The 2022 preseason will be no different than any of the others I’ve participated in. You might not think it’s you, but every preseason fantasy coaches destroy their preseason with careless coaching choices. Here are just some of the mistakes you need to avoid making this preseason.

Reacting to One ‘Scratch Game’

Let’s be honest; this one is so easy to fall into the trap. A player dominates a preseason game, and before the match is even over, they’ve made their way into your side.

While it might not be implicitly a wrong move, when it gets hairy is, ask yourself this question. Was (insert name) on your radar even before the game? Am I reacting based on new information, or am I jumping at smoke and mirrors? Has that happened to you over the weekend? If you find yourself in this situation, it means one of two things. Firstly, your preseason research was so shallow that you missed information already out there.

An example of that might be Lachie Weller. It was highly documented that he was getting the kick-in duties for the Suns. And while you might have missed it previously, it was evident and on complete display last weekend. If it’s not that, then clearly, it’s the second option, meaning you’ve reacted to one good game and got seduced by the moment.

Another could be Jarrod Berry. He’s been banging the door down all preseason and, according to the club, has dominated from a fitness perspective. He was everywhere against the Crows. And while he won’t play any AFL midfield with that little experience, the role and the minutes were there. In SuperCoach, given he’s only about $50k more than Jason Horne-Francis, it really should be only an injury setback that stops you from jumping on. So is it an overreaction? No. Why? Because the narrative and trend have been there for months, it might only just be now you see it and are finally able to believe it.

So has any player made their way into your team after these scratch matches? If so, what’s changed? Did you miss something in the preseason? Or are you being seduced at the moment into something you know is wrong but are chasing some preseason game hype? Of course, ultimately, hindsight will be the jury, but some careful self-reflection might be enough to save you some midseason pain.

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Not Considering Who’s Missing

While we track the role/functions of players in the match, we need to be aware of which clear best 22 players are not taking part in the game.

An illustration of that is Fremantle? In an Adam Cerra-less midfield, who is getting the opportunity? Will Brodie certainly staked a case for attention. But remember who was missing? No Nat Fyfe and no David Mundy. Will his opportunity diminish if they return? Maybe. Maybe Not! Ultimately, that’s the trend we need to factor in and observe this weekend.

Another example is the Crows; against the Lions, they were without Wayne Milera, Rory Sloane and Jordan Dawson. All are clear best 22 and play a variety of inside and outside midfield roles. What impact their return has will be seen this coming weekend. But ultimately, someone in the Crows midfield popped some extra opportunities they won’t get during the year.

Don’t view the weekend matches in isolation. Instead, see them as a trend in the wave of information across the whole preseason. What’s the narrative coming from the club over the past few months? Not just what you saw in a few quarters of scratch matches. If a player is playing a potentially fantasy-friendly role, take note, but don’t forget to factor in which clear best 22 and prominent players regularly in the side are missing (if any at all.)

Following The Crowd

While it’s good to listen to fantasy podcasts, websites, fellow coaches and ‘experts’ for advice and insight, there’s sometimes a moment where their opinion of a player contradicts your current view. If you come across one of these moments, do not throw the ‘baby out with the bathwater and disregard the player you’ve been bullish on just because someone else has an opinion different to yours.
Conversely, don’t just pick a player because everyone else is, and they have a high ownership percentage. Instead, use these moments to double-check your research, challenge your existing confirmation bias (if any) in the process, and redetermine why this player is no longer a ‘starter’ for you.
As long as your reasoning is logical, clear and holds the weight, it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else says, back yourself in. It’s always better to back your pick in and be wrong than going against it and being proven right.

Being Seduced By The Points

A player’s fantasy output determines your success as a fantasy coach when it comes to the full-blown season. However, nothing could be further from the truth in the Community series or scratch mates. So when watching these games, don’t check the scores and then determine whether a player should stay within your side or not.

Instead, look at the player’s role to function in the side. Are they getting the desired position that is optimal to in-season scoring? Is this role the team’s primary function, or are they spending a majority of time in another part? A player’s role is more important to observe during the match than their end of game fantasy score.

Clubs are all trying different things in these games, some by design, others based on the injury management loads. If you treat players and games, scoring as equal is dangerous. For example, have you been considering Zac Bailey this preseason on your side? If so, you get a pass for this section, but if not, why are you considering him now? Is it because he scored 141 in SuperCoach and 100 in AFLFantasy? If so, the history of picking guys because they pop a good preseason score is filled with disaster. Just ask Tom Phillips owners last year how that went.

Enough is Enough

 Sometimes all a player needs to do in these games is play their allocated minutes, and that’s enough. I’m amazed at the number of coaches who retreated from Braydon Preuss after the six-term match against the Swans. What did Preuss do wrong to make people abandon him? Oh, he rucks shared in a game with six 20+ minute terms? Braydon played half of those, and when he was playing, he was the predominant ruckman. When he was in the ruck, his hitout work was exceptional and led to multiple score involvements for his Giants. Go back and watch the game; the Giants midfield unit functioned as it’s most effective with Preuss, not Matt Flynn in the role.

Is he locked away? Certainly not, but for those on him as a value R2, you should’ve left that game with further confidence that your logic and process as to why you’ve selected him is secure. Now, things can change, injuries happen etc. But as it stands, he did enough, and in my eyes, that’s enough.

The same principle can be said for Matt Crouch, who passed the eye and role test in limited minutes. All established premiums need to do is get through, and that’s enough. All players building from an interrupted preseason is getting through the game unscathed, and that’s enough. If they do that again next weekend in the community series and get named round one, you can know that enough is enough.

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The Value WILL Come

Cash cows indeed determine elements of your starting structure, but they don’t in isolation. It’s the value that does it! The value can be found in underpriced premiums; it can be found in mid-range guys who have had circumstance change to create value and also in cash cows. So don’t alone let the cash cows determine what your squad of thirty looks like. Instead, consider where are the suitable value options. If you only hunt the cows, you might ruin a line and miss the other obvious value available to you.