these teams from Rd 1 will carry the burden of 2 future byes? You will risk coaches only picking players from 12 teams.

5 months ago
Reply to  W Hazell

If we forget about the fantasy aspect altogether it’s still a lousy call. The AFL opening needs all guns firing; how you gonna feel if your team isn’t playing?
The only worst scenerio would be a stand alone fixture Roos v Suns in China,

W Hazell
W Hazell
4 months ago
Reply to  lizardofoz

Agree good to just have your team playing round one and “not feel left out”.

Sorry a few maths errors above …8 teams opening round and so 10 teams not playing (as opposed to 6 and 12 which I have inferred above).

Only other simple solution would be to have unlimited trades every week and you just have to make up a team for each round from whoever is playing. This is very easy and I dont mind the strategy aspect. When fewer teams playing it probably means you may have to select a few lemons though to make up the numbers and your net worth may slide.

4 months ago
Reply to  W Hazell

Any way you look at the fixture, the AFL have screwed Fantasy over big time. Still, something has to be done to make it workable.

I don’t like the idea of adding scores from the opening round to the make-up bye round, because we don’t know when it is going to be or if it is going to be spread over a number of rounds. Players cannot be locked in. We would be stuck with a few losers in our team that we cannot fix up. Ghost ships will be sailing from round 1.

Without knowing the rest of the draw and when the teams from the opening round will have their bye, I can see two ways around this:

  1. Select a full squad of players in the opening round from the eight teams playing and have unlimited trades following the opening round.
  2. Select a partial team for the opening round, where 3 defenders, 4 midfielders, 1 ruck and 3 forwards, along with one sub on each line get locked out. Have a limit (say 6 trades prior to round 1 to sort out the opening team to the round 1 team.

This still doesn’t resolve the issue with the make-up bye. We don’t know whether it is going to be made up in a single round or spread over a number of weeks.

W Hazell
W Hazell
4 months ago

This was from a wide world of sports news article: “The eight teams that play in the ‘opening round’ will have a bye between rounds two and six, with all 18 teams having played the same number of games by the beginning of round seven”

Sounds like the catch up might be staggered with 1 or 2 teams per round missing? This makes things even more difficult and my suggested solution not viable really anyway.

If this is the case sounds like a solution is needed for opening round thru to round 6 (excepting Rd 1 which seems to have all teams) and then I presume you have the three additional bye rounds (hopefully not 4). This takes the total “incomplete” rounds to at least 9, I think.

I think the risk of having to make a full team for the opening round is that you will have to pick some players that will almost certainly go backwards in price. So a reduction in numbers required to pick could be good.

Unlimited trades and selections would be needed before round 1 and I assume you could go back to normal team numbers.

You are then going to lose a few players each week if you still have players from opening round. For me the best solution would be to just increase your trades rather than reduce the playing field required. Maybe 6-8 trades. if too few there still could be a coach temptation to just field players from the remaining 10 teams anyway thru till Rd 7.

Then you have the usual byes-OMG. Again I would favour just increasing the trades rather than old system of reducing the field as there should be at least ?12 teams each week which is enough scope to pick positive fantasy players. Also it will do your head in trying to plan for bye rounds in the previous format given what’s happening till Rd 6.

I must admit increasing trade options generously anyway from week to week would be welcome to me as the HIA outs are very difficult and it is very easy to have your season squashed by a week where you have 4 HIAs/injuries and a few outs with only 2 trades. The con is that it is more work to select your team each week and if you have a week where you can’t devote the time you might fall back. However, overall, I think it is more interesting, strategic and actually fair.

I would not be in favour of an AFLW fantasy type solution where every week your filed is much less than the previous mens AFL. Hope this is not being considered.

We all wait to see!

4 months ago
Reply to  W Hazell

Now that we know that the make-up byes are going to be spread across four rounds, and not even consecutive rounds, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the AFL HAS TOTALLY SCREWED FANTASY IN 2024.

So many rounds from the ‘Opening’ round to round 6 are affected, that by the time they have finished we are almost to the mid-season byes.

I still think my couple of options in my earlier comment are viable (the season still sucks), but now that we know of the make-up byes, allowing three trades a week or just count the top 18 players for those weeks, are two ways around it. With only two teams out each week, I don’t think they need both more trades and reduced players.

4 months ago

Love it, I needed an early excuse when I start ranking in the 20k’s

The Chosen Won™®©
4 months ago
Reply to  PowerAde

2017 CL Champion™®©

I am Sam Hawk Menegola ™®©

I smashed da Minj 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023™®©

Good Luck in 2024™®©

4 months ago

And Sam Menegola (not Menengola as commentators call him) has been sadly delisted!

The Chosen Won™®©
4 months ago
Reply to  Phteven

I think the original Hawk has also be delisted by Admin :)

Good Luck in 2024

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