NRL Fantasy 2016: Updated Pre-Season Notes


Every season we write previews for each position based on our observations, statistical analysis and, to an extent, our gut feeling. However as we trawl through the numbers more and more, and the pre-season trials come to an end, certain players’ stock experience an increase or decrease. This article is designed to convey those slight corrections we’d like to make to the more specific positional overviews, and to highlight a few more players we’re liking the look of as the season draws nearer. Over the coming days we may add new pieces of information to this article, so keep it bookmarked for our latest musings.

Our NRL 2016 Ladder Prediction is now LIVE on the website! Where is your side going to finish this coming campaign?

Make sure you’re across our other NRL Fantasy 2016 pre-season positional previews:


It sounds like Apisai Koroisau and Matt Parcell might be engaging in a bit more of a time-share than we’d have liked, meaning that Parcell is now being slightly downgraded in our estimates. James Segeyaro looks to have put his potential rift with Anthony Griffin behind him, and only Will Smith’s presence on the bench should stand between him an 80 minutes of action every week. Michael Lichaa and Josh Hodgson also remain strong options with their attacking involvement and minutes respectively set to increase this season. At the Tigers, Manaia Cherrington should see at least 5 weeks of starters minutes to begin the season, with Robbie Farah and Matt Ballin both out with injury. Expect 50-65 minutes per game, however Cherrington’s production in limited stints last season was underwhelming. Damien Cook is also trending upwards after his trial form, however is likely still over-priced unless he can secure 65+ minutes per game.

Front Row Forward

On second glance, there is far more value in the front row than we initially acknowledged. Kane Evans looms as the primary beneficiary from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ absence, with the youngster starring in the World Club Challenge. Having scored at 1.13 points per minute last season, Evans is a potential break-out candidate. Jack Stockwell (1.02 PPM) and Tim Grant (0.936 PPM) are the other mid-priced options we’re now looking at with great interest. Splitting them is the hard task, and with a great deal of reluctance we’d rank them in the order they’re listed in this article. I’ll be looking at taking at least one into this season. Suaia Matagi is another player to have impressed in trials, however he’s at an awkward price considering Trent Merrin is likely to play in the front-row and Reagan Campbell-Gillard is set to be fit for Round 1.

With all the talk around the Raiders’ forward pack, it seems as if Paul Vaughan may not get the increase in minutes we’d expected. Soliola and Papalii are set to assume some front-row duties with Elliott Whitehead appropriately set to play big minutes on the right edge. Vaughan is therefore downgraded to a ‘consider’. We’re also getting colder on Sauaso Sue, whose security as a back row starter may be contingent on whether Dene Halatau (set to return from suspension in week 2) has to cover at dummy-half in Robbie Farah’s absence. He should increase in value, but not my enough in a position packed with value. Josh McGuire also moves from an ‘avoid’ to a ‘consider’ after starting in the World Club Challenge. Bennett may not ease him into action and as a result, he forms a decent point-of-difference candidate.

Second Row Forwards

Trent Merrin is set to be named in the front row, and whilst he’ll pick up dual-position eligibility as a result, he likely won’t be looking at the 65+ minute games we’d hoped for. After being incredibly high on him to begin the pre-season, we’re moderating our predictions. He should still be a good buy however, and we’re willing to keep him on our ‘target’ list. Simon Mannering however is the big mover on this list. Having relinquished the captaincy at the Warriors, Mannering is looking to pace himself throughout the season. For a player whose work-rate was his greatest asset, playing fewer minutes is a deal-breaker. We’re expecting Mannering to still be an elite scorer, however he probably won’t meet his high price point. He’s now a strong ‘avoid’.

To mirror that downgrade however, we’re upgrading Elliott Whitehead to a ‘target’. Our main concern with the Super League product is whether he could displace Josh Papalii on the Raiders’ right edge. Pre-season action suggests he can, and has. He is now above Robbie Rochow in our estimations at that $300,000 price point.

The second row lacks depth this season, and there is a dearth of cash cow options. As a result, we emphasise going for tried and tested performers and looking for value at other positions.


There have been no notable changes to our halves analysis. Jayden Nikorima’s absence was on account of a 19th name not fitting conveniently into our table. His World Club Challenge showing was impressive, however uncertain job security and the fact that he’ll produce few base statistics render his selection less enticing than Hastings’ or Taylors’.


The Jarrod Croker train is gathering momentum, however we’re still too high on Joey Leilua to switch allegiances now. Leilua proved in the trials that our hunches about him this season look like being correct. He’s a stand-out option. Solomone Kata, Dylan Walker and particularly Mitchell Aubusson (almost a must-have if starting in the back row) have also separated themselves from the pack as ‘target’ options. Kirisome Auva’a’s value is contingent on whether he can beat out Hymel Hunt for the starting centre spot at the Rabbitohs, whilst Konrad Hurrell looks like being downgraded to an ‘avoid’ as his chances of cracking the starting side at the Warriors dwindle. Chris Lawrence’s confirmed starting second-row berth, combined with the hooking crisis at the Tigers now render him a high-grade ‘consider’, whilst Michael Jennings’ stocks have also increased after a strong showing for Parramatta against Penrith.

Sione Mata’utia is another name I want to raise for the first time. Whilst the Knights centre is suspended for Round 1, his cameos off the bench last season, contractual drama and complete misuse by Rick Stone has seen a player who averaged 37.29 over 7 matches in his debut season to just 28.5 points per game last season. A real point of difference with great scope for improvement.

In the cash cow ranks (something which is set to be looked at after teams for Round 1 are announced), Nathan Davis (GCT) is a name to keep an eye on. He looms as a starting centre at the Titans in Round 1 and could prove a handy pick-up despite his average bye schedule. Steve Matai is a player NRL Fantasy coaches hate to hear, but his current price is not fitting of a player set to start in the centres. Not a fantasy-friendly player, Matai still averaged 30 in 2014, and should be worth more than his 2015 average of 18.53.


James Tedesco has blown the competition away in pre-season and now looms as the top prospect at a confusing position. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck looms as being slightly over-priced to start the season given his injury concerns leading into Round 1. The Semi Radradra situation is interesting, however it seems as if our concern over Michael Jennings being a ball-hog will outweigh the playmaking benefits of Kieran Foran’s presence. He’s likely too expensive to start with also.

Dale Copley is trending downwards given the rise of Latrell Mitchell, whilst Blake Ferguson disappointed in England in our opinion, despite several pundits asserting that he ‘thrived’ at fullback. Expect moderately increased but not outstanding returns straight up. Greg Inglis looked trim at the All-Stars game and was dominant off the back of Sam Burgess in the trials, meaning he is now a low-end ‘target’ prospect. Kurt Mann has also been relatively strong through trials and is an acceptable target for those unable to hit those options at the $300,000 to $310,000 mark.

Jaelen Feeney (NEW) is set to play fullback for the Knights in Round 1 and immediately becomes a must-have reserve and a potential starter in your fantasy side. Clint Gutherson from the Eels is also a compulsory buy, however his playing on the wing should see him be considered bye coverage and a cash cow at best. Ben Barba is the only other player to potentially emerge with some value from trials, however he’ll need to beat our Jack Bird for the number 1 jersey if that value is to materialise.

Our NRL 2016 Ladder Prediction is now LIVE on the website! Where is your side going to finish this coming campaign?

Make sure you’re across our other NRL Fantasy 2016 pre-season positional previews:

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On twitter @rombarbera. Australian sports by day, international sports by night. Co-founder of Blindside Sport. Fantasy sport addict.

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