NRL Supercoach 2016: Centres and Wingers

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Several players available in this position have already been covered in other articles. Blake Ferguson, Michael Gordon, Josh Dugan, Jake Mamo, Valentine Holmes and Cameron Munster have all been touched on in our Fullbacks analysis, whilst Dylan Walker’s prospects are assessed in our 5/8 musings.

The centre position is traditionally one of the weakest in NRL Fantasy, however the NRL Supercoach scoring system sees it take a little more importance. Given you have 7 spots available (at least 4 will be scoring players), a mixture of players with consistency and a high ceiling often bodes well. For that reason, aside form taking bye-planning into consideration, try to evaluate whether you have a good balance of safe players (out of position second-rowers are an ideal source), and players who can bust out mammoth scores on account of attacking potential. This season, I’m currently running with two out-of-position back rowers, a break-out centre candidate and an out-of-position fullback.

As a general rule, avoid wingers. Very few players have translated strong wing play to fantasy scoring potential. Semi Radradra, Curtis Rona and Marika Koroibete were the exceptions last season, whilst Josh Mansour also finished in the Top 25 at the position. Traditionally though, picking the NRL’s top try-scorer has been difficult, and we will try to avoid engaging in guessing games as much as possible 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.

NRL Supercoach 2016: Fullback Analysis

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Mitchell Aubusson (SYD – $304,300) and Chris Lawrence (WST – $247,600)

With Aubusson set to spend the start of 2016 in the back row covering for Boyd Cordner’s absence, he’s a near ‘must-have’. Whilst many coaches have been burned by the Rooster in previous seasons, there is a legitimate void in his side’s forward pack and more than enough backline cover for him to stay there even in the case of an injury or two. Should Aubusson get the start on the left edge, he’s a guaranteed starter for your team.

Lawerence meanwhile is a bit more of an iffy selection. He isn’t as robust as Aubusson and, depending on your strategy at the position, may not fit into your side. He’s guaranteed big minutes, with the Tigers reeling from front-row losses last season, and averaged 48 points per game following his shift to the back row in Round 11 last year. That kind of production should see him priced closer to the $300,000 mark. The catch is that Lawrence isn’t necessarily guaranteed to repeat that production. He played 80 minutes in all-but two games since making his transition to the forwards, and scored a few tries to boot. He’s also guaranteed to be injured at some point this season. Regardless, he’s under-priced.

Joey Leilua (CAN – $374,200) and Jarrod Croker (CAN – $384,900)

The Canberra duo are of interest purely because the Raiders loom as a heavy-scoring side. Croker’s goal-kicking duties and 12 tries saw him finish last season as the 3rd most expensive player at the position, and whilst the Raiders may have improved as a side, he’s not very likely to score more than 61 points per game, especially considering the developments Canberra have made on their right edge. The addition of Elliott Whitehead, break-out campaign of Blake Austin and reformation of Joey Leilua mean a lot more traffic will be heading down that flank this season. As a result, Leilua becomes an interesting prospect. After averaging 56 points per game in 2014, Leilua is priced at just an average of 43 following a 2015 campaign plagued by weight issues, a transfer, tackling technique issues and a general attitude problem. In the trial against Newcastle he scored one try and had two try-assists. A dynamic breakout candidate who could be anything this coming season.

Jamie Lyon (MAN – $348,100)

The second of two goal-kicking options at the position, Lyon makes the ‘target’ category as a result of most of our other recommendations already having been covered in other articles. He’s more likely a high-end ‘consider’, however his consistency is appealing. After an interrupted start to last season, Lyon really found his groove, and looms as a candidate to assume greater responsibility again this season with Kieran Foran having left and Dylan Walker still being groomed. Lyon didn’t score a try until Round 21 last season, whilst his conversion numbers were considerably down (47) on previous campaigns. There is a lot of room for improvement for a player who is typically relatively injury-free. Lyon had just three games with 100 running metres and missed tackles at a higher rate than usual too. For a player who boasts a similar skill set to Croker, his price is arguably slightly lower than it should be.

Sione Mata’utia (NEW – $233,700) and Dane Gagai (NEW – $343,800)

Newcastle’s first-choice centre pairing is an interesting one. Mata’utia averaged 55.71 in the 7 games he played in his debut season but managed to back that up with a campaign in which he averaged just 36.95. Typically one likes to be able to justify such a drop off, and with Sione, it’s more than simple. Rick Stone completely mis-used him, a dispute with his manager cost him his love of the game and Newcastle were horrendous. Whilst the latter of those reasons may not change this season, Mata’utia looms as a starting centre under Nathan Brown and should average at least 45. He’ll be suspended for Round 1 so be aware of that when picking your team.

Dane Gagai meanwhile is an avoid given the time he spent at fullback last season. His base statistics are nowhere near what you’re looking for from a top centre prospect, and his attacking production is noticeably better when lining up at fullback. If Jaelen Feeney struggles to begin the season, Gagai may emerge as a discounted option, however until then Mata’utia offers the same promise at a more affordable price point. For those thinking Gagai may make an improvement on his 7 try effort from 2015, he scored 7 tries from 24 games in 2014 too.

Josh Morris (CBY – $334,500) and Tim Simona (WST – $277,900)

Josh Morris is as much a victim of circumstance as he is a player whose game just doesn’t suit Supercoach scoring. The Bulldogs aren’t an attacking side in many respects, and when they are moving forward, too much of what they do happens in the centre of the park. Ball-playing forwards are the natural enemy of the centre, and Josh Morris is paying the price. Last year, after enduring a horror 2014, he scored 10 tries and chalked up 4 try-assists and averaging 110 running metres per game. Morris doesn’t really boast an offload game (18 on the season) and doesn’t tackle as much as most would expect of the best defensive centre in the league, all factors which add up to one conclusion. In many regards, his 2015 was outstanding, however without the base statistics to render it repeatable, he’s not worth touching. The loss of Trent Hodkinson should prove more significant than many expect, and with Morris dependent on attacking statistics (averaged 35 points in 2014 on the back of struggling to score tries) he should be avoided.

Tim Simona meanwhile has shown so much potential since entering the league. Being capable of individual brilliance is always useful in Supercoach circles, however when it is your only avenue to the try-line, that’s an issue. James Tedesco can lay tries on for anyone, but Simona, like Morris, is often a victim of circumstance. The Tigers went on a streak midway through last season in which they lost 9 of 10 games. Simona’s value crashed over that period as he didn’t make it across the try-line once. His tackle and offload numbers almost exactly match those of Morris, and whilst Simona has higher upside, one injury to James Tedesco, or an Origin call-up for he, Woods and Farah could spell another midseason slump.

Michael Jennings (PAR – $320,700) and Semi Radradra (PAR – $512,900)

The Eels have recruited brilliantly this off-season, however will that necessarily mean that their entire backline will enter the elite bracket of NRL Supercoach players? Possibly. Semi Radradra has scored 48 tries in his 49 games for Parramatta, whilst Michael Jennings is a former international now in the midst of a backline capable of producing close to the level the Roosters did last season. With Kieran Foran and Corey Norman playing a more traditional first and second receiver system inside them, this left-edge combination won’t be afforded as much space this season as they’re used to, whilst Jennings’ reputation as a ball-hog could deprive Semi of his weekly try and incredibly high rate of touches.

In summary, Jennings move from a high-powered attack at the Roosters to one at the Eels won’t make an enormous difference to his production (aside from the fact that his left edge is clearly the number 1 option for the Eels in attack). His presence however will likely limit Radradra’s influence, thus making both ‘avoid’ candidates. Even if Jennings didn’t head out west, Radradra is likely priced too prohibitively to be considered. We feel Jennings has the potential to be a ‘consider’, however given the value on show elsewhere at the position, we’re more inclined to invest in others.

Chris McQueen (GCT – $249,100)

The Titans are a bad team – there is no two ways about it. Chris McQueen is a good player. As a result, he should see far more opportunities come his way now that he’s left the Rabbitohs. Last season, McQueen averaged 67 minutes per game, however that has every chance of increasing this season, especially should he spend some time in the centres as has been touted pre-season. McQueen scored just 2 tries last season, didn’t have a try-assist, and broke the line just 4 times. He broke just 19 tackles and ran for over 100 metres in just 5 of his 23 club outings. None of those figures are representative of the player he is, and set to operate on Tyrone Roberts’ side of the field this season, he should see more ball in attacking situations than Zeb Taia does on Ashley Taylor’s flank. Another player alongside Aubusson and Lawrence who should provide consistency, McQueen averaged 39 in both 2014 and 2015, however has never averaged near 80 minutes. In 2014, his PPM was 0.65, whilst last season it fell to 0.58. A return to form and an increase in opportunity should see the former Rabbitoh average in the 43-46 range this season.

James Roberts (BRI – $347,200) and Solomone Kata (NZW – $279,000)

This could be a battle between the two most exciting young centres in the league. James Roberts was electric at the Titans, and whilst he’ll eventually gel with his new team in Brisbane, you needn’t look further than Anthony Milford’s transition to notice that Wayne Bennett will ease his new signing into things. Milford spent the first two months of last season settling into his new role, and whilst Roberts doesn’t have to negotiate a positional change, he’s unlikely going to have much pressure on him on a side as comprehensively impressive as the Broncos. The Broncos scored 135 more points than the Titans last season, so even with a slow start Roberts may challenge 20 tries for the year. You should be able to pick him up a little cheaper in a month or two though.

Solomone Kata becomes an immediate ‘consider’, and maybe even a ‘target’ if he’s named in the centres to start the season at the Warriors. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck isn’t as noted for his try-scoring ability as he is his creativity. He can break a tackle and hit a gap but at the end of the day, he had more try-assists than he did tries last season. The men outside him did the real damage at the Roosters, with Shaun Kenny-Dowall still amongst the NRL’s top try-scorers last season despite most of the Roosters’ backline hitting double digits on the year. Kata scored 12 tries last season, a number which may not be improved on by much this season, however his 79 tackle breaks and mere 2 try assists are an indication of his power and potential for growth. An incredibly strong point of difference whose time in the centres as opposed to on the wing alone should see his average grow by 5-8 points.

Kurt Mann (SGI – $250,100)

Josh Dugan averaged 65 points per game when in the centres in 2014, and bookended that effort with averages of 72 and 58 at fullback. Whilst Kurt Mann is not the player Josh Dugan is, he has the potential to greatly improve should he start 2016 as the Dragons’ custodian. We under-rated Mann’s speed in our NRL Fantasy preview, and whilst his defensive positioning was inadequate at times during the trials, the grinding nature of Dragons game should make-up for that. St. George’s low-error, defence-first philosophy sees kicking return metres sky-rocket, and as a result tackle breaks should follow. With just 3 tries and 3 try assists to his name last season, there is enormous scope for improvement on the attacking end, whilst his mediocre tackling numbers (12.89 per game) suggest he isn’t going to miss out on much in the way of base statistics by moving to the back.

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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