Nick Daicos celebrates a goal during the Toyota AFL Grand Final between Collingwood and Brisbane at the MCG on September 30, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

AFL FANTASY will commence in round one in 2024, a week after Opening Round, as the team at Fantasy HQ looks for the best way to navigate the unique start to the season. 

With Opening Round to consist of just four games, the Official Fantasy game of the AFL will start a week later with a full slate of nine games from March 14-17.

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Opening Round has changed things for Fantasy coaches and how the game has been structured compared to the past. The usual mid-season byes are still there as per previous seasons, but a series of bye rounds for teams participating in Opening Round will occur over rounds two, three, five and six.

The early byes will feature two teams having a rest in each of those four rounds.

The Fantasy Classic competition will commence from round one while Fantasy Classic and Fantasy Draft leagues can also start in round one, although there’s greater flexibility with these leagues (see details below).

Commissioners can choose to not play through byes for their leagues, but this will only impact the mid-season byes. All leagues will play through the early byes, so get planning.

Dual-position player updates will occur after rounds six, 11 and 17. Every player will have the opportunity to have played five games before the first additions with a further five games between each update.

Brodie Grundy poses in his new Sydney colours for the first time at Coogee on November 30, 2023. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Some tweaks specific to Classic and Draft are outlined below.

Fantasy Classic

More than 160,000 coaches participated in Fantasy Classic last season, competing with others for overall prizes and bragging rights in tens of thousands of leagues.

Our salary cap-based game will tackle the early byes by implementing the familiar best 18 rule. That is, the highest 18 scores from your on-field 22 will count towards your weekly score.

This is how the mid-season byes are treated, but only two (2) trades can be made during the early byes. Coaches can make three (3) trades throughout the mid-season byes.

Lachie Neale handballs during the Toyota AFL Grand Final between Brisbane and Collingwood at the MCG on September 30, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Prices will not change between Opening Round and round one. Scores from players who participated in Opening Round will impact their price movements after round one. This, along with timing of bye rounds for certain players, will dictate some strategy with initial team selection.

Early byes

  • Rounds two, three, five, six
  • Best 18
  • Two (2) trades
  • Leagues play head-to-head match-ups as normal

Mid-season byes

  • Rounds 12, 13, 14, 15
  • Best 18
  • Three (3) trades
  • Leagues can choose to turn off match-ups for these four rounds

Fantasy Coach subscribers will have access to the Early Bye Detector to help with their planning before it switches to mid-season bye mode after round six.

Fantasy Draft

The game that is continuing to grow year-on-year is Fantasy Draft, where every player is unique. It has a significant amount of customisation that allows you to play the way you want.

Leagues will be able to draft from February, including during the March long weekend when the Opening Round is being held, in preparation for a round one start. Leagues can commence from round one, and if you want to avoid the early byes, you could choose to begin your head-to-head match-ups at round seven.

The flexibility is yours.

There are several options to help your league cope with the bye rounds.

Play it as normal – Players on a bye? So what! Use your bench to cover for them or hit up available free agents. Leagues may opt to add an extra couple of bench spots for 2024. Drafting strategy may change slightly as you may want to avoid having too many players from one bye round.

One of the features added to Fantasy Draft via the Deluxe Subscription is to Edit Match Results. This could be an opportunity for commissioners to think outside of the square for their leagues, especially in Keeper Leagues where the luck of the draw may not have worked in your favour.

The ability to edit match results will be opened up for all Draft leagues to use for free throughout the early byes. After round six it will only be available as part of the subscription package.

Marcus Bontempelli during the round 24 match between Geelong and the Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium, August 26, 2023. Pictures: AFL Photos

Some options to consider editing scores:

Apply Opening Round scores – Commissioners can calculate what a team's score would've been if an Opening Round player's bye zero was replace by their first game score.

Apply season average as bye scores – A throwback to Corona-ball where averages of players were applied during 2020 due to the ever-changing nature of the fixture. Commissioners can calculate scores based on a bye player's average score.

Minimise number of on-field scorers – In Fantasy Classic we have best 18, in Draft you could choose to make it your best 'whatever'. For example, if you're running with a 5-7-1-5 structure, you may choose to have the best 15 scorers rather than the 18 that are taken in full rounds.

Whatever you choose, commissioners will need to make sure everyone in your league knows the rules before the season starts. They'll also need to be prepared to get the calculator out and work out scores before applying them via the Edit Match Scores in the settings.

We'll have a walkthrough of this later in the pre-season.

AFL Fantasy will launch for 2024 very soon for what will be a challenging, yet fun, year of the Official Fantasy game of the AFL.