NRL Supercoach 2016: 5/8 Analysis

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If only we were able to select five or six players at this position. There’s no shortage of value on offer, however which players represent the best options moving forward? We’ve already touched on several dual-position players in our Halfback analysis, with Aidan Sezer, Johnathan Thurston, James Maloney, Kieran Foran, Tyrone Roberts and Jackson Hastings all discussed in that article.

Here, we’ll focus on the remaining 5/8 eligible players we consider to be of some fantasy relevance this season. The majority of cash cows will be dealt with separately closer to the commencement of the season, however given the popularity of the likes of Ashley Taylor and Jayden Nikorima in particular warrant a closer inspection still two weeks out from kick-off.

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 Supercoach 2016 pre-season positional previews:

Also, if you want to see when each of the players covered below will be available over the Bye/Origin period, check out our Bye and Origin planner for 2016.

NRL Supercoach 2016: 5/8 Analysis

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Anthony Milford (BRI – $408,900)

After scoring no tries through his opening month as a Bronco, and posting no try-assists through his first two months of action, Milford finished the season with 11 and 14 in each category respectively. Doubling his average from his first 7 games of the season (38.86) to his final 17 games of the campaign (75.29), Milford looms as a seriously under-valued asset with his price only acknowledging his season average of 64.67. With James Roberts now at the Broncos, and with Wayne Bennett’s outfit almost guaranteed a Top 4 berth, expect to see Milford develop his game further as the season goes on. Big scores should be run up, and without Origin duty or age as potential impediments to his production, expect Milford to average 70-73 points per game at the least this season.

Jarrod Mullen (NEW – $328,800)

Some injuries result in a player missing games, however others just impede their performance to such a point that whilst they’re playing, they may as well not be. Most of Jarrod Mullen’s 2015 was characterised by the latter, a niggling injury which wasn’t serious enough to rule him out but that seriously impeded his ability to produce for his side. Just 1 try, 7 try-assists, 1 line-break and an average of 54.3 running metres per game, Mullen was a passenger compared to previous seasons. Whilst only playing 16 games in 2014, Mullen had 3 tries, 8 try-assist, 4 line-breaks and averaged just shy of 50 metres, relatively consistent production from 2015. That only tells part of the story though. In 2014, Mullen averaged an NRL-high 460 kicking metres a game and was responsible for running the show at the Knights. With Trent Hodkinson moving to the club and set to assume the captaincy, Mullen will be relied upon more for his running and passing game as opposed to his organisation. As a result, expect greater production in Supercoach scoring categories, as the majority of his touches won’t be in final tackle kicking situations. Newcastle should experience some form of resurgence when Nathan Brown’s influence takes hold, and Mullen should be at the heart of any attacking improvement. A small increase in production should follow, with Mullen’s Supercoach average of 49.7 since 2011 set to see an increase in the order of 3-5 points.

Ashley Taylor (GCT – $113,800) and Jayden Nikorima (SYD – $113,800)

Two young Queenslanders and former Broncos have found themselves in starting berths this season given injuries and suspensions to key players at their respective clubs. You can’t go wrong with either, however we have a slight preference to begin the season. Ashley Taylor played 30 minutes in the halves for the Broncos last season and scored 12 points before a hand injury cut short his debut. Impressively, he took an active role in the kicking game (155 metres) and didn’t miss a tackle (12 of 12), however was passive in the running game. With Kane Elgey out for the season, the job is also Taylor’s to lose, with no obvious opposition for his 6 jersey aside from possibly Greg Bird if the Titans want to go down that road and deplete an already suspect forward pack. Tyrone Roberts and his goal-kicking duties make him an enticing option as well.

Nikorima meanwhile may have starred in the World Club Challenge, however he’s behind Jackson Hastings in the depth chart. When Mitchell Pearce comes back, Nikorima will be the player to lose his spot, and whilst he may shift to a bench utility spot, he won’t start in the halves. While Pearce is out, expect Hastings to dominate playmaking duties and to assume goal-kicking duties. As a result, meaning that Nikroima will be like a less electric Anthony Milford – a player set to only score in attack categories and through the tackles he makes as a perceived ‘defensive weakness’. An average of 42 or so wouldn’t surprise, but neither would him being the lower scoring of this duo. Kane Elgey averaged 48.44 last season, and Nikorima should eyeing off that production as his probable ceiling (42-48 average).

Corey Norman (PAR – $312,100)

The Norman/Foran partnership looms as being a strong one in the real world of NRL football, but will it convert well into the NRL Fantasy arena? Potentially. Norman’s attacking output will increase as a result of Foran’s presence, whilst the Eels in general should be a far stronger outfit with the additions they’ve made this summer. Three tries, 10 try-assists and 8 line-breaks are all below what Norman has the potential to produce, especially as he’ll frequently play outside of Kieran Foran and is therefore likely to nab more try-assists and ‘pass before try assist’ statistics himself. With Parramatta now boasting specialist fullbacks, centres (for the most part), wingers and halves, don’t expect Norman’s positioning to fluctuate too much throughout the season. As a result, he should prove a more consistent asset and should comfortably break the 50-point barrier. Expect production in the realm of 55 points per game.

Josh Reynolds (CBY – $280,700)

Josh Reynolds looms as a player more likely to experience an NRL Fantasy breakout than he is a Supercoach one. In saying that, he’s wildly under-priced in both formats. Reynolds endured an underwhelming 2015, averaging just 44.40 points per game after averaging between 53 and 61 in each of the previous three seasons. Reynolds averaged just 66 minutes per game last season, meaning an additional 14 minutes per game are guaranteed given Trent Hodkinson’s departure. Last season, Reynolds managed just 3 tries, 7 try-assists, 3 line-breaks and 25 tackle-breaks. For a player with his running game, those numbers are wildly under expectations. An average of 44 last season is set to increase to the mid-50s at the very least, whilst additional kicking responsibilities should yield a few more points on top of his long-term average. Expect an average of 55-58 this season at a minimum.

Michael Morgan (NQC – $372,700) and Blake Austin (CAN – $346,100)

Two players who experienced break-out campaigns in 2015, there is presumably very little scope for either of these running 5/8s to improve in a Supercoach sense. Johnathan Thurston has proven himself immune to any adversity when it comes to Supercoach production, but how will a breakout player like Michael Morgan respond to something like a Premiership hangover? Morgan had 11 tries, 10 try-assists and 17 line-breaks last season, whilst his 79 running metres per game and strong tackle breaking ability seeing his average jump to 58.95 points per game. Without writing him off completely, there is little chance of Morgan matching those figures again, let alone witnessing an increase. His role as Queensland Origin utility (if retained) will see him miss at least 4 rounds (as opposed to the mandatory 2 through byes), in just another reason why investing heavily in a player still considered Thurston’s sidekick should be avoided.

We have similar concerns surrounding Austin. Somehow, Blake Austin managed to stroll over for tries from absolutely nothing last season. Whist he boasts a strong running game, there was an element of fortune and ‘career-season’ to his efforts. Aidan Sezer will see more of the ball than Williams or Cornish did last season, meaning the supply which led to Austin’s 14 tries and 16 line-breaks is likely to be somewhat cut. The introduction of Elliott Whitehead on the right edge, and the return to fitness of Joey Leilua should see a marginal increase in try-assists, however don’t expect anything more than 10 tries this season as an absolute maximum. Austin averaged 54.74 last season, and we’re predicting that number to fall to 49-51 in 2016.

Gareth Widdop (SGI – $365,600) and Jamie Soward (PEN – $215,000)

As a goal-kicker, Widdop immediately holds value, especially with the Dragons poised to improve on their attack this season. McGregor is a hard-nosed coach, whose first season in charge was dedicated to improving the integrity of the Dragons defence. Another year on and attack is the priority. Marshall, Widdop, Dugan, Mann, Aitken and Lafai is a more than respectable line-up, and if the Dragons can hold onto the ball, their Charity Shield showing displayed promise. Marshall had the 2nd most try assists in the NRL last season, whilst Widdop was a more rounded performer (9 tries, 15 try-assists, 51 tackle-breaks). Those numbers shouldn’t really improve this season, however given the structure of the Dragons’ attack, most of their try assists will go to traditional playmakers (7, 6 and even 1). An accurate goal-kicker, Widdop is a ‘safe’ choice, however doesn’t boast the room for improvement that Reynolds and Robert hold.

Jamie Soward’s starting spot is under threat in Penrith, with rumours he’ll be relegated to a coaching position before the season is out. Lacking a running game, not owning a monopoly in the kicking game and being surrounded by playmakers in Segeyaro and Moylan, there is almost no reason to consider Soward. His price may be enticing, but with so many rookie-priced options available who are poised to out-score Soward, he’s our leading candidate for ‘avoid’ of the season.

Dylan Walker (MAN – $330,600)

Dylan Walker is an interesting prospect this season, and has the potential to be a breakout star. An almost mirror-image of Queensland counterpart Anthony Milford, Walker boasts the explosiveness, agility, speed and ball-playing capacity to be a stand-out halves convert. Playing in a position which saw Kieran Foran average double-digit try-assists in recent seasons, Walker’s primary advantage over his predecessor is his running ability. Foran averaged 49.37 last season, whilst Walker averaged 52.29 despite experiencing several injury-provoked form dips. Walker had tackle breaks in 19 of his 21 games, scored 12 tries, 6 try-assists and 9 line-breaks. Missed tackles don’t harm scores as much in Supercoach as they do in NRL Fantasy, so that he’ll be a target in defence is less of a consideration. The sky is the limit for Walker, but he’s a far better buy in the centres given the uncertainty surrounding Manly this season. A bigger forward pack will be good to work off, and Walker is a far more mature player than when he played in the halves to start 2014.

Jack Bird (CRO – $365,200)

After another inconsistent trial performance, Jack Bird is losing his grasp on the Cronulla fullback jersey. Ben Barba was impressive meanwhile, and looms as possibly a more logical option to start the season with down back. Bird had a stellar rookie season, averaging 57.76 on the back of a dominant running game. At fullback, the increased spaces at his disposal would only improve his potential, however even if he is named as custodian for Round 1, a shift to the centres looms as likely in the short to medium term. Bird scored just 1 try in his final 10 appearances last season, whilst his tackle break numbers and average running metres were also down (average of 68 metres as opposed to 80 metres of the opening 11 games). As teams began to figure him out, Origin call-ups were touted and fatigue took hold, Bird became less effective. His strong defensive numbers in the front line will suffer regardless of whether he moves to the centres or to fullback, and without goal-kicking or general-play kicking to supplement his running game, he becomes a fairly one-dimensional player. An avoid for us as Bird looms as averaging below 50 this season.

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 Supercoach 2016 pre-season positional previews:

Also, if you want to see when each of the players covered below will be available over the Bye/Origin period, check out our Bye and Origin planner for 2016.

Don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook or follow us on twitter @BlindsideSport for a reminder as to when our Predictions are published each week! Roman Barbera can also be found on twitter @rombarbera.

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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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