Top 11 most expensive players in NRL Fantasy
The new NRL Fantasy season is set to launch at the end of January, but we can already reveal which players you'll need to splash the cash on to get into your starting squad this year.
The top 10 most valuable Fantasy players feature several familiar names, and for this article I've extended the list to 11 to squeeze in one returning superstar, because I like to go the extra mile.
1. Corey Parker (Broncos) - $559,000
Age has not wearied the grey-haired Brisbane lock, who was declared the best player in State of Origin last year and remains arguably the best player in NRL Fantasy. He's the kind of forward who excels no matter how well his team is playing – when the Broncos are winning (which is often) he racks up run metres, tackle breaks, offloads and goals, when they're struggling he makes a lot of tackles. Parker is a pure points machine and worth every penny – although he'll be tough to afford at the start of the season.
2. Cameron Smith (Storm) - $548,000
Like Parker, Smith is a goal-kicking forward who scores his Fantasy points in a lot of ways and is therefore a great captaincy option. The scheming hooker makes a surprising number of metres out of dummy-half and tends to lead the tackle count for Melbourne every week, meaning he can be relied on for about 50 points a week on a bad day and 80+ when he has a big game.
3. Andrew Fifita (Sharks) - $543,000
Fifita only made 16 regular season appearances last year but was one of just three players to average more than 60 points a game, thanks mainly to a steady stream of tackle breaks and run metres from one of the most destructive running games in the league. An underwhelming showing for NSW last season means Fifita is also likely to be available at club level during the Origin series this year.
4. Paul Gallen (Sharks) - $536,000
The NSW Blues captain is one of the busiest forwards in the business, frequently taking multiple hit-ups in a set of six and capable of popping an offload and breaking the defensive line as well. That's made him a big NRL Fantasy scorer for years, although injuries and the toll of the Origin period means he's unlikely to stay fit and firing for the entire season.
5. Simon Mannering (Warriors) - $535,000
A switch from the second row to lock last year meant the Warriors captain's usual high defensive workload lifted another notch, making him one of the most dependable players in NRL Fantasy. Mannering is a solid contributor with the ball and makes few mistakes, but it's his enormous tackle counts that earn him the big scores. With no Origin duty or significant injuries last season, Mannering didn't miss a game for the Warriors and ended the season with more Fantasy points than any other player.
6. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) - $528,000
The game's best player is unsurprisingly the most expensive back in NRL Fantasy, having been priced highly following a premiership-winning (and Dally M-winning) season with the Cowboys. Thurston kicks goals, dominates the Cowboys' general kicking game and produces more try assists than any other player, and is set for another big season if North Queensland's great form continues.
7. Ben Hunt (Broncos) - $515,000
A great Fantasy cheapie in years gone by, Hunt has developed into one of the NRL's best all-round halfbacks, with a great kicking game and a deceptively strong running game making him a top quality Fantasy player.
8. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors) - $505,000
Tuivasa-Sheck rewrote the rule book on what a fullback could do last season, making a frankly ridiculous 240 metres a game for the Roosters. His signing is a great coup for the Warriors, but can he match last year's efforts without playing behind the Tricolours' super forward pack? Even if he doesn't quite hit the heights of 2015, RTS is still odds on to finish as the best winger/fullback in NRL Fantasy this year.
=9. Shaun Fensom (Raiders) - $499,000
The next two players on this list are pure tackle machines, capable of scoring 50 points a week through one stat alone. Fensom does plenty of work in attack too (even if his frequent decoy runs can be frustrating to his Fantasy coaches) but it's in defence where the Canberra lock shines. He averaged 67 minutes a game last year but is capable of playing the full 80 each week, and if Ricky Stuart gives him that game time his scores could match the Fantasy elite.
=9. Andrew McCullough (Broncos) - $499,000
McCullough scores the bulk of his points through tackles, and like Fensom he's capable of playing the full 80 minutes if given the chance. He tends to share the dummy-half duties at Brisbane with livewire impact player Kodi Nikorima, but still managed to score more than 55 points a game last year.
11. Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs) - $492,000
South Sydney's saviour is back, returning to the game he loves after an underwhelming stint in English rugby. Burgess was among the very best NRL Fantasy players in his last season for the Rabbitohs a couple of years ago, averaging 62 points a game, but has a received a discount this season that will see him grow in value if he scores more than 55 points a game. A genuine attacking weapon who routinely makes big metres for his side, Burgess doesn't shirk the work in defence either and is set to be a popular pickup at the start of the 2016 NRL Fantasy season.
Stay tuned to NRL.com this week as we reveal player prices for each club and the players you should consider for your team.