Scout Report: Round 8 teams wrap
The Round 8 team lists bring some good news this week, with key NRL Fantasy players Paul Gallen, Shaun Fensom and George Jennings among those named to make their return.
Bulldogs v Wests Tigers
Bulldogs: The Dogs are boosted by the return of Josh Morris and Tim Browne through injury and Sam Kasiano from suspension, with Morris bumping Moses Mbye back to the bench. Mbye's presence isn't great news for Michael Lichaa, who played the full 80 minutes (and scored 50) with Mbye covering Morris in the centres last week. Lichaa could be upgraded to Cameron Smith if you're playing purely to win your head-to-head league. After a slow start to the year, Josh Jackson is averaging 57 in the past three weeks, while Aidan Tolman is averaging 50 for the season. James Graham will miss another couple of rounds through suspension.
Tigers: Keith Galloway is out with a shoulder injury, with Ava Seumanufagai starting at prop and Matt Lodge joining the bench. Seumanufagai's promotion is bad news for Sauaso Sue owners – suggesting Sue may have dropped down the pecking order and won't get a start when Aaron Woods is away on Origin duty. He's a definite sell. Martin Taupau is a hold despite a couple of mediocre scores in the past two weeks. Cash cow Kyle Lovett has almost peaked, but will come in handy over the bye rounds for overall points.
Warriors v Titans
Warriors: Konrad Hurrell has been dropped, with star rookie Solomone Kata keeping his place in the centres instead with David Fusitu'a returning to the side. Prop Albert Vete is also dropped for Sam Rapira. Former under-20s star Raymond Faitala-Mariner is the new name on the bench and could be a cut-price cash-out option in the second row, although there are no guarantees about his job security at this stage. Simon Mannering remains easily the Warriors' best Fantasy player this year despite scoring "just" 46 on the weekend, with his average still at 60, while Shaun Johnson has bottomed out in price and is starting to turn it around with 48 and 51 in recent weeks. Tui Lolohea has peaked after about $100,000 in price rises.
Titans: Dave Taylor will miss a week with suspension while Ryan Simpkins (ACL, season) and Agnatius Paasi (ankle) are also out. Nate Myles is named at prop but will need to pass a fitness test on Friday to play, while Lachlan Burr starts for Taylor and Matt Robinson and Eddy Pettybourne joining the bench. Kane Elgey was great for the Titans last week but isn't a big stats player, scoring just 36 despite two try assists and 21 tackles. Popular cash cow Ryan James is ready to be upgraded or cashed out. Avoid being sucked in by Will Zillman's 81 on the weekend. Aidan Sezer had a very quiet first half last week but kicked on to reach 50, and looks a fairly solid buy in the halves.
Knights v Cowboys
Knights: No changes as yet for the Knights. Dane Gagai was outstanding for his 71 last week and is a keeper in the centres – although he could still play wing for Queensland in Origin. Jarrod Mullen's price is plummeting but he could be a steal in a week or two if his kicking game picks up.
Cowboys: North Queensland are on a winning streak and are also unchanged. Jake Granville was the star last weekend with a match-winning hat-trick and 84 Fantasy points, but before that game he had averaged just 30. He did play 60+ minutes for the first time in Round 7, and if that trend continues he'll improve, but if not then he's just a short-term cash cow at this stage – albeit one with a break even of -18. Lachlan Coote was the other shining light for the Cowboys with 64 and is a genuine keeper at the back. Ethan Lowe is still playing 80 minutes but his big scores have dried up in the past couple of weeks – I'd hold him for another week at least, considering he was averaging close to 60 a fortnight ago.
Roosters v Dragons
Roosters: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will miss up to six weeks with a pectoral strain, with Sam Moa promoted to starting prop. JWH's absence should leave more work for in-form big men Dylan Napa and Sio Siua Taukeiaho, with both zeroing in on keeper status in Fantasy – although Napa could also be playing his way into a Maroons jumper. With four straight 50+ scores, Mitchell Pearce could be a quality Fantasy pickup this year if he doesn't make the NSW Origin side.
Dragons: No changes for the Dragons, who just keep winning in the NRL and keep impressing in Fantasy, with five of their forwards averaging 49 or better. And yet their most-owned player is still winger Eto Nabuli, who scored on the weekend but needs a few more tries to justify his place in your side. Hopefully that spectacular hat-trick he's capable of is coming soon – but the fact only the last-placed Sea Eagles have scored fewer points than the Dragons this year isn't a good sign.
Storm v Sea Eagles
Storm: Unchanged. Why did we ever doubt Cameron Smith? The Storm skipper and Fantasy superstar slipped under the radar via an injury cloud ahead of Round 1 but is once again the game's best player, with a superb 76 on the weekend. Jesse Bromwich and Tohu Harris are still going strong as well with 54 each. Cameron Munster has a low break even but probably only has another couple of games at fullback before Billy Slater is fit again.
Sea Eagles: Kieran Foran returns to replace the injured Jamie Lyon at five-eighth, while James Hasson joins the bench to bump Jayden Hodges to 18th man. Daly Cherry-Evans is Manly's only real Fantay player of note in what is proving to be a forgettable season for the boys from Brookvale, averaging 54 points a game but with a strong chance of Origin selection on the horizon.
Broncos v Eels
Broncos: Justin Hodges is out with a hamstring injury, with Lachlan Maranta to line up at fullback. Alex Glenn will miss about a month with a broken eye socket, with Sam Thaiday moving to the back row and Adam Blair starting at prop. Jarrod Wallace and Francis Molo also return on the bench. With all teams getting a week off for rep round next weekend, Jordan Kahu will return for Round 9. Ben Hunt's 17 last week was a little embarrassing following his heroic 90 against the Roosters – with a season-high six missed tackles and a season-low seven run metres and 306 kick metres the reason for it. That score should be a one-off. Hopefully.
Eels: Parramatta rejigged their backline on the weekend with Reece Robinson at fullback, John Folau on the wing and Will Hopoate at centre – in a move that worked out well for popular Fantasy buys Folau and Hopoate. Folau scored two barnstorming tries for 51 points (and is now a dual position CTR/WFB in Fantasy), while Hopoate made 26 tackles which should at least make him a reliable 30-point Fantasy player (if you've still got him and are playing for overall, hold him for the bye rounds). They'll do the same this week, while Darcy Lussick starts at prop and Danny Wicks drops back to the bench. Richie Fa'aoso is 18th man after picking up a concussion in his NRL return last week. Nathan Peats scored 65 last week but that did include two tries.
Panthers v Sharks
Panthers: Josh Mansour's six-week knee injury means popular Fantasy cheapie George Jennings returns on the wing, but Dean Whare's return from injury means Robert Jennings drops out of the centres. Ben Kite is out with a broken leg, with Sam McKendry starting at prop and Sam Adamson joining the bench. With a week off next week, Elijah Taylor (knee) and Lewis Brown (ribs) are both set to be rested this weekend to be fit for Round 9.
Sharks: Paul Gallen is the big inclusion at lock, bumping Jayson Bukuya to the bench. Stay tuned to the late mail before committing to him as captain this week though. The Sharks were terrific in the wet against Souths on Monday, led by Luke Lewis (61), while Jack Bird scored a second consecutive 50. Chris Heighington isn't much of a Fantasy factor this year but he is now a dual-position forward after playing four games at prop.
Rabbitohs v Raiders
Rabbitohs: No changes, with Cameron McInnes officially named at five-eighth after playing there on Monday, with Glenn Stewart back in the No.11 jersey. Stewart was a man on a mission on Monday night with a massive 62 tackles in the wet for 69 points, while English twins George and Tom Burgess must have felt right at home with 58 and 57 points respectively. Chris Grevsmuhl's time in the starting side was short-lived but he'll keep rising in price for another couple of weeks.
Raiders: Dane Tilse's exit to England means Paul Vaughan starts at prop, making way for the return of tackle machine Shaun Fensom at lock. Mark Nicholls is added to the bench. At $321,000, Vaughan is an interesting prospect now that he appears to be a long-term starter following Tilse's release, having racked up 60 from lock last week. Sam Williams didn't quite keep up his Fantasy form with just 24 on the weekend, but another win means Mitch Cornish is no closer to taking back the Canberra No.7 jersey.