The NRL Fantasy Front – Round 2

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It’s time to settle into the weekly grind that is NRL Fantasy! In 2014, Blindside Sport will release a weekly article, formatted to give you all the information you need to know in the most concise way possible. Whether you’re a novice coach or an expert looking for more detailed statistical analysis, we will have all of your bases covered for the entire NRL Premiership season.

Alongside our weekly NRL Podcast and round-by-round NRL Predictions, we hope to provide you with a comprehensive overview of everything Rugby League, from Dream Team through to the biggest issues confronting one of the greatest games of all.

Issues with Website

As many would have experienced in recent days, the NRL.com Fantasy website has been plagued several significant errors. Whilst an official apology has been issued by the NRL, the reality of new site managers and new official statisticians have led to severe flaws within the platform, including:

  • Website errors
  • Scoring errors
  • Inconsistent scoring from previous seasons
  • Statistics not being double-checked
  • Statistical breakdowns not being made readily available
  • NRL Fantasy Coach not providing services promised prior to subscription
  • Trades being made by the system without consent

Whilst all notable errors, there is little that us, nor anyone else in isolation, can do to assist or address the issue at hand. Patience looks like it will be necessary.

In more positive news, as part of the apology process, NRL.com will open an identical NRL Fantasy competition in Round 4. Entry will be open to all and the prize pool will mirror that of the full-season competition. More details will be provided in our Podcast this week and articles leading up to Round 4.

The Strategy Corner

With just one round behind us, it is important to maintain a sense of rationality when looking at altering your strategy heading into Round 2. With a maximum of just 2 trades a week at your disposal, significant changes cannot be made, so it is important to have a cohesive plan that isn’t reactive in nature. In light of this, we see FOUR distinct strategic options being pursued this week.

Trade-Saving | The favoured of all options. Whilst you have a maximum of 2 trades per week, your allotted quota for the season is just 34 trades. For the less mathematically inclined of us, that means you’ll run out of trades in Round 17 (of 26) if you go flat out from the start of the year.

With injuries and suspensions already reaping havoc, trading may be a necessity, however if possible, avoid trading at all costs to begin the season. One poor week won’t define your year, and whilst other players may abandon Anthony Milford after his average showing against North Queensland, you might find yourself with an elite ‘point of difference’.

Error-Rectifying | Jack Wighton, Michael Morgan, Daly Cherry-Evans. Most teams would have boasted at least one promising or proven player who failed to perform in Round 1. With some players, identified below, you may have legitimate grounds for concern, meaning that one or potentially two trades will have to be used to address an existing issue in your side.

Rookie Halves | After impressive performances from Ben Hunt, Michael Dobson, Daniel Holdsworth, Terry Campese and Gareth Widdop, under-priced halves look to have as much value as we originally thought. Whilst in last week’s edition, we advised having 1 elite and 3 rookies in the position, it may be that coaches looking to differentiate themselves offload the likes of Shaun Johnson for a cheaper alternative in pursuit of upgrading in other positions.

Origin-Offloading | With Paul Gallen out for 6 weeks, Andrew Fifita facing a possible suspension of 3 weeks, Andrew McCullough’s 80-minute performance rendering Robbie Farah expendable and Corey Parker seemingly over-priced given his shift to the front row, is it time to move away from Origin players all-together? With Gallen, the answer is almost certainly yes. If unavailable for 6 weeks, the Blues captain will play only a further 4 games before Round 15.

Rookie Wrap

Newcastle rookie Matt Minto headlines possible inclusions this week, however there are several surprising cheapies from Round 1 we’re recommending you jump on before him.

Cronulla’s Tinirau Arona is set to benefit from the absence of Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita, with the FRF/2RF dual-position player set to retain his starting spot for at least the near future. In Parramatta, the impressive Manu Ma’u is a near must-have given his outing against the Warriors last weekend.

For the Warriors, both Sione Louisi and John Palavi are expendable following less that ideal performances and the impending return of Ben Henry. At Wests, Cory Paterson was unimpressive in his Tigers debut, however his sustainable 54 minutes in an injury-stricken back-row makes him a valuable player to hold onto.

Josh Starling was disappointing, Dunamis Lui was impressive, however don’t jump on either until Manly’s front-row rotation has been settled with Jason King returning in Round 2.

In the centres, Willie Tonga and Matthew Allwood were solid yet unspectacular, while Dale Copley is shaping up as a must-have selection and is a straight-forward replacement for the injured Michael Witt.

As far as halves go, it is difficult to go wrong at the cheaper end of the spectrum. Luke Brooks was the lone disappointment, however don’t offload him just yet if you can help it. Michael Dobson, Ben Hunt and Daniel Holdsworth were steady, and with Todd Carney reportedly re-injuring his hamstring, Holdsworth emerges as the most valuable of the trio.

At hooker, Nathan Peats was incredibly impressive, however his club-imposed suspension means he’ll spend the next week in your non-playing reserves.

Buy

Fullback | The major buy option of the weekend is Tedesco ($217,908), following his 51-point performance against the Dragons. With his speed having returned, his combination with rookie half-back poised to improve and the Tigers’ favourable bye schedule all contribute to his value.

Centre | Dane Gagai was touted by many as a bargain heading into the 2014. Whilst Darius Boyd is out, expect more respectable performances from the Queensland Origin-hopeful. Given that centre was the most underwhelming position over Round 1, there is no shame in settling for a cheap player poised to average in the low 30s.

Halves | The lone beneficiary of Todd Carney’s injury, Daniel Holdsworth’s 52 points in Round 1 are set to become the norm for the immediate future at the very least. A wounded forward pack will see the lone playmaker kicking for territory more often than not.

Back Row | Jason Taumololo and Josh Papalii went head-to-head in Week 1, and are neck-and-neck when it comes to our recommendations for the long term. Taumololo’s likely Origin omission may put him slightly ahead, however if you’re looking for a point of difference, consider the Dragons’ Tyson Frizell who, after a two-try performance against the Tigers, is poised to become a starting front-rower.

Front Row | Very rarely does a rookie emerge on a ‘must-own’ list, but Tinirau Arona’s performance in Round 1, combined with the injury and suspension-stricken Shark pack leaves him as a likely candidate for an average of at least 40 in the short-term.

Hookers | Andrew McCullough received the 80 minutes many were hoping for. While concussion to Todd Lowrie helped the situation, it appears likely ‘Macca’s’ increased role will remain, considering the two were on the ground at the same time against the Bulldogs.

Sell

Fullback | Michael Witt may be back from injury earlier than expected, however with Sam Williams being given a chance to prove his worth, re-selection isn’t even guaranteed.

Centre | For those who started the season with Simon Mannering, it is too soon to give up hope, however we haven’t liked the Warrior’s prospects of maintaining his high standards all off-season.

Halves | John Sutton looks a shadow of his fantasy-self when playing in the forwards. Fewer touches, fewer minutes, fewer assists and no kicking are a recipe for a Dream Team decline.

Back Row | Paul Gallen was considered a rick given ASADA scandal ramifications, decreased minutes and a packed Origin schedule. His durability was also a worry, but few expected he’d go down this early. Offload now.

Front Row | Poised for more minutes given the vacuum of experience that is Manly’s front row, Brenton Lawrence’s responsibilities don’t seem to have increased, rendering him an awkwardly priced liability. Upgrade or downgrade.

Hookers | Few hookers have proved to be over-valued at this stage of the season, however the 13,095 coaches who have selected Daniel Mortimer have it all wrong.

Hold 

Fullback | Michael Morgan deserves another week in your team despite a poor showing in Round 1. In what was a strange game against the Raiders, some players recorded very low scores and are likely candidates to improve in Round 2.

Centre | Jack Wighton is another player capable of living up to expectations despite a catastrophic showing in the opening round. Expect an increased role in the kicking game against Newcastle, and possibly some more attacking stats. Defensively, he’s as solid as they come.

Halves | Daly Cherry-Evans was expected to continue his reign atop the world of Fantasy, however some unfavourable statistical collation saw him score just 36 points in Round 1. His class and composure is near unparalleled generally, and with a couple of brain-snaps against Melbourne behind him, the young Queenslander will return to his normal heights in Round 2.

Back Row | Corey Parker may have seen a decline in production following his move to the front row, however the silver fox remains a fantasy superstar. A must-have come the end of the season, you may as well save the trades and keep him for all 26 weeks.

Front Row | Suspension has ruled Andrew Fifita out for 2 weeks, however when he returns, he’ll see increased production in the absence of Paul Gallen for a full month. An impressive performance in Round 1 also lends weight to this argument.

Hookers | Kurt Gidley was an interesting point of difference for many, and whilst his injury concerns make him an unappealing option to us, his touted shift to fullback in the absence of Darius Boyd appears destined to not eventuate. Remaining at hooker, Gidley retains his value as a bargain.

Pearce’s Pride

Our unique selection in Liam Fulton backfired majorly in Round 1, with the Tigers’ back-rower collapsing in a heap after scoring just 11 points. This week, he turns into Taumololo given the doubt surrounding his availability for Round 2.

We’re contemplating just making the 1 trade, however Corey Paterson to Tinirau Arona may just prove too attractive a prospect to pass on.

With controversy surrounding the rankings, we’ve fluctuated between 5,000th and 7,000th following Round 1, however with the Liam Fulton incident behind us, hopefully we’ll be heading up the ladder during Round 2.

Contact the Team

In the comments section below, you can ask myself or NRL lead writer Daniel Boss a question.

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

Finally, check out our weekly Podcast in the lead up to Round 2.

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About Author

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

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