The big talking points from the weekend's NRL Fantasy scores, including a new generation of back-row stars, the next great cash cow and the welcome return of an old Fantasy favourite.
Next generation of gun Fantasy back-rowers has arrived
Sia Soliola is fast cementing himself as arguably the Fantasy buy of the year this season, with the dual-position Raider collecting another 59 points and proving to be the most reliable option available at centre, but he's just one of several back-rowers who have stepped up a level or two this season.
Tohu Harris (83) scored two tries and has been fearsome in attack and defence at the Storm, Ethan Lowe (64) is getting big minutes and big scores at the Cowboys, Warriors back-row duo Ryan Hoffman (55) and Simon Mannering (68) were already 80-minute players but are now posting the best Fantasy scores of their careers, Dragons duo Jack de Belin (50) and Tyson Frizell (70) are both averaging around 50 points a game, Tigers Sauaso Sue (57) and Martin Taupau (83) aren't far behind, while Glenn Stewart (47) is fit and firing at Souths and is terrific value at his price.
All those guys are rising fast this season, so there are a lot of options out there if you want to ditch an underperforming back rower. Traditionally a prop, Martin Taupau is set to be made available in the second row in Fantasy next week after he plays his fourth game at lock.
Proven performers reward coaches' faith
It was another good week for Fantasy coaches who resisted the urge to trade out established stars, with a string of pricey players living up to their reputations in Round 3. Corey Parker is well and truly back in business as a walking, running and tackling stats machine, picking up a try in an 79-point performance, while Broncos teammate Ben Hunt showed why he was Fantasy's most valuable half last year with 75.
Those who held onto Robbie Farah were rewarded with an old-fashioned 80-minute performance against the Rabbitohs worth 75 points, while Greg Inglis (72), Trent Merrin (83), Aidan Sezer (68) and Blake Ferguson (64) all scored well after slightly underwhelming performances in the past fortnight. Improving Broncos fullback Jordan Kahu produced the goods as well, scoring 48 including a try and two assists to jump $24,000 in value. (Even those who sold Farah this week did better than OK, with James Segeyaro managing 63 despite spending time off the field with a badly cut lip, while Cameron Smith pulled off a trademark 80 for the Storm).
The next great cash cow?
There was mixed news for the new potential cash cows on the scene in Round 3. The most popular, Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote, made a passable start with 20 in a losing effort, and will improve. Eels late inclusion John Falou didn't make much of an impact against the Warriors with 10 points. But the real success story was highly-rated Dragons centre Euan Aitken, who was terrific in his side's comeback win over the Dragons with a whopping nine tackle breaks in a 61-point performance. He'll make money fast and is available at winger/fullback as well, so is an obvious choice if you need a new recruit in the outside backs.
Fullback flops and other bad news
While Inglis, Kahu, Kurt Gidley (51) and James Tedesco (53) cashed in with good scores on the weekend, it was a tough week for several other popular Fantasy fullbacks. Brett Morris came back down to earth with 17 after a staggeringly good start to his new role at the Bulldogs, while Will Hopoate (23), the returning Josh Dugan (18) and Michael Gordon (17) all struggled to make much impact in attack.
There were also worrying signs for owners of Shaun Fensom, who started Canberra's clash with the Dragons on the bench – and yet still managed to hit 59 points in about 60 minutes – while the 12,235 Fantasy coaches who own Luke Brooks should start looking elsewhere for a cheap half after the Tigers young gun finished with zero thanks to five missed tackles and an error.
On the positive side, those on the hunt for a new star winger/fullback would have been excited to see a strong return from bearded Panther Josh Mansour on Monday night, with the Kangaroos winger making nine tackle breaks and a ton of run metres in a 62-point effort. He's not cheap, but on current evidence he'll be worth the price tag this season.