Scout Report: Fantasy Grand Final preview
There are two big reasons to pick a six-man Fantasy team for this week's NRL Grand Final. One: it's simple – six players, six positions, with a captain who will earn triple points and vice captain who will earn double. Two: get your team right and you could win an easy $1000 for the week's top score.
This week's decider will also determine the winner of the Holden NRL Fantasy Finals competition, with the overall winner to win $2000 plus two tickets to their choice of a Four Nations match, the 2015 All Stars game or a 2015 State of Origin match.
So, who should make your team? Here's my guide to the big positional match-ups.
As one of the best players in rugby league history and a veteran of four grand finals, Greg Inglis is an obvious choice here. The hulking Souths fullback has averaged 62.5 points in Finals Fantasy this year and can explode on any given day, with the ability to bust tackles, score and save tries and create chances for teammates.
But Inglis doesn't grab the spotlight every week so adventurous Fantasy coaches who look elsewhere could shoot up the ladder with a savvy selection here. For the rest of the outside backs on show it's largely a case of predicting who will get amongst the tries – Alex Johnston is a standout option if the Rabbitohs score some points down his flank, while Souths centre Kirisome Auva'a is also available at WFB and Sam Perrett could have a busy day at the back for the Dogs. If you're really keen to throw the dice then gamble on Corey Thompson, Mitch Brown or Lote Tuqiri to bag a try or three.
Josh Morris may be a NSW and Australian Kangaroos centre but it's his centre partner Tim Lafai who is the bigger Fantasy star, with a knack for breaking tackles and getting to the tryline earning him an average of 48 Fantasy points a week during the finals. Dylan Walker has enjoyed a breakout season for Souths and is your next best bet – particularly if you predict a comfortable win for the favourites. Again, whichever centre makes the most impact in attack will get the most points here.
Adam Reynolds is the standout option at half, with the Souths No.7 hitting top Fantasy form at the end of the season and averaging 67 points from his two finals games. His role as goalkicker and South Sydney's dominant kicker in general play means that Reynolds could be a massive benefactor of a big Rabbitohs victory here. Of course the Bulldogs boast the two current NSW halves, with Josh Reynolds proving to be a solid high-40s scorer in recent times and Trent Hodkinson arguably the most reliable field-goal kicker in the business (field goals = 5 points in Fantasy), so both will be good options in the event of a tight game or a Bulldogs victory. Neither is as reliable in Fantasy as Adam Reynolds, however.
The simple move here would be to snap up Sam Burgess – and make him your captain – with the rugby-bound English superstar having scored more Fantasy points this season than any player bar Cameron Smith. Burgess is a superb all-round scorer, with his points coming from tackles, run metres (more than any other player), tackle breaks, offloads and tries, giving him a massive 62-point average during the regular season.
In saying that, the form Fantasy back-rower in this contest is arguably Bulldogs young gun Josh Jackson. In the past month Jackson has averaged 56 points a game compared with Burgess's 44, and he's arguably a more reliable scorer as the bulk of his points come from tackling – which the Dogs are certain to be doing plenty of against Souths. Either player is a great buy here (or you could get both with Sam Burgess available in the front row as well). Tony Williams and John Sutton are the leading wildcard options.
It's the battle of the Englishmen here, with Sam and George Burgess coming up against Bulldogs star James Graham. George has been a little quiet of late but can tear through a defensive line on his day, while Sam is a genuine superstar and Graham is in outstanding form for the Dogs with last week's 67 taking his Finals Fantasy average to 62.
It's worth not forgetting Graham's prop partner and lookalike Aiden Tolman, who is a great workhorse in his own right and has averaged 56 during the finals. Any of the quartet could score big here, but it's hard to go past the combination of Dally M Lock of the Year Sam Burgess in the front row and Dally M Prop of the Year Graham up front.
Here is where it gets very interesting. What would usually be a simple toin coss between scurrying Rabbitohs dummy-half Issac Luke and Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis is now somewhat of a lottery, with Luke out through suspension and Ennis very unlikely to play. The latter has been named, so is still seemingly some chance, but the more likely scenario is Moses Mbye coming into the starting side at hooker opposite Rabbitohs rake Apisai Koroisau – who actually had a pretty strong 13-game cameo earlier this season but hasn't played in eight weeks. Still, that first-grade experience and a strong workrate gives Koroisau the edge here, with Mbye and Rabbitohs bench option Jason Clark the other options.