NRL Fantasy Analysis – Round 7

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Blindside Sport continues its weekly edition of ‘NRL Fantasy Analysis’, this time looking forward to Round 7 of the 2014 NRL Premiership. You can find the archive of articles through this link

Round 6 saw prolific scores in the forwards and some disappointing efforts in the backs as wet weather took its toll on the expansive side of the NRL. Robbie Farah’s incredible 78-minute effort saw him post 104 points, while Ben Hunt continued to reward those who began the year with him instead of the highly touted Luke Brooks. Without further ado, here is our analysis from ‘The NRL Fantasy Front’.

The Blindside Rankings

Even with Jason Taumalolo’s disappointing season-low of 16 accompanying the miserly returns from Nathan Peats, Daly Cherry-Evans and Manu Ma’u in my scoring 17 for Round 5, ‘Pearce’s Pride’ managed to post a respectable 907 points. That welcome addition took the squad to 5321 points for the season and an overall rank of 111.

We’re already regretting our decision to bring in Greg Inglis last week instead of Jarryd Hayne given the latter’s more favourable bye schedule, however hopefully Inglis’ greater scoring consistency will allow our concerns to subside after Friday’s Easter weekend clash with the Bulldogs. This week, Copley and Manu Ma’u find themselves on the outer as we trade in Kirisome Auva’a* and Sonny Bill Williams.

With the leading squads in fantasy boasting relatively strong line-ups, Origin will undoubtedly decide the overall rankings. With that in mind, all transfers we make between now and Round 18 will have byes in mind. Here are some names you might want to be considering with that (and other considerations) in mind.

Buy

The Roosters’ favourable Origin schedule and abundance of upgrade-ready second-row candidates mean that Sonny Bill Williams is an appetising option to bring into your side this week. Two weeks back from suspension, hitting season-best form and with an attainable break-even of 46, now is a perfect time to bring in the $345,224 dual-international and Premiership player.

Team-mate Jake Friend is also a prime replacement candidate for those looking to oust Robbie Farah. Andrew McCullough owners will be looking at Friend in Round 13 but for those looking to offload the injured and Origin-bound Farah, the Roosters’ rake has had a tremendous value boost by the omission of Daniel Mortimer in Round 6. Whilst most forwards suffer from a reduced work-rate when facing an increase in minutes, the reliance of hookers on tackling statistics means a guaranteed 80 minutes on he field equals a guaranteed increase of approximately 30% on his points. Friend’s 71 points in Round 6 (80 minutes) was his best score of 2014 and with Mortimer named on the extended bench this weekend, we’re expecting numbers of this ilk to continue.

Also in the hooking stakes, North Queensland’s Ray Thompson has averaged 54 over the past 3 rounds and at just $268,698, poses terrific value as either a half or hooker. With byes in Rounds 14 and 18, Thompson’s selection comes with a catch given the issues you’ll likely face in an Origin-impacted Round 14. Proceed with caution, this move is for those favouring a point of difference over reliability and safety.

Tiger Joel Luani is the most logical replacement for Farah, however the risk associated with his selection might warrant coaches waiting a week before bringing in the $190,400 hooker. With no second hooker named on the Tigers’ bench, the limited minutes that were the blight on Masada Iosefa’s production last season don’t appear set to plague Farah’s 2014 injury and Origin-time replacement. When given the chance, Tigers’ hookers generally score reliably and prolifically. In Round 13, 2013, Iosefa played 73 minutes for 44 points. In Round 14, his 80 minutes witnessed 49 points. Whilst Luani’s production isn’t blindly linked to his second-string predecessor, it is safe to assume he’s set for a price rise in Farah’s absence.

Those looking for risky options should also look to Daniel Mortimer in the halves. In 2013, Mortimer was the Roosters’ dominant playmaker during the Origin period and if Maloney and Pearce are selected for NSW once more, expect his value to skyrocket, making him an unparalleled cheapie in Rounds 11, 14 and 17. Should Maloney lose his Origin jersey however, you’ll have a wasted a trade and have a perennially low-scoring bench hooker in your reserves for the rest of the season.

In a further option for those looking to downgrade ripened cash cows, Warrior Dominique Peyroux has been named to start in the second-row in the absence of the 2-week-suspended Ben Matulino. With 20 points in 44 minutes off the bench in Round 6, Peyroux has significant scoring potential at his modest price of $107,640, but also comes into the Warriors line-up with short-term starting security and a mediocre points per minute rate.

Finally, Knight Zane Tetevano, priced at just $172,612 looks a viable downgrade option as a FRF/2RF DPP prospect. A preseason injury has kept the utility out of action until now, however a 41 point showing in Round 6 has us believing even a modest bench role in Newcastle will have him justify any coaches willing to select him.

Hold

Jason Taumalolo appears to have reached his price ceiling, however several factors are still in his favour. If the Cowboy misses out on Origin selection, his byes in Rounds 14 and 18 are relatively favourable. Further, with 4 of his 6 upcoming games to be played at home (where Taumalolo averages 47.33, including an injury affected score of 31) and a horror showing against the Tigers behind him, expect Rounds 5 and 6 to be more anomalies than an indication of  future output. More than anything, we trust him more than Manu Ma’u and Tinirau Arona at this stage of the season, making Jason’s Sharks and Eels counterparts more expendable.

In the front row, James Graham’s Origin ineligibility and favourable bye schedule means that if you have held him through to this stage of the season, you’re stuck with him through to Round 17 at least. As the 12th most productive FRF (6th if you exclude 2RF eligible players), he hasn’t had his most impressive year, however his lack of scoring is more than overcome by the above factors being in his favour. It just seems that the new statistics providers don’t value his contributions as much as those from last season. George Burgess meanwhile may be suspended for Round 7, but the English heritage and favourable bye schedule he shares with Graham render him a hold.

Speaking of statistics providers, Champion Data seemingly don’t watch Sydney Roosters matches, because how Michael Jennings scores more than 10 points a week is simply baffling – and that is saying a lot in a season where overwhelming favourites have lost more than they’ve won and tipping is near impossible. Despite by-standing for the first 70 minutes of seemingly every fixture, Jennings’ few hit-ups in the closing stages of matches seem to have boosted his average to 35 over the past 3 weeks and 36.83 for the season. If anything, Jennings’ terrible form may benefit owners as his Origin jersey is under severe threat, primarily by Jarryd Hayne’s touted move to the centres. In saying that, hold Jennings in the hope that his undoubted talent comes to the fore and he loses his representative spot.

If the New Zealand Warriors have found some semblance of form, Sam Tomkins is a hold. The Englishman looked more inclined to inject himself into New Zealand’s attack against the Bulldogs, taking on the line more often than playing facilitator. Without a bye until Round 14, owners have another month to see if the diminutive custodian can emulate the form that saw him become the most anticipated English recruit since Sam Burgess.

Avoid

A couple of tempters set to disappoint if brought into your side have emerged this week. Ryan James has been named on the Titans’ bench courtesy of a Luke Bailey injury. With Gold Coasts’ promising Origin and bye schedule, Nate Myles’ guaranteed Maroons selection and James’ undoubted talent, the youngster may appear a good play, but with his expected minutes still under a cloud, it is best to avoid in favour of a more reliable option, like Sonny Bill Williams.

After several weeks as the most sought-after centre in Fantasy, Konrad Hurrell has been dropped for oversights on the defensive side of the ball. Those who own the cannonball centre should hold him as the omission should only be temporary, however those yet to jump on the bandwagon should obviously delay their investment.

David Mead is another player to avoid despite an 82-point effort against the Broncos in Round 6. The stand-in fullback is likely to be pushed back to his favoured flank with William Zillman’s return imminent. Whilst you won’t believe that we considered bringing him in for a 2-week cameo upon hearing of Zillman’s injury, we’re regretting not having made the move after Mead posted 142 points over the 2 weeks he was in the number 1 jersey.

Sell

With Manu Ma’u’s break-even reaching 30 and his Origin bye schedule less than ideal, it is time of offload the 2014 surprise package over the next couple of weeks. Whilst wet conditions in a physical battle with the Roosters in Round 6 may have been a contributing factor in his only playing 57 minutes, the impressive showing by Pauli Pauli leaves us worried his rotation could become a more permanent fixture of Brad Arthur’s plans. His Sharks counterpart in Tinirau Arona is a more reliable option, at least until Paul Gallen returns, given that his average of 46 has come in just over 40 minutes of play per match.

Bronco Dale Copley fell in price after Round 6 and following his shift to the wing, isn’t worth keeping in your squad. His bye schedule fails to provide any meaningful cover throughout the Origin period and there are two downgrade options available this week. In Curitis Rona (replacing Antonio Winterstein for 6 weeks following a hamstring injury) and Kirisome Auva’a (likely to be given the chance to cement his place in the centres at Souths following an impressive debut), these two players provide more than viable alternatives to Copley at $107,000 and $119,584 respectively. Whilst Rona arguably boasts greater job security, Auva’a has greater upside and bye coverage. Auva’a’s job security is actually so uncertain that he may even be a late withdrawal this weekend with Joel Reddy named on an extended bench. Whilst we feel Souths would be better served with a highly-touted youngster as opposed to the conservative and disappointing Reddy, we’ll just have to wait and see. Souths have the opening game of Round 7 however so coaches will be able to take all of the Late Mail into consideration before settling either way.

In the injury ward, Winterstein’s injury impacts just 5612 coached. Dylan Farrell’s possibly season-ending pectoral injury sees 8383 coaches lose some bench cover in the centres whilst Frank Pritchard’s identical issue will see 8971 forced to sell the fantasy irrelevant Bulldog. Robbie Farah’s injury is really the only one with fantasy relevance with the Wests Tigers hooker averaging a league-leading 76 points per contest and being owned in 19108 fantasy sides.

Our replacement suggestions for Farah are noted above, as is Curtis Rona’s added value associated with his NRL debut. The Dragons have named Farrell to start this weekend, however with scans set to rule the centre out, keep following @BlindsideSport on twitter for his replacement, however we’re hopeful the very affordable Kyle Stanley finds himself playing 80 minutes per game to provide us with another terrific downgrade option next week.

Contact the Team

In the comments section below, you can ask myself or NRL lead writer Daniel Boss any question you have regarding Fantasy or the NRL in general.

Otherwise, head over to the NRL Dream Team forum to ask anything fantasy-related.

Finally, keep an eye out for our weekly Podcast in the lead up to Round 7.

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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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