Cash cows are the life blood of NRL Fantasy. Even if you nail the top of the roster you will have a hard time sustaining your side through the middle and tail end of the season if you blew it on your cash cows. Last season was an unprecedented year for cash cow halves, and in general there were a lot of great cash cows around. 37 players who started the season worth less than $200,000 that increased their price by at least $100,000. If you found yourself short of money last season, then you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.
At this point in the season it feels a lot easier to find cash cows in the backs and hookers than the forwards. Because backs normally slot straight into starting roles we already have a reasonable idea on what gaps they might fill and the role they have. However, in the forwards things can be a lot more interesting because many of the cheap forwards have interchange and minute variables in play, starting forwards can be great cash cows but interchange forwards, well it could go either way.
The following list of players contain a mix of players I think are great cash cows and some other players that are being talked up as cash cows. Normally we’ve considered players less worth than $200,000 to be in the cash cow range but with the inflation and an increased cap I’ve reconsidered this to up the limit to $220,000. It is pretty arbitrary and doesn’t make any real difference except for whether a player is slotted into the cash cow article or the under-valued article. But a player that is worth $220,000 needs to average in the mid-30’s to make $100k and in the high 30’s to make $150k, that feels about right.
To try to give a sense of the potential value I’ve assigned shields to each cash cow: five shields is the next Nathan Cleary, one shield is the next Jaelen Feeney. We’ve also done a separate prospects list that highlights some of the best players in NYC that we might not see this season but are names for the future.
Arrow is competing with Josh McGuire to fill Corey Parker’s spot at lock. For a lot of teams lock and prop is a pretty interchangeable position although Corey Parker is probably more of a traditional lock (even though he played prop a couple of seasons ago). Jai Arrow is in the mould of a traditional lock who gets through some defence and provides some linking with the backline without being a big hitup guy. If Arrow gets the role he’ll make a lot of money and with sufficient minutes could be a borderline keeper.
Hayne’s fairly underwhelming return to the NRL is going to be a boost for fantasy coaches. After a full off-season Hayne should be able to increase his value by something approaching $200-250k and if things go really well even more. Hayne will be the most popular player in fantasy and you don’t want to miss that boat.
Nona is probably a bit of a dark horse option to take the Dragons’ half spot vacated by the departed Benji Marshall and injured Drew Hutchison. Nona has served his dues in the lower grades and adds a spark that Josh McCrone doesn’t and that’s a spark the Dragons sorely need. If Nona gets the role, we saw last year that most halves are easily capable of averaging in the low to mid-30’s and there’s always an upside similar to Cody Walker’s.
Tetevano appears to have overcome the off-field issues that had delayed his progress. He made the NSW Cup team of the year and with Taukeiaho out injured Tetevano could be the beneficiary. Isaac Liu will likely start at lock but there will still be 30-40 minutes available. Tetevano isn’t the sort of prospect that Nat Butcher is but he’s a much more similar player to Taukeiaho than Butcher is.
The Warriors could really use some impact in their front row and Sipley could be the guy to bring that. With Ben Matulino out injured there’s some minutes to fill. Sam Lisone and Albert Vete will probably claim a lot of these, neither are great fantasy players, but there’s room for Sipley or Bunty Afoa to stake a claim.
Idris averaged over 40 in 2014 and 2015. The only reason to doubt him would be if he ended up on the interchange bench but the Tigers would seem better served to just start him. Getting a potential keeper CTR for $194k is pretty much a no-brainer.
Slater averaged 36 in 2015 and 44 in 2014. I doubt he gets that high but if he gets into the low 30’s he’ll make around $100k. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy lately which is a pretty big concern and his starting price is a little bit too high to get a really good return on investment.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Ponga forced to playout the season in reserve grade after he came to terms with the Knights for 2018. In Paul Green’s defence it probably isn’t just petulance as Ponga doesn’t really fit the mould of a Cowboys’ winger.
I rate Hoare ahead of a few of the alternatives that are competing to replace James Tamou and Ben Hannant. There’s a lot of minutes to go around and Hoare has looked great in limited minute performances before. Even if he plays 30 minutes a game he’ll go at a PPM of close to 1 which will increase his value by $112k.
Spina has shown in limited chances that he can score well given the opportunity. In five games back in 2015 he averaged almost 40 in 40 minutes a game. There’s a lot of uncertainty around roles and minutes in that front row but someone will make hay, unless the role goes to Patrick Kaufusi….
Elgey’s injury opened the door for Ashley Taylor to establish himself as the Titans’ key half. Whether it will be Elgey or Tyrone Roberts to go with Taylor is yet to be seen but you’d jump on Elgey at this price. Elgey averaged just under 30 back in 2015, which is equivalent to a price tag of around $280,000. It seems more likely that he plays better this year rather than worse. If he plays, easy money.
With Steve Matai looking like his career is done and Matthew Wright breaking his hand (though he should be available for round 1) the path is opening up for Brian Kelly to start at centre. He averaged 38.4 in 2016 NYC and 38.5 in 2015 NYC. I think he’s a decent chance to average at maybe just under 30 in the NRL and that’s some pretty good money for a cash cow CTR.
Stimson got some press as an option to replace Kevin Proctor. He averaged 52.91 in 2015 NYC but I’m hesitant on what his level of job security will be. It would be hard to resist if he gets named to start on the first TLT but my suspicion is he won’t.
I absolutely love Nat Butcher. He’s had a simply incredible NYC career and looks to like he’s ready for the NRL. He averaged 78.58 in 2016 (PPM: 1.030) and 56.8 (PPM of 0.797) in 2015. The only issue with Butcher is how he fits into a Roosters’ pack that values some bulk and impact. In his one game last season he was able to wring a score of 25 out of 28 minutes. If he gets a 30-minute role he could average around 27 which would increase his value by $84k while also having the significant upside that could come about from him getting more minutes.
Whare is similar to Slater in that his starting price is a little bit too high so the return on investment won’t be as great (both Slater and Whare should have been priced lower but for some reason they’ve been over-priced). Whare has averaged 29 at centre the past three years, that would get his price up to about $275,000 so we’ll really need a bit more to make it worthwhile.
Knights’ coach Nathan Brown has said the competition at fullback is down to Peter Mata’utia and Dylan Phythian. The 2017 Knights ladies and gentlemen! The main benefit of the Python is that he starts at base price. That’s where the benefits end though. He doesn’t look like a great player (30 average in 2015 NYC) and playing fullback for the Knights is a pretty crappy gig for fantasy purposes. I’d probably get him bit I’m not expecting much.
Uate has averaged over 30 as recently as 2015. If he’s to pay off, he’ll need a hot start to the season and the Sea Eagles don’t look like a hot team. You might get lucky though.