NRL Fantasy Finals: Week 1 preview
The Telstra Premiership Finals Series brings with it a brand new Fantasy game, with your chance to win $500 a week, $1000 in Grand Final week and $2000 plus a couple of tickets to either the Four Nations, the 2015 NRL All Stars or a 2015 Origin game if you're the top scoring Fantasy coach over the next month.
Playing is simple: pick a six-man combined team for every finals match, including a captain who will earn triple points and a vice captain who will earn double. There's no salary cap, so just pick the players you think will get you the most points. Otherwise, scoring is the same as regular NRL Fantasy.
Generally, make your prediction of how each game will play out first before naming your six-man side. If you expect one team to win big, then load up on attacking stars from that side. If you expect a tighter contest, go with tackle-hungry forwards and halves who dominate the long-range kicking duties. If you're not sure, take a gamble on a few lesser-known players – a lot of Fantasy teams will look very similar in the finals, so a few bold selections could put you ahead of the pack.
So which six will you pick for each of this weekend's blockbusters? Here's the team news heading into Finals Week 1.
Sea Eagles v Rabbitohs, Friday night at Allianz Stadium
Sea Eagles: Brett Stewart and Brenton Lawrence have been named to return from their ankle and knee injuries in a couple of big boosts for Manly, although they face stiff competition in the Fantasy stakes from Greg Inglis and the Burgess brothers. Daly Cherry-Evans and Anthony Watmough have been in solid form and will be popular picks, while Jamie Lyon is a safe bet at centre – especially if you're tipping a Sea Eagles win.
Rabbitohs: I mentioned in last week's Fantasy awards that Souths have been the top-scoring club in the NRL this year, and they boast strong contenders in all six positions. Issac Luke will get the vast majority of selections at hooker in this match-up against the inexperienced Jayden Hodges, while Sam Burgess has been superb all year (up until last week's 24). Greg Inglis is carrying a hip injury so you could get a jump on the pack if you take a punt on someone else in the WFB position, although he did rack up 65 points with two try assists and a season-high 234 run metres last week. Adam Reynolds has had a great back half of the competition but it'll be interesting to see if he still dominates the playmaking duties with Luke Keary and John Sutton both in the starting side as well.
Roosters v Panthers, Saturday at Allianz Stadium
Roosters: Sam Moa and Isaac Liu start, with Dylan Napa and Aidan Guerra both out through suspension. If you predict a big Chooks win then attacking weapons Michael Jennings, James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce are all good options, while Boyd Cordner is looking a very safe bet in the back row with no Guerra in the side (although Sonny Bill Williams isn't a bad player either).
Panthers: Jeremy Latimore returns on the bench and David Simmons is 18th man in Penrith's only changes this week. Matt Moylan is in great form but it's very hard to go past tackle-break machine Josh Mansour in the WFB position for this one, and the same goes for James Segeyaro at hooker. Jamie Soward's a dark horse if you're tipping an upset for Penrith.
Cowboys v Broncos, Saturday night at 1300Smiles Stadium
Cowboys: Not surprisingly the boys from up north are unchanged after whipping Manly last week, and they could dominate this one again. Johnathan Thurston is an obvious buy but he was outshone by Robert Lui in the halves last week and will face stiff competition for Fantasy points from Brisbane's Ben Hunt, and it's a similar story for star prop Matt Scott against hard-working Bronco Josh McGuire. Jason Taumalolo can find his way to the tryline if you are happy to risk him in the 2RF position ahead of Brisbane's Corey Parker.
Broncos: It's a bit of a lucky dip in the WFB position in this game, with tries likely to determine which member of the back three from either side scores well, so Daniel Vidot and Lachlan Maranta could well be smart left-field options if you think the Broncos can score some points. Andrew McCullough is pretty much a must at hooker, while Corey Parker is good value somewhere in the forwards despite switching from lock to the front row this week. Sam Thaiday is back from suspension and should be fired up for a big one at lock.
Storm v Bulldogs, Sunday afternoon at AAMI Park
Storm: Bryan Norrie is back in the starting side but the real competition in this match-up comes from the other three starting props – Jesse Bromwich has been terrific this season and the two blonde Bulldogs up front haven't been bad either. Cameron Smith is under an injury cloud but if he's a confirmed starter he should be your captain or vice captain in this match-up, while fellow Big Three members Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater wouldn't look out of place in your side either.
Bulldogs: Dale Finucane is added to the side on a seven-man bench, but the starting side is unchanged from the one that lost to the Titans last weekend. James Graham and Aiden Tolman are both reliable 50-point options at prop, while Josh Jackson could be a big Fantasy winner if the Bulldogs are forced to defend for the bulk of this game. Tim Lafai has been in great knick in attack and is likely to benefit if the Bulldogs lift their game, while Michael Ennis is averaging 50 points a game recently and should be picked up if Cameron Smith is ruled out.