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Don’t pick scabs: fantasy implications of Essendon’s ASADA replacements

Fantasy implications of Essendon top-ups

replacementsSalary cap fantasy competitions should reject the Essendon top-ups to prevent a terrible distortion of the games.

The AFL has released a statement (plus explanatory article) setting out rules by which Essendon can field a team in the NAB Challenge and home & away season if, as is very much on the cards, ASADA suspends the 34 players who allegedly received banned substances in the 2012 AFL season. The Herald-Sun compiled a list of those eligible to be picked up under such a scheme, including a mooted “best 22” of replacement players:

B: Brent Guerra, Matthew Warnock, Josh Hunt
HB: Alex Georgiou, Joel Wilkinson, Clinton Jones
C: Brock McLean, Brent Moloney, Richard Tambling
HF: Kyle Martin, Setanta O’hAilpin, Kyal Horsley
F: Jared Petrenko, Aaron Edwards, Stephen Milne
Foll: Ben Hudson, Brad Sewell, Luke Ball
Int: James Polkinghorne, Jordan Schroder, Jordan Lisle, Liam Anthony (sub)

As a fantasy footy participant, the obvious question for me is what this scenario would mean for AFL Fantasy, AFL Supercoach, AFL Dream Team, Ultimate Footy and the other popular fantasy competitions. If the looming suspensions are for the minimum six months, due to a carefully devised backdating effect they would last only until round 6 (inclusive) for all but Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher, who would have to serve one extra week due to playing in the International Rules Series. We would have at least six weeks of, essentially, a VFL side playing in the major national league. It would be worse in some respects than the debut years of the expansion clubs because the team would be disjointed, barely coachable, and most likely would get flogged by 20 goals plus every week.

My contention is that should the need arise for them to be signed by EFC, these Essendon top-up players should not be made available to pick for fantasy salary cap competitions. It is going to be distorting enough that a bunch of green listed Bombers are going to be forced into playing long before they are ready, as most fantasy squads will have a handful of them on their benches for the free cash accumulation. If the experienced top-ups are allowed to be bought – especially if they are given price discounts as is often the case with those returning to the league after delisting – they will be far too popular and make the game too “cheesy”. Operators of salary cap competitions must always guard against rules that encourage sameness of player selections, and this would be a negative on that score. What fun is it if everyone is picking the same half dozen Essendon scabs and rookies?

There is a case that can be made to ban all Essendon players from being available until the real AFL bans are lifted, as the existing listed players are going to be unnaturally popular even if the top-ups are excluded. I received a bit of pushback on that idea on Twitter, and fair enough too I suppose, but I think it should be an option to be discussed.

The factors are different enough for draft leagues to make this discussion moot in that area, as the top-ups are going to be somewhat unknown qualities and given the likely lopsided results of the first six matches, they may not get enough of the footy to produce startable scores in that format – or at least, not enough to make much of a difference to fantasy league results. The sameness problem doesn’t crop up in draft formats in any case.

What do you think? Does the thought of another distorted fantasy season after the advent of the byes and the expansion clubs fill you with distaste, or do you think it’s a fun new challenge and I should pull my head in? Let us know in the comments – I am sure Pete Jankulovski (DT and SC, VirtualSports), Phillip de Winter (AFL Fantasy, Fanhub Media) and Ryan Power (Ultimate Footy, Fairfax) will be reading them.



  1. Rob

    February 18, 2015 at 12:50 am

    Bit of a stretch to label top-up players scabs, to no other end than a failed attempt at a witty headline.

  2. jeff

    February 20, 2015 at 3:53 am

    Scabs are exactly what they are.

  3. Nathan

    February 22, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Totally agree m0nty, but on the other hand I have to think they are AFL players and it’s an AFL based game so they should be available for us to select

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