Head-to-head focus: Winning your finals

Max Bryden gives you his best tips to help you claim the bragging rights in your H2H finals!


Righto. We’re here. Time to claim bragging rights and win your league.

Depending on your league settings, your H2H finals will be starting over the next three rounds. You’ve spent 21 rounds building your team of guns, studying the draw and (hopefully) stock-piling some trades. Now’s the time to put all your prep into action.

This article will cover some H2H strategies, highlight the best and worst team draws, and give you the names of some players who might make a difference for you in your run home. These tactics are relevant no matter when your finals start, but due to the most popular format being rounds 23-26, that’ll be the primary focus of this article.

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  1. Study your opponent and know your uniques

This goes without saying, but knowing your opponent’s team and which players between you are the uniques is the most important part of every H2H match-up. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already consuming a lot of SC information, but what the podcasters will never have is the specific context of the match-up that you’ve got in that week. The uniques between you and your opponents are the only thing that matters in that week – not some cheapie who’s on the bubble, not a 2RF who is overachieving with a new role – just the players in yours and your opponents team.

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  1. Project the match-up before it unfolds

Once you’ve got a handle on the commons and uniques, it’s crucial to then project how your team is stacking up against your opponents. The SuperCoach ‘gold’ package will give fairly decent score projections for each player, however you can also manage this yourself based on their averages and the strength of the opposing team. Doing this should give you a rough idea on if you’re likely to be significantly ahead, behind or if it will be close. The results of the projection should guide the strategies you choose for that match-up. Pro-tip; do this before and the round opens and watch what player names change to easily track their trade-ins. It could help give away their strategy.

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  1. If you’re looking like a big win…

This puts you in a position to control the match-up. You may be able to win without trading and therefore help improve your position for the following weeks. For a captain choice, choose the gun with the best match-up, or ‘match’ what your opponent does in order to negate any advantage they may gain from a different skipper having a great game. If you fear one of their guns on a favourable match-up – for example, Brian To’o vs the Bulldogs – you could use a trade to bring in the same player and turn them into a ‘common’ player, therefore negating any advantage they’ve got. If your opponent senses they’re behind, they may make last-minute trades or skipper choices, so watch the app like a hawk around the kick-off times. 

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  1. If it’s projected to be close…

This is always a risky position to be in. You may consider looking to skipper a different player than your opposition just for a point of difference. You could also trade to block one of their guns who frightens you or find a POD upside player of your own. Keeping an eye on when match-ups occur during the week and developing a contingency plan for your trades is crucial. For example, in round 21 I knew my H2H would be close. I sat Tohu early in the round to allow me the flexibility of being able to trade Mulitalo or Turuva to a gun if I wasn’t up significantly before Sunday’s games. The late trade of Ronnie to To’o allowed me to have one more common player and win the H2H by 46 points – I would’ve lost by three points without that ‘block’.

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  1. If you’re projected to lose…

This is almost the most fun scenario to be in, and hopefully you’ve got some trades! If you’re projected to not be close to your opponent – either as you’re short on players or their guns have great match-ups – there’s still strategies you can use to try to turn the tables. Firstly, consider a VC or C on a unique player to give you the biggest point of difference if that player comes off. If they’re in control they may try to match your moves, so a unique player is the best way to try to gain an advantage. If it isn’t going to significantly weaken your team, opting for unique over players in common can also help give you a chance; especially at high upside positions like CTW or FLB. And finally, don’t be afraid to trade for a one week match-up. Top 4 teams against the bottom 4 sides in particular should be very juicy for the run home.

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How to use your trades

The perfect number of trades for H2H finals is probably eight, meaning you’ve got the opportunity to use two in every week. Realistically, you can get by with a few less than that if you’re deliberate in how you use them.

Pending on how many you’ve got, as well as your team depth, you should view your trades as an investment that has a life span. That life span might be anywhere between one – four weeks. If you’re on the lower end of trades (four or less), you really need to make your trades go as far as possible so should be looking for longer life span trades – i.e. which players have the best runs for the next four weeks. If you’ve got eight, you might be able to looking at shorter life spans on these trades – i.e. which players have the best match-ups this round.

In this sense, it all comes down to the draw and finding the match-ups and players who can go 100 plus that your opponent won’t own.

Good & bad draws for finals

A good draw can mean a team is going to score more tries, and there’ll be an uplift in scoring for those players. Without a doubt, the best run of any finalist belongs to the NZ Warriors. There four games between rounds 23-26 are against Bottom 8 sides, including the lowly Tigers and Dragons. Additionally, the match-ups for the Roosters, Knights Dolphins and Sharks is favourable.

If you’ve the trades for more week-to-week investments, the Storm match-ups in rounds 25 and 26 look juicy as. As does the Rabbits in 24 and 25. Being aware of these and planning your trades accordingly – e.g. Cody Walker to Munster in 25, Latrell to Teddy in 26 – could win you a comp.

If your finals are on in different weeks, it’s worth performing the same exercise to see where the best match-ups are for your guns.

On the flip side, some teams have extremely tough draws during the finals periods. The bye schedule on it’s own is tricky to navigate, but when you see your players have penrith when you’re chasing a win, that never helps. Sometimes you’ll have the depth to cover these players – and forwards are also more match-up proof than backs – but based on this it can be worth jumping off guys to teams with better draws.

While not all of these teams are hugely relevant, the tough draw is impactful to highly owned players like Clint Gutherson and Reuben Garrick. Garrick could be a sit in round 24, and even a sell towards a DWZ or CNK. While Gutherson has proven himself a genuine SC star this season, a grand final against Penrith in round 26 looks like a potential banana peel. 

The draw is certainly not everything, but it can be a good predictor of upswing in scores, especially for the backs.

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Some players to consider:

  • Kalyn Ponga: Timmy doesn’t own and this draw could see the Knights custodian become a million dollar man soon. 
  • CNK: already well owned but a difference maker at CTW this season.
  • DWZ: see above. Has a few tons this season and could have a couple more in the run home. Does have a lower base than CNK but a higher ceiling is your pay off
  • Knights left-edge: Marzhew, Best, Fitzgibbon. Greg has the ownership and price but the others can and could go big on the run home with a soft draw and KP feeding them.
  • Knights right-edge: why not. Gagai and Dom Young are quietly killing it this season and have low ownership
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  • Roosters right-edge: Manu and Sualli have both had a nice uptick of late. Manu has been popular since the round 16 bye and continues to score well despite being back in the centres. Sualli is goal-kicking and with this draw could have some solid scores.
  • Rabbits backs: provided you’ve got trades to get them out before your H2H final, the Rabbits should go huge in round 22 – 25. Graham, Tass, AJ, pick your fighter!
  • Hammer & Isaako: Isaako has been quiet since his mate Brenko got hurt, but hopefully can show that ceiling again with the Dolphins nice draw and some troops coming back. Hammer is cheap and at Fullback has shown some class.

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The best part of H2H should be the banter amongst your mates. But the banter will be better if you’re the champion. Remember you’re not in finals to make up the numbers – you’re there to win it. So plan hard and hopefully you bring home the cup!

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