A great way to find bargains for your NRL Fantasy team is to look at the ramifications of the big off-season player moves. A player who switches clubs in the off-season often creates new opportunities for former teammates at his old club, and shakes things up at his new one.
Last week I took a look at some of the biggest backline player moves, and today I'm looking at the forwards – where 80-minute players can be worth their weight in gold to NRL Fantasy coaches.
Manly's forward pack overhaul
Nate Myles – Titans to Sea Eagles; Martin Taupau – Wests Tigers to Sea Eagles; Lewis Brown – Pantehrs to Sea Eagles; Apisai Koroisau – Panthers to Sea Eagles; Darcy Lussick – Eels to Sea Eagles; Matt Parcell – Broncos to Sea Eagles
After a season in which Manly sorely missed the likes of Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough, the Sea Eagles have splashed the cash to boost their pack in a big way. They have two new hookers in former Panther Apisai Koroisau and Ispwich Jets star Matt Parcell and have signed internationals Martin Taupau, Nate Myles and Lewis Brown. The presence of Taupau, Myles and Brown makes it very difficult to predict how many minutes each of Manly's forwards will get in 2016 – and could limit the game time of young guns Jake Trbojevic, Josh Starling and Brenton Lawrence.
The big winner here is possibly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, who will be playing behind a much stronger pack in 2016, while Parcell ($165,000) will become a very popular buy if he wears the No.9 rather than starting off the bench.
A Fantasy gun goes west
Trent Merrin – Dragons to Panthers
Penrith's signing of NSW forward and Fantasy favourite Trent Merrin will have big ramifications at both the Panthers and Dragons. At Penrith, Merrin is a good chance of moving into the starting side at lock, which could cut into the game time of Panthers back-rowers Elijah Taylor, Bryce Cartwright and Tyrone Peachey. All three of those players have played big minutes in the past, which likewise could mean Merrin won't play the full 80 at his new club. Merrin and Cartwright in particular could still be good Fantasy options, but they could also be risky buys at the start of the campaign.
Meanwhile at the Dragons, the departure of a workaholic like Merrin means the rest of the pack has a lot more to do in 2016. Defensive workhorse Mike Cooper and Origin hopeful Jack de Belin loom as the men most likely to capitalise – whoever gets the starting lock position is likely to find his way into a lot of Fantasy teams.
New era at Knights begins
Beau Scott – Knights to Eels; Chris Houston – Knights to Widnes Vikings
Newcastle are one team where it's been hard to find good value Fantasy options in recent years but that could change in Nathan Brown's first season in charge of the club. Not only could Brown run his pack differently to previous coaches, but there are also spots up for grabs in the back row after the departure of veterans Beau Scott and Chris Houston and Tariq Sims's suspension, which will see him miss the first five rounds of the season. That means a starting spot is likely to go to Robbie Rochow or Joseph Tapine (or both), and while neither player is at a bargain basement price they should still be good value if they play big minutes.
A hero returns to Redfern
Sam Burgess – English rugby union to Rabbitohs
Sam Burgess is an intriguing presence in NRL Fantasy this season. At $492,000 he's not cheap, but he's not in the 10 most expensive players in the game either and could be a value captaincy option. Then again, he could start slowly after spending a year out of rugby league. His performances in the pre-season will be a great indicator of where he's at.
Meanwhile, the presence of South Sydney's 2014 talisman should be a lift to everyone else in the Rabbitohs team. The Souths pack was disappointing without him last year (and is missing a few other players from their premiership-winning campaign) but should be much improved in 2016 – which could boost the scoring potential of Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds and superstar fullback Greg Inglis. Even Sam's brother George Burgess – who didn't quite live up to hopes he'd step into Sam's shoes last season – could improve without the burden of being his team's chief metre-eater. If Souths enjoy a strong pre-season campaign, as they did last year, expect a lot of Fantasy coaches to eye off a few of their stars for Round 1.