NRL Fantasy guide: Centres
Centre is a notoriously tricky position to fill in NRL Fantasy. While a gun centre can turn any Telstra Premiership match on its head, their Fantasy scores can be fairly erratic due to the nature of their position. They aren't generally getting through too much work in defence, while also not making the same kind of running metres as the wingers outside of them.
Instead, their scores are heavily reliant on attacking points from tackle breaks and tries, meaning it's rare to find a consistent, bankable option. Generally the best Fantasy centres don't actually play the position at all, with the occasional fullback, back-rower or half being also available at centre in Fantasy (think Jack Bird or Josh Dugan last season, or for those Fantasy veterans, a young Beau Scott).
You might not want to spend too much on this position, but everyone needs to pick four to complete their team. With that in mind, here are some names to consider ahead of Round 1.
Josh Dugan (St George Illawarra Dragons, $432,000)
One of the best outside backs in NRL Fantasy, it remains to be seen where Dugan will play in 2016. He averaged 48.3 in 2015, and after off-season neck surgery looks to have shaken off the niggling injury which caused him plenty of issues last season.
Pros: Is a destructive ball-runner, breaking tackles and making plenty of metres in the process. Capable of a massive score and also available at winger/fullback, there's plenty to like about Dugan.
Cons: But what if the NSW No.1 makes the switch from fullback to the centres for the second time in his career? We might see a drop in Dugan's run metres, but his tackle count should increase, while tries and try assists should remain fairly steady. As the most expensive centre in NRL Fantasy though, it'd be somewhat of a gamble to start with Dugan if he does make the switch.
Jarrod Croker (Canberra Raiders, $372,000)
A point-scoring machine, Croker should enjoy another healthy year of Fantasy scores, particularly if his Canberra team can improve across the board.
Pros: A goal-kicking ace who loves a try, Croker certainly has the potential to score big each week. Is also improving defensively, with missed tackles less of a concern than they were earlier in his career.
Cons: The Canberra skipper's Fantasy efforts tend to reflect his side's results in games. If the Green Machine come away with a massive win, Croker is generally among the points, but his Fantasy scores can disappoint if the Raiders are on the wrong end of a result.
James Roberts (Brisbane Broncos, $356,000)
Perhaps the last piece of the puzzle for a strong Broncos side, there are two schools of thought as to how his off-season move from Gold Coast with impact his Fantasy output.
Pros: Roberts averaged just under 40 points per game in 2015 in a Titans side that failed to make the top eight. Throw him into a winning team, and one of the fastest players in the game should flourish... right?
Cons: That might be the case, but there's also the argument that Roberts' scores will remain fairly steady. At the Titans, he was heavily involved in their attack, often sparking attacking raids from his position in the three-quarter line. At the Broncos, there are several other dominant players who are also central to Brisbane's attacking structures, effectively taking points away from Roberts.
Dylan Walker (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, $332,000)
Former premiership-winning Rabbitohs centre Dylan Walker has made the move to the northern beaches, and also a move into the No.6 jersey.
Pros: With a move to the halves, Walker should certainly be more active, getting his hands on the ball more regularly. While Daly Cherry-Evans will still manage the bulk of kicking, Walker has plenty of upside following his move closer to the action.
Cons: While Manly should improve following their off-season overhaul, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the Manly side, particularly how Walker will adapt to the change in position. Undeniably talented, it might take Walker time to adapt to a new position and new surrounds.
Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels, $327,000)
One of the finest centres in the NRL, Jennings made the move back west after three successful seasons at the Roosters.
Pros: Untouchable on his day, Jennings should be the centre strike weapon the Eels have been crying out for to accompany winger Semi Radradra, or provide another option on the other side of the park to the 2015 top try-scorer. Should be well among the points again as part of an improving Eels outfit.
Cons: Like many centres, Jennings relies heavily on tackle breaks and try involvements for his big scores. Much like Walker's move to Manly, Jennings will find himself part of a largely new-look side that has plenty of work ahead of them in improving on last year's efforts.
Others to consider:
Chris Lawrence (Wests Tigers, $279,000): Has made the move to the second row on a permanent basis and should get through more work than most other centre options.
Will Hopoate (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, $264,000): An off-season switch to Canterbury could see the former Eel start the season at fullback.
Clinton Gutherson (Parramatta Eels, $134,000): After missing 2015 through injury, Gutherson has moved to the Eels and should nab a starting spot in the Round 1 team.
Hymel Hunt (South Sydney Rabbitohs, $162,000): Could be a surprise starter at centre for South Sydney, and looks to be good value as part of a strong side.