Cow Talk – Round 3

Written by Father Dougal on April 11 2018

“Small or Far Away” Father Dougal on Cows

Round three is the round of random as far as Cow Talk goes. It’s still too soon for projections, but unlike the other weeks there is no obvious theme. Well, to me at least; if you can think of an obvious theme let me know! Anyways, that means for this week, the definition of “cow” is rather expansive.

I have been pondering the impact on our Supercoach play of the psychological factors that all humans are subject to. When I was trying to decide if I should keep or trade Hibberd, I was mostly worried about what was the right thing to do, but at one point I thought “I really don’t want to do the wrong thing and look stupid.”


Ok, that pause was for my imaginary interlocutor to say “Too late” but apparently he has the night off. So, first, too late, but second, what a bad thing to take into account. Probably extra silly for me, since my mistakes get made all public so others can learn from them. Well, so really I hate making them more but get a side benefit. Anyways, that got me thinking. Why else do we do the wrong thing? I could write all about logical fallacies but wikipedia has them all written up, so I don’t see that being to useful aside from pointing out that wikipedia has them all written up.  Oh, and kudos to the bloke who mentioned the sunk cost fallacy in the comments recently, and my apologies to him for being too lazy to dig up the comment so I can give proper mention.

Oddly enough, the sunk cost fallacy is not a huge thing in Supercoach.  It basically says that we are prone to throwing good money after bad. It is hard to stop following a course of action we are emotionally invested in. In Supercoach, once we have player keeping them is free, it is getting rid of them that has a cost! So, I am sure that sometimes we are slow to get rid of someone, but there’s a good reason. Maybe a good thing to remember when Heath Shaw has spudded up for half the season, and we say to ourselves “he’ll come good” over and over……

I think the thing I can most usefully talk about is something I first heard explicitly from the late, great, Sir Terry Pratchett. “People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.”  We do think in stories! We love to generalize, stereotype, and put people/things into comfortable boxes. We look at a player and try to figure out what other players he is like. When we know enough about a player we expect what we know to stay the same. I see the effects of that all over Supercoach, and in some cases have even tried to point out when it is misleading. Let’s looks at some examples and what we can learn from them.

In the distant past, aka 2015, Todd Goldstein was the top ruck by a good margin with an huge average of 128.8. The next pre-season a *lot* of people started with him, dead certain that they had the best scoring ruck for the next year, and that he was worth his huge price because, and this is the important part, he was a 128.8 averaging player. Well, no, he wasn’t. He averaged that for one season. Shockingly, 2016 was not 2015. By round 8 he has lost $100,000 in value.  Not that his 108 average was bad, but it wasn’t what was paid for. This happens ever year with other players, especially one that have had a good season, also with ones that have had a bad season. The very same thing happened with Heath Shaw after both 2015 and 2016. I still feel kinda bad about how pushy I was sometimes when trying to point out buying Shaw was not “locking in the top defender.”

The first Supercoach storytelling lesson: “Last season is not this season.”

We know last season, we don’t know next season. But every season, every player gets a year older, and there are changes. Coaching changes, maybe changing teams, or roles. New cows every year. Different schedules. Teams responding to what new strategy worked for the top teams last season. Who is back from injury, who has a new one. It’s freaking overwhelming, so we make it manageable by trying to fit everything into a comfortable story.

An even stronger version of that is with players who have a long history, such as Gary Ablett, who as we all know, is the god of the AFL and Supercoach and our beloved perma-captian.  But, Gary stopped being perma-captain as of Round 17, 2014.

I now put on my kevlar, chainmail, and asbestos.

Gary was the very best for six and a half years. He has been very good since then, when not injured. And he is gonna get injured, and he is gonna miss games every season, maybe a lot of them.  He has been at best a mediocre Supercoach selection (not player) for four years now. And that sucks! But, as so many people say, “he’s Gary Ablett!” He is, but his story has an arc. All stories have an arc. He was once a baby, a toddler, went to school, was a cow, a budding star, and then a star. Then he became a comeback story, and before too long he’s going to be a former player.  A really well respected and liked former player who has had a long awesome career. But, by ignoring the arc of his story, we have been making decisions about him based on who he used to be, not who he is. And I do mean we, I had him in to start 2015 and again at the end of last season. But now we should know his story is that of an injury-prone premium, not that of an dead reliable ultra-premium.

The second Supercoach storytelling lesson: “Everyone’s story changes over time.”

So, now let’s talk about Nat Fyfe, who as we all know is life.  And, taking my armor off, he is life again.  Well, I am thinking he is. But, he wasn’t himself for a while after he broke his leg.  Gosh, what a surprise, a guy who broke his leg might need a good while to get back to full strength! I so did not think about that last season, and thought he would go right back to his 120+ average, which of course he did not. A more careful person would have held off a year because Nat’s story wasn’t really “super-premium is back”, it was “player who is returning not long after breaking his leg.”  At the end of last season, it was “player has recovered from broken leg and is back.”  That is also his story so far this season, and I am happy to have him. Some of that is going on with Danger now. His story is currently “Guy who just did his hammy for the first time” and not “reliable and essential perma-captain option.”

The third Supercoach storytelling lesson: “Sometimes stories are temporarily supplanted by other stories.”

Of course Danger will probably get over his hammy and then he’ll be back to being “reliable and essential perma-captain option.”…..except there is this Tom Mitchell bloke, who is also a “reliable perma-captain option.” Danger’s Supercoach story will change because of another player.  Of course you could argue, that both of them will a “reliable and essential perma-captain option.” I’m still thinking I will want Danger in. But his story is not being told in isolation. He won’t be the *only* reliable and/or essential perma-captain option.

The fourth Supercoach storytelling lesson: “Supercoach has an ensemble cast”

Ok, so, Clayton Oliver, wow, I so did not get him in until way late in the season last year, because no player does what he was busy doing. The valid set of stories, in my head, did not include “second year player averages 111.” Since he was actually doing that, and passed the eye test for how, I was totally wrong in the face of evidence.

The fifth Supercoach storytelling lesson: “Sometimes there will be new stories.”

There are others I’m sure, but my brain hurts now. I’m sure there is a good example of “You can have more than one story happening at once for one player” but I can’t think of it offhand.

There are stories that exist for a reason, and should be thought about. The best ruck one season is almost never the best ruck next season. Very valid? Why is that? There is this “regression to the mean” thing I talked about last week. You have to have a great season to be the top scoring ruck. Odds are he combined luck and skill. Luck tends to even out. Next year it is likely some other ruck will have the great luck added to skill needed to be the top scorer. That does not mean “don’t take last year’s top ruck;” I would have if he wasn’t dealing with an injury before round one.  “Most stories have some basis in reality.”

Hmm, how about “The guy who scored well until his mate returned and he went back to scoring badly,” along with “The guy who scored badly until his mate returned and he went back to scoring well.”

Argh, okay one more. “Avoid mid-pricers.” But Coniglio. He is a fallen premium, not a mid pricer. “Be sure you know what story is the real one” Hmm……

I’m gonna close with some wisdom by Terry Pratchett, who said the above much better than I can:


“Supposing an emperor was persuaded to wear a new suit of clothes whose material was so fine that, to the common eye, the clothes weren’t there. And suppose a little boy pointed out this fact in a loud, clear voice…
Then you have The Story of the Emperor Who Had No Clothes.
But if you knew a bit more, it would be The Story of the Boy Who Got a Well-Deserved Thrashing from His Dad for Being Rude to Royalty, and Was Locked Up.
Or The Story of the Whole Crowd Who Were Rounded Up by the Guards and Told ‘This Didn’t Happen, OK? Does Anyone Want to Argue?’
Or it could be a story of how a whole kingdom suddenly saw the benefit of the ‘new clothes’, and developed an enthusiasm for healthy sports in a lively and refreshing atmosphere which got many new adherents every year, and led to a recession caused by the collapse of the conventional clothing industry.
It could even be a story about The Great Pneumonia Epidemic of ’09.
It all depends on how much you know.”


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15 thoughts on “Cow Talk – Round 3”

  1. Yeah that was me about sunk cost. While I agree with 99% of your points, I do think it does play a large role in how those who perform well and rank fantastically by year’s end do so, and why others fall short (again and again, myself included).

    I read last year that the winner started with flops such as Jaeger, and David Swallow too I think (from memory so don’t quote me), but acted quickly and got rid of them very early in the year, rather than holding out hope they would come good. Those who kept them (an example this year may be the likes of Jack Graham, or Rory Lobb), fell behind, hoping they would shift to becoming the breakout player, or cash accumulator the individual thought they would become, maybe due to a glimpse in round 1 where they scored 40 in a quarter.

    The longer you hold these types, the harder it is to get rid of them, because you’ve suddenly invested 6 weeks into a $300k+ player who’s averaging 62 and has missed the last 2 weeks with a “tight hamstring”. Either they come good now, or you have to admit to yourself that you’re a numbskull, which is very hard to do.

    So my point is that if you should try to stay as emotionally distant from your team as possible, as hard as that is. Otherwise, you may do good, but you won’t do great.


    1. Very good point ECN.
      Do I see a theme for next cow talk Father D ?Emotional distance and how to spot a fat cow .


    2. Great point chicken, knowing when to take your medicine means you get better quicker,but also knowing you have to ease up when things look inviting. i had three pods that i hoped would set me apart as these are the ones that take you where everyone else isnt, curnow, steven,motlop,i think the former two can keep, but mots is gone for a rookie on the bubble that is going to make me money and average the same as him and gave me the dosh to get the third beatle.
      Love the topics and feedback on this site.


    3. “I read last year that the winner started with flops such as Jaeger, and David Swallow too I think (from memory so don’t quote me), but acted quickly and got rid of them very early in the year, rather than holding out hope they would come good. Those who kept them … fell behind”

      This was also the secret behind my meteoric rise up the rankings in the first half of last year (ranked 276 after round 10). Sadly, unlike the overall winner, I ended up flying too close to the sun. But that’s enough about The Fall of Salamandicus…

      “an example this year may be the likes of Jack Graham, or Rory Lobb”

      Funny you should mention Lobb… I was just thinking about whether or not I should cut him loose. He scored 97 against the Bulldogs in round 1, before being thoroughly shown-up by Grundy in round 2. His 59 last week was not great, but he spent most of that game at full-forward after getting injured early in the second quarter. He spent the first quarter in the ruck, during which time he amassed, if memory serves me correctly, a healthy 24 points.

      I don’t doubt that at some point everything will click for him, and he’ll end up being that 90-to-100 averaging player I thought he would be. The question for me is when will that be, and will it be worth the wait?


      1. I’m in the same situation and at this point in time after starting the season underdone and then getting injured/having an injury scare last weekend I have decided this year is not to be the Lobbsters year and have moved him on to McLean. Really want next year will be his year (hopefully with ruck/fwd eligibility) as I believe he could be a totally dominant ruckman


    4. The thing about Sunk Cost is it also has an evil twin, Opportunity Cost. The cost of money used for a bad decision that could have been used for a better decision.

      But since last week’s scores aren’t next week’s scores, the risk of appearing stupid by making a trade is real.

      If there is clear proof of a role change, a coaching change, or the return of loss of a player affecting outcomes for a long term then the Opportunity Cost will trump the Sunk Cost every time.

      The trick to it is being able to watch enough footy to see those patterns early enough to take advantage before the pricing has shifted.

      Like Walters last year, or McLean this year.


  2. We need a segment called ‘No regret trades’
    I have no regrets trading out Cox and Hibberd . What I do find interesting is when players tweet how happy they are to be going back to there original rolef


  3. Great article Father, not just for the points made but also for the very Pratchett-esque style of writing that I am sure you were going for. I picture you as being much like Archchancellor Ridcully or Sam Vimes who tell it as it is and to hell with everyone else!


  4. OK, so I’m one of the 3 people that didn’t start with S Murray (now 191.7K) so is Ryan (194.1K) to Marry via DPP a smart move?


    1. Potentially, although common wisdom would dictate not to get cows after a price rise. If he maintains his current average (75), he will still get to 365k by his bye in round 13 (profit of 170k). If you were to trade to Richards (or another bubble boy), he would be 305k by his round 12 bye (based on current average of 65), which would be a profit of 170k.

      All things equal and assuming they maintain their averages, you’d get the same profit out of both. Other things to consider: points on field, initial costs, and job security.


      1. And also consider the majority of cash growth occurs in the first 3 weeks. By having to hold onto a rookie who has already popped his bubble longer, you increase the risk of form slumps, being dropped, and our old mate opportunity cost, by hanging onto a rookie for a few more weeks to get 10k you miss another rookie on the bubble.

        The science of supercoach is not just a science, but an art. It involves the same educated guesswork and reading of the herd instinct of humanity as playing the sharemarket.


        1. The problem with the defence this year is that we are loaded withe 3 great rookies in Doedee, Finlayson & Murray and a selection of slow burners.
          Everyone has Murray but no one has Richards currently.

          Looking at Murray and Richards their price rises over the 3 week period from rounds say 10 to 12 will probably be around $10,000 – $20,000 range in total so if the opportunity arises some will trade the rookies out during this time.

          Just got to sum up do you think Richards can get close to Finlayson’s weekly score as I think his job security is looking good.



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