NRL Supercoach 2016: Fullbacks Analysis

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In 2016, Blindside Sport will cover not only NRL Fantasy, but also NRL Supercoach. Whilst much of the research and many of our recommendations will overlap, the difference in scoring system necessitates a secondary series of articles.

We’ll begin our analysis at the fullback position. This season, there are two distinct tiers of players at fullback – genuine/proven keepers and prospective stars. There is a vast gulf in price between these two brackets, giving coaches no shortage of options when looking to fill their two squad vacancies. A chance to differentiate or an opportunity to guarantee yourselves some phenomenal production?

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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Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (NZW – $489,500) and James Tedesco (WST – $469,500)

The only two fullbacks to crack the Top-10 most expensive players in Supercoach this season, coaches will likely be confronted with the tough decision of only being able to select one of these two. Each has their advantages, with Tuivasa-Sheck’s move to the Warriors and Tedesco’s run of fixtures to open the season both boasting the potential for score increases.

In 2015, Tuivasa-Sheck – for all of his greatness – scored just 11 tries, make 14 line-breaks and had 12 try-assists. Whilst all impressive numbers, that Sam Tomkins – an inferior player – scored 13 tries and had 13 try-assists in 2014 bodes well for RTS’s move. Shaun Johnson’s running game, the Warriors’ expansive brand of football and the investment the Warriors have made in Tuivasa-Sheck should see an increase in those numbers. Our primary concern is whether or not his team will function as efficiently form the outset of the season as the Roosters typically do. Shaun Johnson’s production at the beginning of last season was poor, and with RTS’s Nines campaign not necessarily as electric as many expected, coaches should be wary investing so much.

Tedesco meanwhile is on a team which builds on his individual attacking brilliance. His 17 tries, 12 try-assists and 14 line-breaks last season represent an increase on RTS’s figures, however as a result there is little chance of seeing a dramatic increase on his 2015 effort. By the same token, there is a strong chance that much of Tedesco’s production is seen over the opening weeks of the season. A run of fixtures against the Warriors, Sea Eagles, Titans, Eels, Sharks, Knights, Storm, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs and Knights again to begin the season bodes well for the Tiger, particularly considering he that just 3 of his tries and 3 of his try-assists came in his 7 games against other opposition. Expect Tedesco to fly out of the gates this season.

Clint Gutherson (PAR – $240,000)

Gutherson is an exceptional cash cow option in NRL Fantasy this season, however the Parramatta winger starts 2015 priced prohibitively in Supercoach. With the left edge of Kieran Foran, Michael Jennings and Semi Radradra likely to see most of the Eels’ attacking opportunities, Gutherson and Brad Takairangi are very much mid-tier options. Gutherson played just 13 minutes of action in 2015, after a 2014 campaign in which he netted 3 tries in 3 appearances. He’s unlikely to repeat that effort this season and whilst he is arguably under-priced, it isn’t by enough considering the young talent in Parramatta that is threatening his spot in the starting side.

Blake Ferguson (SYD – $314,200) and Valentine Holmes (CRO – $291,400)

Ferguson and Holmes both look set for fullback berths to start the new season. Ferguson is a proven fantasy commodity and is set to fill the boots of arguably the league’s most dynamic player at a club with an abundance of weapons. Last season, he put up just 7 tries and 4 try assists, numbers hampered by persistent injury. This season, without Maloney and potentially Pearce, expect whoever wears the custodian jersey to have a central role in all that happens in Bondi. A difficult run of fixtures to begin the campaign doesn’t help his stock, but with Origin very much a far cry for Ferguson at this stage of his career, he looms as a season-long keeper. In 2013 at the Raiders, Ferguson averaged 69 points per game, a mark we’re expecting him to get close to this campaign.

By comparison, Valentine Holmes not only has competition for the Sharks’ fullback spot, but boasts less potential as a Supercoach asset. The Sharks will be more potent in attack this season, 16 tries from 25 games in 2015 was hardly a modest return. Whilst built in the mould of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Holmes demonstrated little consistency last season, however Shane Flanagan’s rotation policy between he, Barba and Gordon wouldn’t have helped the youngster. Regardless, with little hope of repeating his 16-try effort if he’s moved from the wing, expect a disappointing debut season as the Sharks’ number 1 if Holmes is named fullback from Round 1.

Jake Mamo (NEW – $298,600)

Mamo is an interesting prospect, whose presence didn’t emerge on our radar until after the NRL Nines tournament. Having bulked up substantially in the off-season, the Newcastle junior is exuding confidence – something which well and truly showed in Auckland. In a struggling team last season, Mamo scored 4 tries, broke 34 tackles and averaged 163.7 running metres per game. With his physique, Newcastle’s coaching and the Knights’ halves combination changing over the summer, expect improved returns this season. Nathan Brown will be looking to the future through the 2016 campaign, so expect plenty of involvement from 21-year-old. At just $298,600, Mamo offers yet another under-priced fullback option with dual-position eligibility. A consider due to his age and lack of first-grade experience, we believe Mamo to have a relatively high ceiling for this coming year and see him as undervalued by at least $25,000. Whilst unlikely, Dane Gagai playing fullback this season would render Mamo an ‘avoid’.

Michael Gordon (PAR – $285,900)

One of the few goal-kickers available at the position, Michael Gordon represents tremendous value for his coming season. A ‘lock’ in our team at this stage, Gordon spent several unsuccessful portions of 2015 on the wing in one of the less potent attacks in the competition. This year, he’s almost guaranteed an increase on his 4 tries, 5 line-breaks, 66 tackle-breaks and 4 try-assists from 2015 given his guaranteed opportunities at fullback and the Eels’ summer recruitment. His, 2014 numbers of 6 tries, 13 line-breaks, 84 tackle-breaks and 8 try-assists aren’t necessarily eye-popping numbers, but when you consider the probable increase in conversion attempts this season, we’re looking at an increase of at least 8-10 points. As noted in our NRL Fantasy analysis of this position, Gordon averaged just 72 minutes per game last season, meaning he’s already set for a 10% increase on his 2015 purely through increased time on the field. The Eels’ bye coverage is just another reason to have him as your ‘lock’ at the position.

Billy Slater (MEL – $305,700)

Slater is on the cusp of our ‘target’ category, however concerns over his fitness and durability taint our confidence in his Supercoach production going forward. Heavily discounted following his injury-shortened 2015, Slater is priced 5.5 points per game below what he was averaging before his injury last season. When you consider he scored just 2 tries over his 7 games, there is plenty of room for improvement, something his enormous body of work prior to 2015 attests to. In 2013, Slater averaged 72.09 points per game, before that number slipped to 63 points per game in 2014. Is age catching up with the Kangaroo and Queensland veteran? Possibly, however when you consider that Slater is predominantly an attacking player, that Melbourne scored 589 NRL points in 2013 and just 536 in 2014 is also a potential issue. Without Slater, the Storm scored just 467 points during the Home-and-Away season last year, and whilst he may assist that number bouncing back somewhat, there is a good chance Slater’s production will continue to hover around the 50-point mark this campaign. He has upside, but with Origin and injury concerns lingering, and the Storm no longer the free-flowing juggernaut of yesteryear, there may not be as much room for improvement as we’d like.

Josh Dugan (STG – $365,200) and Cameron Munster (MEL – $391,300)

Two fullbacks set to spend 2015 in the centres, Dugan and Munster are interesting prospects heading into the new season. Munster will miss the beginning of the new season through injury, however should be available from approximately Round 3. The youngster stepped up in the absence of Billy Slater last season, averaging 172.65 metres and 4.12 tackle breaks per game. His 7 tries and 4 try-assists are likely repeatable in the centres, particularly with Billy Slater returning to the fold, however his reduction in base statistics is likely to make him more erratic than coaches would ideally like. Priced similarly to Inglis and more expensively than Dugan, we see little reason to invest in a player set to play on the opposite side of the field to first-choice avenue of attack Will Chambers.

Dugan meanwhile makes the move to centre to become the focal point of the Dragons attack. His defensive production at the position in 2014 was decent, with his size placing him in good stead against his respective opposition. Still, he missed over 3 tackles per game, something which he would do well to address. When you consider his attacking output in 2014 was 4.9 tackle breaks per game, 10 tries and 121.2 running metres per outing, there is a chance we’ll see a minor increase on his 2015 production (7 tries, 4.9 tackle breaks per game, 182 running metres per game) purely through additional tries and try-assists, particularly with Jason Nightingale operating outside of him. We consider Dugan a low-risk, low-reward option this season, with his production unlikely to dazzle given the Dragons’ defensive strategy.

Brett Morris (CBY – $372,600)

Expected to score 59 points per game to match his current price point, there is far more risk than reward in Brett Morris. The former Dragons winger had an inconsistent debut year as Bulldogs custodian, with injury, Origin-duty and the shift to fullback eventually consigning 2015 to being a year of ‘transition’. After a blistering start in which he scored 3 tries over his first two games, and a debut season in which he scored 8 tries in 14 matches, for Morris to just average 59 is a concern. In a team constructed like the Bulldogs – big, defensive, conservative – there is little room for a Supercoach fullback, and 2015 showed us just that. Despite his production, there is little room for Morris to grow, and with Trent Hodkinson having left the club, there is every chance the Bulldogs struggle to find their way with Mbye and Reynolds steering the ship. It wouldn’t surprise to see Morris finish the season outside the Top 10 at the position.

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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