The Renegades Writers combine passion for the game, with a lack of editorial oversight. When they aren't next to the water cooler bitching about that try assist the stats guys missed, they are churning out sports articles that have been widely touted as "readable".
With so few value options in both the CTR and WFB position this year, I have decided to mash them together into one unholy union, forming a DPP edition of Value Buys and Long-winded sentences. Also since TLT has already come, it has become very apparent that I can not feasibly write two entire articles and still find the time to dick around with a thousand incarnations of my own fantasy squad throughout most of the work day and late into the night. Yup, that’s my piss-poor excuse; I don’t even care if you know - in fact I want you to know. This is how little you all mean to me once the season has kicked off. Fantasy is love. Fantasy is life.
Sione Katoa - 212k
Note that we are talking about the Sione Katoa who plays for the Sharks before you waste your money on a Panthers reserve forward. Katoa is probably the best pick of the basement-priced WFB this year, and also saves you a luxurious 16k (don’t go spending that all at once now!). A renowned tackle-busting machine and the leading try scorer of the Holden Cup last year with 24 tries in 26 games, all that remains to be seen is whether he can translate this to NRL level. A safe bet would be that he will, already scoring a try in each of his trial matches during the pre-season with some exciting displays of the one attribute which rarely fails on an NRL field: blistering speed. At 212k there is no real risk in picking Katoa on your bench, and the only real reason not to have him is because you need a DPP WFB/CTR after you used all your spare spots on 228k forwards destined to flop. Which would be a real shame.
Richie Kennar - 228k
Let’s be honest here, you aren’t choosing Kennar because you think he is going to be any good. You are choosing him because he is a bottom dollar DPP cheapie and you couldn’t afford the extra 55k for Hiku. When it comes to bottom-dollar wingers, few will turn out to be a Mansour/Rapana type as Nick Cotric did last year, but even the Edrick Lee’s of the world can still jump start their scoring with some early tries and make the pick worthwhile. Souths also have a favorable draw to start the season, with noted numpties Warriors, Raiders and Bulldogs within their first 5 games. Playing outside Dane Gagai may make things tough, as he only found 5 try assists playing in the centre position at the Knights in 2017 and will probably opt to back his own footwork majority of the time. Kennar played 6 games for the Storm in 2015 and 3 games in 2016, scoring a try each year. Despite this, his scores of 43, 21 and 29 in 2016 still puts his average well above the 16 he is priced at so there is almost no risk in Kennar as a pick as he will no doubt make money, however slowly. Astoundingly, he is probably the best bottom-dollar pick for the CTR position. What a cruel world!
Jamayne Isaako - 228k
Another DPP cheapie, Isaako sits in an awkward position. At first glance he looks to be a better pick than Kennar playing in a stronger team outfit (that said, the Rabbitohs and Broncos are both mystery bags this year), but his job security is quite poor. With some sources claiming Jack Bird will be back as early as round 4, Isaako may not have enough gametime to produce the cash required of him. Coaches will really be white-knuckling the few games he plays hoping for some big attacking plays and try scoring opportunities, because he really needs to hit a huge score in order to sky rocket his price tag. With that in mind, his one game last year netted him 13 points. If he was guaranteed to play for longer he could have been a valuable option, but with just three games the risk seems to great.
Corey Thompson - 228k
The one-time Bulldog flop looked to be a must-have when he was shaping up to steal Lolohea’s fullback gig right up until TLT. But now relegated to the wing, and with incumbent Nofoaluma lurking (as well as other outside backs like Taane Milne), his job security suddenly looks very shaky and he remains a very dubious pick. Considering he is WFB only and not DPP, I would suggest you must be crazy to select Thompson if you did not already have Sione Katoa in your team. But if he can somehow miraculously hold down his spot (or Lolohea eats 10 pies over the weekend and gets too fat to play FB again), Thompson does sport some solid statistics, finding 37 tries in 52 games for Widnes over the 2016/2017 seasons. My Superleague to NRL conversion charts tell me that this is worth at least 3.7 NRL tries!
Peta Hiku - 283k
Really? This is what it has come to? After poo-pooing all the cheaper options except Katoa, suddenly Hiku gets the endorsement and we are all living in Rand McNally. It is not that Hiku is any good (he is not). But from what you have read so far, he is simply the better option of a very short list. Katoa still beats him as a WFB pick IMO, but if you are looking for a cheap centre, or you need that DPP for coverage, then for just 55k more than basement price the kiwi international probably looms as the best option available (*promptly vomits*). It is true though- with much better job security than Isaako and Thompson, he will likely score better than Kennar for a couple of reasons. Firstly is that he is a bit of a ball hog, which can never do your fantasy scores any harm, and secondly is that he has Fusitua playing outside him, so any magic performed by Fus which leads to a one-man try may attribute a TA to Hiku regardless. He is playing in a lacklustre Warriors side, but priced at only 20 points he has a fantasy history of about 30 points and looks to be undervalued. So, if you can find those few extra dollars, Hiku is probably the best cheap centre in the game (*intractable vomiting*)
Joseph Leilua - 486k
Everybody knows Leilua had a 2017 to forget. His problem is that this is becoming a bit of a trend and he is yet to string two good fantasy seasons in a row. Perfectly capable of making a season average of 40-50, he is priced at just 33.2 this year, so if he can find his form from 2016 and 2014 rather than from 2015 and 2017, then he looks to be a value buy. Mathematicians among us who are trying to spot patterns (one good year, one bad) and think he is due for 2018 may be sorely disappointed as the loss of Hodgson is bound to filter through the attacking output of the entire side and the Raiders could well slip even from their lacklustre 2017 performance. The thing which really curtailed Leilua’s scores last year was his lack of attacking stats (he actually only scored one less try than in his superb 2016 season). In 2016 he was making 6 tackle breaks per game and 3.3 offloads, which fell to 4 TBs and 1.3 OLs per game in 2017- 10 points down in just these two categories alone. But if you back Leilua to return to form and find his mojo once more, he could easily be 10 points undervalued.
Kalyn Ponga - 552k
Priced at 41.4, Kalyn certainly doesn’t come cheap. But he is also a fullback prodigy with an astronomical ceiling. He averaged 49 in his six appearances last year, albeit with 3 tries scored. The risk is still inherent in his pick, as he is playing for a much worse point-scoring outfit with the Knights rather than the cowboys, but his playing style makes his fantasy scoring less team dependant- his juicy attribute being his deftness for a tackle break, making 6.3 per game in 2017. Experts have estimated his fantasy average to be between 30 and 10,000 points per game. At 34.2% ownership, the risk is minimized if he flops, and Ponga looms as a cut-price keeper. Neglect him in your team if you dare.
By the Fantasy Football Frotteur
Episode 4: Half breed
This is the section where things start to get a little awkward, embarassing even. Finding value in the halves this year is difficult even for a renowned bargain sniffer like the Frotteur. I have already covered Cartwright in the 2RF section (see episode 2: Shooting Star) who no doubt makes the list, but apart from one bottom-dollar cash cow, all the players I am about to name are definitely not without their share of inherrent risk. I daresay that I have struggled to put together a whole article on this pesky HLF position, as true value buys look few and far between this season. And yet I cannot write a segment with just one player, else I would not be the least bit long-winded in any regard and the readers would surely complain about my concise and efficient articles. So, without further adieu, I present my list of halves who could potentially be great value*
*Or alternatively be a terrific waste of space in your team and ruin your season
Lachlan Croker- 212k
Starting with the safe bet, Croker seems set to partner Cherry-Evans to start the 2018 season. There are rumours that Manly could throw a life-line to the potty-mouth Todd Carney who currently plays in the ISC, but since they are still caught up in salary cap dramas, I think it is a safe bet this will not happen anytime soon. Croker has been a consistent scorer in lower grades but somehow never made the cut in the Raiders outfit (which is surprising given the weakness of their Austin/Sezer pairing in recent years). Croker could so very easily become Elgey 2.0 and disappoint many coaches, but at basement prices there is little risk with picking him up for a bench spot (though naturally you should be wary of playing him in your 17). It is touted that he is trying to replicate the role of Blake Green from 2017, who stole plenty of kick metres (some 200KM/game) to the chagrin of DCE owners. If Croker can secure these 10 points of base stats to combine with his running metres and tackles, he would already be above his measly break-even of 16 points, and any attacking stats would be pure profit. The real question is whether it is enough to make him a viable cash cow. Coaches will be hoping he suffers from the common ailment of rookies playing out of their skin through first-game adrenaline to get his price rises off to a good start.
Tom Wright- 212k
Another Manly cheapie who may start the year in the centre position (completing the puzzle of a very ordinary looking outfit) whilst Dylan Walker is out injured. Wright is a much riskier pick than Croker because his job security is far poorer, but Manly do have a fairly easy opening 5 rounds, playing the Knights, Rabbitohs, Raiders, and Titans, which could bode well for outside backs’ scores. So, if you are a gambling man (/ or lady - it is 2018 ffs!) and like to back the rookie in for some tries on the edge, then Wright could be the right pick for you. Or perhaps (the more likely scenario) you have just stacked your team so resolutely with the guns you wanted and refuse to budge, so now you can only afford to pick 212k players for your bench and are stuck with Croker, Wright and Alexander fucking Brimson who won’t even be named without an injury! Well to you I firstly say, Kudos on your massive hairy balls (/ or ladyballs - it is 2018 ffs!), but also: that is not the way to build a fantasy squad -Check out the article: “Strategy when building your initial 21 man squad” by Jamie Brown. The takehome is that Croker should probably be in your team somewhere in the 18-21, whereas Wright is definitely optional. He may even be a moot option anyway, as his brother Matthew was named in a near full-strength side for the trial against the Roosters for this weekend, and is now looking the more likely. Back to Alexander Brimson and desperation eh?
Connor Watson- 401k
First choice to partner Pearce in the Knights’ halves, Watson has a career average of 36 playing in this position over 2016 + 2017 (coincidently with many of his new team mates around him), so his pricing of 27 makes him look fairly undervalued if he can generate similar scores as he did at the Roosters. Last year he only played the two games at five-eighth, scoring 19 and 36 - far too small a sample size to draw conclusions, so let’s instead break down his 10 games over both years: Watson made 960 running metres and 170 tackles - giving about 27 base points per week and already on par with his current pricing. But then with his 24 tacklebreaks and 7 linebreaks adding an extra 10 points to his score, it becomes apparent that he is undervalued if he can produce similar attacking numbers. The drawback that puts people off Watson is that he is moving to the Knights, who are not well known for their attacking prowess, and often found to have less points than a triangle. But whilst that may affect T, TA and G categories, being in a poorer team certainly does not seem to affect an individual’s TBs (Dane Gagai found plenty in a lacklustre Knights side afterall), and may even increase the amount of defensive work needed. Aside from this, the Knights are definitely a team on the rise and attacking output should increase overall in 2018. Watson may not necessarily increase in value significantly, but it is hard to see him losing any value and that makes him a faily safe choice in the halves.
Mitchell Moses- 514k
2017 was a tale of two halves for the half who made up half the Big 4’s halves (keeping up?). Moses spent 10 games playing for the Tigers (average 32.7) before a mid-season switch to the Eels for 14 games (average 36.8) in a move which picked up his attacking stats considerably. His overall average was only bumped slightly by the move, but Moses really clicked into gear late in the season- averaging 42 for his last 6 games. Priced at 35, if Moses can replicate his late 2017 form he looks to be undervalued - but maybe not enough to mitigate the risk. Even his 42 point average was through very inconsistent scores: 69, 60, 18, 44, 42, 19, showing that he is still very susceptible to some low floors. There is also the rumour that his output increased at the backend of the season due to a niggling injury by Corey Norman, perhaps evidenced by the fact that he scored 285KM prior to Moses’ arrival, 347KM for their first 4 shared games, then inexplicably down to 176KM from round 20 onwards (though notably, Moses himself did not increase significantly in kick metres at all!). The main stat which changed for Moses in this purple period was an increase in tacklebreaks, finding 4.3 per game in his last 6 hitouts - up from 1.3 in the 16 games previous. He also scored 5 try assists in these 6 games, as many as in the previous 16 rounds. I think this gives some merit to the rumour of Normans’ injury, as Moses looked to become the dominant half in the team. But since there is no way to be sure if this trend will continue into 2018 with a fit Corey Norman, I think the prospect of a 7 point increase is not juicy enough to warrant selecting Moses against the huge risks. Definitely a pick for the ballsy.
Chad Townsend 524k
What’s that you say? Chad Townsend sucks and has always been fantasy irrelevant? Well have some respect- this kid won a premiership in 2016! But to be fair, you are most correct and he does indeed suck, never having really featured as a good pick in NRL Fantasy in the past. So, what has changed for him now? The arrival of Matt Moylan in the shire and the impending plethora of kick metres coming his way....
Or so many seem to be chirping. The reality is that Maloney wasn’t a huge kicker of the ball to begin with- only finding 127KM per game through 2017 whilst Moylan averaged 56KM in his eight stints at five-eighth for the Panthers. So even if Townsend collects the extra 70 odd kick metres to add to his average of 238, it still only works out to an extra 3 points. He could do just as well by fixing up his defense and the 6 points per game he loses there. Looks like another year of mediocrity for Chad Townsend to me. Pass!
Brodie Croft- 558k
558k is starting to get into decent coinage, which makes spending so much on a relative rookie who has played just 5 career games a bit of a gamble. But Croft could do little more to entice future fantasy coaches, certainly winning over plenty in his recent World Club Challenge performance. With his 2017 average of 55 from just 4 games, he is marked down to a 38 point average and looks to be terrific value, if not a cut price keeper. Even by ignoring his 3-try romp against the Knights, he still holds an average of 48 for his three remaining games (though two were played in extra time), and though the sample size is small, he has so much wiggle room for value that it is hard to see him scoring below his pricing. What is comforting about Croft is that he is in the Storm outfit, a conglomerate with a rich history of rolling out superstars on the conveyor belt one after another, and the short glimpse we have seen of him gives no indication that he will be any different. It is also important that he is surrounded by an elite team who will be scoring well most games, which certainly makes a halfbacks’ job easier. Possibly Cameron Smith will steal some kick metres from him early in the season as he is finding his feet, but his WCC feats seemed to indicate he has the confidence to hit the ground running. His ownership shot up from 10% before that game to 23.6% as of writing this article, which gives a good indication of how convincing his performance was. Croft might be the best choice on this list by a long margin. Get him in your team! No, I mean it- go do it now. I will wait right here.....
Johnathan Thurston 647k
Okay, now that you all have Croft in your team, we can talk about Thurston. I am in two minds about the GOAT half’s value this season, though he will undoubtedly be a very popular pick to start round 1. Thurston is a proven fantasy gun from previous years and priced at just 44 points, he has a small discount to start 2018. Whilst at first this seems a very juicy prospect and many will be rushing to get him in, the one thing that irks me is the emergence of Michael Morgan in 2017. Thurston’s history of scoring well in fantasy had been on the back of being a very dominant half, and whilst there is no doubt he will still run the show at the Cowboys, I am suitably worried that Morgan will now play a more significant part than previously. Morgan was making about 32 touches per game playing alongside Thurston through 2016 + 2017, but finished his last six games with an astonishing 75 receives. He finished the season in blistering form and playing with an unprecedented confidence. So, now Thurston, who averaged 60 touches per game before his injury, is somewhat reliant on Morgan going back into his shell in order to dominate the play as he once did. There is no doubt Thurston will still score plenty of fantasy points, but even with a ~5 point discount, Morgan only needs to steal a few extra fifth-tackle options from him and he is probably only breaking even. That said, Thurston is a future immortal and you should ignore his fantasy prospects at your own peril - he still looms as a solid option in his price bracket, in a year where HLF pickings look slim.
Episode 2: Shooting Stars
By the Fantasy Football Frotteur
The Second Row has it’s own unique difficulties compared to other positions, though perhaps it can be seen as a happy conundrum, which is that there are so many freaking guns getting around that it is often hard to pick which one you want, and many a fantasy coach knows the all-too-familiar temption to deck their 2RF out with more guns than a hillbilly at an NRA meeting. In fact, after undisputed Fantasy God Cameron Smith himself, the next 5 highest scoring fantasy players of 2017 come from the ranks of the second row position. So whether you go loco for Lolo, get urges for Surgess, or have a bellend for deBelin (honestly, i could do this all day), it is still important to remember that there are many juicy value players getting around which should be ignored at your own peril. Choose your guns wisely, but do not shy to include some under-priced gems hidden in the midrange section, as this will allow you to beef up your team in other areas. Here are some value players in the second row that are bound to be popular this season:
James Fisher-Harris 296k
In the back end of 2016 JFH played 11 games starting in the second row for an average of 72 minutes, scoring a healthy 39.9 average. Injury hampered his 2017 and JFH played only 13 games dotted throughout the regular season, firstly due to a busted eye socket, then a shoulder complaint and finally a continually re-aggravated hamstring injury. In his absence there rose a promising new rookie to fill his place, who now looms as his biggest obstacle to becoming a great cash cow this year, which is Corey Harawira-Naera. Even after JFH finally returned for 10 games at the end of 2017, he was unable to wrest that second row position back from CHN, playing lock 3 times and interchange 7 times. It is possible that Anthony Griffin merely wanted continuity since CHN had been playing well on the edge nearly the whole season while JFH was busy shattering like glass. Or perhaps he really does rate his new up and comer more than the old. Priced at 20.2 there could be a big return on investment if (and only if) he can lock up the vacant edge spot. Hook’s favoured acronym of choice between CHN and JFH is of vital importance because cheaper prospects like Viliame Kikau look to be better value if both are playing off the bench. Convoluting the decision is the fact that CHN is supposedly set to miss the first rounds of 2018 through injury, so even a solid TLT listing for JFH can be a trap.
Bryce Cartwright 325k
Cartwright was once a Panther riding a carriage to success, but in 2017 he somehow missed that carriage after aborting his stellar 2016 form and eventually terminating his Panthers contract (waka waka waka). Linking up with the Titans in 2018 he looks to be a great pick if Garth Brennan finds a spot for him in his starting side, having recently been quoted as seeing him as a ball-playing lock. This decision may well infringe upon the economy of fellow value-2RF Jai Arrow, who had been all but sewn into for the 13 jersey until Cartwright’s arrival, though Brennan claims he can fit both in by moving Jai to the front row (through the magic of terrible coaching decisions!). Fantasy wise (and in real world Rugby League also), it seems a no-brainer that Bryce would seem more prosperous playing on the edge for the Titans: in 2016 he scored 52.7 fantasy points in nine 80-minute games, helped by a healthy 2.3 offloads per game, his definitive trademark weapon (he in fact made 69 offloads!). But off field scandal early in 2017 followed by a meniscal tear requiring surgery and a 3-month lay-off kept Cartwright to just 12 games in the regular season. Even when he finally returned in round 21, he only played off the bench and frequently poorly, finishing with an average of 22 points, which is where he is priced. Those interested in attending the Carty Party swill probably see price rises even from the interchange bench (since he couldn’t feasibly do any bloody worse!), but at such a low price a starting position would make him close to a must-have for this season. His DPP is also a handy one, as the HLF position is looking a hard pick this year, and a forwards’ tackles a highly bankable commodity.
Raymond Faitala-Mariner 389k
In 2016 when the Warriors traded Faitala-Mariner to the Bulldogs in exchange for Shaun Lane it seemed to many that the NZ franchise were getting the better rookie from the deal. But Lane never seemed to kick on with his career, struggling for game time at the Warriors and then joining the Manly reject project, whilst Faitala-Mariner had been finding a more concrete role even within a star-studded Canterbury forward pack. Current rumours coming from the kennel are that RFM is in line for a starting position on the edge this season, pushing Adam Elliot into lock and shifting Frankenstein-doppelganger David Klemmer back into the prop ranks where he belongs. If it indeed comes to pass that RFM finds himself starting on the edge in 2018 he will be a terrific inclusion for any fantasy side. In 2017 he averaged 37.2 minutes mostly off the bench for 26.5 points. His two starting stints he played for 70 minutes and 52 minutes on the edge for scores of 61 and 40 respectively. Though also handy with an offload, he excels at busting tackles, making 26 TBs in his 16 games. Admittedly, it is hard to know if these whispers are merely the conjecture of the Bulldogs kennel itself, a fan-base notorious for their vocal opinions on team management (as well as thickened brows and hairy knuckles). But new coach Dean Pay is under a lot of pressure to shake things up and score some points, so even with the additions of Woods and Foran, running out another iteration of Des Hasler’s faithful failures for round 1 will be frowned upon by the new Bulldogs’ board. RFM and Elliot in the 12 and 13 jersey would certainly add some needed rejuvenation to the pack, and consequently make both players fantasy gold.
*addendum: To give credence to the rumours, RFM has been named on the edge in the upcoming trial versus the Raiders this weekend. Elliot features on the bench for this game.
Jai Arrow 409k
Jai Arrow played just 10 games for the Broncos in 2017, almost exclusively off the interchange bench through injury cover. Once touted as the replacement lock for Corey Parker (though he is yet to produce the offload potential of CP13), it was seen as a massive coup when the Titans signed the young back rower for 2018 and beyond. Moving back home, the Burleigh Bears junior has been nailed on as the Titans loose forward for some time, but a spanner has recently been thrown into the works with Bryce Cartwright’s arrival on the Gold Coast. Arrow has the ability to play big minutes and make a bazillion tackles (estimated figures) in the middle as lock, but a shift into the prop rotation to make way for Cartwright could spell disaster for his fantasy prospects. He is only priced at 28 after he averaged just 29 minutes of playing time in his 10 stints, so he is set to make money in either role- but the change could be the difference between a mid-ranger earning slight coin and a cut price keeper. Personally, I think most of this rumour is naught but crafty Brennan smokescreen and Arrow will line up as the lock for round 1, but who know what adjustments will be made if Gold Coast are stacking up some losses at the start of the season. Which they will. Because they are Gold Coast. The downside of Arrow is that if he does sure up the 13 jersey, he will be in every team worth their salt including the WAGs and experimentals anyway, so the advantage of having him becomes somewhat nullified.
Isaac Liu 515k / Sio Siau Taukeiaho 535k
I have put both these players together because nobody has ever seen them in the same room at the same time. Okay, that is a complete lie but they do have a tendency to play “tag in/tag out” football where Robinson starts one at lock and one on the bench and continually swaps them around all season long as if he thinks they are the Hardy Boyz. This approach was somewhat hampered in 2017 through some untimely injuries to both players, and Liu and SST had only played 5 games together by round 20 last year. So, which of the two should you pick up? The stats show how SST and Liu’s playing styles differ: whilst both make a similar amount of tackles, SST has higher run metres and offloads, whilst Liu makes more tacklebreaks and the occasional linebreak. Both recorded a similar amount of missed tackles, penalties and errors. For the last 7 games of 2017, Liu seemed to have finally wrested the 13 jersey to himself even whilst Tauks was healthy, relegating the big Tongan to the bench. Liu averaged 48 minutes in his stint at lock and made 44.1 points per game (though this included 2 tries), well above the 35.2 he is priced at. To compare, SST played 6 games at lock mid season for 50 minutes and averaged 40.3, though he remains priced a little higher at 36.5. SST also had goal kicking duties in this period, which are now set to be handed to Latrell Mitchell this season. The conclusion is that either of these two looks set to make a little coin if named at lock come round 1 (and you can be sure at least one of them will), but surprisingly it is Liu who looks to be the better value pick, despite his ownership at the time of writing being 1.3% versus 4.1% for SST. Current Roosters rumours have Liu in front for the spot come season start, but keeping a wary eye on the team lists for trials should illuminate this further. And of course, that is also assuming Nick Politis doesn’t buy Taumalolo, Gallen and Mannering next week.
Cameron Murray 533k
The only reprieve for Rabbitohs fans since the news of Crichton’s defection to the Roosters next year was the emergence of Cameron Murray. Angus is a former Rugby snob who prefers drinking pinot noirs in Rose Bay rather than sinking some cold beers in Redfern anyway, but in Murray they had a real home grown hero who bled red and green (er, I mean Cardinal and Myrtle- apologies bunnies’ diehards!) At the back end of 2017 the Rabbitohs season was already over and Michael Maguire had no reason not to experiment with a few up and comers in his side. After just a couple stints off the bench early on, Murray played the last 7 games of the season, but the hype really began in earnest when Madge moved him to the lock position for the last 3 games of the season and found he had significant fantasy output (I am assuming all Madges decisions in 2017 were based on his own fantasy side since few of them made any sense from a Rugby League point of view). Murray averaged 45.8 minutes of playing time in his 9 games, which puts him at his price point of 37.6. But for the 3 games he played at lock he averaged 44 tackles and 94 run metres- very tasty numbers! His price is toward the higher end for a mid-ranger, and indeed steep for a wholly untested one, but if he can grab the 13 jersey in 2018 as many sources indicate, he will still be underpriced and 533k will not seem so much if he emerges as a rookie gun. His biggest slight might be that some early season losses for the bunnies (who traditionally employ a unique strategy of waiting until their season is over to post some wins) may cause Siebold to opt for the tried and tested Sam Burgess to return to the lock position he has always excelled in.
Episode 2: The Nosebleed section
By the Fantasy Football Frotteur
The Front Row has always been a tricky position for fantasy coaches, and with far less genuine guns than its 2RF counterpart it can be hard to be confident of your early season choices. Along with the dreaded centre position it is often where most coaches choose to run a little light and try to snag some cheapies early on. The inherent problem with the FRF is that even the starters will be playing far less minutes than anybody else on the field, so with the exception of “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” Fifita eating other grown men right there on the football field, they need to really increase their attacking output to be worthwhile candidates. Every season at least one of these gargantuan behemoths will have a stellar year where they score 10 tries and elevate themselves into the illustrious gun category (Ryan James 2016; Paul Vaughan 2017), but this output is often hard to sustain over time and they are liable to burn eager coaches the next season. DPP players who find a few more minutes by playing in the second row such as Josh McGuire and Josh Papilii can be a safe choice, or just putting faith in that aforementioned human-medical-experiment gone-wrong Andrew Fifita. For those looking for some bargains in the FRF, here are some value players:
Christian Welch - 320k
Welch has been touted as an up and comer in the Storm pack for a couple of seasons, but was cruelled last season by an ACL injury in round 9. A hungry young lad who eats tackles for breakfast, Welch has always been limited by his minutes in a stacked Melbourne pack. With the departing of McLean to the Cowboys this season, Welch could find himself bumped up the rotation though competing with new recruit Sam Kasiano for the vacant playing time. Also in his favour is the rumour of fellow prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona spending some time on the edge in order to prevent Hoffman busting his Zimmer frame in the surmountable task of replacing Tohu Harris. In 2016 Welch averaged 20 fantasy points in 22.6 playing minutes (through 15 games). His 2017 started promising, being elevated to the starting position twice - albeit after injuries to Jesse Bromwich and Jordan McLean respectively. Excluding the round 9 injury, he had averaged 26 points, just a tick above the 23 he is priced at but Welch will still need to find a consistent 30+ minutes rather than his usual stints of 20 to find value, but this possibility is not farfetched. Though a limited sample size, for the 3 games he played above 30 minutes last season he averaged 37.3.
Kane Evans - 323k
Perhaps a more promising FRF prospect than Christian Welch simply because he will be higher up the Eels’ pecking order, Kevans is a man-mountain import fresh from the Chooks reject list and touted for a possible starting spot. Though I personally think Brad Arthur would be bonkers not to give young gun Daniel Alvaro a shot in the hot seat, many prefer his impact off the bench and who am I to argue with a coach that wins nearly 50% of the time. After a promising start to his debut year as starting prop in 2016, the Roosters quickly discovered that Evans does not make nearly as many tackle breaks as a man of his stature looks like he should, and he spent the next two seasons relegated to time-poor stints off the interchange bench. In 2017 he averaged just 25 minutes and scored 22 points per game. The good news is that even this front row flop can still be terrific value in the Eels pack this year. Arthur just loves spreading the minutes evenly amongst his FRF, mostly because they have all been equally mediocre, but it would be hard to see Kevans playing any less than 30-40 mins. For his first 8 games before Trent Robinson cut his playing time, he averaged 38 minutes for a score of 37 points, well above his price and set to make money. The take home message here is that even numpties famous for stringing 30s are good value when you are priced at 22!
Leilani Latu - 328k
Latu is a man I have seen in many fantasy teams since his defection to the Titans for this season, though admittedly less so since Cartwright also aborted his Panthers’ contract and joined the Gold Coast. I have included him in this list mainly for posterity, but it is hard to see a lot of value in him this season. Some might argue that he can grab a starting spot with Wallace suspended for two games, but even so he would really need to have a blinder to set his price rises off. Latu played plenty of big minute games for the Panthers last season for disappointing scores which are mainly being hampered by his terrible missed tackle count. Like with Kane Evans, he is only priced at 22 and does not need much to increase in value, but the difference is he was already averaging 36 minutes to get that 22. He is also far too susceptible to a poor game even with big minutes: last year in the 7 games he played between 40 and 50 minutes, he averaged 28. New team, new coach and new role to be sure, but it will take a ballsy coach to include him this season. He seems a popular pick with poor value.
Matt Lodge - 365k
Probably should be sitting in a prison cell right now, but at these prices you can’t afford to take the moral high ground on this one! The towering prop is coined for a starting role at the Brisbane Broncos this season, in a position where Bennett has been pretty systematic (20 mins to start the first half and 20 mins midway through the second). Lodge is priced at 24 points and you would think with 40 minutes up his sleeve he would be good for at least 30+ and easily increase his value. Ese’ese averaged 37 in a similar role last season and though their playing styles differ, Lodge comes in with some form as he was tearing up the ISC for the Redcliffe Dolphins last season. It is hard to get some good stats on Lodge in the NRL since he played just 12 games over 2 seasons for the Tigers in 2014/2015, mostly from the bench. But after paying $1.6M in court fees and knocking back a $1.5M Knights for a chance to lick Bennett’s left nutsack, you would think he has some intent to prove himself this season and earn a new contract. He will be in everybody’s team anyway, so this greatly mitigates the risk of an unlikely flop.
Herman Ese’ese - 472k
Easy E was a bit of a POD cash cow for some last season, who really kicked on once he secured a starting role in the Broncos by round 6. Before then he had averaged 34 minutes off the bench for 29 points, but once he had replaced Korbin Sims in the starting 13, his minutes became more consistent (40 minute average over 7 games) and his scores reflected this, averaging 37 and really taking his price rises to a new level). But soon Bennett found some secret Mastercoach reason to put Sims back into the starting prop role and Easy E’s scores dipped again, finishing the season on a 32-point average and leaving him poised as a value player for 2018. A new role at the Knights should see an increase in minutes, but I feel at least 45+ are really warranted to kick above the 40-point barrier he struggled to break in a stronger defensive outfit. Working against this hope is the fact that he started off the bench in the recent trial game versus Melbourne, which seemed to reveal much of the round 1 line-up. Like so many other props, Ese’ese’s (grammar +1) value is probably hinged on whether he can grab a starting role this season, for even though a solid 40 minutes in the middle of the game might see him increase slightly, it will probably not be enough to justify his pick when other options are going Boom-crash-money-time.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona - 481k
NAS is on this list for the same reasons as Christian Welch, though at a very different spectrum of the price range. The departures of McLean and Harris should spell more game time for the big Kiwi, with some rumour he will even spend time on the edge for short stints. All this is welcome news for the PPM beast, having averaged just 34 minutes per game last season yet showing himself capable with much larger minutes at times with little decline in his output. In games 40+ minutes (7 games) in 2017 he averaged 51 points, albeit with two tries. Priced at 32.8, there is a lot of value and sweet, sweet moolah to be made here. NAS busts tackles like it is going out of fashion (2.6 per game last season) and is deft with an offload too, his style is much more geared to attacking play than a simple tacklebot so he will invariably produce some lower scoring games but this is one rollercoaster that looks set to have some big highs also. The news of him possibly playing wider is perhaps the most promising, because this is a man who will eat the dreams of opposing edge defenders and poop out tackle breaks.
Jesse Bromwich - 534k
The fallen gun, once a member of the increasingly rare FRF elite whose numbers have now dwindled enough to count on one hand, JBrom had a 2017 to forget (which he did indeed do for some parts). Despite averaging 50 minutes, he only found 36.5 points per game, well down on his 50+ totals of the past. Off field indiscretions and subsequent punishments are thought to have affected his game throughout the season, and whether this is true or not, the changes in his stats are evident: His 24 tackles per game were down from the 30-point average in 2016; his 127 running metres were down from the 145 the previous season. But the biggest change to his game was that his offloads dried up- dropping from a healthy 47 in 2016 to a paltry 16 across 2017 (though 4 fewer games played). But many fantasy coaches will be backing a return to form for JBrom this season. The changes to the Storm forwards previously mentioned will also benefit him greatly, and as the alpha dog in the pack he could easily push his game time back closer to the 60 minutes he previously enjoyed. Whether those attacking stats return to his game or not will be the real gamble, but for his current pricing a return to gun status could provide excellent value for astute coaches- as long as he sticks to running his lines on the field.
Fantasy Coaches often hear the phrase "sideways trade" thrown about like the footy when a side needs a try after the bell to escape the jaws of defeat. But what's a "sideways trade" and why is it so important early in the fantasy season to avoid them like the Warriors avoid the finals?
In the context of the early rounds of NRL Fantasy, a "sideways trade" can best be described as trading a player (usually a gun) for another player of comparable fantasy-scoring ability without legitimate, long-term justification for doing so. Such justifications include but are not limited to:
- Your current player is injured for several weeks
- Your current player is suspended for several weeks
- Your current player's role (ie minutes, goal kicking duties) have severely decreased
- The player you obtain is severely undervalued due to an outlier score in their 5RA (ie scored 3 in after getting injured in the first five minutes)
- Your player is a grubby Roosters player
If your trade fills one of the justifications above then it may not be a bad idea to make that trade. For example Greg Inglis got a season-ending knee injury in Round 1 (2017); it would be worth trading him to another WFB whom can score you points and/or gain you team value in the remaining 25 rounds.
The main motivation for sideways trades early on is to chase that first round score from a gun so you can get that gun "before his price is out of reach" as expectation is that gun will only get more expensive in the coming weeks and you will not be able to afford that player. This is often combined with a gun you chose to start the Fantasy season having a sub-score in round 1, usually a fair bit below their average of year/s previous meaning that you're concerned their price will drop considerably to the point they will become undervalued.
Both of these concerns are somewhat valid and in insolation may suggest that trading out a low-scoring round 1 gun for a high-scoring round 1 gun is a great use of a trade. However the validity of a trade cannot be viewed in insolation; it must be considered in context of your team-building strategy.
Your team building strategy is your strategy on how you aim to turn your round 1 side from a team value of $9.4m into a team worth north of $11.5m* containing at least 18 guns by using 34 trades to achieve this. 34 trades may seem a lot; but when you consider that your team will encounter injuries and suspensions in the season, it leaves little rooms in sideways moves. Obviously this point could be debated further but without really knowing what the net effect of reduced byes and squad sizes will be, this piece will focus purely on the cap management side of sideways trades.
Depending on the make-up of your team at Round 1; you would be lucky to have any more than 7-8 guns that are priced correctly (ie one could argue Bryce Cartwright being priced $325k is a gun at an outlier price). This means that unless any of your mid-rangers and/or cash cows form into guns (quite rare), you are going to need to insert at least an extra 9-10 guns into your squad to reach the optimal 18+ guns for the run home. By trading one gun for another in the early rounds, you are decreasing your remaining trades by at least one, without increasing the amount of guns in your team. To spell it out, if you sideways trade one gun to another in round 2 all you are effectively doing is making sure instead of having 34 trades to get your 18 guns, you're playing with 33 trades. Is this ideal? Probably not.
Regarding prices; whilst the high scoring player's price may increase and continue to increase for a few rounds it is worth considering the algorithm that is used to determine price fluctuations. Whilst the developers have not disclosed the exact formula, it is almost certain that the prices are derived from a 5-round average meaning the higher the five round average is, generally the higher the price for the player will be. In order to sustain the price, the score a player must usually score higher than the score leaving 5RA to exceed the break-even. Exceeding the break-even usually results in a price rise, failing to exceed it usually delivers the reverse..
So whilst it is not impossible for guns to increase in value, it is much more difficult for them to increase significantly in value in comparison to a cash cow. Why? Because a cashie will have a low 5RA to begin with; meaning any large score would increase their 5RA at a much quicker rate and thus allow their value to accelerate quicker as the large score will continue to have a large impact on the 5RA until it is phased out in 5 games' time. Whereas a gun whom gets a big score will see an increase in value, because the other 4 scores that will be replaced in the following weeks are high it will be difficult to exceed them.
As result, this creates a problem when you miss out on a big score from a gun you do not own. In the NRL Fantasy rules, it states that "The Players’ Prices will change based on a formula that takes into account their past performances. All games played by the Player since the start of the season are taken into account in the calculation of their Price changes, with a sliding scale of weightings with the most recent game receiving the highest weighting". That would mean the last score of a player probably has the biggest effect on the price of a player. So if a gun exceeds their BE/starting 5RA by a lot in round 1 (ie scores north of 75, BE was 50), most of the expected price increase over the 4 weeks with that score in the 5RA will occur after round 1 and very minimal rises afterwards.
Basically, in most instances you've missed the boat and by buying that gun AFTER the massive opening round score you are mostly likely buying him at or close to his peak price for the season. You can also flip this around to if a gun has a terrible score in the first week, most of his price decrease will occur in the first week meaning he'll be close to bottomed out after week 1. Buying players at inflated prices and selling at deflated prices early in the season is a great way of cannibalising your salary cap growth making it harder for you to get North of $11.5m. Like the stock market you need to buy low, sell high and not the other way around.
To explore this further, below are three examples of sideways trades that were made by coaches before round 2 in 2017 by trading out a low-scorer for a high-scorer in Round 1. Behind each summary will be the key numbers involved in making the trade before round 2 which will illustrate how little value each trade has in the long-term. Two examples (the 2RF and WFB) use Rest of the Season (ROTS) data whilst the third example (HLF) uses Rest of the 19 Rounds (ROT19) as player in question Shaun Johnson sustained a serious injury in round 19.
Example 1 – Trading out Sam Burgess (SOU) for Jack de Belin (SGI)
Surgess was unfortunate to be on the park as a lacklustre South Sydney side got the run around by Wests Tigers in an 18-34 defeat. He accumulated 5 missed tackles (averages roughly just under 3 per game) and no attacking stats to end up with a below-par 42. Naturally, coaches may be concerned that a run of sub-50 scores could see Surgess' value plummet below $500k.
On the flip side, Jack de Belin got into the swing of things with a massive 92 points against Penrith, including a huge try where he made defender after defender look like a jonx. As the third-highest priced player, another big score or two could see his price exceed $600k.
If you traded out Surgess ($512k) for JdB ($586k) you would need to part way with $74k and at least one trade to make it happen; and what would you receive in return for the rest of the season?
In the end, your $74k would have netted you an extra 226 points which one would suggest equates to a good trade. However, the validity of this trade looks better when looking purely at the numbers, as JdB played two more games than Surgess and in three games that Surgess played he managed under 60 minutes each due to injury in the match. Had Surgess had a bit more luck with injuries and/or JdB has less luck with injuries, the trade will have almost no value.
Looking at prices, JdB did continue to increase in price for a further two weeks, before peaking at $596k and depreciating back into the low-mid $500k range where he became very affordable to pickup mid-season for any coach that did not start off with him. On the whole, if you picked up Jdb in round 2 you significantly overpaid for him, and likely cannibalised your cap growth quite significantly.
Example 2 – Trading out Tom Trbojevic (MAN) to James Tedesco (WTI)
As everyone probably recalls quite well, "Teddy" started the season on fire as he carved up the Rabbitohs on his way to 91 points. Already a prime WFB option, the tigers fullback set his stall out early as a prime candidate to be one of the best scoring WFBs in 2017.
"Turbo" was also touted to be a handy WFB in 2017; his season started with a poor 27 against Parramatta as Manly struggled to impose themselves on the match. Inevitably, question marks were already surrounding the Manly fullback, and some would've been tempted to kick him to the curb.
As a result, Tedesco would be tempting before he became "out of reach" #FamousLastWords. If you traded Trbojevic ($379k) for Tedesco ($514k) in round 2 you would need to part way with $135k and at least one trade to make it happen; and what would you receive in return for the rest of the season?
In the end, your $135k would have actually cost you 6 points as Turbo outscored Teddy for the rest of the season as with the way the injuries stacked up Tommy played one extra game. So even if both players played the same amount of games you'd be looking at Teddy scoring probably no more than 50 points than Turbo. On the face of it, not exactly the best trade.
To compound this further, Tedesco's price in round 2 ($514K) was his third highest purchase price of the season (he peaked at $524k in round 3) meaning you basically bought him at maximum value, cannibalising your cap. Whereas Trbojevic's round 2 price of $379k his lowest purchase price of the season, meaning you would have sold him at his lowest value.
Example 3 – Trading out Nathan Cleary (PEN) to Shaun Johnson (WAR)
Nathan Cleary was a revelation in 2016, slotting in seamlessly as a try-scoring goal-kicking gun half who was worth the investment. His 2017 campaign wasn't exactly set alight in 2017 when he managed 33 points as the panthers got torched by the Dragons – coaches whom had opted to punt with him would understandably be a bit nervous.
"SJ" on the other hand got the snowball rolling with a tidy 62 against the Knights, with his points almost split 50/50 between base stats and attacking stats. Although not a common trade, SJ's pedigree did make him a popular trade target from the get-go given he's been a top-scoring half for several years now.If you traded Cleary ($486k) for Johnson ($492k) in round 2 you would need to part way with $6k and at least one trade to make it happen; and what would you receive in return until round 19?
In the end, your $6k would gain you another 35 points up until round 19. You could argue that this difference could be larger if Cleary doesn't score 126 when he faces the Warriors in round 19. But even if Cleary only scores 50 in this game he would have 100 less points than SJ, but would this worth a trade? Probably not when you consider SJ got injured in round 19 and missed rounds 20 to 25 meaning Cleary did outscore him for the rest of the season. The basic premise is this trade would have rewarded you with minimal points and salary cap gain, thus making it a sideways trade.
By Jamie Brown
As we all know, the start of the NRL Fantasy season can be make or break. This article will help you form an idea of how you should go about setting up your initial team to give yourself the best chance of early success.
Most of you will be wondering how to fit as many of the best players into your team. This can be a difficult process with the current lack of cheap options available. The rookies will come up closer to round 1 so don't stress too much about that at this stage.
The most important part of setting up your initial 21 man squad is to find players with value. This is what I do before I select any guns. What I mean by this is selecting those players who are most likely to increase in $ value across the first 5-10 rounds (apart from your obvious rookies who start at 228k).
The start of the season is about making lots of money to set your team up for upgrades as soon as possible, whilst obviously scoring well in the process. By selecting the correct value players, mixed in with rookies and guns your team will be off to a great start.
Most of the players you should be looking at will sit between the 300-700k mark (with below that being rookies and above being guns). A player with value is usually someone who in 2018 has a greater opportunity to score more points than they did in 2017. This can be due to multiple factors.
- Changed position - e.g (second row to lock or wing to centre)
- Changed team
- Player movement leading to an increase in minutes
- Change in the players role in the team
- The player has improved their gameplay
- Player was injured last season and didn't play many games (or wasn't at his peak physically)
- A gun that had a poor season and will bounce back.
Ask yourself why am I picking this player? If he is priced between 300-700k and doesn't fall into any of these categories then you most likely shouldn't have him in your team.
E.g – Bryce Cartwright had a season to forget in 2017 being injured and then returning to play only 12 games in a role mainly off the bench with limited minutes for the Panthers. He is now fit and off to the Titans where it can be expected that he will be the starting lock playing 50+ minutes. This is the type of player that should increase in $ value whilst being a good scorer in your starting 17.
Good luck in selecting your initial squad!
By the Fantasy Football Frotteur
Episode 1: No 9 Dream
Obligatory cheap hooker jokes aside, there are plenty of bargains to be found in the 9 jersey this season. The new adjustment to the bench rules means that rather than being locked into just two choices (Smith and invited guest), you can now fill your entire bench with a plethora of cheap and nasty…. rakes. And whilst the secondary hooker position usually warranted another gun as backup to avoid the Scott Moore paradox, the new changes make this strategy far less integral, perfect considering the juicy options available here.
Craig Garvey - 228k
Many coaches will look favourably upon Garvey this season because they have seen this cash cow jump over the moon once before. But those looking to ride the Garvey Train to Gravy Town might be disappointed that his role will be invariably different this time around. When Michael Lichaa tore his meniscus in round 1 of 2016, Garvey burst onto the fantasy scene by replacing him as an 80-minute tacklebot who averaged 59.7 points over his first three games and sending his price skyrocketing. Savvy coaches sold him shortly after since Lichaa made it back by round 5 and Garvey proceeded to average 12 minutes over his next 7 games. His price fell back to earth accordingly and after playing just 3 games for a 15-minute average in 2017, it never worked its way back from rock bottom. Garvey is now at rookie prices once more, and back in the fantasy frame thanks to an injury to regular Raiders’ rake Josh Hodgson in the World Cup. Though Garvey will definitely not hit the big-money-boom-time he achieved in 2016 due to sharing his minutes with the recently purchased Havili, he should still be a decent money earner if he can grab the starting spot.
Siliva Havili - 228k
I think it is pretty obvious that you are only going to want to choose one of Havili or Garvey, but the jury is still out on which. Sticky has often shown some preference to his starting hooker playing big minutes whilst the sub only grabs 5-10 as relief. This may well change with two equally inexperienced players and a more even minute split could make both viable cows - but why take those risks with a coach who fiddles more than Pee-Wee Herman? Siliva Havili is being touted by some to grab that starting spot over Garvey, and the rumours might have some credence to them, Siliva was bought after the injury to Josh Hodgson during the 2017 World Cup, and may well be a reflection of Sticky’s lack of confidence in Garvey to be the starting rake since he was initially only bought to sub Hodgson. Siliva had a fantastic WC campaign for Tonga, starting in the 9 jersey for 3 games and scoring a noteworthy semi-final try. That said, Garvey has more NRL experience and could just as readily be bumped up to the starting role with Siliva bought in as the sub. Keep your eyes peeled for TLT, pick the starter and toss the benchie off quicker than… Pee Wee Herman? (Sorry guys, just been watching a lot of Pee Wee Herman.)
Slade Griffin - 382k
Having served as backup to the Fantasy God CS9 in Melbourne, Griffin now finds himself in the Hunter Region this season with a possible starting role. A tacklebot with some attacking flair, he averaged 41 points in the 4 games he started at hooker for the Storm last season, playing for an average of 49 minutes. He made a whopping 1.5 PPM in tackles alone and only missed 1 in that stint, with a TB thrown in most games to boot. But six subsequent games off the bench averaging 23 minutes has driven his price back down and he now looks to be a value pick with some POD-status if he can wrest enough time away from incumbent Newcastle rake Danny Levi. Nathan Brown has shown some willingness to slap Levi on the bench (heh) having played Jamie Buhrer in the 9 jersey for seven of the last eight rounds of the 2017 season. Also, in Griffin’s favour was that he started in the recent Knights v Storm trial at AMII Park with Levi coming off the bench, in a team that looked very much like a dress rehearsal for round 1. Griffin is only priced at 26 points but still probably needs to play a good 40+ minutes to find any value. He is versatile enough to find a role in the second row once Levi takes over at 9, but there is plenty of competition here too with Barnett, Guerra, Buhrer and Fitzgibbon all vying for minutes. With only one more trial game against the Eels before the regular season starts, it may be hard to tell whether the risk is worth taking, but with a low enough price and handy DPP the punt could well pay off. 10 points for Griffindore!
Connor Watson - 401k
I have included Watson here primarily to stop people whinging (you know who you are). Yes, he does have DPP for the hooker position, but I really do not merit him for this. He certainly has some value as a cheap starting half, but even on the bench I think there is better value to be found for <400k considering you can fill it with any position this season. Connor might be a good pick for your run-on 13 in the halves, but you would be foolish to have him at 9. Let’s talk about him later. Whinger.
Damien Cook - 503k
Like so many other potential candidates on this list, Cook’s value will really be curtailed by team lists, namely Old Man Farah spoiling everybody’s fantasy party by insisting on being part of the Rabbitohs’ outfit this year. Anthony Seibold has claimed to want an 80-minute hooker this season, but there is still a lot of pressure on a rookie coach to keep a high-profile player like Farah from playing ressies, even if the Tigers are paying for most of his salary. Cook is being lauded as the man to get the starting 9 jersey, but the question over Farah’s inclusion on the bench looms. The good news for coaches is that Cook doesn’t even need the full 80 to be valuable anyway - in his 10 games as starting hooker last year he averaged just 62 minutes for 48.6 points, 12 points above his current pricing of 34. Cook looks to have value as long as he gets a starting role, but without any backup he will be an absolute must-have. At the backend of last year (once the deluded Michael Maguire finally cut Farah’s minutes in favour of Cook’s too late to save his season and career) Cook had a 4-game average of 59 which only included one try. J-J-Juicy!! He is still susceptible to some lowish floors though, scoring a 24 in 48 mins (round 7); 34 in 51 mins (round 9) and 31 in 63 mins (round 21), but looking set for bigger minutes this year, he will be a steal for anything above 60. Get ya Farah voodoo dolls ready!
Michael Lichaa - 533k
Lichaa is found slumming it with the mid rangers this season due to Hasler’s crippling game plans and a few ignominious stints off the bench late in the season as Des became desperate for any kind of changes which could save his career. It did not, and the two-time premiership winning coach lost his job and went back to the 80’s where he belonged (movie rights recently bought by Disney). It is now widely reported that Lichaa was stifled in his gameplan throughout the season, and only given the go ahead to play the creative game he enjoys in the final few rounds. A 3-game average of 52.6 in this stint against the 33.8 he averaged in 19 games beforehand somewhat supports this. His attacking stats did improve markedly: He made 4 tackle breaks in these three rounds versus 8 in the previous 19 combined; 2 try assists versus 0; 1 line break vs 1 line break; 1 LBA vs 0; and 3 offloads vs 4. The real downside to this data is such a limited sample size and it is hard to know if he can sustain these attacking stats over a longer period. In recent interviews he has stated that new coach Dean Pay encourages him to play this more creative role in an effort to get the Bulldogs off the bottom of the point scoring lists (worst in the NRL for 2017). Running against him is a Nu recruit (fuck you all, puns are life), as Brown could steal his minutes from the bench. Without banking on these attacking stats which are apparently going to enter his game this season, Lichaa primarily gets his meat-and-potato points from tackles and really needs all the minutes he can get. Unlike Cook, a 60-minute stint may not yield enough points to find value in Lichaa though it would be hard to see him not holding his price. Priced at just 36.4, he will be terrific if he can truly increase his attacking output or grab a regular 70+ minutes.
What we learnt: Panthers v Titans
RJ ALL DAY!
The Titans skipper pulls out a great 67* point effort in a loss at the foot of the mountain. K5 getting another great one here, could be a POD option for everybody needing to trade Surgess if the rib rumours are true.
Cleary the Answer.
The difference in this young guns game when Moylan isn't playing with him is immense. Scraped up a 49* today, most of the points came late once Moylan was forced from the field with injury. Everybody cross their fingers that Moylan may get a rest next week.
Plenty of value buys coming up with points today for those guys starting their Reset teams this week.
Waqa Blake 60*, Morgan Boyle 54*, Max King 38*
How disappointing is the Mansourcoaster?!
After a blistering late start to the season Josh Mansour has not returned a score over 40 in the last month. Probably a luxury trade at this time of the season with players dropping like flies and of course since he's a WFB his scores can fluctuate easily. 23* today
Hayne and Edwards brought home scores of 35* and 38* respectively and both went down at different times in the game clutching body parts to keep their owners stressing. These guys both had a couple of half breaks that could've really turned into big scores! Both have favorable matchups next round let's hope they turn it around.
Sharks put the Rabbits back in their Sh*tty burrow.
By The Big Tree
Sorry for ever doubting you oh Fantasy god Angus Crichton! Playing through his apparent foot fracture Crikey pumps out a beastly 86* to appease all his wary owners. A few sells this week, let's hope those coaches know what they're doing.
No sign of Gal slowing down!
Still powered by peptides? Gallen tops the metres gained column once again, not quite enough extras such as OLs and TBs to return another gun score. How does the old bull keep doing it?! 49* will have to do this week.
Sammy Boyle is running dry.
38* why oh why! Midweek Facebook group speculation that Sam Burgess was carrying a neck injury likened to that of his Pommy counterpart James Graham had a few worried. Whether this be true or absolutely horrifying scenes in the 74th minute as Surgess leaves the field with what looks like rib cartilage issues. Those Zero Traders won't sleep well.
Fui/Scott Saga - Advantage Gamblers
Another storyline all week has been whether to run Fuimaono at CTR, or gamble on Scott being a late call up and risk an AE. A paltry 24* from Fuimaono tonight leaves the advantage with the gamblers as we saw CMat score 29 who a lot were saying could be their AE should Scott not make the 17. We wait.
With a monstrous 36 in his first stint Fifita owners were salivating at the prospect of him coming back and ripping in. In the 2nd half we witness a classic case of what goes up must come down as he manages a gross 11 in his second. 47*.
Oh, and, Reynolds played well for a guy with a broken thumb....
Roosters have a field night out!
By Big Tree
Young Mitchell Barnett proving again that he has serious fantasy pedigree. A solid 50 in 63 minutes taking his average to 54 over the past 4 weeks. Knights will have a much stronger side next year could definitely be one to look at. Reset teams may be looking right now!
Watson assumes the position
With a shaky start at fullback Watson fought his way back into this match with a respectable 59*. Seems to have perfected the fine art of the "touch the defender tackle break" as he skims across the field touching as many as he can. For 248k some brave people could be onto something, a must for 'Reset' teams.
Roosters unearth a mythical local junior.
Now if only it was Round 1, and Jake Friends broken hand was caused in a bar fight we might have a fantasy cracker. Victor Radley, a Roosters Junior, yes they exist, has churned out 34* points in 68 mins, not the best but against a better side he'd be bound to make a lot more tackles.
Pearce fights back late
After being one of the biggest questions on everybody's lips once the injury to SJ struck, Pearce has repaid the faith to all those who took the plunge. (except Laurie Daley). 60* points tonight let's hope he's gearing up for a solid run home.
Black Widow survives the shift.
Despite making another move into the backline to cover Joey Manu, Aubusson has delivered a satisfactory 39* as he tries his best to shake the Black Widow tag in 2017, not the worst option if you want a "gun" centre.