LEAGUE settings shape the way your keeper league operates, so it's important to work them out before starting. They can greatly impact your draft strategy, the way you trade and how you decide on keepers each year. There's a lot to think about, so here are some of the options you will need to decide on before starting your keeper league.

Squad sizes

Before you start your league, you'll need to decide on squad sizes. There's no right or wrong number of players to have in each team, but we recommend squad sizes between 30-40 players, as this number allows you to balance your side between established guns and up-and-coming youngsters. You will be able to draft players that will score you points in the short term, but also stash players for the future and wait for them to break out. Having a deep list also gives you cover for any injuries or suspensions that occur throughout the year.

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Number of Keepers

The number of players you choose to keep determines how competitive teams can be from year to year. If you elect for teams to keep the majority of their lists and only make a few list changes each year, you'll find that the good teams will remain at the top of the ladder for longer periods of time. In contrast, keeping a smaller number will ensure a good turnover of players and gives every team a chance of winning from year to year. What you choose depends on the type of keeper league you wish to create. Do you want long standing dynasties similar to those of Richmond and Hawthorn in the AFL, or would you prefer every team to have a realistic crack at the flag each year?

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Captains

This is a big one as it can determine your draft strategy. If you elect to have captains on, you’ll need to ensure you pick established scorers with your first few picks as you will rely on them to score you double points every week for years to come. You will also need ensure you select a few solid options in case your preferred captain gets injured. On the contrary, if you decide to turn captains off you can take younger players with potential earlier as you won’t need to rely on them to go big each week wearing the captain’s arm band.

Draft order

When starting a keeper league, we highly recommend going with a snake draft for your first draft. In a snake draft, each team makes its first-round pick based on a predetermined order, but when the first round is over, the team that picked last in the first-round picks first in the second round and the order reverses. This alternates back and forth for the proceeding rounds until the draft is complete. However, in the following years we recommend going with the standard linear draft in reverse ladder order to allow the teams who finish lower to access the better players in the draft first.

Restricted Free Agents

Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) are the players that aren’t selected in your keeper league drafts and remain in an unlisted player pool to be picked up at a later date. Some leagues allow teams to have access these unlisted players throughout the year in a variety of ways. The most common of which is allowing the teams at the bottom of the ladder to have first access or having a priority order based on the last time a team accessed the RFA pool. Granting access to RFAs can be a good way to keep the teams down the bottom in the hunt but turning RFA pick-ups off generally guarantees there will be some exciting players in the following year's draft. This is something you will need to think about.

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Trade deadline

When a team knows they’re out of finals contention, they’ll often begin planning for the future by trading out older players for youth. The teams at the top will be the ones who will be interested in grabbing these older players, and what happens is they’ll receive two or three older players in exchange younger players with potential (or injured players that aren’t currently playing). It only takes one or two of these trades to create a monster team which is suddenly much stronger than everyone else, effectively deciding the premiership team a month or so before finals even begin. To combat this, you can set a deadline so teams can’t trade later in the season. Setting a trade deadline early when every team still has a legitimate chance of making the finals is a good way to avoid scenarios like this.

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