NRL Fantasy Draft night is always met with plenty of excitement around the NRL.com offices. There's of course the prerequisite trash talk leading into the night, while last year's champion is never too far away to remind everyone of their achievements.
You can read all about what went down here, but after the pizzas were gone, we were all left with a squad of 12 players that we will be hoping to see us to glory. While some tried some frantic post-draft trades, most were feeling confident with the majority of their selections. The NRL.com team break down their NRL Fantasy Draft selections below.
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Adrian McMurray: Cameron Smith, Matthew Scott, Wade Graham, Aidan Sezer, Will Chambers, Brett Morris. Bench: Jack de Belin, Daniel Mortimer, Sauaso Sue, Jackson Hastings, Jordan Kahu, Alex Johnston.
I was always going to try and get a quality hooker first up, and the first pick certainly helped my cause. When the draft order finally snaked back around, I snapped up Sezer and Graham, and was somewhat surprised to be able to get Chambers in the fifth round given the lack of great options in the centres. Hastings came in at pick 140 and should be a viable alternative to Sezer, while my only issue is going to be covering Smith during Origin.
Jack Brady: Mitch Rein, James Graham, Simon Mannering, Trent Hodkinson, Jamie Lyon, Marika Koroibete. Bench: Blake Austin, Sam Thaiday, Boyd Cordner, Jason Clark, Isaah Yeo, Justin O'Neill.
I was the second cab off the rank and with Cameron Smith the obvious No.1 pick of the draft, I decided to start things off with Simon Mannering over Corey Parker – mainly because Mannering's 80-minute prospects are a lot brighter than Parker's. The rest of my team was selected through acts of desperation as I saw every one of my desired players picked up one by one by everyone that wasn't me. Rein was the last 80-minute hooker on offer and I still don't know why I picked Marika Koroibete. I also have Boyd Cordner, Blake Austin and Sam Thaiday in my ranks and I won't be afraid to use them if the starting six don't lift come Round 1.
Lone Scout: Michael Lichaa, Mike Cooper, Corey Parker, Gareth Widdop, James Roberts, Michael Gordon. Bench: Elijah Taylor, Chris Lawrence, Josh Reynolds, David Klemmer, Konrad Hurrell, Elliot Whitehead.
Picking up Parker was a no-brainer with the third pick of the draft, and I shored up the other forward spots with Michael Lichaa and Mike Cooper – two 50+ scorers with some improvement in them this season. That left me a bit light on in the backline, with James Roberts, Michael Gordon and Gareth Widdop the best options left to me in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. I'm already planning a few trade options to upgrade Widdop to a frontline half, and I have some decent bench options (led by Elijah Taylor) to use in any trades.
Andrew Bryan: Nathan Peats, Andrew Fifita, Gavin Cooper, Jack Bird, Dean Whare, Greg Inglis. Bench: Matt Gillett, Mitchell Pearce, Nathan Friend, Manu Vatuvei, Tim Mannah, David Nofoaluma.
For me, the draft was all about strategy, with 14 coaches in our league, picks were few and far between and I saw a real need to secure certain positions before others. The gap between the big scoring hookers, fullbacks and front-rowers and the rest of the field can be considerable, so those were my first three picks. I was pretty happy to get Andrew Fifita with the fourth pick, Nathan Peats with pick 25 and to sneak Greg Inglis into my team with pick 32. I then secured some very decent second-row forwards with Gavin Cooper and Matt Gillett. I actually filled my bench before picking my first centre. I figured the points difference between the centres wasn't that much and the bargaining power of having depth on my bench could come in handy when the other coaches get desperate throughout the year.
Martin Gabor: Robbie Farah, Aaron Woods, Shaun Fensom, Cooper Cronk, Michael Jennings, Tom Trbojevic. Bench: Bryce Cartwright, Corey Norman, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Joe Burgess, Robbie Rochow, Matt Ballin.
After watching my top four picks disappear before my eyes, I settled on the reliable Raider Shaun Fensom as my first selection. I gambled with my third pick, choosing Robbie Farah, and then proceeded to panic by picking his potential partner Matt Ballin. My obscure recruitment drive continued when I picked up the injured Jared Waerea-Hargeaves. I'm hoping his return can inspire me later in the season. The Nines inspired the makeup of my bench, with Corey Norman, Bryce Cartwright and Joe Burgess ready to step up when called upon.
Chris Kennedy: Andrew McCullough, Kade Snowden, Trent Merrin, James Maloney, Tui Lolohea, Lachlan Coote. Bench: Aidan Guerra, Paul Vaughan, Jarrod Mullen, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Joel Thompson, Jason Nightingale.
Due to the scarcity of solid hooking options across the board I always go hooker first. In this case the best on offer when my first pick arrived was Andrew McCullough which is a good result, having missed the likes of Cam Smith and James Segeyaro. Somehow Trent Merrin was still available for my second round pick, which alleviated the disappointment of missing out on Shaun Fensom. I left the three-quarter line till last, like any good salary cap manager, so was reasonably happy to land Tui Lolohea – let's just hope he gets solid minutes for the Warriors and isn't stuck on the wing. It was a coin flip between he and Kane Linnett so don't let me down Tui. Across the rest of the team, Kade Snowden and James Maloney are genuine Fantasy studs and getting Lachlan Coote at fullback late in the picks was a coup also.
Tony Webeck: Josh Hodgson, Jake Trbojevic, Sam Burgess, Michael Morgan, Will Zillman, Blake Ferguson. Bench: Ethan Lowe, Ryan James, Moses Mbye, Korbin Sims, Ryan Hoffman, Brett Stewart.
With my first selection not coming until pick No.12 I wasn't surprised that Thurston, McCullough, Bromwich, Hunt and Fifita had all disappeared from my pre-draft list by the time I got my shot. What I didn't expect was for the best forward in the whole world – Sam Burgess – to still be on the table. I may have erred picking only one hooker (Josh Hodgson, need you to stay fit buddy) but excited about what Jake Trbojevic will bring to the team: big minutes, big numbers and the odd four-pointer. My over-arching theory was to pick forwards who can play big minutes and fullbacks with plenty of run metres. Like his actual salary, I expect Moses Mbye's Fantasy value to soar in 2016.