By @WeGotBigCox

There are a lot of variations of keeper leagues out there, different takes on the same principle of keeping several players from one year to the next. I heard so many variations, from leagues that keep one player per line to leagues that keep a full roster of 30 players and only draft 10.

When last year I found myself taking over as commissioner of two of my keeper leagues I found that there are just so many variables, and so many differences from league to league, that no one has really attempted to write a piece on providing guidance to new or inexperienced league commissioners.  

In my despair, I reached out to several twitter personalities, took as much as I could from the incumbent outgoing league manager and did some reading up on what some of the fantasy baseball keeper leagues do in the states.  Cheers to all those who helped me out on twitter, @Ashocks_Keeper, @Jgerts22, @thedraftdoctors, @DTKeeperLeague, @fantasy_keeper. Well needless to say, I have learnt a lot over the past year and I thought it might be of interest to the fantasy community to hear about some of the problems I faced.

…So here goes, what I’ve learnt after managing two leagues for a year and for the very first time in a baptism of fire.

Fantasy DT Platform

In my case, having taken over existing leagues, I didn’t have to make this choice.  However I have done a bit of homework on the matter and Ultimate Footy still appears to be the best around for keeper leagues.  Not a whole lot of development occurred last year, but they appear to be the most mainstream platform that has keeper support.

The other one that I have come across is TheBench. It looked like a good platform but I was put off by registration costs for coaches.

@warnieDT has suggested that AFL Fantasy will be looking to add a few keeper features soon, so watch this space.

Communication platform

It may seem to be a simple problem, but finding a way to talk and engage with every single coach in the league can be difficult.  Having one platform to interact with all the coaches, and for them to interact with each other to discuss trades is key to having an active league that everyone enjoys.  Even if you know all the coaches in real life (which I do in one of my leagues), it’s just easier to communicate about a trade or a deadline by sending out a post or reminder.

Initially I thought that Facebook was the most obvious and easiest solution. It has the functionality to create private discussion boards with pinned posts, polls, attach links for spreadsheets, kind of like back in the day when forums and bulletin boards were commonly used.  But for some reason, there is always one bloke in any league that boycotts Facebook and refuses to join the league Facebook group page. It so happens that I had one of these guys in both my leagues.

This same issue also rules out Facebook messenger.

Twitter is not really an option as it doesn’t have facilities for private group chats.

Emails are possible but cumbersome. I found that it was alright initially, you can set up a mailing list and all is fine and dandy. That is until coaches start replying all to the last email and email addresses for some members have changed for one reason or another, usually related to moving jobs.  It is also very limited in functionality like voting and lacks the ability to pin posts etc.

I ended up moving in the direction of Whatsapp for both my leagues. Whilst not everyone wants to be visible on Facebook for whatever reason, everyone does have a mobile phone number these days and that is the only perquisite for Whatsapp.  At the moment I am running Whatsapp in one league and am still spread across Facebook Groups and Whatsapp in the other which is a little difficult.

Draft Pick Trading

I heard so many variations, from leagues that keep one player per line to leagues that keep a full roster of 30 players and only draft 10. I’m told the most common is about 10 to 12 keepers with 10 to 12 coaches, so that’s between 100 and 144 players off the board before the draft even starts. All with various rules on trading draft picks or not.

One of the leagues I am running keeps 10 players with 12 coaches, fitting into the criteria of the typical keeper league.  In this league, we don’t like to allow draft pick trading until the Grand Final is completed and the year is over. Someone in this league always seems to sell the farm to have a run at the finals, so removing any temptation to trade picks before the season ends keeps things fair.  Whilst allowing it at seasons end provides some player movement in the off season and encourages a bit of trading. It gives a chance for stronger team lists to get a bit of value out of players that would otherwise be straight delisted to the pool and it gives a chance for poorer teams to improve their core keeper list.

My other league is completely different. It is a dynasty league with a list of 30 keepers and 10 coaches. That’s 300 players off the board before the draft even starts. In this league we allow draft pick trading year round.  In an attempt to mirror the real AFL, we also allow trading of picks in this years draft and next years as well. But how do you track this as a league manager given Ultimate Footy hasn’t got the functionality yet?

We use Google sheets.  It’s simple, and can be shared with a link on any platform.

We have tried to make the picks trading system as fool proof as possible and use common terminology so that no one gets confused or argues. For all picks in this year’s draft we use the Ultimate Footy format ’round.pick number’ I.e. ‘1.10’ which is round 1 pick 10. Numbers for next year’s draft must be labelled ‘Future (round number)th rounder’ I.e. ‘future 8th rounder’.

All future picks are colour coded to the team that they were originally owned by, thereby allowing the commissioner to easily determine which pick is round 1 pick 1 and which pick is round 1 pick 10 once the current season is over.  It means coaches are assured of getting the exact pick they traded for, and makes the worst list in the leagues’ round 1 future pick look very tasty indeed – just cross your fingers they don’t do a West Coast Eagles on you and win the premiership after losing about 1200 games of experience in 3 key players.

Below is an example of the above, an actual screenshot of my current Google sheets document for the 2020 draft.  Cheers to the out going league commissioner @Ashocks_Keeper for dreaming this one up:


Keeping League Records

Keeping track of who won last year’s premiership is easy, but keeping track of the runner up from 6 years ago, or even how many premierships a team has under their belt isn’t.  Whilst Ultimate Footy has some keep league functions, it really hasn’t been developed with functionality for keeping this information from one year to the next.

Here’s a few categories that I’ve found are nice to keep for historical reference:

  • Premiers
  • Grand Final scores including runner up names etc.
  • League Medal winners, it’s no surprise that Tom Mitchell has won ours two years running
  • Highest points scored in a game
  • Highest points scored in a season
  • Most wins in a season
  • Coach movement, when a coach leaves or is sacked

Handy tip – If you are already using Google sheets to document draft pick trading, then this is the perfect place to stash your league records too.

What information do you record for posterity?

Documenting the League Rules

Keeping detailed words, and posting them in Ultimate Footy League Notes, or pinning them to your communication platform will help avoid a sticky situation.  It will avoid an argument with a coach before it even becomes a problem, so in my opinion, it is definitely time well spent.

Cheers to the outgoing league commissioner @Ashocks_Keeper for this one.

Here is an example of some league rules that I wrote up for my traditional keeper league:

League rules

Platform- Ultimate Footy

Scoring – dream team

List size – 25

Keepers – 10. 
To be selected 1 week after the UF site starts up (late Jan-early Feb).

Trade picks – you may trade draft picks only once the fantasy Grand Final is over. All records will be kept on a Google spreadsheet accessible by all coaches but only editable by league manager.

Scoring players – 18 (Def – 5, Mid – 7, Ruc – 1, For – 5, Uti – 0)

Emergencies – 7 (2 for each position and 1 for the ruck). Emergencies will only cover non-playing players, not empty slots.

Time on ground threshold – 20%. If an on field player plays for less than 20% the corresponding emergency Player will be activated

Play bye rounds – No

Captains – Yes

In season position changes – yes

Can’t cut list – yes

In season Trade deadline – There is no deadlines for trading.

Free agency – The FA market opens up after the draft and is available until the Ultimate Footy website shuts for the year.

Restricted free-agent – players become restricted agents at the start time of their respective games, waivers are processed on the 1 day after the weekend games at midnight.

Waiver priority – Continually Rolling list

Ladder tiebreaker – when multiple teams are on the same number of wins they will be ranked by highest points scored

Maximum acquisitions – there is no limit to the number of trades. Waivers, or free agent pickups are limited to 2 per week.

Trade review period – No approval required for most of the year. Approvals will be set from the mid-season byes to the Fantasy grand final to ensure no collusive trades occur in the lead up to the end of season.

Trade review method – Coach votes. All coaches in the league have the opportunity to vote against and veto any blatant cheating trade.

Draft – the draft will be a slow draft run daily during work hours. Duration of pics will be 30 to 45 minutes. It will be 15 rounds.

Link to Google sheets:

In my Dynasty league, we keep some extra rules to best model the AFL, here are a few examples if your keen to look at something out of the box for your league:

We have voted in 2 new rules to be implemented for your keeper selections going into next year:
Rule 1: Category B Rookie listed player (AKA the Nathan Freeman Rule)
Each club has the option of holding 1 listed rookie player over and above the 30 keeper players. 
A rookie is any listed player yet to make his AFL debut.
Rookie selections will need to be nominated on lodgement of your keeper selections.
Rule 2: Long Term Injury list (AKA the Anthony Morabito Rule)
Each club has the option of holding 1 listed LTI player over and above the 30 keeper players.
An LTI player is any listed player expected to miss 10 or more home and away rounds.
LTI selections will need to be nominated on lodgement of your keeper selections.

What special rules do you have in your keeper leagues?

Player Movement in the off season

Ok, so the grand final is done, the season is over, the last +6 has been given by champion data for the year, there is a ton of hype around trade week within the AFL but Ultimate Footy is officially over for the year…. what now?

Why not have you own Trade Week?

In my Dynasty league, we have our own trade week, the week following the AFL’s.  It’s a whole lot of fun and helps fill in the time before the draft, wrapping up your fantasy year in a nice neat little bow.  At the end of the week, our player list of pre-draft players are locked in, no more player trading until we lodge our 30 keepers into Ultimate Footy next year in preseason.

We run it all through Google sheets, like everything else in the off season, the Ultimate Footy website doesn’t handle it too well.  It’s a bunch of fun and unlike the real AFL, not all the trades go down on the last day because Fox Sports doesn’t have the televising rights.


Delegation of tasks

If the above sounds like a lot of work, then you would be correct.  But don’t let that put you off, delegate some tasks to a second in command or something. I am an engineering professional that works 50-80 hours per week. I don’t always have the time to run things as well as I should.  

Appoint a Trade Week Commissioner or a Draft Day Official to setup and organise an offline draft.  You don’t have to do every little thing, get help from your league to sort things out when your own life gets a bit too busy for fantasy.

This year we are looking at running an offline draft with live trading.  I don’t have time for that but the coaches in our league were keen to try it out – so we are appointing a Draft Commissioner.

Bringing the banter

I’ve heard some crazy things out there that some leagues do for fun.  Like guys that go to the extent of making their own team jerseys for draft day. Some leagues create their own theme songs. It’s all a bit of fun and creates some banter.

Last year I did Grand Final posters and set the winning team’s poster as the Facebook Group Banner for the off season.  If you have someone in the league with some ordinary photoshop skills it’s pretty easy to knock up. This was done from my ipad, while sitting on the couch one night.coxy


To all the would-be commissioners out there, if you enjoy some serious banter, if you love your fantasy footy, If you have ever wondered what it would be like to commission your own league, then give it a crack, and do it this year.  It’s a ton of fun guys, seriously is worthwhile and way more interesting than salary cap or single season leagues where all the fun finishes in round 23.

To all the existing keeper league commissioners, What do you do differently? What’s fun about your keeper league? Lets open the conversation below or on twitter @WeGotBigCox