TAKING a calculated risk has seen Craig Wegener crowned as the AFL Fantasy Classic champion of 2019.
Trailing the competition's leader by 51 points heading into round 23, Wegener traded the injured Toby Greene to Jeremy Cameron which proved to be a masterstroke. Cameron booted nine goals and finished with a career-high 154 Fantasy points in a tremendous final-round effort that handed the keys of the Toyota Corolla to the South Australian.
Wegener's team Top Me Up Buttercup leapfrogged Jonathan Harmey's team Hirdy's Heros which had been the highest-ranked team since round 14. It wasn't to be for Harmey after trading Max Gawn, who incidentally also scored 154, due to the apparent hamstring injury which saw him sit off for the last 15 minutes of Melbourne's round 22 clash.
The overall winner held Gawn and the rest is history.
"It's a little bit unbelievable, still quite surreal," Wegener said when he appeared on The Traders' podcast this week.
Along with the Corolla, he wins a Grand Final package where he hopes he will see his Bombers on that last Saturday in September.
Wegener's starting selections of underpriced stars Rory Sloane, Tom Rockliff, Dom Sheed and James Worpel helped him get off to a fast start, ranking in the top 100 after the first week. He slid to 2639th, before a big round seven and an outstanding bye period saw him push up the rankings.
While Cameron, the Coleman medallist, was Wegener's 'Norm Smith medallist' in the final round, the Fantasy champion credits his trade of Todd Goldstein to Reilly O'Brien in round three as a major reason for his success. He was able to trade O'Brien for Max Gawn during the byes thanks to the $371,000 increase from Adelaide's ruckman.
"What a move," a delighted Wegener told Roy, Calvin and Warnie when they brought up the O'Brien selection on the podcast.
Reilly O'Brien's improvement was a huge boost for Fantasy coaches in 2019. Picture: AFL Photos
At this point Craig was in the top 15 and worked his way to second in the final few weeks.
The last few weeks were nerve-racking.
Giants' forward Toby Greene was a must-have when he started getting midfield time and Wegener kept an eye on the No.1 team as he made his weekly trades.
"I traded out (Jack) Billings to get Worpel in the week after Hirdy's Heros traded Billings in so I wanted to play a bit of chess to try and create some reactions, which seemed to work very well," he said.
In the final round, Wegener correctly predicted Harmey's moves and was able to seal the come from behind victory.
The coaches at the pointy end walk away with prizes for their effort this year. Second-placed Hirdy's Heros takes home $10,000 in cash while third, Abes8, receives $7,000. The top three each receive a Grand Final package valued at $4000.
Fourth through to 10th share in $16,000 worth of cash.
New Era Australia is on board this year with the top 100 ranked coaches overall winning an AFL Fantasy hat with their final ranking emblazoned on the side.
Top 10 teams in AFL Fantasy Classic 2019.