How to Navigate the Bye Rounds

The bye rounds can be something you look forward to or equally dread depending on how well you prepare and trade. In past years the bye round period has been a time where I've been able to excel in ranking and with the byes creeping up you well and truly should have started planning your moves already. In this article I'm going to share what type of structure I like rolling with into the bye, the principles behind this, how I trade during the byes along with my side as an example to demonstrate what my current structure looks like and what I'll be planning to do leading up to round 12 to give an idea of all the things I talk about.

What are the Bye Rounds

In 2020 we didn't have the "bye rounds" due to covid having shortened the length of the season. Now we are back to "normal" rules the bye rounds are back in 2021. Essentially, the bye rounds are a break in the season for respective teams to rejuvenate going into the second half. The AFL manages this by having 6 of the 18 teams managed on a week by week basis over the course of 3 weeks. This season these rounds will be Rd12, 13 and 14.

As you can imagine due to having 6 teams not play over a week by week basis there is plenty to think about over this period in terms of managing your side as you'll have plenty of players not playing. To compensate for this, over the course of these rounds only your best 18 scores will count opposed to the usual 22 on your field. This gives you some leeway but if you plan and trade smart you can get closer to the 22 which will give you a huge advantage over those who don't plan properly.

The full AFL fixtures can be found here but essentially these are the teams who aren't playing on their respective bye week:

Round 12


Gold Coast



North Melbourne Port Adelaide

Round 13

Brisbane Lions




West Coast

Western Bulldogs

Round 14

Adelaide Crows




St Kilda

Sydney Swans

Alternatively, I recommend you pay the $20 to get assistant coach. This will allow you to see these players in color code on the AFL Fantasy website when looking at your side.

What Structure I like to Have

Now all that jazz is out of the way, lets get into the juicy stuff! In past years and what I've found works best for me is the approach Rd12 with a 8-10-12 structure meaning, 8 players with the bye in round 12, 10 in round 13 and 12 in round 14. Lets break down why!

The information in here is assuming you have a full bench playing. A lot of people won't and therefore will need to adjust accordingly, hence why I've spoken about trying to manage a healthy bench throughout the year as it makes it easier to manage now.

8 players with a Rd12 bye leaves you with 22 players available.

10 players with a Rd13 bye leaves you with 20 players available.

12 players with a Rd 14 bye leaves you with 18 players available.

If you follow this structure and have a healthy bench you can head into the first of the bye rounds with all 22 players available. Therefore, before trades you already have a full team and with only the best 18 scores counting you have an additional 4 scores of leeway. This is important as most sides who don't plan properly will only be able to scrape together 18 players and so they will have plenty of rookie scores of 30-40 that count towards their score that week where as you won't as they won't be counted in your best 18.

The reason I structure up like this is it allows you to have the maximum players available in the first bye and then as you move through the bye rounds you can trade players who have the bye that week to guys who have just had the bye.

During the bye period you get 3 trades per week which is why you're able to trade aggressively and make a lot of ground if you do it correctly. Traditionally I like to build up a bit of a bank in Rd 12 (first bye round) and I'll spend round 11/12 fixing up my bench rookies to make sure I have bench cover available along with some cash for upgrades. The reason I like to do this is it enables you to upgrade and grab some premium types who have just had their bye the following week. For example, some guys that I'd be looking to target in Rd13 would include players from the Rd12 bye such as: Lachie Whitfield, Josh Kelly, Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie, Tom Stewart etc... If you have some cash saved, with your 3 trades you should be able to go 1 down and grab 2 premium types.

As you progress through the byes you want to apply the same logic to your trades. Trading out guys who haven't had the bye to guys who are just coming off the bye.

In round 12 fix up bench players and build up some cash reserve.

In round 13 target round 12 guys.

In round 14 target round 12/13 guys.

What My Team Looks like and My Plans

If we take a look at my side above and break it down, my current structure is 11-9-10. As a result I need to trade out round 12 players in order to get to the ideal structure I mentioned above. If you have a look at my side you'll also notice that these players are situated both in my defence and forward line and therefore for me to achieve a good balance I need to trade from these areas. Look at what you have lots of and look at what you need and trade accordingly. For me personally, I need round 14 defenders and forwards, therefore I'll be looking to trade Koschitzke, Fantasia, Powell, Farrar etc... up to guys such as Crisp, Laird, Lloyd, Sidey, Fyfe, Billings.

Over the course of the next few weeks there will be plenty of guys who pop us as value and must haves such as Aaron Hall last week. Stay strong, if it doesn't suit your bye structure stick to the plan and keep trading accordingly. You will make these points up over this period if you do so correctly. There is always value around and therefore you can afford to let certain guys slide as there are always others to target. Do what is best for your side and plan for the long term as most coaches think on a week to week basis.

On my bench I currently have plenty of names not playing, such as: Highmore, Rantall, Macrae, Hunter and Chapman. Over the next few weeks I'll be trying to limit these guys and if I can downgrade one and get a slight upgrade elsewhere then I'll try make that work. You have to be radical in the way you think and ask yourself the likelihood of someone returning before you trade. I personally think Highmore will be back soon so he's one I'd be willing to keep around longer where as Chapman is out of the season and therefore someone I need to get rid of. Like I said I like to spend round 11 and 12 building up some cash and therefore the focus for me will be getting as many upgrades on field up until this point and during these weeks fixing up these types on non-playing guys if they haven't yet returned yet. Just make sure you haven't got a huge amount of non-playing rooks as you won't be able to manage it over the course of 1-2 weeks if so.

I suggest you approach your trades by trading 1 up 1 down up until round 11/12 and then potentially bank a few downgrades to fix rookies and build a bank.

It's also super important to make sure that the rookies you bring in have good job security as you'll need them to hold their spot. At this stage I'd have job security as my number 1 priority when ranking rooks. It's also another reason why I like to wait until round 11/12 to fix a lot of my bench as while you build a bank you also don't have to rely on guys holding their spot for 4-5 weeks as you're bringing them in 1-2 weeks before. Holding non-playing rooks isn't great for cash generation so if you can remove some leading up to the byes it's ideal but holding guys such as Macrae and Highmore for a few weeks isn't the end of the world and if they don't make a return you can offload later closer to the bye.

Key Points and Takeaways

- Stay smart and plan for the future, you will be rewarded!

- Build a bank in round 11/12 so you can upgrade to premiums coming off the bye in round 13

- Focus on achieving a structure of 8-10-12 with good balance.

- Fix up non-playing bench rookies and prioritize job security for the guys you do bring in

Don't stress if you can't achieve this 8-10-12 structure I talk about. This is just a guide and you can approach the byes in many different ways. Get a pen and pad or open an Excel spreadsheet and write down which players you will have available over the course of the bye rounds. I know a lot of sides have a lot of players in the round 12 bye and conversely a lot of the top trade in targets also have the round 12 bye. You may be able to get away with a couple more of these guys as long as you plan for it and aren't neglecting the rest of your side.

The bye rounds aren't difficult to manage if you plan well and execute on those plans. The bye rounds exploit a lot of pretender coaches from the top ranked guys and if you can go in well prepared you will see a nice climb in rank.

I hope this article has given you a guide on what you should be looking at going into the bye rounds and until next time... Keep climbing up the ranks!

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