Beating a friend, enemy or frenemy in a H2H matchup can be an incredibly rewarding experience that captures the essence of the fantasy experience; the opportunity to lord your wisdom over another. Here are some tips that might help you get your gloat on.
You have two jobs in a H2H league; make the playoffs, and have enough trades and a strong enough side to win the playoffs. Everything else is superfluous. Sure, it feels good to beat that smarmy guy from accounts, but the most important thing is to arrive in the playoffs with a team capable of going deep, and the team that can go the deepest is usually the one that has exercised the best trade management. Don't let yourself be distracted by short term moves that don't help you achieve those two jobs.
To achieve those two aims you need to make stacks of money early and then consolidate the side late in the season for the run home. Making money is crucial to ensure you can get the very best side money can buy and you shouldn’t be afraid to jump on cash cows early in the season. Around Origin time though your focus has to be on the end game: getting your gun 17 and saving trades for the finals.
Standard H2H leagues have byes in round 12, 15 and 18, so don’t worry at all about those weeks, put your feet up. You also might want to give some thought to round 13, 16 and 19, when players will have a bye but you’ll be playing a H2H round. If you are dominating your league, suffering a loss or two in those weeks probably doesn’t make a difference, but in a tight league, you might favour one player over another, just to make sure you have a player for every H2H round.
Although you don’t want to wrap yourself up in knots thinking about what your opponent might or might not do, it is sensible to pay attention to their side. What are the points of difference in your squads? Are you the favourite or the underdog? Could you manipulate the captaincy choice in your favour? Sometimes the smart move can be the one that nets you less points. If you are the clear favourite working out who your opponent is going to captain and captaining the same player could eliminate an opportunity for your opponent to make up ground. If you are the underdog don’t be afraid to try a high risk move to pull off a win. Also, remember that your opponent could be gaming you, you don't want to be prematurely trash talking on Monday because you are up by 50 with your opponent only having Josh McCrone left, only to find that come the start of the game Josh McCrone is gone and Robbie Farah is in.
If you play in a league made up primarily of New Zealanders, you have to have Shaun Johnson. If you play in a league made up of Rabbitohs fans, you have to have Greg Inglis. The last thing you want to see is a player with boom potential in your opponent’s line-up while you don’t have him. I have probably lost two or three games in the last few seasons, one a semi-final, purely because I got done in by a big game from SJ. It is frustrating and definitely a scenario you should try and avoid. If you know all your opponents are going to have a boom or bust player, just save yourself the aggravation and get him too.
You can’t control it when you play the worst player in your league who captains Billy Slater only for Slater to score 91. A loss is still a loss when you have the second highest score in the league, but you happen to play the highest scorer. The role of luck is doubled in H2H play, because it doesn’t just matter for your own team, it matters for your opponent's team too.
In a H2H league you have a little more leeway with underperforming players who could bounce back. Starting a H2H season a little slowly can easily be overcome if you’ve saved trades, and you don’t want to prematurely give up on a player unless there is a good reason to. 2014 Simon Mannering is a great example; he started the season averaging 29.5 in the first four games and finished it averaging 47.5 over the next 20. You’d have been pretty annoyed to have wasted a trade there, possibly two, if you had to trade him back in later in the year. If there is a clear reason to dump someone, do it, but if the reasons are less clear, lean towards holding on.
The general consensus around RFS is “Hell no!” But not everybody maintains that standard and it is useful to have an idea on where your league mates stand before you pull a swift one. You can find more on the Captaincy Loophole later in this prospectus.
A H2H league is at its best when you can trade some banter with your fellow coaches. Set-up a Facebook group, encourage regular posting and get into the spirit. It’ll bring out the best in you. And while we are at it, don’t underestimate the pull of a money league. There is nothing worse than playing in a league with people who aren’t as committed as you, and money is a sure-fire way to get some commitment. It doesn’t need to be much, but it will make a difference. It’ll bring out the best in you.
You cannot start the season playing Overall, and then easily switch to H2H, and vice versa. The strategies are different, so pick a game to play and stay with it. If you start playing Overall, and decide after the byes that you can’t win, don’t worry. Do the best you can and beat your rank next year.