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160 minutes of maelstrom headlines 2009 AFL draw

Fantasy coaches look at the AFL draw a little differently to normal football fans. We don’t particularly care about how many interstate trips each team gets, whether they start with a home game or how many times we have to play at the new Jihad (sorry, Etihad) Stadium. For 2009, what we were most worried about was round 1: were the AFL going to schedule two Thursday night games to kick off the season as they did last year starting at 6.10pm AEST, which in conjunction with the 5pm cutoff for round 1 teams to be published led to the now-infamous 70 minutes of madness?

There has been somewhat of a reprieve, thankfully. The Blues and Tigers are going to be playing the opening match again, but this time at a more accommodating hour of 7.40pm AEST, leaving a more expansive time window of 160 minutes of maelstrom between the 5pm teamsheet publications (which tend to lag to around 5.30 anyway) and the first fantasy lockout of the year. It still won’t help much in the Fox Sports comp if they don’t change their lockout from 5pm, but we’re talking here mostly about the VirtualSports competitions Dream Team and Super Coach, both of which were highly compromised by the thoughtless scheduling at the start of this year.

Still, those 160 minutes are going to be messy. We will only have one set of teams before the Thursday 5pm deadline, with only one game on the Thursday this year as opposed to two last year. With Dream Team being so late in opening this year there’s a lot of latent demand in the public so I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another big jump in coach numbers next year, putting further strain on the VirtualSports servers. I’ll be posting again on this subject many times before next season, as it is becoming one of the most important issues in Australian fantasy football.

And what of the draw itself? Unlike other sports, it’s pretty hard to see that AFL teams have soft or hard draws, and they often only become so in retrospect after we find out true team formlines. There were only three really soft spots within draws in 2008: Adelaide early, Sydney in the middle and Richmond late.

The Hawks have a pretty tough start with Geelong, Sydney and North in the first three weeks, all of whom have deflationary effects on their fantasy opposition. North themselves have an excellent first half of the draw where they don’t travel outside Victoria once, with eight of those at Docklands – but come on, it’s North we’re talking about. This is just part of Laidley’s plan to suck us in with promises of sweet rookies before throwing us in the cauldron of his evil. Port have a pretty good first six weeks, including Essendon, West Coast and Melbourne in the first three which should all be lucrative. The Eagles start with the Lions at the Gabba, where they traditionally do well, then have a tough draw up until round 8 at ANZ. The Bulldogs travel twice to Subiaco in the first four rounds.

Overall, I’d say that if anyone is going to get off to a flier it’s the Power, so keep an eye on their kids.

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