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Real versus fantasy: Dream Team relaunch

Dream Team relaunch

The Australian fantasy football industry is fragmenting… but this can only mean good things for you, the fantasy coach.

nullFirst, a bit of background. 2013 saw a lot of changes in the Australian fantasy football industry. The addition of Ryan Power’s Ultimate Footy private league system to Fairfax’s stable, with regular columns from Footy Prophet and publicity in the Melbourne Age and elsewhere, was only the most prominent. There was also the addition of gameday competitions, though this was not pushed as hard as it could have been – Stadium Sport was the leader in this area, offering significant cash prizes. Behind the scenes, the changes were even more momentous.

The industry had reached its peak in 2010, and had plateaued in number of registrations for a couple of years, only for the major AFL Dream Team and Supercoach competitions to plummet in popularity last year. The catalyst for the drop came not in 2013, though, but in 2012 when the new bye system caused a raft of donuts (zero scores from non-playing players, for the uninitiated) across every fantasy team, without exception. Fantasy coaches hate donuts with a passion: they are not realistic, and they are not fun. Unfortunately, the operator of both of the competitions – VirtualSports, run by Peter Jankulovski for more than a decade – had not changed the rules to prevent coaches from feeling the lack of fun caused by at least half a dozen donuts. By 2013, the rules had changed and were well received by the remaining fantasy community, but the damage was done for a significant percentage of fantasy coaches who didn’t return for the following year, as seen in this graph.

AFL fantasy registration growth numbers to 2013

Registration numbers were down by double digit per cent for both the AFL for the Dream Team competition, and News Limited for the Supercoach comp. These trend lines tend to focus attention in corporate circles. Peter and the VS team were under pressure through 2013 to come up with a solution from both companies, and while News stuck with him, eventually the AFL decided to go with another provider: FanHub. This meant, among other things, that the AFL rebranded its competition as AFL Fantasy, since VirtualSports owns the Dream Team trademark and has always defended it vigorously. It also meant that Pete was free to relaunch Dream Team as an independent product, reverting some of the 2013 rule changes and offering a more old school game for the diehard fans hungering for a deeper challenge.

FanHub’s main claim to fame, apart from a solution that hews closely to the VS template, is the Luxbet product AFL Fantasy Punt. Now, VS itself has had a lot of experience in providing fantasy products through betting providers, notably Centrebet and Sportsbet, so that wasn’t the deciding factor in the AFL changing horses, as it were. Nevertheless, the blurring of lines between fantasy sports and online betting is the other major trend in fantasy sports coming from last year.

So, what does this mean for 2014? We now have three “major” competitions, though Peter no longer has access to the database of players of the old AFL Dream Team, and has to build from scratch for the new independent Dream Team while the FanHub fellows stand on the shoulders of his giant decade of work. The winner out of this will undoubtedly be Supercoach, as the DT community splits. Not that SC needed help, since it has dominated the industry since 2008. The big question for me is whether enough of the old DT fans will be notified that they have another option now, so that Pete can compete. But hey, he’s still the operator of the biggest comp, so he wins both ways. The other question is whether the move from salary cap comps like DT, AF and SC towards private league comps like Ultimate Footy and the XVs competitions on the FanFooty forums will continue.

The answer to both questions, I think, lies in media support. Promotion is obviously where the AFL and News Limited built their fantasy empires in the first place, but at this point advertising seems to have no effect since investment is increasing while registrations are decreasing. To me, media support through content is where the industry needs to direct its energies. Fairfax has the right idea with featuring Footy Prophet, albeit you commenters can tell me how well they are doing in actually getting you to read them on a regular basis. The AFL have enlisted the highly talented and hardworking Dream Team Talk guys to front their content, which is also an excellent sign. Hopefully News Limited add to their Little Black Book and the Supercoach Show on Fox Footy with regular content support from people known to and trusted by the fantasy community, rather than the usual lurk of ex-footballers who are slumming it and would rather be in the footy mainstream.

As for FanFooty, we are platform agnostic and not aligned to any betting provider (the latter being a personal rule). I can’t wait to see what happens this year, as the changes have been brewing for a couple of years now, and we get to see what life is like after the VirtualSports monopoly has been broken.

Tell me what you think will happen in the comments below! Will you stay loyal to DT, or switch to the new AFL Fantasy, or play both? How many comps is too many, both in salary cap and private leagues? Is the proliferation of multifarious competitive providers a good thing, or would you rather the old ways?



  1. ossie85

    January 11, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Great read.

    Would love a way of avoiding donuts, and honestly a simple way exists but none seem willing to try. Simply rolling lockout over the bye rounds so you get a full contigent of the 18 teams

  2. DT Fttt

    January 12, 2014 at 11:55 am

    DT was dead when they ruined it by increasing trades and not having a decent concept to deal with late outs and green vests. Making DT too ‘friendly’ (moronic easy) drove hardcore players away, and those hardcore players were the ones to organize and set up leagues.

    I left DT in 2012, but i’ll return to play Real DT.

    If only they could have made it so best 22 players scores count (best 6 def, 2 ruc, 8 mid and 6 fwd) regardless of on field or bench, this would do away with emergencies, late outs and encourage the building of the BEST team, not the luckiest team.

  3. Mr.Craig

    January 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    m0nty, what’s your feeling with the direction and VS will go as far as paywalls are concerned? Would you imagine that both will be providing added content and stats at a cost?

  4. m0nty

    January 12, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Mr.Craig: if they provide basic stats at a cost I will be very surprised. In fact, I’d say that is not on the cards. As for content, I don’t see that as an issue. They would have to increase the quality to make it worth the money, so that means good things for the industry… and if they fail, that will be on their heads. There is a pool of good writers out there, they just have to figure it out. I doubt VS will go that way, maybe AFL will but I think they will see the Herald-Sun’s paywall as an opportunity for them to stay free rather than follow their model.

  5. Fan Hub

    January 12, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Nice article Monty.

    Our team have been avid users of your site for a long time. We are excited to hopefully becoming a bigger part of the Australian fantasy community this year, and adding to the high standard of innovation that Ultimate Footy, Virtual Sports, ESPN Footy Tips and others have set up until now and no doubt going forward as well.

    We can’t wait for the season to start and give users a chance to see what our platform is all about – we think that you will love some of the new features that we will roll out throughout the year.

  6. Alex87

    January 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Great read Monty.

    I’d love to see all the respective AFL fantasy sites look into how the NFL are running theirs. A major emphasis is on ease of use with a depth of complexity if you wish to dig and get into it. The Draft is the biggest draw card but with additions like Perfect Challenge (which is as close to SC and DT you’d get), Weekly Pick’Em and recent Playoff Challenge it really shows how far behind we currently are.

    Each week during the regular season you receive a match up with the team your opposing with analysis and predictions. During the matches you get a live coverage and video replays of the highlights of your players instantly.

    It seems to me that we are currently divided across many platforms, I’d love to see the AFL step up and bring everything under one roof by creating an amazing experience as the NFL do.

    Will be an interesting 2014.

  7. m0nty

    January 13, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Very good point about the NFL, Alex87. They are the gold standard at the moment, in previous years they lagged a bit behind the likes of ESPN and Sportsline but they really lifted their game this season. Also should be noted that they are heavily into gamification, like the FanFooty Rewards program I dabbled with last year.

  8. Matt

    January 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Hi m0nty.
    Thanks for the excellent article. It is so hard to get someone who knows the AFL fantasy scene as it is changing all the time. I run my own small league and have being doing it myself for a few years now but with time constraints I will be looking for a website to run ours with this year. I was going to go with the new AFL DT they started last year but still felt it was too constrictive and now with this change I’m more confused than ever.
    Do you know the differences between Pete’s Dream Team and the new Fan Hub? Ultimately SC seems to be the way to go but we have been using the Dream Team system since we started in 2007. I too play the NFL and MLB fantasy on ESPN and the system there is outstanding. We have such a long way to go here….

  9. Andy

    January 13, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    To put it simply, the AFL’s Fantasy game is becoming rediculous. I will NOT be playing it this year. I will be remaining loysl to VS. Real Dream Team is the challenging game we all fell in love with. It seems to me that the AFL’s Fantasy Crapic is an advertising driven game designed for kids. The whole unlimited trades till rnd 2 was the final straw & made me add the “Fantasy” game to my NEVER AGAIN LIST!!!

  10. Mr.Craig

    January 13, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    m0nty, you may have misinterpreted my question regarding the paywalls – in terms of stats I was referring to the projections, ownership numbers etc. that were included in the previous Assistant Coach package along with the articles that were hidden from anyone not putting up money. VS have now come out and said they will be using the same system in 2014 and I’d imagine that will be keen to maintain some sort of premium feature in their new product too.

  11. Phillip Molly Malone

    January 14, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    I’m wondering if any of the platforms will open themselves up, through APIs, to third party developers the way other organisations (in and outside of the Sports realm) have in the US! Seems like a great way to get more community involvement and differentiate themselves from the pack!

    Just a thought.

  12. G-razqle

    January 14, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    @Monty A lot of good points but I think your wrong in terms of all the damage had been done in 2012. Obviously thats when it started but personally as a long time lover and high ranker of fantasy footy the abundance of trades also contributed to a lack of interest from the core community of players and noobs out there and I think the same will happen this year.

    I think the drastic change in trades and bench was a big factor in losing interest from already long term players, only noobs would have been discouraged from the bye debacle in 2012 as for myself and other players who rank well it was just another challenge that we all had to consider.

    The byes are definitely an issue and only having 18 scorers was a great start but I think that the byes directly are being focused on as the big problem too much.

    Just think of it this way, noobs want it to be quick and easy. more trades and rolling lock mean more time consuming and thus its less challenging also for the hardcore community.

    Personally Id rather no rolling lock out, less trades either back to 20, 18 or even 16………yes I said 16!!!
    I know its unrealistic but it would be harder and so much more important picking your initial team, you wont go trading a player if he is out 3 or 4 weeks like in recent times you would probably stick with them. Or although everyone thinks it keeps everyone in the game by making easier it actually takes out any opportunity for noobs to win games.
    I won every game in one of my leagues (top 1000) last year and that just should not be possible.

    Pros- Harder and more challenging for hardcore players and less time spent week to week from all minus the rolling lock=out, the bulk of it would be getting your team right first up.

    The games unique and so is the fantasy game for it lets keep it that way and not alienate the hardcore players because they are what keep it going and get others interested.

  13. G-razqle

    January 14, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    continuity is key!!!

  14. nrich102

    January 15, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Hey M0nty, great write up. Do you think Assistant Coach will go to DT or AF? It looks like its going to DT, as they have the team picker, and AF have leaked out all the prizes. Cheers M0nty.

  15. m0nty

    January 18, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    nrich, I believe Assistant Coach is a VirtualSports thing so it will stay with DT. I am sure the AFL Fantasy people will have a similar product, especially with the DT Talkers on board now as “The Traders”.

  16. Westy

    January 30, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    I Agree with @Andy

    The unlimited trades til the start of Round 2 has really turned me off an already dying format. I was always staunch defender in the DT vs Supercoach arguments over the drip tray. Unfortunately the new rules mean there is no need for any research or intuition, everyone can pick there side before round 2 and we’ll all have the same rookies and premiums based on rnd 1 scores, differentiation will be minimal. I am going to give the VS lads a crack this year. I just hope they can use their history in the format to slip Nigel Lappin and Joel Bowden back in the game

  17. Aussie Punter

    February 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    I always enjoy your posts that show the trends in fantasy football. You’re one of a kind in the AFL fantasy industry, I’m surprised that you haven’t taken up an offer from one of the major companies, surely you must have been approached from most of them by now.

    It’s interesting to see that the market has not only fragmented, but also shrunk in the last few years. I would have expected some people to focus on only one or two competitions instead of 3+, as I did when I first started playing, I joined every competition that I could find because I was “hooked”. Last year I played in 2 comps, plus one from a betting company. This year I’m not sure, there are so many options!

    I wonder if the total number of *unique* players have stayed similar since 2010, or maybe even increased slightly. There may be less people joining every comp they can find. I wonder what it was in 2009 that made so many people join “other” competitions, or what happened in 2010 that prevented the “others” gaining any market share.

    Keep up the good work mate!

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