NRL Fantasy guide: Wingers/fullbacks
Wingers and fullbacks don't traditionally score as highly or consistently as hookers or second-row forwards in NRL Fantasy, but when they fire, they are often the point of difference that can decide a head-to-head match-up.
The Auckland Nines have traditionally been a springboard for savvy selections, with a smorgasbord of outside backs emerging this year. Cheapies Josh Addo-Carr, Bevan French and Latrell Mitchell impressed in the 2016 edition, and have already attracted plenty of attention in the Fantasy market.
Here are some potential buys in the winger/fullback position to suit every price range.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand Warriors, $505,000)
RTS was the must-have outside back amongst NRL Fantasy coaches last season, churning out a positional high 56.5 points a game thanks to countless tackle busts and try assists and unrivalled metre-eating.
Pros: Tuivasa-Sheck averaged over 70 points in the final five rounds of NRL Fantasy 2015. The former Rooster had four games of double-digit tackle busts, ran for 2400 more metres than his nearest rival, and had 23 combined tries/assists.
Cons: RTS might take a while to gel with his new teammates at the Warriors. The likes of attacking powerhouses Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson could take points away from the fleet-footed fullback. Tuivasa-Sheck enjoyed a prise rise of $192,000 last year. It's hard to see him repeating the dose.
James Tedesco (Wests Tigers, $482,000)
The lightning-fast fullback was one of NRL Fantasy's premier players in 2015, becoming the Tigers' focal point in attack. Tedesco joined an illustrious group of Fantasy superstars when he scored 100 points in his team's Round 14 demolition of the Rabbitohs.
Pros: After a couple of injury-ravaged seasons, Tedesco featured in all 24 games for the Tigers last year, scoring 17 tries and setting up 12 more. He also made more tackle breaks than any other player in the NRL in 2015.
Cons: While he excelled in 2015, the hefty price tag could deter some NRL Fantasy coaches from selecting Tedesco in their Round 1 squads. Injuries have cruelled him in the past, and the threat of possible aggravations could make him a risk.
Semi Radradra (Parramatta Eels, $452,000)
The flying Fijian is a try-scoring extraordinaire. Radradra managed 24 tries in just 18 games last year on his way to an NRL Fantasy average of over 50 points per game. The electric Eel averaged over three tackle busts per game, and only conceded two penalties in 2015.
Pros: Radradra had the third-highest average amongst wingers/fullbacks. The cult hero broke the Parramatta try-scoring record last season, and could improve on that number again with the addition of Kieran Foran and Michael Jennings to the Eels backline.
Cons: A large chunk of Radradra's tries came on the back of his centre partner Brad Takairangi. The arrival of Jennings, who is set to play on the left beside Radradra in 2016, will see that combination separated. Extra fire-power in the form of Jennings, Michael Gordon and Clint Gutherson might mean reduced opportunities for Radradra this year.
Michael Gordon (Parramatta Eels, $301,000)
Returning to his preferred position at the back at a new club, Gordon is primed to reach the heights that made him a Fantasy favourite in previous years.
Pros: Gordon will relish the opportunity to play 80 minutes again – something that was far from guaranteed in 2015 when he split his time between fullback, the wing and the bench at Cronulla. Three straight 200+ metre games between Round 22 and 24 gave Fantasy coaches who persisted with him a glimpse of what they might get in 2016. Throw in goal-kicking and a ceaseless work-rate, and Gordon could prove to be more than just a flash in the pan.
Cons: Fantasy coaches might be spooked by the relatively high cost of a player who averaged less than 35 points last year. Job security could be an issue, with plenty of competition for places in the Parramatta back three.
Billy Slater (Melbourne Storm, $295,000)
Billy Slater's superstar status in the game hasn't always translated to the NRL Fantasy arena. The Dally M and Clive Churchill Medal winner missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, but returns in 2016 with a point to prove.
Pros: The Melbourne, Queensland and Australian fullback enters 2016 as fresh as he's ever been, and should hit the ground running Fantasy wise. Slater is one of the keys to the Storm attack, with most attacking set-plays featuring the fullback. There isn't a busier No.1 in the game than Slater, with the Melbourne custodian the best support player in the NRL.
Cons: Points aren't awarded for effort. A lot of Slater's support plays go unnoticed on the stats sheets, with teammates often benefitting from his decoy runs. These might lead to points for the Storm, but they don't translate to success in NRL Fantasy. Question marks also remain on how his shoulder will pull up after several rounds of surgery.
Tom Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles, ($265,000)
Tom Trbojevic is the future 'Prince of Brookvale'. While his NRL Fantasy numbers were subdued in 2015, there is no doubting the young gun is just waiting to explode. He has been a machine in the Holden Cup, guiding Manly to last year's grand final with incredible numbers week in, week out.
Pros: Trbojevic scored four tries and ran for 486 metres in one NYC game last year. Those numbers alone should make you sit up and take notice. The Mona Vale junior took his opportunities in first-grade, scoring eight tries form nine appearances, including three doubles. He knows how to find the try-line (21 tries in the NYC) and can set them up as well (18 try assists).
Cons: Trbojevic won't play his preferred position of fullback, with Brett Stewart the logical choice at the back. Being stuck on the wing could limit his Fantasy scoring, especially in terms of yardage and ball-playing stats.
Ben Barba (Cronulla Sharks, $178,000)
This could be a defining year for the 2012 Dally M Medal winner. Barba managed 80 minutes just five times in 2015, and only reached 30 points four times. Despite the livewire Shark coming off a below par campaign, NRL Fantasy coaches might find it hard to ignore his low price tag.
Pros: It's not often a Dally M Medallist is so affordable. Barba has the potential to produce big scores, and his form at the Nines was encouraging. He is available as a dual position player, and is currently in more than 20 per cent of NRL Fantasy squads.
Cons: Barba has publically stated that he wants to play fullback, but it appears Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes are ahead of him in the pecking order. The Cronulla halves seem loaded as well, with James Maloney and Chad Townsend joining the club. You'll never get a better price for a player of his ability, but is he worth the risk if he's still just an impact player off the bench?
Jaelen Feeney (Newcastle Knights, ($130,000)
Despite not having made his NRL debut, Jaelen Feeney looks set to don the Newcastle No.1 to start 2016. The fiery 21-year-old has been impressive in the lower grades, and looms as a potential cash-cow if given a crack.
Pros: Feeney will be keen to cement his spot in the side, so expect him to come out all guns blazing in the early rounds. As a result, his price will soar. The fact he is a dual position player should help if you need to cover your halves later in the season.
Cons: There is no guarantee that he will play Round 1. Even if he does, he will face competition from 2015 fullbacks Jake Mamo and Dane Gagai throughout the season. Discipline could be an issue, with Feeney known to possess a fiery streak.
Latrell Mitchell (Sydney Roosters, $130,000)
He's already been compared to departing fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, so the pressure is building on Latrell Mitchell. The Holden Cup star has speed to burn, and was one of the Roosters' best in an otherwise underwhelming Nines campaign.
Pros: The 18-year-old was a cut above in the NYC, torching opponents for fun. His 15-try haul earned him a spot in the Holden Cup team of the year, and he has already shown he can cut it against bigger bodies with several dazzling displays at the Nines.
Cons: Blake Ferguson is expected to get first crack at the back for the Roosters, meaning Mitchell will have to most likely bide his time in the NYC or NSW Cup. The rigours of regular NRL football could take its toll on his still maturing body.
Clinton Gutherson (Parramatta Eels, $134,000)
Injury derailed Gutherson's 2015 campaign, with the fullback-come-winger lasting just 14 minutes in Manly's Round 1 loss to his new club the Eels. Prior to his injury, Gutherson scored a try in each of his four other games for the northern beaches outfit.
Pros: Gutherson mightn't have the runs on the NRL Fantasy board, but the Parramatta recruit is widely touted as a star on the rise. He will join a Parramatta side littered with former Sea Eagles. Looms as a cash cow with the potential to make huge dollars as the season progresses.
Cons: The Eels have almost exclusively focused their attack on the left edge in recent years, meaning Gutherson could be starved of opportunity on the other wing. It's never easy coming back from an ACL injury, so it might be optimistic to expect big Fantasy scores in the early rounds.