Fixtures are an underrated but important part of players scoring. In other fantasy sports, primarily EPL, fixtures are the key in initial team selection and trading, however, they’re often disregarded in NRL fantasy. This is due to a much wider scoring system in which points can be scored in defence, not just relying on attacking plays in possession. However, as stats will show, there is some differentiation from team to team in different positions.
This is an analysis of the first eight rounds based on points allowed by teams last year for each position. There will clearly be some change in points allowed by teams each year (e.g. Raiders 16th to 1st in hardest teams to score against in 2016) but there is some consistency independent of league position (Panthers and Titans remained easy to score against as they improved, while Roosters remained as one of the stingiest teams). This analysis should not be taken as a guide in selecting each of your players, it should be helpful:
- As a discriminator between two mid-rangers which are otherwise inseparable
- Picking the right cash cows as initial rounds are key to their money making (especially outside backs)
Players you consider as keepers or cash cows with far better job security and better role than their competitors should not be considered when using this guide. Another thing to remember is all positions have no relevancy to each other in terms of fixture scoring, as some positions have much lower scores than others due to the grading, so don’t stack one position if the scores appear lower than others.
Here's an analysis of each position on the field. First the rank and fantasy average conceded by each team is shown and then each team's first 8 round draw with a score assigned for the first four and first eight rounds. The higher the score the harder the draw.
The good: J.Granville, R.Farah, J.Friend
Again very low deviation between 1st and 16th so draw is not that important for hookers. If cook isn’t named round one Farah will be a lock in many teams, however that seems unlikely. Friends high scores at the start of last season were more due to the absence of Pearce.
Bad: A.Koroisau, P.Wallace, C.McInnes
Mcinnes is the most popular option here, but as coaches are selecting McInnes as an under-priced keeper the draw shouldn’t be too much of a worry.
The good: N.Brown, T.Mannah, M.Scott, S.Bolton, JWH, D.Napa
The Cowboys props are the interesting options here with Tamou and Hannant leaving, opening up more minutes. Bolton is unfortunately average in starts and Scott seems to be becoming managed more often with a lower work rate, however if his minutes do bounce back to 50-55 he will be a very good midranger. The only other player of note is JWH, who was down ten points on his 2015 average, with his good draw he may be able to push it back up.
Bad: James, Pulu, J.Bromwich, Mclean, Lillyman, Vete, Tamou, RCG
James is already overpriced with 11 tries in 2016, and will drop a lot of value early. Bromwich is a traditionally strong starter, playing big minutes early with a drop off coming in the run to the finals, so shouldn’t be too affected by his draw. Tamou is a popular player as a big name moving to a new club with a good nines tournament. He has maintained a low 40s average for 3 years and his increase relies on more minutes in a stacked panthers back, likely hampered by his draw.
There is not much deviation from 1st to 16th in backrow, so the fixtures don’t affect it as badly. One might say seven points a week is a lot, however, no team plays the Cowboys or Eels every week.
The good: G.Cooper, E.Lowe, J.Sutton, K.Turner, B.Cordner, M.Aubusson
Ethan Lowe is an interesting option as a usual strong starting backrower could push a 55 avg in the first 8 weeks, however, would still be liable to his usual drop off in byes. Aubusson is still not an option and I don’t expect his partner Cordner to gain much if all on his already high fantasy average. The others are not fantasy relevant.
The bad: M.Gillet, A.Glenn, C.Mcqueen, K.Proctor, C.Sironen, M.Taupau, B.Cartwright, I.Yeo, T.Frizell, J.Thompson, J.Aloiai, C.Lawrence
A lot of low end/fringe guns have a tough draw in the second row, with the likes of Taupau, Gillet, Proctor, Frizell and Cartwright unlikely to increase there output in the early weeks. Under-priced mindrangers in Sironen and Aloiai also have harder draws, but there don’t appear many better alternatives with better roles and security at a similar price.
The good: J.Mcguire, P.Gallen, J.Wallace, S.Burgess, A.Guerra
Surprisingly, there is a lot of differentiation from 1st to 16th in terms of lock scoring, and there are a lot of fantasy relevant players with good draws. Mcguire is a popular option as he moves from prop to lock with the promise of increased minutes, where his scores should be bolstered. Gallen could be a good POD early, however it remains to be seen how he will be managed. Wallace is another popular midranger but there still remains questions over his role. If he is lock then he is, well, a lock. Surgess is always popular and should reward his many owners early, while Guerra is an interesting option should he play 65+ minutes.
The bad: I.Soliola, D.Klemmer, J.Trbojevic, J.Taumalolo, T.Moeroa, T.Merrin
There are also a lot of popular options with bad draws. Klemmer is slightly underpriced following his 2016 average at lock of 48, but that may not eventuate in the early rounds. Trbojevic may receive 80 minutes in a weak manly pack, a role in he which he averages 56, but may just maintain his price. There also may be a repeat of a Merrin slow start in 2017.
The good: T.Hodkinson, M.Pearce
With only six points differentiation between 1st and 15th, and a lot of similar draws, the draw should be almost a non-factor when selecting halves. Pearce broke out as a certified gun in 2016 but there is quite a lot of value in halves which will deter most from buying.
The bad: K.Elgey
QUICK EVRERYONE TRADE HIM OUT. No, his scores may be slightly lower but there is no other options with his security at his price, however I would monitor the draw and try and find other playing options in the tougher rounds.
The good: J.Reynolds, M.Morgan, TM.Martin, C.Walker, L.Keary
TMM is a popular option among this group, with coaches hoping for him to push a 40 average. I like him as a pick as you will be looking to offload him at the end of this period and upgrading to a gun half. Keep in mind that Lamb also has a reasonably easy draw. Cody Walker will be an upgrade target at the end of the season, but with the value at fullback to start the season he’s almost too much.
The bad: B.Austin, A.Taylor, J.Maloney
These players weren’t under much consideration anyway. There has been a bit of talk of Maloney being under-priced but there is no reason for his scores to improve after a career best year in real life for Maloney.
Fixtures are key to centres, with a high deviation between first and last, with coaches unwilling to splash on the higher priced players looking for more reliability in other positions, picking the right under-priced centre to begin is key in getting a good start.
The good: B.Lee, J.Morris, S.Kata, D.Fusitua, K.Linnett, J.O’Neill, L.Mitchell, B.Ferguson, D.Whare, T.Peachey
Kata has showed the tackle breaking potential of a gun fantasy centre, but at his price he’d need to be a keeper. The Cowboys centres are as average as they come. Latrell has never played centre in first grade, however, showed his 30 point play potential in his rookie year. Finally, with four centres going into two spots at the panthers, Whare and Peachey are expected to line up in the ¾ line with Blake and Hiku lining up on the wing. Whare could make a good amount of cash, only needing a low 30 avg for 100k gain.
The bad: J.Kahu, J.Roberts, D.Sarginson, K.Hurrell, T.Lafai, E.Aitken, J.Idris
Aitken is expected to maintain his average, with solid base stats, however considered mid-ranger’s such as Hurrell may drop off due to the heavy reliance on attacking stats. Idris is too cheap and highly owned to not own, with the lack of other options.
The good: K.Holland, B.Morris, M.Vatuvei, T.Lolohea, P.Hiku, W.Blake
Lock in big Manu as captain for round one, with the knights getting absolutely destroyed by wingers last year. Fixtures are key for wingers, however unless they can score 20 tries or bust 6+ tackles a game they are never relevant. Hope for a rookie from one of these teams.
The bad: C.Oates, D.Mead, S.Vunivalu, J.Addo-carr
You weren’t picking these guys anyway.
The good: V.Holmes, L.Coote, B.French, M.Gordon
Those who are attracted by French’s role and scores at fullback may be rewarded with their ridiculously good draw, especially over the first three rounds. However, RTS and Hayne also have relatively easy draws and are far more proven scorers than the second year French. There would be more interest in Holmes if he had an uninterrupted pre-season, however he is under an injury cloud coming into round 1.
The bad: D.Boyd, T.Trbojevic, D.Phythian, J.Tedesco
Those starting with Tedesco may be deterred from paying a premium when he’s likely to lose cash early. An untested Knights fullback with a tough draw will give fantasy coaches of 2016 nightmares, however there seems to be a lack of other options, and a fullback is always better than a winger. Trbojevic is a popular option due to his DPP at centre, but his tough draw, especially over the first four, may deter some while there is still uncertainty over how he will score at fullback injury free.