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Want to win AFL Fantasy? The master reveals his secrets

Ask the Fantasy Coach Calvin, Warnie and Roy answer your questions

ROUND 23, St Kilda v North Melbourne. The last game of the 2018 home and away season. A dead rubber with no impact on the finals make-up, but with so much at stake in the AFL Fantasy world.

After 325 games, it all came down to St Kilda's Seb Ross. If he scored more than 122 AFL Fantasy points, second-placed Shuey's Shockers would claim the prize. Fewer than 122 points, my boys at Moreira's Magic get the chocolates.

Of course, Ross goes out and scores 122 on the dot.

The result will go down in history for two reasons. It was the first time there has ever been a tie at the top of the leaderboard, and the first time anyone had gone back-to-back in AFL Fantasy history, following my slightly less nerve-racking 450-point win in 2017.

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After an overwhelming couple of years, I've decided to make good of my recent success and share some insights into how I managed to beat thousands of other Fantasy teams twice and drive away with two cars in two years.

Predict the second-year breakout

Second-year players have the most scope for improvement of anyone in the AFL. Natural progression, a full pre-season under their belt and increased responsibilities have seen players in their second year of AFL footy announce themselves as genuine stars of the competition. And I've managed to pick the right one for the past two seasons.

In 2017 it was Clayton Oliver, who jumped a competition-high 33 points a game in his second season. Last year it was Tim Taranto, who rose 30 points a game on his debut season. Both players were top-five draft picks and were given greater midfield responsibility in their second seasons. Not only did they go up in value and make a ton of cash, but they scored similarly to more expensive options. I've got no doubt I wouldn't have gone as well without these guys in my side.

 

There are a few from the 2017 AFL Draft crop putting up their hands to be that man this season. Paddy Dow is looking stronger and should get every opportunity at the developing Blues. James Worpel is favoured by many to fill the inside midfield void following the injury to Tom Mitchell. Maybe I'm biased being a Freo man, but I've got big hopes in Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra. Pick the right one and you will go a long way to winning the comp.

Pay up for rookies

I tend to pay up for rookies as I've been burnt plenty of times in the past by the basement-priced ones. Not only do the more expensive rookies bring greater job security, but they also provide greater flexibility when adjusting your team once the season starts. By starting with a more expensive rookie, you can easily trade down to a strong-performing rookie if your initial choice flops in round one.

Last year I started with No.2 pick (and the second most-expensive rookie) Andrew Brayshaw, and 'downgraded' to Tim Kelly after Kelly proved to be a 'must-have' after his strong performance on  debut. If you start with a $170,000 rookie who gets dropped after scoring a sub-par score in the first round, you won't be able to afford trading him to anyone else and run the risk of missing out on someone like Kelly.

I'd recommend finding that extra $100,000 to get Sam Walsh in your team this year.

Look for players who will improve on their price

It's certainly not ground breaking, but I like to start my team with players I think can improve on their previous seasons and therefore outperform their price. This even applies to my premiums, which was a factor in me (wrongly) leaving out Tom Mitchell last season.

I look for reasons why players may or may not improve – for example, natural improvement with age, new role, changes in team personnel opening up greater opportunity, or extraordinary circumstances that lead to them being down in their previous year, such as injuries or concussion. Zach Merrett ticks the box for this season, as a round-one concussion in 2018 makes him the cheapest he has been in three years.

Be unique

To set yourself apart from the rest, and ultimately win the competition, you need to have a different element in your team. This can be achieved by selecting a player with low ownership who you think can outperform. However, with so much great content and intel out there these days, teams are becoming more and more similar and it's harder to find a 'sleeper' who is a point of difference. Players are popular for a reason, as they are obviously well-priced or a proven gun scorer.

My tactic in creating a unique team over the last few years has been to leave out a player with high ownership, rather than starting with someone with low ownership. In 2017 I left out an under-priced Jarryd Roughead, and in 2018, it was Tom Mitchell. Both these players were among the most popular players to start the season and owned by more than half of the competition.

Take a look at the most-selected players and don't be afraid to leave one out. If things go your way and that player scores poorly, you'll get an immediate jump on the rest of the competition.

2019 Season Guide and the Starlight pledge

For a lot more tips, you can check out my 2019 AFL Fantasy Season Guide for the Starlight Children's Foundation. It includes further insights into my past two seasons, commentary on all issues heading into the season, starting squad analysis, bye-round strategy and key information on all 800-plus players on their Fantasy prospects for the upcoming season.

 

All proceeds from the sale of the guide will be donated to the Starlight Children's Foundation to help grant a wish to a seriously ill child and their family.

Last year we raised $6500, which was enough to make one Starlight Wish come true. I'm now on track to make five more wishes come true this season.

Click here to find out more about Moreira's Magic and his pledge to the Starlight Children's Foundation