The 10 Commandments of SuperCoach – 2019 edition

Welcome to the sixth annual 10 Commandments of SuperCoach, a collection of wisdom and tired old jokes accumulated over many years.

This SC Talk annual tradition goes so far back that the first edition featured a non-ironic Feleti Mateo reference, mere weeks before the legendary John Palavi would debut in the Warriors’ 13 jersey and Todd Carney would forever ruin how we looked at drinking fountains.

Just like offseason NRL scandals, SuperCoach has gotten bigger every year and now the avalanche of detailed data and analysis available means there are no more secrets to the game. This humble list’s place is to serve as a gentle reminder not to make dumb decisions.

So, in the interests of avoiding the same mistakes as last year (and the year before that, and the…) the Commandments are coming down the mountain a little later than usual, to help avoid any last-minute brain snaps. Like Wilfred considering another fling with his crush Jordan Kahu. Seriously Wilf, how many more years are you going to do it to yourself?

First year players should consult our FAQ for the basics of the game and common terms.

Let’s get to it.

1- Thou shalt not believe the hype

The incredible amount of detailed information available nowadays about every team and player of interest means there are no real SuperCoach sleepers any more. Yet for all that data, the fundamental goal when putting a Round 1 team together remains unchanged – get the best bang for your buck.

Starting with the right blend of scoring and growth in Team Value is critical to a successful season and the proven recipe over the years is to stock your team with as many viable young or base-priced players as possible. But with so many rookies hyped as ‘once in a generation’ or a ‘potential origin star’ before they’ve even made their debut, you’ll need to be smarter than R Kelly when choosing which youngsters to go with.

If the next young star isn’t named in the Round 1 team, think long and hard about whether to believe the hype. Will Bronson Xerri or Albert Hopoate be last season’s Zac “one injury away” Lomax or 2017’s Kalyn Ponga? Get it wrong and you’ll be burning through trades and behind the curve on Team Value quicker than you can locate the Delete Team button.

2- Thou shalt conserve trades, for they are the way to salvation

Trades remain the most valuable resource in the game, just not as valuable as gambling is to the NRL (according to Gus Gould).

Unlike Gamblin’ Gus, SuperCoaches can’t afford to have a five-year plan but conserving trades with an eye on the future is a proven recipe for success (unlike a five year plan, hey Penrith fans?)

Bye planning is far less of an issue with last season’s changes to the NRL schedule and as a result most people dismissed the reduction of trades down to 37 as being irrelevant. What wasn’t accounted for was the significant reduction of dual position players drastically limiting roster flexibility, making individual trade decisions the most meaningful since the olden days of no rolling lockout.

Gone are the days of being able to move players around to make just about any trade possible. Now, swapping out that injured fullback for a hooker is far harder, if not impossible. What was possible with one trade is now likely to take two. And of course, injuries will once again play their part in destroying the best laid plans.

Most would consider the value of a trade to be $80k-100k but when you factor in forced trades due to injury you want to be profiting more than that when pricing a move. If the trade you’re considering is strictly to generate cash, if it won’t make you north of six figures you’ll probably do better holding off.

Come the final stretch of the season, those extra trades up your sleeve are worth their weight in gold, regardless of whether you’re a H2H player or overall. Nothing sinks hopes faster than a couple of million bucks’ worth of injured guns on the bench with no way of swapping them out.

3- Knoweth the three seasons and plan accordingly  

Many NRL teams split the season up into three distinct parts and SuperCoaches should be no different. These seasons are:

  • Rounds 1-11 – cash generation
  • Rounds 12-16 – origin/bye period
  • Rounds 17-25 – the run home

The stock market aspect of the game requires careful consideration and planning. The first part of the season should be a mad scramble to generate as much Team Value as possible while keeping within shouting distance of the points leaders. Identifying the right cash cows and undervalued players is essential to growing enough Team Value to afford a fistful of guns later in the year.

The second season is now less of a nightmare, where the shift to one bye per team and a standalone rep weekend helps to reduce the planning headache – but anyone thinking it will prevent veterans from being rested are fooling themselves. Elite sport is all about load management nowadays and the smart teams are managing their rep players by sitting them for an extra game or strategically reducing minutes through this period.

While we’re no longer faced with the prospect of only having 12 or 13 players for a big bye round, a lack of good planning could well be the difference between fielding 17 good players or suiting up any warm body just to make up the numbers. Take it from a guy who has owned Mitch Aubusson more times than he cares to admit, poor planning can still cost you an easy 150-200 points in a single bye round.

The third part of the season is like the final straight in the Melbourne Cup. Everything up to this point is about ensuring your team is in a good position when the whip comes out. And that means being able to field 17 bona fide guns every week. Dump anyone who isn’t scoring premium points and go like stink.

4- Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the armband

Time waits for no man and the SuperCoach superstars of yesteryear, the ‘set and forget’ captaincy choices, are either retired or holding on for one more year.

Either way, the armband now belongs to the young blokes. The average age of the top 15 players last year was just 24.13* and full of guys with just a few years’ NRL experience.

No Burgess, Gallen, Smith, Inglis or Thurston in sight – not a single player in the top 15 had even turned 30. That includes Blake Ferguson, who must’ve started going bald at 15 because he’s somehow only 28. I could’ve sworn the ‘cruisers on the roof’ incident happened in 2005.

Forget about the blokes with the highest points per game – the average age of the players with last season’s top 10 individual scores was even younger at 23.28* and it’s only that high because 28-year-old Grandad Widdop put up 173 against the woeful Titans.

Millennials, eh? Maybe all that avocado on toast isn’t so bad after all…

*age at the start of the season

5- Damned are the talentless, for they are a trap

Every year we get them, the surprise round one selection in nobody’s preseason ‘best 17’ that lures us in, with their cheap price and cash cow potential. Then the whistle blows and they display all the decision-making ability of a Penrith player in a WhatsApp group.

Even if they aren’t strictly a shock selection, if it seems too good to be true, then it often is.

For example, Leilani Latu was a popular Round 1 pick last season after being personally recruited by his former lower grade coach at the Panthers. Cheaply priced, a starting role and the coach’s favourite…there was no way he could fail.

Narrator’s voice: He failed, badly.  

Mitch Cornish, Ligia Sao and Matt Frawley also came from the fringes to play in Round 1 last year and were swiftly dropped. The lesson is that it’s about talent as much as opportunity and if a player doesn’t have the talent to justify the opportunity then he’s not sticking around for long.

This Commandment is particularly true at a club with a new coach because they rarely know their best lineup from the get-go (think Nathan Brown in his first season in Newcastle). The most obvious version of this currently is John Morris, who no doubt will cycle through plenty of options in the opening weeks of the year so don’t plan for the Sharks’ roster to be settled until several rounds in.

6- Damnation awaits those who chase last week’s points

Every year and sometimes several times in a season, a SuperCoach-irrelevant or fringe player will explode with a career game and tens of thousands trade him into their teams the following week.

But before falling over yourself in the rush to trade them in, understand that chasing last week’s points is a trap.

Even as a quick cash grab, these deals often don’t work out, given much of the rise in price generally occurs before you buy in. This has been a Commandment for many years and thankfully most have heeded the message but, in the race to gain an edge, a new trend has reared its ugly head in the last couple of years.

I call them each way bets – mid-pricers you buy when you’re partly trying to chase quick cash but also half hoping the player kicks on and you can keep him around. Maybe you’re banking on pedigree from years past or you’ve convinced yourself an inconsistent player finally ‘gets it’.

But what usually happens is that they don’t earn enough cash to be worth the immediate trade out and you end up holding them after the price rise has been and gone and all you’re left with is mediocre scoring and the need to burn another trade to move them out. Did I mention I’ve owned Mitch Aubusson on more than one occasion?

Examples of each way bets from last year include:

  • David Fusitua – 105 in rd14, then went 16, 23, 29, 16, 21, losing $147k
  • Nene MacDonald – 94 in rd4, then 38ppg to start of byes, peaking at a $25k gain in rd6
  • Moses Mbye – 115 in rd3, then 38ppg to start of byes, peaking at a $31k gain in rd5

All these each way bets were top 10 trade-ins the week after they went large. This is the SuperCoach equivalent of buying into Bitcoin at $15,000 and still owning it.

Worth noting is that this is David Fusitua’s fourth appearance in this article in the past five years; always as a cautionary tale. This qualifies him as the first ever inductee into the 10 Commandments Hall of Fame.

The lesson here folks is don’t buy David Fusitua, you’d get more value listening to Steve Mortimer’s opinion on kids these days.

“The important thing was I had an onion tied to my belt, which was the style at the time…”

7- Blessed be the healthy       

Many SuperCoaches don’t understand that the ability to stay healthy is a skill – a very valuable one when it comes time to settle on which players to start with.

Health can be difficult to determine at a time of year when “training the house down” is the go-to phrase used to describe a player returning from injury, scandal or whatever the hell happened to Bryce Cartwright the past two years.  

Injury-prone guns are high-risk high-reward gambles…there’s a reason so many have Inglis, Dugan and Reynolds on their ‘never again’ list. Similarly, a big reason why quality veterans (and previously popular SC options) such as Jack Bird and Dylan Walker are so cheap this year is that they struggle to stay on the field.

Health isn’t the only consideration, with off-field shenanigans playing an ever-increasing role in who suits up on gameday. We’ve heard that enough is enough from the NRL brass for years now but one gets the sense that they might actually mean it this time.

If you want to make a run at the overall prize or win your H2H league you need to be good AND lucky, so you’re just asking for trouble by picking a stack of injury or scandal-prone players.

8- Thou shalt not rage trade guns

If one of your guns has a shocker, particularly if they had the armband on, most of us immediately want to teach the useless prick a lesson by dumping him for someone who won’t let you down.

We’ve all been there and it can be hard to resist, especially if they play for your real-life team. Added to that, the inevitable price drop due to the low score in their rolling average makes it even harder to avoid the rage trade.

Jason Taumalolo was a popular trade out after a lackluster 42 in Round 5 left him with a 5RA of just 50 to start last season. He then averaged 80 the following five games. Similarly, a pathetic 22 from Latrell Mitchell in Round 16 (with a bye the next week and triple figure BE) made him a popular trade out. He promptly averaged 81 the rest of the year as the form CTW in the comp.

It’s important to remember that, a) you don’t actually lose money if you never trade them out, and b) you’re burning two trades if you need to bring them back. Which, in the case of real guns, is more often than not.

Teach them a lesson by trading them for Blake Ayshford before the lockout (how humiliating). Just remember to hit reverse trade before lockout, or…

Toaster time

9- Thou shalt not overreact to scoring changes

Every year, changes to either NRL or SuperCoach rules send the community wild with speculation over their impact but, inevitably, they are more minor than first anticipated.

This year’s changes relate to the controversial six-point Last Touch Assist (LTA), which makes way for the new four-point Try Contribution (TC) stat.

As part of the announcement, the Daily Telegraph’s Dave Campbell outlined how halves would benefit and hookers be disadvantaged by the new scoring.

Woah, that means halves are good and hookers are bad, right?

Well, based on the number of games they played, the Top 10 losers would be between 0.6 and 1.75 points per game worse off and the winners would cash in between 1.7 and 2.9 extra points per game.

Coming from a guy who accidentally started with the wrong Sione Katoa in his Round 1 team last season, trust me when I say there are bigger things to focus on.

These changes are flavour enhancers, not game changers, and shouldn’t affect your decisions.

10- Honour and trust thy gut, for it shall keep you sane

Like an anti-vaxxer’s kids, this Commandment never gets old.

At the end of the day, you want to be able to feel good about your team and your decisions. If you’re genuinely torn on whether to take the advice of a fellow coach or go another way, then go with your gut. If it turns out to be wrong, at least it was your call – nothing is more frustrating than going against your instincts and having it blow up in your face.

Of particular note is the panic many SuperCoaches experience during the first rolling lockout of the year, when months of planning gets flushed down the toilet because one fringe player goes large and kneejerk trades are made to free up cash to bring them in the next week.

Rest assured this is very amusing to everyone else in your league and it rarely works. All you’ve done is torn up your carefully constructed squad to fit Corey Norman into your team. Congratulations.

While there wasn’t quite the panic last season as in previous years, some popular trade ins after Round 1 included:

  • Ash Taylor – 95 then 35avg the next four games and lost $30k
  • Jack DeBellin – 79 then 42avg the next four games and lost $100k
  • Waqa Blake – 88 then 29avg the next four games and got injured
  • Josh Hoffman – 85 then 25avg the next four games and got injured

I think we can all agree that if you made any of the above trades with your gut, then you might need to see a doctor.

Good luck with the season and may all your guns fire and trades pay off!

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Hahaha this is great, well done mates