My initial squad was:
Fifita Gallen Kaufusi O'Brien
Parker Guerra Harris James Santi Grevs
Arey Cornish Brooks Niko
Aubusson Soliola Kata Aitken
Ted Tauk Moses Nabuli Lee
Now that you've stopped laughing, apart from Brooks, I was reasonably happy with my initial squad. I couldn't stretch to get Mortimer and I downgraded someone to Kaufusi during the first round to upgrade someone else, I can't remember who. Aubusson had been talked up by Robinson in pre-season and was going to spend some time at hooker. So had Aitken and Nabuli. Don't believe everything you read. In hindsight, I wish I'd started with Elgey over Brooks, who's name was being thrown around and saved the cash, but I offloaded him pretty quickly anyways. More out of embarrassment than anything else.
Scored 770, Rank 1704
Kaufusi - Lisone, Brooks - Lolo
Being a Warriors supporter I liked the look of these 2. Plus I'd started the year with Luke Brooks.......
Scored 792 Rank 1295
Grevs - G Stewart, Aubusson - Coote
Glenn Stewart was being awarded Ben Lowes points, what wasn't to like. Coote was named and a lock for the FB spot for the rest of the season and Aubusson wasn't spending enough time at hooker to warrant sticking with him. I got lucky starting the year with Aitken which allowed me to grab Coote at his basement price. It also set me up for the next couple of rounds with regard to cash-out trades.
Scored 943 Rank 113
James - Friz, Nabuli - Bird
There was a glut of mid-range 2RF's scoring well above their prices and James was doing his best to score in negatives every week through penalties and missed tackles. I personally thought he looked really disinterested, so my first important decision had to be made. I went with Friz over Lowe, probably because I was secretly part of the anti-headband brigade. Nabuli to Bird was an easy decision. He was/is the slowest Fijian I have ever seen.
Scored 890 Rank 59
Lisone - JTurbo, Santi - Lovett
Lisone had peaked and JTurbo was scoring reasonably consistent mid 30's for a guy less than $150k. Lovett had the lowest BE going round and looked good for a 4th scoring reserve, capable of base 40's and had obviously taken Santi's spot for the time being. Cash generation was the biggest priority, especially considering my starting 16 was holding it's own.
Scored 917 Rank 30
Guerra - Tolman, Arey - SJ
Probably would have preferred to not trade this round, but with Guerra breaking his jaw and James Graham trying his best to amputate Arey's leg, my hand was forced. Tolman seemed logical, with Graham out an increase in minutes was on the cards plus he had great byes. My second tough decision had to be made as to who would replace Arey. Hunt v SJ. At $100k cheaper and bottomed out, as well as being a Warriors supporter, I opted for SJ. Hunt scored 90 that round......Nevertheless, I moved into the top 10 for the first time during the season.
Scored 896 Rank 6
Fif - Gurgess, Cornish - Blake
Fifita got suspended and Cornish got dropped for no apparent reason. Gurgess looked great with byes not far away and was always in my plans, Blake was regrettable but with my starting 17 still scoring well, he was the only option for a cash grab.
Scored 852 Rank 15
Gallen - Fensom, O'Brien - Turgess
Gallen ruptured his arse and O'Brien was sitting there doing nothing, so I decided to invest in Turgess who had moved into the starting 13, fantastic byes and looked like he had a great work rate, although not necessarily the TB ability of his brother. Fensom was always in my plans for Rnd 11 and my final 17, so he was an easy choice to replace Gal.
Scored 791 Rank 19
Lolo - Hoeter, GStewart - Mannering
With Rnd 11 around the corner and Lolo looking like he had peaked, in came Hooters. GStewart got injured right before round 11, the keyant, otherwise I probably would have held him. There were a few options that probably would have helped more with the byes, but Mannering was outscoring all of them by plenty and before he got out of sight price wise, I thought it was a good idea to get him in sooner rather than later.
Scored 859 Rank 23
Kata - Gray, Aitken - DCE
Kata to Gray for the byes, with Sol and Bird averaging more than enough for starting centres, plus I needed to fund my Aitken upgrade. DCE had been tearing it up with Foran out injured, but I made the first trade that I truly regretted, bringing him in instead of Hunt. He subsequently got injured, still managed to score 56 but missed Rnd 12. I thought the wheels had fallen off.
Scored 952 Rank 27
Farah - Peats, JTurbo - Faaoso
Farah to Peats, easy decision for the byes, although I came close to bringing in Luke as he jumped back into the starting side for Rnd 11. JTurbo to Faaoso was probably my worst trade of the season. Being an Eel, I thought Faaoso would be good for 20-30 points Rnd 11,14,17. Hahahaha, what ***ked me off most was that I'd had Sam Hoare in my side all week leading up to lockout (He scored 45 Rnd 11, 34 Rnd 17). Faaoso got beat up by the Burgii, scored me 11 points and was never seen again.
Scored 794 Rank 12
Tolman - Bromwich, Lovett - Leary
Although Tolman to Bromwich was uber sideways, he played Rnd 12 and Tolman didn't and he was always going to be part of my final 17. Plus I didn't expect Graham to be so gammy for the rest of the season. My second sideways trade of the Rnd was Lovett to Leary. Leary starting at lock and tackling the house down seemed like a good idea at the time and to be fair, I got Rnd 12 and 13 out of him before he became a myth. Lovett destroyed the remaining byes. In hindsight an absolute waste of a trade.
Scored 816 Rank 21
Harris - RTS
You guys will be happy, only the one trade this round. Harris got shifted to the centres so I decided to hold Tauk for Rnd 14 instead of him. Literally a last minute decision on the train into the city here in Melbourne.
Scored 820 Rank 21
Friz - RFM, Blake - Olive, Lee - Bhunt
Rnd 14 and holding Tauk worked a treat. Friz wasn't in the plans for my final 17 (Gallen was as a 4th 2RF, with 3 Hlfs), Bhunt was, so I pulled the trigger knowing I could probably make up the points lost in Rnd 15. Blake to Olive was purely to fund the trade and RFM provided me with an extra player for the big bye round. He also played an important part in my score Rnd 15. Another stuff up this round however, with the VC on George 'Anaconda' Burgess instead of Teddy. Ended up costing me 44 points.
Scored 695 Rank 56
Peats - Smith, Turg - Fifita
Peats suffered another long term injury and with Smith only having the one bye remaining, the decision to bring him in was pretty easy. Fifita was also out of origin contention and was part of the plans for my final 17, plus he played Rnd 17, another easy decision and easily justifiable as I was only 1-2 players short of my final 17. Ended up needing an AE this round too, enter RFM and his 50 points. Moses even squeezed out a 54, bless him.
Scored 992 Rank 23
Felt bizarre, but Gallen and maybe Macca, were the last players I needed to complete my final 17. Was happy to wait until after Rnd 17.
Scored 1025 Rank 8
Lichaa - Macca, Leary - Marketo
Six trades left at this stage and I was going to struggle to put even close to double figures on the park for the last big bye. Once again I made the focus the Rnd after and ditched Lichaa for Macca. Leary to Marketo gave me 1, yes 1, 2RF for Rnd 17 and the cash I needed to go from Tau to Gallen post Origin.
Scored 578 Rank 51
4 trades left. I had one to make for my final 17 and 3 for the run home. Somehow, with only 10 players for Rnd 17, which included only 3 forwards, I still didn't drop out of the top 100. Although I wasn't out of touch with the leaders and my team was going to look great on paper once I brought Gallen in, I certainly hadn't considered even being close to winning the comp at this stage.
Scored 889 Rank 31
Tauk - Gallen
3 trades left. Team complete. I had all the players I thought had the most potential for consistent point scoring, with the odd big score here and there, for the run in. Although this meant not a lot of differentials, particularly in the back 5. Fingers crossed for no injuries so I could use those trades for POD's! ha.
Scored 970 Rank 22
Getting through a round this late in the season, without anyone going down, was extremely rare, I should have touched wo......that would make it too easy for Hench etc. What I should have done was not get my hopes up, especially for my poor old Warriors who were currently sitting in the top 8.
Scored 1011 Rank 21
SJ - Thurs, Fif - WGraham
Tom Symonds ruined SJ's ankle and the Warriors chances of a top 8 finish. Choices here were scarce and it came down to Arey v Thurs. With the Bunnies still battling to stay in the 8, I toyed with the idea of Arey for a few days, but ultimately Thurs was in career best form and the Cowboys were on the verge of a top 2 finish, so he still had plenty to play for. Fifita showed just how much of a liability he truly can be. Although his punishment hadn't been handed down yet, with his track record I was expecting him to be out for enough of the run home to make a difference, so I ditched him for a red hot Wade Graham. In all truthfulness, if Merrin had of finished his suspension Rnd 21, I would have brought him in, but he still had a round to go, so Wade it was. In the end, he was the difference maker but more on that later.
Scored 1003 Rank 12
Sol - Dugan
1 trade left and Soliola breaks his jaw. Dugan was really the only option for me, although a massive injury risk with no trades left and only Aaron Gray for back-up in the centres and Nikorima as my AE go to guy. He was easily outscoring everyone else in his position though and maybe a slight POD at this stage. Ranked just outside the top 10 going into the round, I figured it was well worth a shot.
Scored 1025 Rank 7
Although I'd climbed back into the top 10, I still didn't think I was much of a chance. Can't remember how far behind I was at this point, but it was enough for me to not be too excited about being in 7th. At this point of the season, I wasn't actually watching a lot of league. With the Warriors stinking it up and no trades left, there wasn't much point. I'd check in occasionally on the app, but that was about it.
Scored 1006 Rank 5
A massive turning point this round with ET getting injured early and only scoring 6. I knew at least one team above me had him and with trades being scarce (surely!), I thought this might move me a bit closer to the leader. Turns out, the leader had ET and he dropped to 4th. Out of the teams now in the top 3, one other team, Mansion, had a pretty similar starting 17 to mine with the only difference being Gurg v Arey. Out of the top 3 I thought our 17's looked the most competitive, with the leader, The Pythons, still having Lichaa, even though he was injured. Turns out he wasn't out of trades.
Scored 920 Rank 3
So, probably the first time I realized I had a legitimate chance of winning this thing. Only 25 points or so behind first with a couple of POD players and an all important captain choice. I narrowed it down to Smith vs Parker, with the Storm needing a win to stay in touch with the top four and at home, he was the most logical choice and there was always the risk the Broncs could blow out and Parker gets rested. Seemed a pretty straight forward decision. Yea, well I went Parker….Ended up costing me 15 points, which might not seem like a lot, but I ended up winning the comp by less than 30 points, it could make all the difference. First had ditched Lichaa for Macca too meaning we had pretty similar sides.
Scored 1005 Rank 3
I was still in with a shot even though I’d slipped further behind. After seeking advice from Milch, KFP and Shanbon throughout the final few rounds, I decided Gallen was a big enough POD with safe enough game security to captain Rnd 17. RTS and Smith were both options, although I had my doubts about Smith who’d scored well the week before due to it being wet in Melbourne, which increased his km’s. First had brought in Thurston for Arey to minimize OD’s, which meant we only had Merrin (scored 40) v Graham (69), Marketo (37, game went to Golden Point) v Tolman (42), Coote (59) v GI (AE), Smith c (56) v Gallen c (57). 2nd had Arey (22), Merrin and Lane (2) and captained RTS (72). Heading into the Sunday, after the Sharks had narrowly lost to the Sea Eagles, I was unbelievably sitting in first, with only my mighty Warriors to go, playing a Bulldogs side still to make the 8. It also meant I was around 40 points ahead of 3rd, Mansion, who still had Lane to play and I’d already beaten the Pythons, who I felt a little sorry for considering he’d lead for about the last 5-6 rounds. As a brief aside, Wade Graham dudded me a couple of seasons ago going for a weekly. With him in my side, he got injured in the first half and I ended up coming second for the round by 12 points. He made up for it in Rnd 26 though, by scoring a try and having a blinder against Manly which basically sealed 1st spot. So if you’re out there Wade, I owe you a high five.
Anyways, I needed my mighty Warrior to stand up, thinking, if it was a close enough game, Lane might not see much game time with the Doggies having to win to confirm their spot in the 8. The mofo’s delivered! Although I was too nervous to watch the game, the Warriors lead for most of it and Lane only got 12 mins for a measly score of 2.
It didn’t really sink in straight away, plus updates were still to be added, so I dared not get too excited, but I checked the app on the hour that night until I could be sure I’d won. Needless to say, winning the $20K has made a huge difference to my life (and mortgage) and I couldn’t have asked for a better grand final!
Once again, huge thanks to the ol Sportal guru’s, Milch for the spreadsheets, the artist formerly known as KFP, Shanbon, SI and anyone else I’ve missed for the advice, support and ultimately a great place to talk about league. Here’s hoping one of the Fanatics can take it out again this year!