Shaun Johnson strikes again, a new cash cow arrives and the four clubs to get you through the tricky last byes.
Bulldogs uncover a new gem
Last week, at a time when NRL Fantasy coaches were looking for a cheap downgrade option in the second row, the Bulldogs offered a starting berth to towering rookie forward Shaun Lane with Josh Jackson out through suspension. A little more than 1000 Fantasy coaches snapped him up at $135,000 an he more than delivered on Monday night, with a try, a try assist, 32 tackles, 167 run metres and five tackle busts for a whopping 82 Fantasy points – and a huge $47,000 price rise. He's likely to return to the bench when Jackson returns, but with Tony Williams out for the season through injury Lane can be expected to play some role for the Bulldogs for the rest of the year.
Shaun Johnson has arrived in 2015
Warriors and Kiwis halfback Shaun Johnson came under a bit of criticism early in the season for his slow start to 2015, following on from a dominant performance in last year's season-ending Four Nations tournament. It turns out, Johnson was just taking his time to warm up – especially in NRL Fantasy. In the first six rounds he failed to hit a single 50, averaging a tick under 39. Then he piled on five straight 50+ efforts, including a 75 and a 74. Just as he looked like becoming a consistent scorer he scored a season-low 11, including five missed tackles and a couple of errors, in a thumping loss to the Rabbitohs.
He may not be the most consistent half in Fantasy, but he is the one most capable of going big. Last week against the Titans he racked up 96 points, and this week he did even better against Canberra with 99, featuring a try, two try assists, five goals and a season-high seven tackle breaks.
It made him the Fantasy player of the round for the second week running, ahead of Panthers four-try hero David Simmons (83), Lane (82), tackle-busting props Jesse Bromwich (77), George Burgess (75) and Andrew Fifita (71), Knights speedster Dane Gagai (76) and workaholic hookers Nathan Friend (74) and Andrew McCullough (68).
It was actually a fairly strong-scoring week all round with 25 players hitting 60 points or more and the week's top team scoring a massive 1109 points for the round. One notable mover on the Fantasy scene in recent times is Dragons prop Mike Cooper, who has averages more than 65 over his past three games thanks largely to sensational defensive performances – he's made 475 tackles this season (153 coming in his past three games) with just seven missed tackles all year.
The byes are back
Get ready for a couple of lean weeks in NRL Fantasy land with the third and probably toughest of the three major bye rounds coming up. This week all players named in the top 17s for State of Origin III are out of action along with the Broncos, Knights, Titans, Bulldogs, Raiders, Warriors, Storm and Roosters – and with a few bye-friendly players also succumbing to injury in recent weeks there won't be many Fantasy teams who can field full teams this weekend.
Making matters worse is the fact next week's Round 18 won't be much easier. Most Origin players should back up but with the Eels, Cowboys, Rabbitohs and Tigers having a bye next week a lot of Fantasy teams – especially those who had planned for the major bye rounds – will find themselves down on troops.
One way to limit the damage is to look at players from clubs who will play in both Round 17 and 18 – that is, the Panthers, Dragons, Sea Eagles and Sharks.