It’s official… AFL Fantasy is harder than ever before.

Despite the salary cap growing by $200,000, players are priced more than ever – and on average they cost more more than the salary cap increase. In fact in 2018 the salary cap of $12,600,000 would have bought you (on average) 1788 points. And in 2019 the salary cap of $12,800,000 will only net you (on average) 1763 points.

Wealth Disparity

However, not all players are more expensive. Last year in my article Sale of the Century I found that rookie priced players were in fact cheaper than 2017. And this year trend is the same; in real terms rookies are a better bargain than in 2018:

Average $ 2018 % Cap ’18 $ 2019% Cap ’19
25 $176,000 1.40% $181,000 1.42%
30 $211,000 1.68% $217,000 1.70%
35 $246,000 1.96% $254,000 1.99%
40 $281,000 2.24% $290,000 2.27%
45 $317,000 2.52% $326,000 2.55%
50 $352,000 2.80% $363,000 2.84%
55 $387,000 3.08% $399,000 3.12%
60 $422,000 3.36% $435,000 3.40%
65 $458,000 3.64% $471,000 3.69%
70 $493,000 3.91% $508,000 3.97%
75 $528,000 4.19% $544,000 4.25%
80 $563,000 4.47% $580,000 4.54%
85 $598,000 4.75% $617,000 4.82%
90 $634,000 5.03% $653,000 5.10%
95 $669,000 5.31% $689,000 5.39%
100 $704,000 5.59% $726,000 5.67%
105 $739,000 5.87% $762,000 5.96%
110 $775,000 6.15% $798,000 6.24%
115 $810,000 6.43% $834,000 6.52%
120 $845,000 6.71% $871,000 6.81%
125 $880,000 6.99% $907,000 7.09%
130 $916,000 7.27% $943,000 7.37%

As you can see at the bottom of the scale 25 point priced rookie will cost you $5000 more. But keep in mind that the rookie price is still $170,000 in 2019 – the same as last year. At the top end of the scale, a 130 averaging pig will cost you $27,000 hard-earned more.

Let’s Name Names

When pivoting the table by price the differences seem less pronounced due to inflation:

Priced At % of Salary Cap Example Players
Price 2018 2019 2018 2019 2018 2019
$170,000 24 23 1.35% 1.33% Basement Rookie Basement Rookie
$200,000 28 27 1.59% 1.56%
$250,000 35 34 1.98% 1.95%
$270,000 38 37 2.14% 2.11% Andrew Brayshaw Sam Walsh
$300,000 42 41 2.38% 2.34%
$350,000 49 48 2.78% 2.73% Grant Birchall
$400,000 56 55 3.17% 3.13%
$450,000 63 61 3.57% 3.52% Travis Varcoe Ryan Burton, Sam Lloyd
$500,000 70 68 3.97% 3.91% Christian Petracca
$550,000 78 75 4.37% 4.30%
$600,000 85 82 4.76% 4.69% Toby McLean Tom Rockliff
$650,000 92 89 5.16% 5.08% Isaac Heeney
$700,000 99 96 5.56% 5.47% Sam Jacobs Dayne Zorko
$750,000 106 103 5.95% 5.86% Matt Crouch Steele Sidebottom
$800,000 113 110 6.35% 6.25% Dustin Martin Stephen Coniglio
$850,000 120 117 6.75% 6.64% Patrick Dangerfield
$900,000 127 123 7.14% 7.03% Tom Mitchell
$938,000 133 129 7.44% 7.33% Tom Mitchell

We can see that a basement rookie costs $170,000 and is priced at 23 points (compared to 24 points last year). On one hand we’re expecting 1 point less for the same money – but on the positive side which rookie won’t regularly hit 23 points?

At the middle of the pack, $500,000 will buy you 68 points (compared to 70 last year). This year this is considered a mid-pricer like Michael Hibberd (who is no longer a reliable defender) and James Aish (who has never really come on in AFL Fantasy). But last year was the popular Christian Petrecca at that price (who burned me and a number of other coaches). Never-the-less most established players should average 68 – which is they typical average for a rookie, so mid-pricers will be found in many coaches teams due to their potential up-side.

And at the top end of the scale is Tom Mitchell at $938,000 (who is out of the season with a broken leg). He is priced at 129 points – but represents 4 points less value than last year. As you can see – there is more of a tax than ever at the top end of the scale.

Conclusion

Despite having to fork out slightly more for the uber-premiums, it’s not significant enough to require a change of strategy. I still advocate building your team around a core of players who should be in the best in their position at years end. Even from the start of the season you should be considering your final team – and the fewer trades it takes to get there the better. Another reason for having a core of uber-premiums is so you have meaningful Captain options (which means double-points each week). This really adds up over time.

Due to the limiting salary cap you can’t possibly stack your team at the start of the season. There are many mid-pricers this year who could take the next step. And they generally have better job-security than a rookie and are easier to upgrade to a premium player. However every year coaches like me are stung by mid-pricers who don’t improve as expected; not only can they grow in value – they can even decrease in value.

And as far as growth-players go this year rookies represent the best value. Even ordinary basement rookies should beat their break-even of 23 by half-time. Your premium rookies, such as Sam Walsh likewise are great value and should comfortably beat his break-even of 37 (so is better value than last year). Rookies are undoubtedly a better value when it comes to growth over your mid-pricers – and are more forgiving if you get them wrong. When it comes to Rookies always consider their form in the JLT cup – as this is the best indication we have of how they will go in the season proper.