The most interesting part of playing for Overall glory in NRL Fantasy is the bye period. Here’s how you manage to keep your sanity and keep climbing the ranks.

 

Between rounds 12 and 19, each of the 16 NRL teams takes two rounds off, in a system that is neither fair nor comprehensible. There are six weeks impacted by byes: three big byes when just 8 teams play (Rounds 12, 15, 18), one medium bye when 12 teams play (Round 19) and two small byes, where 14 teams play (Round 13, 16). This is the same structure as last year. 

 

For these rounds, players will be unavailable from certain clubs, but fantasy coaches still need to churn out big scores. Add to this the unavailability of Origin players during rounds 12, 15, and 18, and their possible unavailability in the weeks after Origin (or through Origin related injury), and we can all agree that you can’t just wing it through the bye weeks. 

 

How do you manage this mess? 

First, you need to be able to visualise it. In the image below red cells represent teams on a bye, yellow cells represent teams playing but with two byes to come, orange represents teams that are playing and have had one bye and have one more to come, finally green cells are teams playing that have finished both their byes. 

 

 

Some people think that bye planning doesn’t matter, and that you just lose points in the non-bye weeks to get a small improvement in scores in the other weeks. But, there is more to it than that. Bye planning is about optimising your roster to maximise the points of your team across those rounds. For example, just say you have someone who misses rounds 12 and 15 (i.e a Knights, Panthers or Sea Eagles player), who is cash cow that has reached his peak value (so in his non-bye games, he’s probably not in your scoring 17). Rather than carrying that player through the byes, where he will contribute few points, if you buy someone in that position who does play in those byes (e.g., a cash cow from the Eels), you get points on the field that you otherwise wouldn’t. That is the essence of bye planning, but there are some traps too (more on that later). 

 

It’s time to get planning.

 

Many different approaches are available to plan for byes. Some people like to steal a whiteboard from work and cover it in player names, bye availability and thousands of lines connecting trade options. Another option is to take hundreds of post-it notes, thumbtacks, and string and creating an elaborate “murder mystery” spider web on one side of the bathroom wall. I prefer the less creepy option of setting up a spreadsheet, and leaving it on your desktop (or in Dropbox for a little tinkering at work), so it can be checked every 15 minutes, from its creation until round 19. RFS has a bye planner that'll help you a lot too.

 

First thing, is to list your team, in each position. Then, you work out what teams will be available for each round. This needs to include Origin players, which can be hard. Anyone know how many halves the Blues will use this year? The first thing this will highlight is what players miss the most games. 

 

What teams have what byes? 

It is easiest to classify the teams into their bye groups, which is as follows

 

Group 1 - Rabbitohs – Miss Round 13 and 16 

The Rabbits are the only team that plays all the big byes and their byes fall in weeks in which you’ll have no trouble fielding a full squad. Their byes are as good as it gets and compared to the Eels last year there should be some good fantasy players whether it be guns like Sam Burgess, DDP stars like Cody Walker or mid-rangers like George Burgess. Origin players from the Rabbits are terrible so keep away from Greg Inglis. 

Games missed by Origin players – 5 

 

Group 2 – Eels – Miss Round 16 and 18 

Eels’ players get you all the way to Round 16 without missing a game, that’s very helpful and a natural trade to Knights, Panthers and Sea Eagles who finish their byes in round 15.

Games missed by Origin players - 4 

 

Group 3 – Sharks – Miss Round 13 and 18

Sharks’ players should also get you through the early phase of the byes as their early round 13 bye should be easy to cover. You could look to move them prior to round 18 to players on teams finished with their byes (Knights, Sea Eagles, Panthers and Rabbits). 

Games missed by Origin players – 4

 

Group 4 – Storm – Miss Round 12 and 19

This is a new bye round combination this season and it has some pluses. The Storm will play two big byes and they do come in consecutive big byes which is helpful. The big downside here is CS9 misses one extra game than normal, will that influence your decision making with regards to him? 

Games missed by Origin players – 4

 

Group 5 – Knights, Panthers, Sea Eagles – Miss Round 12 and 15

People often underrate the importance of the teams that finish their byes early. I think players from the Knights, Panthers and Sea Eagles will be more valuable than the next group of teams even though the next group play two of the big byes. Non-Origin keepers from these teams will be gold after round 15, hopefully by that point of the season we will know if the Panthers, Sea Eagles and Knights actually have any non-Origin keepers.

Games missed by Origin players - 3

 

Group 6 – Bulldogs, Roosters – Miss Round 15 and 19

This group of teams play two of the big byes but they should only be a complimentary part of your bye planning rather than forming the nucleus. The problem with them is best summed up like this – round 12 playing, round 15 bye, round 18 playing, round 19 bye. That playing, bye, playing, bye pattern could be a real annoyance as it is much easier to deal with teams that have a run of byes or games they are playing. If you are running a low trade strategy you could use this group along with teams in the first three groups and group 8 as they don’t share any byes, but with a 25-man roster and the need to field 17 players it can be a risk and you’ll probably lose ranks over the bye period which you then have to hope you can make up at the end of the year. 

Games missed by Origin players – 4

 

Group 7 – Broncos, Raiders, Warriors – Miss Round 15 and 18

The Broncos, Raiders and Warriors will help you get through the first big bye in round 12 making them an attractive option throughout the early part of the season. After that though you’ll want to dump any non-keepers prior to their two byes before you grab their guns in round 19. You should be familiar with that pattern as it is the same one the Broncos have had for the last three years.

Games missed by Origin players - 3

 

Group 8 – Cowboys, Dragons, Tigers, Titans – Miss Round 12 and 18

There isn’t much good about this group of teams. They only play one of the big bye weeks and it is sandwiched between missing round 12 and 18. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chase guns and cash cows from these teams but you do so knowing they won’t help much during byes. As above combined with teams in Group 1, 2, 3 and 6 these teams could be part of a trade conservation strategy. Origin players from these clubs will only miss one extra game so you can probably carry JT all season if you wanted to.

Games missed by Origin players - 3

 

Are there any complimentary groups of teams?

Identifying complementary groups of teams to maximise trade value could put you ahead of the pack. The two best groups of complimentary teams are:

 

 Group 2 and Group 5 – Going Eels players to Knights, Sea Eagles or Panthers in round 16 will give you a slot that doesn’t miss a game for the cost of one trade. That’s golden.

 Group 6 or 7 to Group 4 – Not quite as good as the above combo but using Group 6 (Bulldogs, Roosters) or Group 7 (Broncos, Raiders, Warriors) to Group 4 (Storm) will give you full coverage up to round 19.

 

What else can you tell me?

Here’s a few more bye planning tips: 

 

 Bye planning is about the middle and bottom of the roster, not the top. When you are considering guns get the best player (assuming he’s not impacted by Origin) you can and not the one with the best bye coverage*.

 Don’t just count the numbers you have for each of the big byes count the numbers you have across the whole bye period. This is especially pertinent this season where it might be just as hard to field a side in round 16 and 19 as it is in the big bye rounds. The whole bye period is the key not one or two particular weeks.

 Getting rid of red dots is far more beneficial to your team then trading out a player with bad byes and trading in a player with good byes.

 

*This point is worth exploring a little further because lots of people don’t seem to get it.

 

The difference in overall scores between a gun with good byes and a gun with bad byes ends up being smaller than many people think and if you are sacrificing point scoring for better byes it might actually be more beneficial to get a player with worse byes. Here’s the demonstration using player A who has great byes and averages 45 and player B who has crap byes and averages 50:

 

 

So Player A gets outscored by 20 points across the bye period. So, what exactly is the benefit of him having better byes? It is that he allows you to shift a player from Round 13 to Round 12 and from Round 16 to Round 18. But the player you get is someone deep in your roster that might only be worth 25-30 points so 50-60 points over the whole bye period. That leaves getting Player A scoring 30-40 points more than Player B. And that doesn’t take into account Player B scoring better in Round 10, 11, 14, 17 and all the weeks thereafter until you decide to trade Player B. Just get Player A. 

 

When do I start worrying about this?

In my view, every trade from approximately round 7/8 needs to start thinking about byes. You need to be keeping an eye out for cash cows from the teams with good byes, remembering that a lower scoring cash cow that plays in the tough rounds could be better that a fast cash earner that can’t help your numbers. You need to ensure the big bye rounds don’t blind you so you lose sight of the minor bye rounds. You also need to keep an eye on the Origin selection talk and avoid players who may be called up.

 

Some coaches warn against “over planning” for byes. I don’t like that particular phrase, as I don’t think you can plan too much. But, you can do bad bye planning, which is what I want to warn against.

 

Every trade requires a consideration of points for your team, money to be made, and trades required. Bad bye planning is when you think too much about the points over the byes, and not enough about the points for the season and other factors. A classic mistake is bringing in a midranger with good byes, who loses money over the byes and then needs to be traded out. If that player scores 40 points per round, for those three rounds, that’s 120 points, which costs you thousands of dollars as he depreciates, and 2 trades, as you need to upgrade him into a true keeper after Origin. This is bad bye planning.

 

Remember, bye planning needs cash cows and guns. Cash cows allow you to roll money over to get a gun elsewhere, grab a few points in hard rounds, and make money for late season upgrades. Guns will stay in your team all year, making your scoring 17 all season and will only require the one trade to bring in. 

 

Don’t let a few points in the short term cause you to damage your team long term.

 

This whole bye thing may sound like a massive pain in the arse, but once you start playing around with different team configurations, it’s actually a lot of fun. It’s also the only way you’ll finish with a good rank, because good coaches surge during the byes, they don’t fade.