The world of fantasy sports is a polarising one.
Like age-old arguments such as where sauce bottles belong (the cupboard), whether a bear or a shark would win a fight to the death (the bear) or exactly how much room there was for Jack on the door (take turns in the water Rose, you idiot), there is a clear fence-line in the fantasy debate.
On one side, you have the non-believers — those who cannot fathom why anyone would spend countless hours of their time perfecting a fictional team that has no bearing on reality.
And then you have the addicted.
The group among us that pores over statistical trends, consumes pre-season highlights and analyses Twitter threads for any inkling that a player might be primed for a boom season or ready to plateau and cost you a trade down the line.
I am sure you can tell which picket line I stand behind.
But why do fantasy sports — especially of the SuperCoach kind — draw so many of us into their intricate web?
It is hard to define why I subject myself to the pain of SuperCoach every year — because pain is exactly the way to describe it.
For almost two months I have spent at least some time every day tweaking or assessing my list of 30 players, and more often than not the line-up changes before I am done.
The questions are always the same.
Are my premiums good enough? Do I have the right amount of them? Where is my cash coming from once the season starts? What is the best way to set up my double-position players? Will my mid-priced battlers become stars this year or are they still too risky? Does a fresh start really equal a better performance? How stuffed am I going to be when the bye rounds come crashing down on me?
The list goes on, but you get the point.
I find my problem lies in how easily I am swayed in February and March.
There is nothing I hate more than hope when it comes to fantasy AFL.
Every time I see an article or tweet praising a player they end up in my squad.
It is my biggest vice, but I cannot seem to get around it — ‘‘he’s tearing up the track’’ is simply my SuperCoach kryptonite.
Early strategic decisions have also come back to bite me in past campaigns.
One year (when I was still a young teenager) I decided to try a team full of rookies and cash cows in order to come home with a 10-goal breeze in the second half of the season.
Most of them barely played a game, and by about round eight I was winless and out of the running.
I — in hindsight — dubbed another season ‘‘Mid-priced Madness’’ after selecting players mostly in the $300000 range.
Despite a few gems booming that season, the large majority remained mediocre performers at their new clubs or after returning from injury.
These days I strive for balance.
Pump the midfield with premiums and cash cows, hang your hat on a handful more bankable stars across the other three sections and pray that the rest of your side repays the faith you so confidently show in them before the first bounce of the year.
It is not an exciting strategy, but it brings me plenty of league success.
Let me preface the following analysis of my team by stating that I am by no means a SuperCoach expert, and you should probably ignore every player I have selected as a viable option for your squad.
I first tried my hand at fantasy AFL when I was about eight, and I have not improved much since — with a career high end-of-season ranking of circa-1300 — so if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know on Twitter (@tylermaher5).
If you would rather go head-to-head with me than help me, there’s 17 empty spots in my public league (code 923535) that need to be filled.
With that in mind, let’s run through the Shepp Screamers squad.
It will no doubt change by the time this column goes to print.
Shane Savage, Tom McDonald, Pearce Hanley, Adam Saad, Cam O’Shea, Sam Murray, Tom Doedee, Lachlan Keeffe.
If I was not so worried about my ruck set-up, my defenders would certainly be under a stronger spotlight.
Savage has recently come in through his JLT Community Series form, while McDonald was one of my first picked players after impressing me during AFLX.
Hanley, O’Shea, Murray and Doedee are all Twittersphere picks, while as an Essendon man I really hope Saad’s price goes through the roof so I can snare the premium that I am certainly lacking.
I am still up in the air on Keeffe, but he is a solid DPP at bottom-basement price, so has survived a number of culls.
Dustin Martin, Clayton Oliver, Nathan Fyfe, Marcus Bontempelli, Bryce Gibbs, Stephen Coniglio, Paddy Dow, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Tim Kelly, Dom Barry, Nick Holman.
There are a number of no-brainers in here.
Martin and Oliver select themselves, while the hamstrings of some Geelong superstars have steered me towards Fyfe and Bontempelli.
Gibbs should fit in perfectly at his new home in Adelaide, while I was forced to downgrade Josh Kelly to teammate Coniglio during one of my many late-night trading sprees to fit in a premium ruck.
A combination of Twitter and gut feel led me towards Dow, Davies-Uniacke, Kelly, Barry and Holman, and apart from none of them being able to move positions, I am happy with their potential.
Sam Jacobs, Dawson Simpson, Darcy Cameron.
This is where I have so much indecision.
For most of the pre-season I have been running with Simpson and Wylie Buzza as my main rucks, but (at this stage) I cannot bring myself to go into the year without a premium big-man.
I also ran with Cameron as my second ruck for about a day until talks of Kurt Tippett returning from retirement surfaced.
Devon Smith, Christian Petracca, James Sicily, Rory Lobb, Charlie Cameron, Willie Rioli, Bayley Fritsch, Patrick Naish.
Like Saad, I feel Smith will suit Essendon to a tee.
I am confident that in Petracca and Sicily I have two consistent stars, but the Lobb-Simpson combo is still one I am unsure of.
Cameron needs to lift his profile over the next few weeks for me to justify keeping him in, but in Rioli, Fritsch and Naish I think I have a solid trio of cash cows that I can milk before the bye rounds as needed.
Overall, I feel much less confident than ahead of previous seasons, but going by past results that might be a good thing.