“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson.
These two quotes eloquently articulate my thoughts on planning. That’s because the truth, I think, lays somewhere in between.
When I think about planning, I think about priorities. In SuperCoach terms, we’re required to prioritise two trades every round. This can be both enjoyable and frustrating, as we plan what our squad could look like for the coming rounds.
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Planning for the coming rounds is perhaps the most challenging part, as these plans can so easily be thrown out the window. How many times do we stash away cash for trades next week, only for player prices to rule out our preferred trade, or for one of our players to pick up an injury requiring an urgent trade-out.
It’s for this reason that I don’t like to stash large amounts of cash for future trades. I think it’s best to play what’s in front of us to maximise opportunities for the coming rounds. For more on this, see the ‘Trade Up. Trade Down’ video from AFL SuperCoach cult hero ‘The Crouching One’, who puts it more beautifully than I ever could[i].
So, does this mean that planning in SuperCoach is a waste of time? I don’t think so, as there are clear circumstances, such as byes and favourable fixtures, when planning can pay dividends.
One of my favourite Fantasy Premier League podcasters[ii] often talks about the importance of sticking to your own plan, so that you don’t end up with that ill feeling of not having backed yourself. It was this that inspired me to make a very high risk move of Tedesco to Latrell last round.
I consider that FPL and NRL SC are two very different types of game, with FPL being far more fixture dependent. Nonetheless, this round in NRL SC was a rare opportunity for me to target a run of fixtures by utilising a strategy that I’d been pondering for the last three weeks.
This certainly isn’t always an opportunity that’s available, given how often injuries, team dynamics and player roles change. It’s a bit akin to business planning in the COVID world. ‘Pivoting’ is regularly needed due to changing circumstances.
With that being said, I’ve recently been considering a data analytics framework, which could help our NRL SC planning. The framework, from the book ‘Lean Analytics’, is copied below[iii].
Known Knowns Facts!
Known Unknowns Hypotheses: Can be confirmed or rejected with data.
Unknown Knowns Biases: Can be overcome with relevant data analysis.
Unknown Unknowns Opportunities and threats: Insights from data, which we didn’t realise existed.
One thing I find fascinating about the application of this framework is the comparison between objectivity and subjectivity. Like many SuperCoaches, I was listening intently when the 2010 overall winner / 2008 runner-up discussed this during the pre-season on the NRL SuperCoach Champions podcast[iv].
To me, the above framework provides a tool to plan objectively. It can provide questions for us to consider whilst observing matches or conducting research. Without this, we may simply be inclined to look for data that confirms our initial biases[v].
Another aspect of the framework that I find intriguing is the ‘unknown unknowns’. This is where opportunities and threats lay that we didn’t know existed at all.
I think there are parts of this framework that can be applied generally to NRL SC, as well as parts that are team dependent. For example, here are my notes on the framework generally for NRL SC, as well as specifically to my team (‘The Wendells’) relating to players I’m looking at trading in.
Known Knowns – Player minutes. – Likely player roles, in unchanged 17s. – Breakevens. – SuperCoach pedigree (season-on-season averages).
Known Unknowns – David Fifita. Increased involvement (data: base + power stats). – Tom Trbojevic fitness + form (data: TBC on return). – Player roles, in changed 17s.
Unknown Knowns – Want to trade in Ryan James at some stage. Because I’m disappointed to have traded him out just before round 1. I want him back in my team to make myself feel better about it. However, my feelings have nothing to do with making my team better!
Unknown Unknowns – Watch games. – Read last rounds stats on nrlsupercoachstats.com. – Read articles / podcasts.
So, what’s the application of the above for planning purposes? I believe it can guide my research, both in terms of looking at stats, as well as watching games, in the coming rounds.
In my view, this fits well with a flexible approach to planning, in which we maintain an open mind, whilst considering new data when it becomes available. Also, by looking for ‘unknown, unknowns’, we may be able to identify some of these to move to ‘known, unknowns’. We can then look more specifically for data that confirms or denies our guesses.
Here’s an example for my team:
– Fogarty to S Walker – Tupouniua to D Fifita
– D Fifita stats (known unknown) – Watch all games / highlights (unknown unknowns – already complete) – Read through round 4 stats (unknown unknowns) – Listen to podcasts / read articles (unknown unknowns)
– Focus on cash generation (trades TBC)
– Watch key cheapies (known unknowns). – Deep dive on cheapie stats (known unknowns). – Watch all games / highlights (unknown unknowns) – Read through round 5 stats (unknown unknowns) – Listen to podcasts / read articles (unknown unknowns)
– Latrell to Teddy or Turbo – Other trade TBC
– Closely watch Teddy / Turbo in rounds 5 / 6 (known unknowns) – Watch all games / highlights (unknown unknowns) – Read through round 6 stats (unknown unknowns) – Listen to podcasts / read articles (unknown unknowns)
Eight  – Thirteen 
– Bye planning
– Closely watch Dragons, Broncos, Tigers, Panthers, Storm, Titans, Knights and Eels players (known unknowns) – Watch all games / highlights (unknown unknowns) – Read through round stats (unknown unknowns) -Listen to podcasts / read articles (unknown unknowns)
As you can see, currently for my side, it’s quite challenging to plan more than a round or two in advance. However, by taking a more general approach, I’m still able to have a plan in mind that can guide my research in the coming rounds. This is how I aim to stay flexible.
As a final word, I think it’s useful to remember what part of the framework different types of research sits in. It can be easy to form biases that don’t actually serve us based on our emotions. If you’re researching unknown unknowns, make your own judgements, then back yourself like the FPL General says!
Then remember what Iron Mike said! And roll with the punches.