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Ultimate Footy preview

Sports journalist Michael Gleeson previews Ultimate Footy, a new draft style fantasy AFL game.

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With the launch of Fairfax Media's new fantasy football game Ultimate Footy in 2013, Footy Prophet is here to run you through some of the key differences between fantasy drafting and the salary cap games you might be used to.

1. Draft Night

This is one of the best events on the fantasy calendar, and one of the main drawcards of this game format. On draft night all of the coaches in your league get together, have a few drinks and systematically 'draft' players to their list from the remaining pool. There's plenty of sledging, but everyone picks their team at the same time. If you can't get into the same physical room you can still run a live online draft or use one of the other options available. With the clock ticking down, you have to choose between Matthew Pavlich, Jimmy Bartel and Dayne Zorko, and the pressure can be intense. You try and pick the best remaining players, while filling a squad consisting of backs, forwards, rucks and centres.

2. Each player can only be picked once

That's right. Gary Ablett can't play for the Suns and the Bombers on any given week, so why should he be able to play for multiples teams in fantasy leagues? As in the real world, each AFL player can only be picked by one team in your fantasy draft league. If you want to lock up Trent Cotchin ahead of what could be a Brownlow Medal-winning season, you can do so and stop anyone else from reaping the rewards. In a draft league you will never have to line up against Dane Swan every week, and if you're lucky enough to draft him, he'll only play for you. The same is true for your potential breakout or sleeper, and your favourite players.

3. Trades

Trading should be between coaches, and draft leagues are all about trades. If draft night is the best aspect of these leagues then trading is the second best. If you want Ablett, you'll have to engineer a trade with the team that drafted him. It's not as simple as just freeing up some salary cap, and trading in some rookies. Ablett will probably cost you two other fantasy guns, maybe Grant Birchall and Andrew Swallow. You lose Heath Shaw due to a 'gambling incident' and he's out for eight weeks? Trade him off to a team who can carry him, and get a reliable replacement. You will trade to try and improve your team, but your opponent is doing exactly the same thing. This is where the tactics and the skill really come into play, with the smoothest talkers usually the best at this. Trade negotiation can be intense, and it keeps coaches involved right until the end of the season.

4. Teams are unique

Drafting makes for a completely unique and enjoyable fantasy platform. You will never draft the same team twice, and your opponent will never have any of the players in your starting line-up. You could participate in dozens of fantasy drafts and never end up with the same team. The matchups are more dynamic because a monster game from just one of your players can wipe your opponent off the map. Gary Ablett's value in salary cap games comes from the fact that every team has him, so you're at a disadvantage if you don't. In draft leagues he is worth one of the very first picks, because once you've got him, you've got an edge over your opponent every week.

5. Free agents

In Ultimate Footy, free agents are those players who are not owned by any of the teams in your league. Each week all teams will be able to access this pool of free agents, and top up their squads to cover for injuries, byes and form issues. There are a number of options to determine preferences for accessing these free agents, where two or more coaches are after the same player. Picking up the right free agent can set your team up for your fantasy finals campaign, and also allows you to delist an injured player or someone out of form.

6. Keeper Leagues

Keeper Leagues allow you to retain a couple players from your list at the end of your season and automatically start with them the following year, prior to the draft. The number of keepers can range from as few as 1 or 2, leaving subsequent drafts with a stockpile of quality players, or to full dynasty leagues where the entire list is retained, and subsequent drafts are to pick up rookies and uncontracted players. With a platform like Ultimate Footy, the choice is yours.

All of these factors add up to drafting being a more enjoyable and competitive experience. Some leagues have cash and trophies on the line, others simply have pride and bragging rights. Whatever you play for, fantasy drafting is the way to go.

Head to ultimatefooty.com.au now to get started.

Article supplied by footyprophet.com – football analysis and opinion with a fantasy focus