SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES – MARCH 10: The crowd watches on during the round one NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on March 10, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
As we march (or stumble) into the final round of 2022s NRL SuperCoach competition, this week we pay homage to a handful of the fantasy game’s most engaging content creators.
In Australia, there are around 165,000 people playing rugby league.
Incredibly, almost the same amount of Aussies are playing the couch-supporter alternative, NRL SuperCoach.
I sat down with some of the game’s more established and up-and-coming podcasters to find out just how seriously they take the game, and themselves. Despite their strong influence and grasp of the game, each brings a vastly different identity and perspective.
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With just under 2,000 YouTube subscribers, Aman S (AmanTalksNRLSC) has only been playing the game since 2020 and launched into sharing his thoroughly-researched suggestions online in 2021.
If NRL SuperCoach podcasters were old high school mates, Aman would almost certainly be the spreadsheets nerd. His YouTube streams come pre-loaded with tables of data that substantiate his trade methodology.
But the softly-spoken gentleman also comes right out of left-field and writes humorous poems about the players that have either made his round – or burned him. And they are very well received by his followers who send him requests each week.
“I never want to instruct people. I always reiterate that it’s all just an opinion,” he affirms when prompted about how someone with such a short involvement in the game could be streaming advice.
“I make content not from the view of like, I’m so good at this, but more because I like to. I make that very clear to my listeners.”
Aman is an avid Roosters and NSW fan, and he’s loved footy for as long as he can remember, playing versions of fantasy leagues way back in 2010 and beyond. And he takes inspiration from Wilfred (2016 winner) and Guy (2018 winner) from the SuperCoach Champions, as well as Tim Williams (2020 runner up) from the SCPlaybook.
And that’s possibly where he gets his trepidation about broadcasting from, despite his overwhelming positive fan feedback.
“LOL what do you know about SuperCoach?” was a comment from a listener at one point, and while it seems fairly innocuous, it was this comment that has stuck with Aman to this day.
“It stoked a fear that maybe I don’t actually know what I’m doing and it struck a real fear inside me,” he said.
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At the end of the day, podcasters put their opinions and advice out there for those who wish to receive it. And while Aman feels certain pressures “…to simply show up each week”, he is inclined to press forward because he is passionate – and widely lauded.
“I always want to produce quality. The content always has to be good. And there is always a challenge to achieve a high ranking. People will call you out on your ranking and be less inclined to follow you if you’re not doing well.”
But SuperCoach performance can be hugely impacted by luck.
Tim Williams (scplaybook1) had been working as a journalist at News Corp for at least five years when he decided to launch himself fully into running the now hugely popular SCPlaybook, a news service and league bible.
The year was 2020 and Tim really wanted to make a fist of it. That year he came second overall: a jaw-dropping finish that has solidified his position as one of the go-to blokes in the sphere. Skills and knowledge? Absolutely. But was it luck?
“I always backed myself and the ideas I had, and there’s a lot of skill and tactics and experience that goes into doing well at SuperCoach, but at the end of the day there’s a hell of a lot of luck that goes into it, so to finish second in the year I launched Playbook was very, very fortunate.” Williams chuckles.
But for the seven years he’s played (officially), Williams has finished in the top 1 per cent in at least six of them. He comes to his position of influence from a lifetime of being surrounded by the game and reporting on it with colleagues, while others like Aman, who works in investment and finance, have often come into it as passionate fans.
Running SCPlaybook and being so involved in the game does have an impact on Williams’ social life, given that NRL games are always across the weekend.
“I watch all eight games each weekend both for enjoyment and to be informed. I don’t want to be asked something on a podcast about a game I didn’t watch… When I’m being sociable out and about, I find myself trying to keep one eye on a screen showing the footy.”
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Tim does around five podcasts per week with commitments to Bloke in a Bar, SEN, The Daily Telegraph and his own SCPlaybook. He is supported by a team of contributors who he gushes in praise for.
Anyone who’s ever taken SuperCoach seriously would appreciate just how much time it can take, and how utterly absorbing it can be.
Adrian Delaney (SCAdrianasaurus) reckons he has a solid advantage over others, enjoying his role as a pharmaceutical rep and working ‘gentleman’s hours’.
Impeccably punctual and organised, ‘Ado’ is a die-hard Raiders fan, like Williams, and was lured into the SuperCoach scene by characters like Barnesy and Billy at the SC Allstars.
Delaney finds a plenitude of positives within the SuperCoach community and thrives on positive feedback. “I think it’s because I aim to focus on humour and keeping things light-hearted. People are always very thankful when they’re helped,” he said.
But in contrast to his flexible working timetable, Adrian’s phone never stops. In a devoted relationship with a psychologist, he is regularly discussing and reviewing boundaries as to his fantasy involvement.
“I’m in 175 chats and my phone is constantly pinging with questions… I’ll do a podcast and come back to the family but the phone is relentless. This week I’ve probably answered at least 300 messages.”
While podcasting and closely monitoring eight games each week can be intensely time-taxing, Aman agrees that it’s all about communicating.
When Aman first told his family he was keen on getting into the broadcaster’s chair, they were sceptical, but supportive. “Once they saw there were actually people watching and commenting, they were pleasantly surprised,” he grins.
Like the fun poems in Aman’s broadcasts, Delaney fumbles around with sound effects, and laughs at himself when he can’t read his own writing. He finishes every episode with a different cover of a popular song. He loves an audience and his audience loves him.
But Delaney can find himself completely consumed in footy chats, and that’s when his partner will say “Alright, that’s enough for tonight,” and he will wrap it up immediately, encouraged to snap back to reality.
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For Josh Strange, aka the SuperCoach Whisperer (SCWhisperer), producing digital content has become a huge part of his reality and he spends a lot of time contending with his rise in prominence, trying to keep the reasons why he started his channel in focus.
Working as a disability support worker, Strange is living a life outside of SuperCoach as one that can both be intensely rewarding and emotionally fatiguing. Perhaps it is his dedication to his career that primes him to cope with the highs and lows of being a sounding board to over 25,000 followers.
“Thankfully I’ve got a boss who followed me before I even started working and when it (comes to my channels) he’s like, do what you’ve got to do – but like quickly,” appreciates Josh.
The SuperCoach Whisperer aims for perfection, but at the same time tries not to take things too seriously.
“I try to structure my show to entertain. If you want in-depth stats, definitely go to a source like the SCPlaybook. But I aim to land between evidence, stats and analysis, and entertainment. People often listen while driving and (I want to offer) a balance.”
I prompt Strange about the pressures and challenges when it comes to pumping out regular shows and digital content.
“The biggest thing is staying motivated. The end of the year gets rough. We start in November, year before, and by the pointy end of the season you’ve been producing for nine, ten months.”
Strange is joined regularly by his running mate, ‘Brew’ on the Dual Position Podcast, and the two prepare and work hard to grow their audience. But there’s no doubting the fact that it takes its toll.
Tim Williams is immensely driven in his pursuit of constantly improving the SCPlaybook and has a team of contributors to share the load. But he too admits to fatigue, “…sometimes it’s hard to get up for all of the podcasts, being chipper in all of them, often going over the same content.”
The streamers all agree that they do what they do because they love the game of rugby league. And all are in staunch agreement that the NRL would benefit greatly from pushing the fantasy league aspect harder.
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“From a fan perspective, I watch games far more closely, particularly if I have SuperCoach stocks in the game… The NRL already integrates the Telstra Tracker and VB Hard Work Index,” Josh points out. And these analysis tools use very similar metrics to SuperCoach.
Adrian Delaney has formed great friendships through the game and through podcasting, and attends far more games than he ever would have before. He points out that all matches carry interest to a SuperCoach player, even the lower ranked games, and matches where teams are out of contention.
To strive to have fans keen to attend and watch every game, every round – it should be the goal of the NRL. It would be the pinnacle of organised sports entertainment.
Tim Williams reminds me that “…the average footy fan goes from knowing three or four players in the Roosters’ run-on squad, to being able to name the entire composition of the Warriors’ bench.”
Strange agrees and adds, “More knowledgeable footy fans are born. SuperCoach isn’t necessarily a metric for how good players are, but it certainly highlights the hard workers in the game.”
The rapidly increasing interest in playing a game about a game without a doubt boosts the image of the NRL, increases awareness of players coming through, and promotes a level of competition amongst friends through a shared love of the sport.
But despite the positives, there will always be fractions of society who turn things sour.
Josh is no stranger to the struggles of anxiety and depression and he has spoken out publicly on his socials about better treatment of players and coaches in the media. He often comments on the big media pages when they pump out click-bait, built on innuendo and speculation.
And when Paul Green took his own life recently, he admitted that it was a tough day for those who had contemplated the course.
All of the podcasters I spoke with receive adoration from an appreciative audience, yet all have been affected by agitators. Whether the motivation is tall poppy syndrome, a desire to undermine footy intellect, or a propensity to blame others for personal failings, negative comments can be razor sharp.
Adrian Delaney recounts players who’ve messaged to berate him about giving them bad advice and causing them to lose their head-to-head round match. “I always reiterate that I don’t force people’s hands to the trade button,” he laughs.
Strange does not bother putting up a jovial facade about his disdain for online abuse.
Instead, he speaks of instinct and that “…the human mindset chooses to fixate on the negative.”
“I love recommending a player and seeing them do well. I love seeing people winning their leagues and having success and offering credit to me. But when you make a right call, you can never go back and say ‘I told you so’ because that’s so off-putting.”
Unfortunately, there are pockets who only remember the stumbles.
Josh’s highest finish in SuperCoach was 59th (out of around 150,000) and he shares his team lists and rankings, regardless of how he’s travelling. But he hates that rankings can influence judgement of ability, and all agree: much depends on luck.
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So the fellas keep on keeping on, pumping out weekly content, podcasts, social media graphics, tweets, updates and more, all out of a love for rugby league. They thrive off appreciation, and they learn to push on, past the abusive fanatics.
And for me personally, I know that SuperCoach has peaked my interest in a sport that I didn’t think could be any higher. The NRL could well take a closer look at why that is.
And as I put the finishing touches on this article, I’ve been keeping an eye on the footy because I have the (C) on Tedesco this week in my head-to-head semi-final and he’s just scored a try. Hell yeah!
SuperCoach Tips for 2023
“Take the time to get your head around the 17 team format with byes, and as such, don’t stack your team with heaps of players from the same team.”
“Keep your eyes on Kalyn Ponga and Brian To’o to start the comp as they’ll be dirt cheap.”
“Save your trades, be patient, and run your riskier trade ideas past friends.”
“Tommy Turbo will be the highest owned player, come Round One. The ‘Panthers Assistant Coach Curse’ will continue to affect the Bulldogs. Experienced coaches will dominate with the introduction of a 17th team. Don’t be emotional with your trades.”