Considering you found your way here, chances are you already know the answer to this, but in case you got here to satiate your desire for Naughty Russian Lesbian Fantasy, then I’m sorry to disappoint. Fantasy sports is a game where people get to build their own team of players and compete against other people based on the real-life exploits of their players. A bit like gambling, it helps viewers engage with sports on a deeper level. NRL Fantasy is the official fantasy game of the National Rugby League.

 

 You’re already a league fan. The weekend is a blur of beer and pizza, abusing referees, and praying for a shoulder charge. But, what do you do with the remaining 94 hours of your week? What about the long, dreary weekdays? What about the dull dinner conversations and terrible episodes of renovation reality TV? How do you get through?

 

 Maybe you’re not a league fan, but you are just looking to bond with someone who is, to understand why it is all so important, why the video refs are so terrible for the game or why the players are so much softer than they were 30 years ago. Perhaps you know your partner is going to make you sit through five games a weekend and call it quality time and you need a reason to enjoy the experience?

 

 You need a team.

 

 Not some team you have no control over and have to support as it lurches from one PR disaster to another. Not a team that doesn’t have the guts to sack a struggling half or a regressed alcoholic.

 

 You need your own team.

 

 A team where you can hire and fire any player you like. A team that doesn’t charge $160 per jersey. And most importantly, a team that won’t sack the coach.

 

 You need NRL Fantasy. In the United States and Canada, over 40 million people play some kind of fantasy sports, that’s about 10% of their combined populations. It is big enough in the United States that professional fantasy players can actually make a decent living from their imaginary combinations. It is a big business and although fantasy sports don’t have the same foothold in Australia and New Zealand, it is definitely still a growing market.

 

 Back in the late 90’s I remember playing Super 12 Dream Team. You had to mail (yep with a stamp, an envelope and a post box!) in an entry form picking your side and a few days later you’d get back this huge wall chart to keep track of your team. If you wanted to swap players, you had to call up a number ($1.99 a minute) and enter in some player codes to make the trade. As I went to boarding school I had to cycle around to my grandparents to use their phone or just call my elderly grandfather with complicated instructions on how to make the trades for me and hope he wouldn’t muck it up. Can you even imagine having to do that today?

 

 Thankfully technology has progressed somewhat in the last 18 years and fantasy sports has been a big winner. Live scoring allows us to track our players in real time, we can access our teams from anywhere in the world, and we can talk trash to rivals 24/7. It is a glorious era we live in.

 

 NRL Fantasy is the premier fantasy competition in Australasia. The best fantasy competitions have a reasonably easy scoring system that allow a player’s on field exploits to be easily translated into points. In NRL Fantasy, when you see your player do something good, you can be fairly confident that this is good for your fantasy team. Likewise, if they do something bad, you can be fairly certain this hurts your team. It is this blend of on field player with fantasy scoring that makes NRL Fantasy a better fantasy game than the alternatives.

 

 I won’t elaborate on the rules here, because they require a long novitiate and you can read them in the next section.

 

 But, the basics are this.

● Build a team with players who play in the NRL.

● Each player has a value and your team has to cost less than the salary cap ($7 million).

● Those players get points when they play for their clubs.

● If those players perform better than their price would predict, they go up in value. If they go worse, they lose value.

● You get a certain number of trades each week to tweak your team, replace an injured player, buy a rookie and ultimately upgrade to the best players available.

 

 Easy!

 

 Now, here’s why you should do it…

 

The Cash Cows

 

 We all hate that guy who sits at a BBQ and tells you about the form of some reserve grade nobody. Who cares?

 

 Well, now you do! In fact, you could be that guy at the BBQ!

 

 You have to know the rookies. You have to sniff out the next Nathan Cleary or Jake Trbojevic. You have to judge if that English import has the temperament and skill for NRL. You have to decide if that new second-rower will play more than 20 minutes a game and if he’ll play for more than three weeks.

 

 There are two reasons you need to know the rookies. First, you want to pick up the next Ben Hunt when he costs $138k, not when he costs $450k. Second, you need to milk your cash cows!

 

 Cash cows are the money-making part of your team. Without them, at season's end you will have the same assortment of mid-priced hacks you started with. Cash cows start cheap, play for a while, slowly gain value, and are then sold. You can buy another cash cow, or use that money to upgrade to a gun. In time, you’ll have a team of players you’d be proud to coach.

 

 With restricted trades, each choice is vital. Buying a cash cow that plays three games is a waste. He will barely rise in value before you need to sell him. So, you need to think about how the club values him and why he’s in the team. Will they give him a few games before the star he replaced comes back? Is he so good that he simply cannot be dropped after he debuts? These are important questions…

 

The Guns

 

 These are the elite. These players are blessed with skills perfectly suited to Fantasy scoring. You want 17 of them in your team as quickly as possible.

 

 The best fantasy players are a mix of the best rugby league players (Cam Smith and Jonathan Thurston) but also lesser known players who have high production (Jack de Belin and Shaun Fensom). They tackle, they kick, they set up tries and break tackles. These are the best of the best, and any legitimate coach will loudly cheer their achievements and dread their failures. An injury to these gods will leave a pall over Renegades, followed by a week of mourning.

 

 

Head to Head

 

 This is entry level stuff. Make a team and set up a league with your mates. Each week will bring on a new opponent, and the glory of victory. No more discussing the incompetence of the IT department with your workmates. Now you can tell them how terrible they are at Fantasy.

 

Overall

 

 This is where the big boys play. The goal is simple: amass more points over 26 rounds of NRL than any of the other 100,000 coaches. However, achieving this goal is anything but simple.

 

 The first thing is getting your initial team right. You can spend weeks getting the balance right between a few guns, cash cows and mid-rangers who you expect to explode. Then, once Round 1 starts, it’s all out the window. You need to trade to keep your scores competitive, but conserve trades to make sure late season injuries don’t cripple your team. You can’t miss the real cash cows, but can’t waste trades on ghost cows. One bad trade can unravel weeks of climbing the rankings. An unlucky injury can bring you to tears.

 

 But most of all, you need to plan for the byes…

 

The Byes

 

 The NRL is a truly unique code. In the middle of our season we have the State of Origin series. It’s the crown jewel of Rugby League, but it destroys the NRL competition for weeks. Over these weeks, premiership games are still played, but in a haphazard and seemingly random fashion. Each club will get two byes over this period, and each week will see a reduced number of clubs play.

 

 But, Overall glory requires that you field a competitive team on each of these weeks.

 

 You’ll need to study the byes and recite them in your sleep. You need to know who replaces CS9 when he plays Origin. Each week you need to trade to allow you to get maximum points, but keeps you competitive for the next bye round. You need to gut your team and rebuild it in seven weeks, and still have the trades and cash for the run home.

 

 Remember, no one will remember the round where you made it into the top 100, they’ll remember you for finishing the job and staying there until round 26.

 

Renegades

 

 There has never been a collection of degenerates and freaks that know more about Rugby League and Fantasy. If you want trade advice, post your team. You need help picking your bench, just ask. You want to have a four-hour long argument about why Greg Inglis deserves to be picked at fullback for Queensland, this is the place for you.

 

 You’ll get important player statistics, insightful articles and everything you need to shoot for Overall glory or H2H bragging rights.

 

 But be warned, Renegades is a mirror on Rugby League. Violent outbreaks are common and passions run deep. It’s not a place for the meek and mild…

 

 So time to get started. Register your team on the NRL.com website and find a league and you are set. Follow us at Renegadesfs.com and join the Facebook group for unfiltered banter and you will be dominating in no time.

 

 Also, join the Official Renegades League, so you can track your team’s performances against other coaches in NRL Fantasy’s biggest group. To really show your dedication, preface your team name with RNGD.