By now we have all heard about the new rules relating to the ruck and completion of tackles. Considerable discussion has revolved around how this will destroy the game, how coaches are angry and the usual NRL aversion to change. But, what is way more important than the NRL circus is that these changes will have a profound effect on NRL Fantasy.
The new rule change (or “interpretation” if you listen to the NRL spin machine) is that all tacklers now have to get off the player at the same time. Rather than the gradual peeling off of defenders, allowing them to reset the defensive line before the ball is played, all defenders will have to drop off simultaneously and scramble back into place. The idea behind this rule is to minimise the advantage of teams piling three or more defenders into a tackle, and the resulting wrestle and untangling slowing the ruck speed down. Now, one and two men tackles will be rewarded, as this will leave defensive lines intact.
This has obvious implications for the game as ruck speeds should increase, and there will likely be more holes in the defensive line for players willing to take advantage. We will walk through who we think will benefit.
The new rules will give an advantage to the “running game” HOKs, the guys that don’t mind taking on the line and then shifting the play. However, for a HOK to take advantage of the fast ruck speed and holes around the ruck, he needs to have big forwards that are hard to stop. The more players left on the ground at the play the ball the better.
Players to watch: Friend (Roosters), Segeyaro (Panthers), Farah (Tigers), McCullough (Broncos), and Lichaa (Bulldogs).
Front Rowers (FRF)
This is where it gets tricky. The FRFs who are going to gain the most advantage are the ones that can (and do) run hard all day long. Defences are going to tire a bit quicker than what we are used to, and this means that the big FRFs who run as hard at the 60th minute as they do in the 1st are going to gain a lot more points.
Players to watch: Fifita (Sharks), Gallen (Sharks), JWH (Roosters), G. Burgess (Rabbitohs), T. Burgess (Rabbitohs), Scott (Cowboys), Graham (Bulldogs), McGuire (Broncos), Moa (Roosters), Taupau (Tigers), Woods (Tigers), and Klemmer (Bulldogs).
Second Rowers (2RF)
Hard running 2RFs who like to play off the edges of running HLFs, and/or have a good offload game are going to benefit from the new rules. Defensive lines are going to thin out as the games go on, which will see more 2RFs running through the line off the back of a HLF and offloading if they don’t get through the line. The unwillingness of extra defenders to engage in tackles will allow the offload specialists to get their arms free and get the ball away.
Players to watch: Taumalolo (Cowboys), Cordner (Roosters), Parker (Broncos), Dave Taylor (Titans), Harris (Storm), Merrin (Dragons), Lowe (Cowboys), T. Sims (Knights) Taylor (Panthers), Jackson (Bulldogs), and Mannering (Warriors).
Halves are a tricky prospect. Like all other positions, guns are generally the ones to go for, but there will be some big scores elsewhere this season. The new rules will suit the halves that like to run. However, their increased points will fall more on who their forward pack has in it (see above for FRF, 2RF and HOK). A running HLF who has big FRFs and a running style HOK is going to benefit from the extra room, but his LBA points will also increase if he has hard running 2RFs who like to play off the edges of him.
Players to watch: Hunt (Broncos), Thurston (Cowboys), Pearce (Roosters), Mortimer (Titans), J. Reynolds (Bulldogs), Austin (Raiders), and Marshall (Dragons).
Centres and Wingers (CTR and WFB)
Oddly enough, we don’t see much changing for the outside backs. Stick with the hard running, smart players (the usual guns) and you should be right. Players who like to swoop in and do some hard running out of dummy half may see a few more opportunities.
Players to watch: Lafai (Bulldogs), Hodges (Broncos), Walker (Rabbitohs), Hurrelll (Warriors), Jennings (Roosters), Mansour (Panthers), Gordon (Sharks), Radradra (Eels), and B. Morris (Bulldogs).
Now this is where it could get interesting. The proven guns who run at the line and have a great presence on the field are going to shine, although they still need the FRF, 2RF, HOK and HLFs mentioned above, the great fullbacks are going to get a lot more room to move at the back ends (last 10 mins or so) of each half.
Players to watch: Inglis (Rabbitohs), Moylan (Panthers), Dugan (Dragons), Morgan (Cowboys), Tomkins (Warriors), and RTS (Roosters).
A few caveats
Of course, these are predictions based on how we think the new rule will be adjudicated on the field. It doesn’t take an expert to know that the NRL and referees have a record of spinelessly backing away from rule changes, and piss poor on field consistency.
The second consideration is that we have judged players based on how they have played in the past. A new rule creates new opportunities, which means players and coaches may change to take advantage. A conservative, stand-and-pass HOK could be let off the leash in the new climate, and take us all by surprise. So, pay close attention to the trials and early rounds to see how things evolve.
- The Renegade Ghost
So, Origin is fast approaching and the majority of the cash cows are hitting their peaks. Round 6 produced a significant amount of low scores, apart from those few Fantasy Gods.
There are many chains of thought in how to approach the next few rounds and I will share with you my strategy. This article is not to tell you what to do, but hopefully open your mind to a different way of looking at the next few weeks.
As we know, there are five NRL teams that play over the major bye rounds (11, 14, and 17). They are the Bulldogs, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Tigers, and the Titans.
The Sharks, Panthers, Cowboys, and Dragons play over two of the three major bye rounds.
Every trade you intend to make at this point should assist you in fielding as many players over this period, or at least enough high scorers that you can still post a decent score. This is the time to climb the rankings. You can make up a considerable amount of points by planning this well.
Ideally you want to work around your Gun players that will be away. It is not advisable to trade out a gun simply to replace him with another gun that will fill the gap. This practice can suck up trades very quickly.
Don’t get sucked into picking up too many mid-range players. This will make it harder for you to upgrade and waste trades (i.e. a trade to bring in, and a trade to cash out). Look at what you need in your starting 17 – focus is the key.
With that in mind, it is time to trade up Arona, Mau, and Lolo. The reasoning behind it is this – neither player has a very favorable bye schedule, with Arona the best over this period.
Secondly GUNs such as J.Graham, and SBW have bottomed out. So, whilst Arona may be a good option over Origin, the question is will he be as good as J.Graham? For an extra $50k you can make this trade and have someone that plays all of the major bye rounds and is a proven keeper.
Same with Mau, yes he is a good player but is he as good as SBW? $70k extra will get you that trade.
S. Burgess is a little more expensive, however worth a trade from any of your cash cows. He will be vital to a good score over origin.
As you pick with a view towards the messy Origin period, you should also be picking up solid scorers that will remain, barring injury, in your squad for the long run. Killing two birds with one stone. This means that you do not have to burn more trades later to bring in Guns after Origin.
Hopefully you picked up on a few cash cows early on and have a bench full of players that are likely to have a big impact from rounds 11-19. Players such as K. Turner, P. Carter, and D. Mortimer, should all perform well with players away. Keep an eye on A. Johnstone from the Bunnies, he is a fullback and having made 18th man for a couple of weeks now, he may be a chance to grab Inglis’ spot come Origin. He would be a great player to cash out Taumalpea once he reaches his peak.
Trading well at this point of the season will see you finish the season strongly and hopefully post a healthy overall ranking. I hope this helped a little and I wish you all the best for the rounds ahead.