When you consider the number of players and range of personalities that make up the teams in our national sport, and then think about all the numerous maladies and mischiefs that can befall them, then it’s no wonder those players occasionally run into trouble.
Despite the fantasy tag, our players are only human and they are susceptible to real-world problems that can have devastating fantasy implications.
A prime example, which no one in fantasy circles will ever forget, is Heath Shaw’s infamous betting scandal in 2011. Few saw the problem coming and the fallout rippled its way throughout the format.
Pretend for a moment that it is Ultimate Footy that matters most (believe me, it is disturbingly easy at times) and you will get a glimpse of just how appalling a scandal it was. Not only was Shaw a premier fantasy defender that year, but the timing of his eight-match suspension really kicked his owners in the teeth, as it ruled Shaw out for the fantasy finals.
In an instance like that, what’s a fantasy coach to do?
There is this nice saying about lemons and lemonade and such, but truth be told there was little to be made from the lemon that was Heath Shaw that year. He could not be traded (he was worth nothing) or redeemed for any skerrick of value – he was merely dead weight that had to be written off and discarded.
Of course, scandals like Shaw’s are rare and usually focus around the actions of a silly or absent minded individual. It is mind-bogglingly rare for such a real-life calamity to risk taking out an entire team of fantasy players.
Enter the long-running Essendon and ASADA soap opera.
Whatever your opinion about the whole sordid affair, about the length of the investigation or the impact on the players, the truth is ASADA issued 34 show-cause notices right when everyone could do without the distraction, fantasy coaches included.
At Round 15 we’re nearing the business end of the season in both real-world and fantasy formats, with Essendon scrapping to try and make the finals, and fantasy coaches scrapping alongside. While Essendon the team already took its knock last year (and will continue to feel repercussions from losing its top draft picks), the real unknown surrounding the ASADA investigation has always been what suspensions it might hand down to individual players.
Now a risk-averse fantasy coach might consider that having too many Essendon players on their list right at this moment might not be such a good strategy. If a few, or indeed a score, of players were to receive penalties then a fantasy finals campaign could be over in an instant.
There are two problems with that line of thinking. The first is that Essendon are currently the fantasy benchmark.
Up to Round 14, Essendon are the leading team for average Ultimate Fantasy points per game, by a healthy margin. Their key players dot the fantasy landscape and odds are the top teams in fantasy competitions have a few. The likes of Dyson Heppell, Michael Hibberd, Brendon Goddard, Jobe Watson (shame about that injury), Paul Chapman (shame about that ageing body and dodgy hamstrings), Patrick Ryder, Brent Stanton and David Zaharakis all feature prominently, week to week.
Of course, there are fantasy stars throughout all eighteen teams in the competition, but if you have a high concentration of Essendon players then odds are you have a greater proportion of the points. So anything that could remotely threaten their appearance during the fantasy finals is cause for concern. The question is: just when will the ASADA bomb go off?
This leads me to the second problem with jettisoning your Bombers too prematurely.
Essendon players have been given until July 11 by ASADA to respond to their show-cause notices, however this may stretch out as Essendon have turned to the courts to try and settle things. While the judge involved has indicated he aims to have the matter resolved ‘quickly’, in law terms that is being interpreted as within the next two to three months. By then, the fantasy and indeed real AFL finals will be well and truly decided.
If we put aside the issue of the minority of fantasy coaches whose ‘keeper’ teams will roll over next year (and my, they will be nervous) then it seems likely that fantasy coaches with Bomber-heavy teams can have a level of confidence that their prized Essendon players are safe.
At least, for this season.
Article supplied by Footy Prophet (www.footyprophet.com) – football analysis and opinion with a fantasy focus. Be a part of the game.