The Auckland Nines gave us a taste, but we got our first look at some of 2015's NRL teams in action in the 13-a-side game on the weekend – with the first round of trial games producing a few clues for savvy NRL Fantasy coaches. A few bargain buys impressed, while a couple of injuries could shake things up for the all-important Round 1 team lists. Here's my wrap of the key Fantasy news from the weekend's trials.
There may have been a whopping 51 players used during the Charity Shield clash between the Rabbitohs and the Dragons, but that did give a few young guns their chance to shine. Dragons winger Eto Nabuli ($128,000) showed some of the brilliance that caught the eye at the Auckland Nines to get to a Benji Marshall kick and hurl it back infield for a stylish try assist, while rookie Rabbitohs back-rower Chris Grevsmuhl ($128,000) looked dynamic with ball in hand and earned himself a try.
There are no guarantees that either will get a start by the time Round 1 comes around, but one young gun who is on track for a first-grade call-up is Euan Aitken ($128,000), who has been told he'll be playing in the Dragons' World Club Series clash with Warrington in the UK.
In bad news from the Charity Shield, St George Illawarra's super-talented but injury plagued fullback/centre Josh Dugan ($385,000) is in doubt again after hyperextending his knee during the Dragons' Charity Shield draw with Souths. Ahead of scan results, Dugan was optimistic of playing in his side's World Club Series clash against Warrington in England, but there's still a chance he could miss the start of the season.
The most popular cash cow in NRL Fantasy, Mitch Cornish ($164,000) did his chances of securing the Raiders halfback spot no harm with a strong display in Canberra's win over Melbourne with his kicking and running game impressing. Fellow halfback (and Cornish's main rival) Sam Williams also looked good though, grabbing a try, while Tim Glasby ($203,000) was the pick of the Storm forwards.
Ben Barba ($269,000) made a strong start to his Cronulla Sharks career with two try assists against the Manly Sea Eagles, albeit in a match the Sharks lost 42-22.
Another talented star getting a new chance at a new club is Blake Ferguson ($288,000), whose first appearance since joining the Roosters wasn't in the red, white and blue at all. Ferguson played for the Tricolours' feeder club the Wyong Roos against Penrith and grabbed the headlines with two tries in five minutes for the Roos' only points of the game.
New recruit David Hala ($146,000) looks set to get to get a run in the Titans' 17 (or even the starting side) after an injury to lock Ben Ridge in the Gold Coast's trial against the Warriors. Ridge's injury also all but guarantees that skipper Nate Myles ($328,000) will start at lock for the Titans, a position he started in just once in 2014 – playing 70 minutes and making 58 tackles in that game.
Popular Fantasy cheapie Lachlan Coote ($137,000) got a start at fullback for the Cowboys but is likely to be battling Robert Lui for the five-eighth role this season after Michael Morgan's breakout season at the back last year, and Lui made life a little tougher for Coote by getting on the scoreboard in North Queensland's 18-6 win over Brisbane. Returning Broncos coach Wayne Bennett gave several of his younger players a run, with recruit James Gavet ($135,000) among several standouts in the forward pack.
And in non-trials news, Johnathan Thurston ($484,000) may have scared away a few Fantasy coaches by admitting he and Cowboys coach Paul Green are planning for the Kangaroos superstar to be rested at times during the season in a bid to have him playing at his best come finals time.
Speaking of established Fantasy stars, there is also speculation injured Raiders workhorse Shaun Fensom ($519,000) – who was set to miss the opening month of the NRL season through injury – could now make his comeback in next weekend's trial against Newcastle. Stay tuned.
How will these changes affect your NRL Fantasy team? Register now and challenge your mates.