There was a stack of action over the weekend's trials with some big NRL Fantasy guns in form, some rookies on show and pressing for spots, and a few minor injuries that coaches will need to bear in mind when the Round 1 teams are named next Tuesday.
Sam Burgess is back
There was no shortage of fanfare over the return of the 2014 Clive Churchill Medal winner but from a Fantasy point of view, Burgess was heavily involved and scored a try. At $492,000 he represents a discount from the likes of Corey Parker and Paul Gallen and could even serve as a discount captaincy option.
Rookie wingers Eden, Gutherson locked in
Over in the UK, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett confirmed Englishman Greg Eden would start the year on the wing in place of the injured Lachlan Maranta, ahead of players like Tom Opacic and Carlin Anderson. Eels coach Brad Arthur told NRL.com that Clint Gutherson would get his chance to form a combination on the Eels' right edge with Brad Takairangi. Gutherson is effectively a rookie price after missing last season injured, is a dual position winger/fullback and centre, and is also the Eels back-up fullback if injury befalls Michael Gordon making him a very low-risk purchase with plenty of upside.
Penrith forward pack: bad news for Fantasy
Possible keeper Trent Merrin played the trial against Parramatta at prop. Fantasy coaches wondering how Penrith's glut of back-rowers would fit into Anthony Griffin's team got a double-dose of bad news with Merrin's minutes likely to languish and possible keeper Bryce Cartwright used for impact off the bench. Both players are keepers if they play 80 minutes in the back row but at this stage it looks unlikely for either. Young Kiwi prop James Fisher-Harris had a great game and could be a rookie to keep an eye on this year.
Bird to fullback, Barba to bench, Holmes to wing
Valentine Holmes was always long odds to snare the Sharks' fullback spot but it's now been confirmed he'll start the season on the wing, where he is a no-go for Fantasy. Jack Bird is too expensive to take a chance on in a new position and Ben Barba will be very attractive if he ever gets a starting spot but is a no-go until then. Steer clear of all three for now. Fantasy coaches were given a glimmer of hope when Bird finished the game at centre and Barba at the back.
Roosters rookies looking hot
The Roosters easily disposed of St Helens in the World Club Series opener. The interesting angles for NRL Fantasy coaches were the impressive form of rookie back Latrell Mitchell, who will now keep English Test winger Joe Burgess in NSW Cup to start the season, and Jayden Nikorima, who has fended off challenges from Connor Watson and Tyler Cornish to partner Jackson Hastings in the halves until Mitch Pearce's return. Both will be very tempting buys at $130,000.
Radradra and Foran: Fantasy no-go zone
Semi Radradra had a blinding season last year running in tries at will outside Brad Takairangi. The early indications from Saturday's trial are that Jennings may soak up a few of his attacking chances and while this won't necessarily be bad for Eels fans it's likely to lead to a major price correction for Radradra. If you want him for the bye rounds, wait until he's cheaper. Suggestions Foran may become Fantasy-relevant as a senior half at a new club look to have already been put to bed with in-form Corey Norman taking the long kicks and playing at least as big a role in attack as Foran – who remains an injury risk due to an off-season hamstring strain.
Don't be fooled by short-term injuries
Bulldogs: There are a host of players racing the clock to be fit for Round 1, and while it may open up some rookie spots for a game or two it could also be a false dawn. For example, Bulldogs fullbacks Brett Morris and Will Hopoate are both in doubt but even if Brad Abbey or Tyrone Phillips get a start it will probably just be a game or two. Two props in James Graham and Dave Klemmer have injury and possible suspension woes but be aware any rookie big men will only have a short run in the top grade.
Sea Eagles: It's the same at Manly where Brett Stewart and Tom Trbojevic both picked up minor injuries in the trial and both starting hookers (Matt Parcell and Api Koroisau) sat out with complaints that aren't expected to keep them off the park long. In the back row, Feleti Mateo and Lewis Brown missed the trial but are due back early in the season, with Jamie Buhrer back a few weeks in.
There are plenty of other players at other clubs – such as Melbourne's Cameron Munster and Parramatta's Anthony Watmough – expected back around week two or three plus a host of players such as Rabbitoh Luke Keary and Tiger Luke Brooks suspended for Round 1 and back in Round 2. So just because Cody Walker or Jack Littlejohn may play Round 1 it won't be long enough for them to make any money.