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The Mercato - Review your 2022!

And welcome back to The Mercato, a long-form series for Talking League where we tackle some of the strategic elements that coaches face throughout the NRL Fantasy season. As we enter the final stanza of the 2022 season, The Mercato explores how fantasy coaches can review their season and take the lessons learned in 2022 to improve your rank in 2023.

It’s important to note that NRL Fantasy is a game and should be fun and enjoyed by all coaches, which is why we all play. It’s also why here at Talking League we work all season to bring you plenty of written and audio content to not only entertain you, but to also help you on your journey to becoming a better fantasy coach. And with this in mind, remember that this article is about improving you as a coach for 2023, regardless of whether you finished 500th, 5,000th or even 50,000th in 2022.

To start your "Coaches Review", you want to download your team profile. You can do this at Footy Statistics by searching for your team name on the “Team Analyser” page.

Once you click on your team, you’ll see the following information:

As you can see, it provides you a fantastic snapshot of your fantasy season. It's a great addition to the already-fantastic Footy Statistics website. Be sure to show your appreciation to creator Justin Robertson by dropping him a donation via Paypal.

One minor shortfall of the profile is it does not give you the prices at which you bought and sold the players. To retrieve this information, you can use the NRL Fantasy website. Go to the “Trades” section and then scroll down past the “Trade Pool” where you can see all your trades and the buy/sell prices:

Now that you’ve got your data for the season review, let’s have a look at dissecting your NRL Fantasy Season. You want to answer the following questions:

What was your final overall rank?

The higher you rank, the less comprehensive your analysis of your season should be. High ranking coaches should look to pinpoint areas of improvement that can be taken into next season (for example team value management, bye round numbers. For those with a lot of room to improve, the questions below will help you identify the areas where you can improve your NRL Fantasy capability.

What was your best overall rank?

If your best overall rank didn’t occur near the end of the season:

  • Did you run out of trades early or miss a key player/s when they were underpriced?

  • Did you go too aggressive on the bye rounds at the expense of building up your team value?

  • If your best overall rank was early in the season, this is likely an indicator that you engaged in cap cannibalism. Cap cannibalism occurs when you fail to build your team value as you chased the big scorers in the early rounds, paying premium prices when you team value was at its lowest. To correct this in future seasons, avoid the temptation to chase the early big scorers by instead focusing on picking up the cheaper players that have shown that they are under-priced.

  • If you best overall rank occurred towards the end of the season, this is an indicator that you timed your run well to peak down the stretch. If you had more than 2/3 trades left before the 4 received in round 20, this is perhaps an indicator that you could be more aggressive in future seasons to perhaps climb even higher.

What was your final team value?

  • If you got above $13.5m, the less comprehensive your analysis should be. You would’ve put yourself in a position to be able afford 17-18 strong players and rank competitively come season end.

  • If your team value ended up between $13.25-13.5m, the analysis into your team really depends upon your rank. If you’re happy with your rank, it’s likely you built your final team early in the season to score enough points to score well. If you’re unhappy with your rank, it’s likely you stunted your team value by picking up guns at their peak price or moving off your cash cows a little too early. This could also be the result of some cap cannibalism.

  • If your team value ended up below $13m and never got above $13m, it is very likely that you engaged in too many trades that caused cap cannibalism which saw you sell too many players at below their true value and bought too many players at their peak value before they returned to their natural price point. With the rolling average dictating player prices, chasing guns that score well in the first 1-2 weeks before they get “out of reach” will stunt your cap growth at the start and have you pushing the proverbial up hill. Have a look at your trades in the first 4 weeks and identify the reason for each player that you bought that cost over $650k. Unless you were replacing an injured player, you were likely chasing scores from a gun player.

How many players did you have across the bye rounds?

  • If you got above 20, the less comprehensive your analysis should be. You were probably quite competitive in the bye rounds and it’s likely that you would’ve only gone backwards if you were in the top 100 or had a captaincy failure.

  • If you got below 20, it’s probably worth identifying why that was the case. Potentially you were holding too many origin players, perhaps you had some players become unavailable at the last moment through injury/suspension or you spent too many trades focusing on players that didn’t boost your bye round prospects. In 2023, a little more focus on bye-relevant players will see your prospects of a higher rank improve.

How many trades did you use in the first six rounds?

  • If you used 8 or less, the less comprehensive your analysis should be. You pretty much nailed your initial team selection, picking up most of the good cashies, dodging the overpriced players and having some luck on the injury front. You set yourself up for a good season and likely ranked well. If you didn’t rank well, have a look back at some of the cashies you missed out on that went on to make good coin. If you can see a few you missed, you could improve your prospects next year by being a little more aggressive in chasing the promising cash cows.

  • If you used 9 or more, it's definitely worth identifying why you spent so many trades. If you had to replace several players due to injury and/or suspension, you can put the excessive use of trades down to bad luck. If there were minimal trades for injury/suspension, you've probably just identified the biggest area of improvement for you in 2022.

When did you run out of trades?

  • If you made it to round 20 without running out of trades (that is, you still had trades to spend in round 19), the less comprehensive your analysis should be. You’ve likely timed your run well to scoop up the good cash cows, bided your time to turn them into guns and not gone overboard in the hunt for bye round numbers. Ideally you want to preserve a couple more trades before the “bonus” trades kick in next year, but every year is unique in NRL Fantasy.

  • If you run out of trades (that is, had zero to spend in round 19) it doesn’t take an expert to identify that you were too aggressive in your trading. The first port of call would be to take the Three Date Rule approach to more of your trade-outs, particularly players that you had high projections on in the pre-season. After that, have a look at how many times you were able to save (that is, no use all available) trades during the first 9-10 rounds. If you max traded throughout this period, you likely rage traded in and out too many players that were either solid holds or that landed one massive outlier score that lured you in.

How many players did you keep from Round 1 until Round 25?

  • If you managed five or more, you’ve done really well. You managed to pick lots of the gun players that undervalued and were able to hold them all season instead of needing to spend trades to pick them up during the season.

  • If you managed less than five, it’s worth working out what happened with the more expensive players that you started with and why you disposed of them. If you sold them due to a suspension or injury, that’s bad luck. If you sold them for another gun player that started hot and gained value before you got them, you probably committed some cap cannibalism and locked in the disadvantage that you suffered from your initial selection. Ideally, try minimise these types of trades in 2023 to improve your trade management.

What were your best and worst trades of the season?

You want to identify why these particular trades were so good or bad:

  • Did you sell a cash-cow just as they peaked?

  • Did you pick up a fallen gun as close to their lowest price for the season?

  • Were you simply chasing scores of a player on a hotstreak?

  • Did the trade contribute to your bye round numbers?

Above are several questions that you can ask yourself to get across why you performed as you did in NRL Fantasy 2022. For most coaches, it will be just 1 or 2 two things that you can do a little better with in 2022 and your rank will prosper as a result. As I’ve mentioned before you need to be careful to not fall into the trap of “paralysis by analysis” when it comes to having a look at your season, as 2023 will be different to 2022 just like it was to 2021. Not to mention that with 17 teams in 2023 we will have at least one team on a bye every week; many challenges to look forward to discussing in pre-season.

And on that note, this will be the final edition of The Mercato for season 2022. The series will pick up again over the off-season and pre-season, but until then keep an eye out for a special Writer’s Room article post round 25 where the all the writers at Talking League will look back on the season that was. Best of luck for the rest of the season, spend your trades wisely (if you have any left) and hopefully you end up with an overall rank that you’re happy with. Enjoy!


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