The AFLW is coming into its sixth season as a competition, and the calls for an official Fantasy game have grown louder each year.
Finally, the coach of two-time AFL Fantasy champions Moreira’s Magic decided to take it upon himself to give the community what it had been crying out for.
“My background is in AFL Fantasy which I won a couple of times,” Selby Lee-Steere modestly told The Inner Sanctum.
“On the back of that we produced content for fantasy coaches and have been doing that for probably the last four years. The majority of those profits go back into the community – Starlight is our major beneficiary and we’ve given 14 wishes over the last four years on the back of the season guide and season membership we do with Moreira’s Magic.
“Our mission for Moreira’s Magic is to help spark joy through Fantasy Sports, and that’s through either giving good tips and people feeling good about themselves, what we do with Starlight and then now with the women’s competition.”
The importance of a Fantasy game in the AFLW can’t be understated. It’s not just for followers of the competition to become involved in, but it’s a gateway for fans of the AFL and other sports to become watchers and consumers of content.
As a two-time AFL Fantasy winner and prominent member of the community, Selby knows this better than anyone.
“There’s been a lot of chat around the community that people want it and there should be one,” he said.
“I’m obviously a big believer in Fantasy Sports and believe there should be one and it’s a no-brainer for the AFL to run one. Unfortunately, they haven’t put the time or money into it, so part of our idea to create joy through Fantasy Sports was to run one ourselves and set up the platform for people to play.
“It’s a unique crowd, the people who like and follow Fantasy Sports. The people who don’t probably wonder ‘what are we doing?’, but those who play understand how much joy can come from it, how it’s a good distraction from everyday life and also the community you can build with it.”
AFL Fantasy has gained a following of 130,000-plus loyal fans who play the game religiously each year. It’s become a community that consumes as much football content as the most diehard supporters in the land, and it’s a following that can be built from the ground up.
“For example, I never used to watch NBA and then probably five years ago my friend asked me to join his comp and now I could tell you all 15 players on a squad, the depth charts and everything,” Selby admitted.
“If it gets people to enjoy and love the new sports, new leagues, then it’s played a good role.”
The lack of an official AFLW Fantasy game has long been a point of conjecture amongst AFLW fans and the AFL Fantasy community. The overlap of interest is there for all to see.
“Coincidentally, the day we bought our domain there was a poll up from AFL Fantasy on Twitter saying ‘would you play AFLW Fantasy’,” Selby remembered.
“It might’ve been a 50-50 poll but the comments and interaction are what I’m looking at. Those who are buying into it are really appreciative, it won’t get the same numbers as the AFL Fantasy game but it’s something we’re really proud to make a reality.
“I’m a bit biased because I live and breathe it but I think Fantasy is under-appreciated so hopefully the engagement with people getting around it triggers the AFL running their own next year.”
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Reports from Bleacher Report on the consumption of content by Fantasy players in the US correlates with that seen in Australia. Individuals are more likely to watch games, read articles, and consume content from competitions in which they have a Fantasy team.
“Obviously the Fantasy landscape over there is different but reading it resonated with us. For one, Fantasy Sports fans consume 40 per cent more content than sports fans,” Selby said.
“Knowing my friends who follow Fantasy the amount they follow and read articles compared to those who don’t, it’s 100 per cent true in Australia from my experience.
“If the viewership numbers go up, the AFLW obviously can gain more sponsorship dollars and money which can then go towards paying the players more and they can one day be full-time athletes.
“The product will continue to improve and that cycle can continue. As the product improves they’ll get more engagement. This is a small component of it, having a Fantasy site, but it is a catalyst to potentially spark that journey.”
Creating a dedicated site for AFLW Fantasy was a big undertaking for Moreira’s Magic, but one that Selby felt necessary as the AFLW grows year on year.
Asked why the league hadn’t invested the resources into an official product over the first six years of the competition’s existence, Selby acknowledged the costs associated but looked at its long-term payoff.
“I think the AFL under-appreciates the power of Fantasy Sports,” Selby stated.
“It’s not completely surprising to me that they haven’t got the women’s competition, particularly that initially in the early years it’s probably not commercially viable.
“But they’ve got a vested interest where you’d think they’d be prepared to lose money on running a fantasy comp knowing that more and more people are going to watch the game.”
As for the strategy that the coach of Moreira’s Magic thinks will win it all in 2022?
He’s not quite sure, but is excited by the possibility of a season in which the coaches that do their own research could reap the rewards.
“With the men’s, there’s so much content out there at the moment.
“With the women’s no one really knows what the right strategy is here. There’s no content – you try to find an article on who’s going to score well this year and it’s kind of hard to find so it’s almost going back to 10 years ago in AFL Fantasy where those who can do their own research find a bit of a niche and can succeed.
“We’ve put in a lot of work to get this up and running and I daresay if the AFL creates their own platform they’ll take the whole share of interest, but at least we’ve made the impact and we can put our feet back as they go ahead with it.”
The 2022 AFLW season is set to begin on Friday January 7. You can head to aflwfantasy.com.au to sign up for the free AFLW Fantasy game with a $5000 prize for the winner.
You can support Moreira’s Magic here with proceeds going to the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
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