Scout Report: Test Match Fantasy preview
It's Rep Round, meaning NRL Fantasy coaches can take a breather from the stress of managing their 25-man squad for a week and focus instead on a much simpler way to win a couple of tickets to the NRL Grand Final plus $500 – Test Match Fantasy.
If you haven't already, pick your team now: Just go here (or click the Match Day tab in the NRL Fantasy app), pick six players from the Australian and New Zealand teams, name your captain and vice captain and then follow your team's progress during Friday night's Anzac Test.
There's no salary cap, and the only limitations on your team are you must have one hooker, one front-rower, one second-rower, one half, one centre, and one winger/fullback. In Test match Fantasy, your captain earns triple points and your vice captain earns double (unlike NRL Fantasy where only your captain earns double points) so both these selections are crucial.
So, who should you pick in your Test match Fantasy team?
There are few obvious reliable options. Respective skippers Cameron Smith and Simon Mannering have both been in superb scoring touch this season, ranking first and third amongst all Fantasy players, and are likely to tackle their hearts out as usual. Kangaroos lock Corey Parker sits between them in second place on the NRL Fantasy player rankings and is another proven workhorse, although with Trent Merrin on the bench he may get less game time than he's used to at Brisbane (and he doesn't have the goal-kicking duties at international level).
Then there are the gambles. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been eating up metres for fun for the Roosters this year and will give Kangaroos rivals Greg Inglis and Josh Dugan a run for their money in the wing/fullback spot (Inglis and Dugan are also available at centre). The only player in this game apart from Tuivasa-Sheck who has run for more than 200 a game this season is Australia prop Aaron Woods, who is in career-best form, but he has competition in the front-row position from Kiwis star Jesse Bromwich and Wests Tigers wrecking ball Martin Taupau – who dominated the Aussies after coming off the bench in last year's Four Nations final.
The halves are a bit of a lottery – Johnathan Thurston has been the pick of the four starters across both teams this season, but Cooper Cronk usually takes the bulk of the general kicking duties for Australia. Shaun Johnson was brilliant in the Four Nations but has been relatively quiet for the Warriors this season. Kieran Foran is a class act but his strengths on the field rarely transfer to good Fantasy scores. Go with your gut on this one – who do you think will create the most try-scoring opportunities?
In these one-off Match Day Fantasy games, "go with your gut" is probably the best advice I can give. Consistency might usually be a big factor when picking players in NRL Fantasy but it counts for little when you're just talking about 80 minutes. Michael Jennings or Manu Vatuvei could score a hat-trick and be the game's top scorer. Sam Thaiday or Tohu Harris could combine a string of tackle busts with a 40-tackle defensive effort. Issac Luke could wreak havoc around the ruck as he did in the Four Nations and outscore Cameron Smith.
So try mixing things up when you pick your six, get your friends or family involved in a league and battle for bragging rights, and by the weekend the $500 and grand final tickets could be yours.