Understanding how to manage a team and utilise trades efficiently can be an area that even the best of us make mistakes on every year, so for the new and uninitiated it can be particularly challenging. Having the right team building strategy and approach to using trades can be the difference between top 100 and top 500 and top 500 and top 5,000 so it behoves you not to go with an ad-hoc approach. 


The basics of team building are pretty straight forward – you start with a team of 25 players, maybe half a dozen who are guns, and you have 34 trades to upgrade your team into 17 guns. Simple. And it can be represented by something like this: 



The key part to understand here is that the side in Round 1 is worth $7m and the side in Round 26 is worth $9.6m, so all your wheeling and dealing needs to make you about $2.6m. That’s a pretty manageable $76k per trade. But hang on a second, we haven’t taken into account the 10 or so trades you’ll have to use on suspensions or injuries throughout the year, so now you are down to 24 trades. That means you need to make about $110k per trade, a number that becomes a bit harder to achieve. 


To put it another way, in the above diagram, all of the round 1 players that aren’t yellow need to average you $110k gains and you’ll need to find another five rookies that can average another $100k too. That’s not easy when you consider you’ll probably end up with at least a few players like Rory O’Brien, Jaelen Feeney, Edrick Lee and Eto Nabuli.


A lot of us would probably think finding 24 players who can average $110k is about the best scenario possible. If you are only averaging $80k per player you will need to use up 30 trades to get to an ideal Round 24 team, and chances are you won’t have 30 trades to use like that. That is where most of us end up having to compromise on what our final team looks like. And this is why we finish 500th or 5,000th rather than top 100.


So, you have 34 trades. You’ll probably need 10 for injuries and suspensions. You’ll need another 24 trades to fully upgrade your team. And that’s the end of your trades. Try to avoid wasting them in other areas.


Some of my key tips:


Don’t over estimate the number of keepers you have in your Round 1 side 

This is a very common mistake, although it normally works itself out pretty quickly. You probably think you have half a dozen or more keepers in your round 1 team, but inevitably you probably have half of that. In 2015 I had just two players that stayed in my side the whole season (George Burgess and James Tedesco) and in 2016 I had just four (Bryce Cartwright, Cam Smith, Elliot Whitehead and Clinton Gutherson). I probably thought I had 8 players that would see out the year without using trades. That’s a pretty big gap and a lot of trades taken away from upgrading the rest of my side.


Upgrades get maximum value early in the season 

Trades do get less valuable as the year goes on. If you make a trade in round 2 that nets you an average of 10 points more per round than the player you had, that is a 240-point return over the rest of the year. If you made an upgrade in round 20 you would need to upgrade by an average of 40 points a week to get the same sort of return. Balancing the trades for injuries with trades for keepers is tricky but there is no doubting that upgrading to keepers early pays off. 


Don’t make marginal gain trades 

These are commonly referred to as sideways trades and they normally result in a negligible point and monetary return. All of your trades need to fit into one or many buckets: upgrade to keeper, cashout/cash cow, injury/suspension. People talk themselves into marginal gain trades by trying to believe that they’ll make money or become a keeper, but that rarely happens. It is always useful to have an idea on the point return your trades are getting you, this will prove especially beneficial late in the season when you are looking at injury/upgrade decisions.


Take a long view on bye week trades 

Trades that meet multiple objectives are going to have the most benefit and that is particular true as it relates to bye planning. As I’ve shown above you don’t have a whole lot of trades to throw around on things like bye planning, so finding players that can make you money and provide cover or can be a keeper and provide bye cover are excellent ways to utilise trades. The last thing you should do is think you can use trades to get mid-rangers with good bye cover, they’ll get you 30 extra points in the big byes but they won’t make money and they’ll waste a trade you could have used elsewhere.


You will get wrecked by injuries after the Origin period  

Every single season teams get wrecked by injuries. You might have your top 17 by round 20, but if you used your last trade getting there you can guarantee there will be a price to pay. Estimating the number of injuries you’ll suffer post Origin is difficult but you’ll probably experience something like 5 or 6, but it could easily be more. If you don’t have trades your team will probably plummet in the rankings. 


There is an optimum time to run out of trades and it isn’t round 26 

Although you don’t want to run out of trades too early, you also don’t want to run out of them too late. I mentioned previously about understanding the point value of trades, this is an example which also ties into the point on injuries. If a player that averages 50 points a game gets injured and you are out of trades, here’s the loss of points you face: 



If it happens prior to round 21 it will cost you a huge 300, but because of that declining scale of points return a trade used on an injury in round 26 would return you just 50 points. If you had instead made a trade back in round 19, that upgraded one of your players by 15 points that would have returned you 120 points. Obviously, you won’t have the benefit of hindsight in round 26 to know you should have upgraded a player back in round 19, but you shouldn’t be looking to play your trades out to the end of the season as there was probably some bigger opportunity cost earlier in the year.


So, understand the dollar value of your trades and understand the points return on your trades. Try not to be frivolous with trades early in the year but if you are confident they will improve your scoring pull the trigger early rather than late. Most of all make sure your trades fill a purpose (upgrade, cash out, injury) and where possible look for trades that fill multiple purposes (like bye cover).