Please note: this is a new and re-vamped version of the Band of Brothers series from last year.

The “best pre-season yet” and “dominated their time-trial”, you read as you scour over-hyped training reports which seem to guarantee that the club will dominate the AFL competition for years to come. You recall a sense of deja-vu as you feel you’ve read this before – and in fact you have – the same dribble is rolled out year after year. Given the propaganda, finding reliable information on value players that are hitting their straps is to dabble in the arcane arts.

Sometimes we need cold hard facts to keep us grounded before we move into the realms of alchemy – trying to turn dust into gold. And in this series, Band of Brothers, we will focus on finding players which statistically speaking should be moving into their prime.

Last Year

Last year I concentrated on the following criteria in determining players who should be peaking:

Career Games Played – Last year I found that players hit their peak after approximately 160 games.

Price – Last year I found that players who were priced after $550,000 (in 2017 dollars) were at their optimal points per dollar spent.

Durability – As I looked at in the Buyers Beware blog post there is a strong correlation between the number of games a player plays, and their output the following season.

Given last years list ultimately didn’t end up being successful (see my Band of Bothers article), has led to some soul searching, and a new approach:

Last year I was focusing on the ‘average’ of players; however I’ve realised that as coaches we’re not interested in league averages – but we’re trying to find those diamonds in the rough. And can we use statistics to weed out the leaders from the pack?

What’s Changed?

Career Games Played

Last year I was looking at players who had played over 160 games; the players (on average) who had hit their peaks. This rules out young players like Clayton Oliver. So when re-examining the chart and looking at the maximums (rather than averages) I notice that the best players are all between 40 games and 200 games (i.e. between approximately 2-10 Seasons in the competition). Players in their first season are great rookie options – and they’re going to be in your team anyway. But there’s a drop-off after 10 seasons in the competition (as players age). So this year, I will be focusing on players between 20 and 200 games.

Price

The price a player gets is based on their average from the previous year (unless discounted through injury). However, last year I compared the starting price of a player vs their total score at seasons end – and found a linear correlation. I.e. the more you spend the more points you’re likely to score – this is pretty much just common sense. It got more interesting when I checked the Points per Dollar spent; it was players priced $550,000 and above who were (on average) the best value for money. Probably because they’re the players who are going to be playing each and every week and are entrenched in their respective AFL teams best 22. But by looking at this price bracket, I’m ruling out players on the improve (as we’re only seeing who has already peaked). So for that reason I’m not using this criteria this year.

Durability

As I’ve found out in a previous article Buyer Beware there’s a correlation between how many games a player plays in a previous year to how many they play the next. I.e. some players really are injury prone. There are always exceptions to this and so I will not include it in my criteria this year. But it’s something to keep in the back of your mind – especially when choosing a player with a checkered injury history.

What’s New?

This year I’m adding these new metrics into the list:

Last 5 Games – From my “Myth Busting” series, I found a correlation between a players Last 5 games from the year before and their next seasons average. So when ranking players, I want to find those with the highest averaging last 5 games.

Age – How does age affect AFL Fantasy output? When we’re seeking players who are about to reach their prime, age could be an important factor.

Top of their Position – Which players could be in the top of their position by years end?

Overall, the biggest change is rather than trying to find players who have already reached their peak, I’m going to consider players who have some improvement left who could be best 22 players by seasons end.

Spring Chickens to Ancient Ones

Can Gary Ablett Jnr or Aaron Sandilands wind back the clock and re-gain his glory years? Probably not. So the question remains; how does age affect scoring in AFL Fantasy?

I’ve decided to chart both “Average by Age” and “Total Score by Age”; if a player is rested it will not affect their average – but it will affect their total.

Average score by Age
Total score by age

It seems the golden window is between the ages of 27 to 29 in AFL Fantasy – by looking at the trend-line. However, the trend-line is looking at the ‘average’ amongst the competition. Where in AFL Fantasy coaches are looking for the top players. And when looking at the maximums on the charts, there are players from the ages of 20 through to the ages of 28 who are among the best in the competition.

So as a rule, I will be looking for players between the ages of 20 and 28 when formulating my list.

Top of the Tree

Even with two trades a week an AFL Fantasy, the fewer trades you make during the season to reach an optimal team the better. A coach who has a team full of premiums in Round 18 is going to out-score a coach (in overall rankings) who only gets there in Round 20.

The best way of doing this is to select what you think the “Team of the Year” might look like at the start of the year, and work towards that during the season. During the year (depending on the players who have come on, and those that haven’t), you can adjust this team – but ultimately you have a destination to work towards. Every trade you make should be getting closer to this ideal.

In AFL Fantasy, your best 22 are split in the following positions; 6 Defenders, 8 Mid-Fielders, 2 Rucks and 2 Forwards. Given we don’t have a crystal ball and guessing the top players in their respective positions is subjective, I’m going to widen the scope and look at players who based on last seasons average or last 5 games would be in the top 12 Defenders, 16 Mid-Fielders, 4 Rucks or 12 Forwards. I.e. by either of these two metrics they are a Top 44 player.

Conclusion

The criteria I’m using this year will be:

  • Played between 20 and 200 career games
  • Is aged between 20 and 28 years of age (by seasons end)
  • Players who are Top 44 by Last Seasons Average or Last 5 Games (i.e. there is a case they are a Best 22 player)

These players will be revealed in my up-coming article Band of Brothers – Part 2.