The $50k major prize will be decided in coming days, while league glory is also on the line.

To help those in the race for rankings immortality of league prizes, our KFC SuperCoach brains trust has answered the key questions ahead of Round 18.

That includes how to replace injured Blues skipper Sam Docherty, the best captaincy options and whether coaches should be prepared for a spate of restings.

The brains trust are some of the sharpest minds in the game and their advice could be the difference in a cut throat Grand Final.

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How worried are you about players being managed and how have you tried to prepare for this?

@Adrian9Johnson6 — Ranked 370th after Round 16: With the race for a finals spot and hotter than ever, I don’t see widespread list management or resting of key players taking place. However, for sides bordering on irrelevancy, I’d be sweating on any player under an injury cloud. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam Draper, Jy Simpkin or Patrick Cripps missed. Fingers crossed I’m wrong. One final piece of advice from a lesson I learned in 2013. I decided to sideways trade Leigh Montagna to Tom Liberatore. Fremantle — St Kilda’s final round opponent — then rested several key players. If I told you Liberatore scored 148, you would’ve been safe to assume I had pulled off a masterstroke. Wrong. Montagna amassed a career-high 47 disposals and was the round’s top scorer with 184 points.

@laughingracoon — Two-time top-40 ranked coach: With the bye after Round 18 I’m not overly worried. It’s good to have a spare trade up your sleeve but we do have a bench for a reason. My focus would be getting to ‘full premium’ and if you have a spare trade after that, then great. If you have no bench cover, then an extra trade obviously becomes more valuable.

@nacheers — Two-time top-1000 ranked coach, round winner: Hopefully with the rest week before finals we won’t see too much of this, but it is always a possibility. I have held one defender, three mids and one forward for coverage on each line. I had planned to hold two trades for these last two rounds but I have copped carnage and have been forced to use one. If you are lucky to have a trade or two, I would hold them instead of using it for luxury sideways or upgrades. The less donuts you have the more chance of winning!

@HoneyballAUS — Creator of fantasy website Honeyball: Given the frequency of injuries this year, particularly late in the season, it’s always been wise to retain a trade for Round 18 for injuries, but also players being managed. At this time of the year, trading a player doesn’t always lead to a points gain, so I’m a bit more conservative, unless there’s an obvious points gain to be made. On the question, I’m more concerned about injuries than players being managed given the pre-finals bye. It also might be wise with a more normal Round 18 fixture to hang on to that trade until Sunday teams are announced on Saturday if possible.

@hunterpunter_1 — Best finish, fifth overall: There’s always a chance of players being managed, but in recent years there hasn’t been as many rested in the final round due to the bye before finals. To reduce the chance of donuts for my team in the case that players do miss, I try to have at least one playing rookie on the bench in each line. I also aim to have plenty of DPP players (especially rookies) in my team to allow flexibility.

@jordsSuperCoach — Two-time top-500 ranked coach: The resting phase for players should be over, unless its an injury prone player such as Toby Greene or Zac Williams who both haven’t pulled up well at times this year. Otherwise I’m not worried, either a trade in hand or rookie cover should be sufficient.

@lekdogsc — Host, Jock Reynolds podcast: Given the fight for positions in the top eight is still alive for a number of clubs and the fact that most clubs have managed their personnel well, I don’t think we need to worry about players getting rested. We know there will be a few changes for Round 18 due to injuries popping up but I don’t think wholesale changes are on the cards for anyone. How have I prepared? I ignored my own advice and used my final trades to fix the Coniglio issue last round.

Would you take a risk with vice-captaincy this round on a player who could go big or play it safe?

@Adrian9Johnson6: I think this is dependent on your SuperCoach intentions. If you are leading your cash league Grand Final without many PODs, a unique vice-captain may lead to a sub-par result (as captaining Neale in Round 17 did). However, if you are — like me — chasing the highest overall rank possible, I would personally VC a player with an enormous ceiling. Josh Kennedy (West Coast), Jack Steele, Josh Kelly, Clayton Oliver, Max Gawn and Matt Crouch all come to mind.

@laughingracoon: Where possible, I’ll always put my vice-captaincy (VC) on my preferred captain (e.g. Gawn) and use my captaincy (C) as backup. If you’re punting against the odds with the VC on a Josh Kennedy type, let’s be honest, you’re most likely putting your C on Gawn anyway. But if you VC Gawn and he fails, your backup C will likely gain an advantage over all those that had no option but to take Gawn’s score as captain. Obviously, the order of games is relevant here, but I’ve found this to be the safest and most advantageous play over the years.

@nacheers: Last year was very predictable with captaincy (Grundy/Gawn). A few times I tried to venture away from the crowd and it really backfired and cost me 150+ points. This season is a little more open with captaincy options including Gawn, Danger, Neale, Bontempelli, Macrae, Lloyd and Oliver. If you have a player like Dangerfield or Gawn and your opponent does not, then I would prefer that — one that is safe but also unique to your match-up.

@HoneyballAUS: I get the premise of this idea, but it really depends on your situation and whether you need to take a risk, for example, if you’re favourite to win a Grand Final or to shoot up the rankings. As boring as it is, I’m a huge believer in picking the player who’s consistently scored the most points as your vice-captain or captain, because more often than not they will, rather than be seduced by match-ups. But if you’re up for a risk, I’d target the teams playing North or Essendon who’ve both been leaking points lately and play early in Round 18.

@hunterpunter_1: Most years I would say yes, but this year there are a core group of four or five players that are consistently posting huge scores. If you are down in a match-up, I would suggest you change your VC/C to one of the big players to be different to your opponent. Gawn, Oliver, Neale, Macrae and Lloyd all fit into this category.

@jordsSuperCoach: After some harsh lessons getting fancy with VC options, I prefer the reliable options of Gawn, Grundy, Neale or Macrae who only need to score slightly below average for an acceptable score, with huge upside.

@lekdogsc: Unless you’re at the very top of the overall rankings I think this is the time to take a punt on your VC, go big and try and win that work comp! Two names come to mind in this scenario. The first is Reilly O’Brien who comes up against a depleted Richmond ruck brigade which he absolutely decimated with a 181 in Round 19 last year. While the second is a fantasy footy favourite, Gary Ablett. It looks like he’ll play in Round 18 and he is going to wrap his KFC SuperCoach career up in style against Sydney, a side he averages 125 against over his career and once posted a 254 against.

Who’s the best captaincy pick of the round and why?

@Adrian9Johnson6: Gawn to dominate an undermanned Bombers outfit (His last two against Essendon have been 126, 168), Lachie Neale to bounce back after his lowest score of the season (last three against Carlton 106, 134, 159) and Nathan Fyfe (last three against Western Bulldogs 104, 128, 151).

@laughingracoon: Gawn against Sam Draper and Essendon in Round 18 will be an easy VC decision for me, with Melbourne playing early in the round and a plethora of safe back-up options in Neale, Grundy, Lloyd and Macrae. If you’re looking for an option that’s not Gawn (I’m pretty boring) I would just pick the guy with the most runs on the board — Neale. There are always exceptions but I think sometimes we overthink our captaincy options.

@nacheers: Players that are on my radar for this week are Dangerfield, Gawn, Macrae and Neale. Now that I own Gawn (again) I want to see his score before making a call on my captaincy, so therefore I’ll VC him and then decide whether I need to find a back-up option.

@HoneyballAUS: Normally I’d nominate the gun midfielder from the side playing Adelaide but they’ve improved a lot lately, plus no one stands out from their Round 18 opponents Richmond. On the contrary, Richmond leak a lot of points in midfield and they don’t tag. Six Geelong players reached triple figures against the Tigers on Friday and Adelaide’s Matt Crouch is the form SuperCoach player at the moment, with a three-round average of 148. He’s scored 100 or more in his previous six matches. He’s also owned by only 2 per cent of coaches so he’s a relative POD. He’ll cost a bit, but it could be a decisive move. Do it.

@hunterpunter_1: Max Gawn or Clayton Oliver against Essendon look like prime candidates for the VC. Macrae scored 153 against Fremantle in his last meeting, so he would probably be my back-up pick.

@jordsSuperCoach: Max Gawn against whoever Essendon decide to play as their ruck. If not then I’d go for Macrae against Fremantle, he scored 150+ against them in their last meeting and has posted three 160+ scores this year. While I still expect Neale to score well, I am concerned he may receive a Curnow tag, so I see him as a VC only option.

@lekdogsc: Lachie Neale getting tagged by Sydney throws an interesting curveball into the mix for Round 18, with Carlton’s Ed Curnow likely to run with him, it seems that a sub-100 score could be on the cards again for the Brownlow favourite. Max Gawn is an easy answer and one that I will most likely be going with myself, but taking a punt on Tim Kelly might be the move that pushes your side over the edge. He scored 180 points against St Kilda last week and coming up against North Melbourne, he might just do it again.

How should you replace Sam Docherty?


@hunterpunter_1: I’m in this position. I like Caleb Daniel as a reliable scorer. The Dogs love getting it into his hands and he is their designated kick-in taker. Jack Crisp could be a nice POD move. He has come into some nice form scoring 134 and 125 in two matches prior to Round 17.

@lekdogsc: Tom Barrass is your man, averaging 122 over his last three games. He has been a huge contributor to West Coast. He has been taking relieving marks, being used as an outlet up the ground and will steal a few kick-ins as well. In form, he should out-mark just about every North Melbourne option this week and is playing a KFC SuperCoach friendly role.

@Adrian9Johnson6: If you have 0 trades: Loophole either Lachlan Sholl or Andrew McPherson as Adelaide plays before Carlton. Take any score above 60. If you have 1 trade: Trade to the similarly priced Tom Barrass (WCE) or Zac Bailey (BRIS). If you have 2 trades: Target whoever you can afford out of Jake Lloyd, Luke McDonald or Luke Ryan.

@jordsSuperCoach: If money is not an issue, then Jake Lloyd. For someone around the 500k mark, Caleb Daniel is in very good form, posting three consecutive 110+ scores, where one of the games he was tagged for a half. If money is an issue, then Daniel Rich could be a smokey, posting three consecutive 99+ scores since coming back into the side.

@nacheers: Our projection guru Brice Mitchell has Docherty falling to $451k. If you have a little cash in the bank I’d be looking at Caleb Daniel. The Doggies seem to be using him more than ever out of the backline and also the option to hit a target inside 50. A POD option who is in 1 per cent of teams and has a 3 round average of 112 (prior to Round 17) is Liam Duggan. An even cheaper option would be Tom Barrass who has gone 110, 112 and 144 and is in 862 teams!



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