Scout Report: Round 1 teams wrap
The NRL Fantasy season has officially begun with the arrival of the Round 1 team lists – the first official guide to how each NRL team will line up this season. There are several new faces at a host of clubs this year, plus some injury news, so check out my notes on every club below before locking in your Fantasy squad for Round 1.
Remember, it's a rolling lockout this weekend – like every weekend in Fantasy – which for Round 1 means you can continue tweaking your squad right up until Monday night's kickoff. Players are locked in or out of your team just before their team plays on the weekend, but you will be able to trade players from all teams apart from Brisbane and Parramatta on Friday after the Eels and Broncos kick off the season on Thursday night.
Eels v Broncos, Thursday night
Eels: Kieran Foran, Michael Jennings, Michael Gordon and Beau Scott have been named for their new club, although Foran is in some doubt for Round 1 with a hamstring injury. Gordon ($301,000) will be a popular Fantasy pick at the back after splitting his time between fullback and the wing at Cronulla last season, while Nathan Peats is a solid option at hooker for those Fantasy coaches already eying off Parramatta's great bye schedule.
Broncos: Corey Parker ($559,000) gets the captaincy back this season at Brisbane, while cheapie Greg Eden ($130,000) gets a wing spot as expected. He may be bumped out of the backline when Jack Reed returns from injury in the next week or two.
Sea Eagles v Bulldogs, Friday night
Sea Eagles: Popular cheapie Matt Parcell hasn't made the Manly starting side, with Apisai Koroisau to wear the No.9 and Parcell coming off the bench. Nathan Green ($170,000) is a shock starter in the second row and is also available at centre in Fantasy. Jake Trbojevic starts up front alongside Nate Myles but Brenton Lawrence is playing NSW Cup. Daly Cherry-Evans ($482,000) will be a popular option in the halves now that he'll playing alongside Dylan Walker, who is likely to play more of a backseat when it comes to playmaking than former Sea Eagles No.6 Kieran Foran.
Bulldogs: The Dogs suffered a major blow with Brett Morris ruled out for four months with a knee injury, with new signing Will Hopoate slotting into the fullback role and Chase Stanley starting at centre. There are a couple of cheap forwards on the bench in Danny Fualalo and Adam Elliott but one will go when David Klemmer returns from suspension next week.
Raiders v Panthers, Saturday afternoon
Raiders: Ricky Stuart has kept things interesting by naming Canberra's 2015 sensation Blake Austin on the bench, alongside last year's Fantasy favourite Sia Soliola, while Englishman Elliot Whitehead starts in the back row and Sam Williams partners new recruit Aidan Sezer in the halves. Austin is returning from a shoulder injury so will back in the starting side soon. The best news for Fantasy coaches is that Whitehead ($313,000) could be in for a lot of game time, having regularly played the 80 in the English Super League in the past. Joey Leilua ($270,000) has been in great form in the trials and is a good centre option, as is Jarrod Croker ($372,000).
Panthers: Will Smith starts at fullback for the injured Matt Moylan but the interesting news for Fantasy coaches is in the pack, where Bryce Cartwright ($357,000) starts in the second row with Isaah Yeo, and Trent Merrin ($485,000) lines up at lock. That means Elijah Taylor has to make do with a bench spot – which may be bad news for James Segeyaro's chances of playing 80 minutes, with Taylor having played some dummy-half off the bench in the past. Merrin could be in line for more minutes this year so looks a very solid option. Josh Mansour ($306,000) had a mediocre 2015 but was a Fantasy monster the previous season and could be a bargain if he can regain that old form.
West Tigers v Warriors, Saturday night
Wests Tigers: Jordan Rankin ($179,000) has nabbed a wing spot and is the likely goal-kicker, while Jack Littlejohn replaces the suspended Luke Brooks at halfback. Manaia Cherrington ($157,000) is set to play 80 minutes at hooker with Robbie Farah out until Round 4-6, although Dene Halatau could cut into that game time when he returns from suspension next week. Aaron Woods ($440,000) and James Tedesco ($482,000) are genuine Fantasy guns while Tim Grant ($282,000) should grow in value with a starting front row spot at his new club. The elusive Michael Chee Kam ($134,000) is 18th man and therefore a risky buy.
Warriors: Sure the Warriors now have a new-look spine with Roger-Tuivasa Sheck, Jeff Robson and Issac Luke joining Shaun Johnson, but the big news here for Fantasy coaches is the presence of returning back-rower/centre Ben Henry ($134,000) in the starting pack. Bodene Thompson is on the bench and could take Henry's No.11 jersey in the weeks to come but it's hard to ignore a starting back-rower at Henry's price. Konrad Hurrell hasn't made the cut, with Blake Ayshford and Solomone Kata starting in the centres and Tui Lolohea on the wing. The presence of young hooker Nathaniel Roache on the bench means Issac Luke is unlikely to play the full 80 minutes.
Cowboys v Sharks, Saturday night
Cowboys: Amongst all the big off-season transfers, last year's grand final winners are unchanged. Johnathan Thurston was the best half in Fantasy last season, but you'd have to assume all the Cowboys will score roughly as they did last year.
Sharks: A lot of Fantasy coaches will be thrilled that Ben Barba ($178,000) has been named at fullback for Round 1, with Jack Bird to start at centre and Valentine Holmes on the wing. If Barba holds his spot he looks great value. Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita both cost well over $500,000 in Fantasy but are among the very best scorers available.
Roosters v Rabbitohs, Sunday afternoon
Roosters: The emergence of Latrell Mitchell ($130,000) and the Roosters' pre-season woes mean there is a lot of value on offer in this line-up, with Mitchell to start on the wing, Jackson Hastings ($149,000) and Jayden Nikorima ($130,000) starting in the halves, Kane Evans ($273,000) and Mitchell Aubusson ($336,000) getting starting spots in the pack and young forward Vincent Leuluai ($130,000) getting a nod on the bench. Nikorima will drop back to the bench when Mitchell Pearce returns while Evans and Aubusson should start for the opening 10 rounds while Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves are out injured.
Rabbitohs: Hymel Hunt ($162,000) gets the nod over Kirisome Auva'a ($139,000) in the centres, which will lead to Auva'a being traded out of a few thousand teams – although he is included on an extended bench so Michael Maguire could still spring a late change on Sunday. The Burgess twins are out (Tom injured, George suspended) with Sam Burgess ($492,000) returning for Souths at prop, Kyle Turner ($258,000) starting at lock, Paul Carter ($172,000) in the second row and Cody Walker replacing the suspended Luke Keary at five-eighth (probably for one week only). Turner and Carter could be good value but there's always the chance Sam Burgess bumps one of them out of the side when his brothers return to the pack, and Turner's injury record is a worry. Rookie prop Zane Musgrove gets a start on the bench, but his job security isn't great.
Titans v Knights, Sunday night
Titans: Rookie Nathan Davis ($130,000) gets a shot in the centres but could be bumped out when Nene Macdonald returns to the backline – possibly as soon as Round 2 – while Will Zillman is in doubt at fullback with John Olive a chance of coming into the side on the wing. Agnatius Paasi ($267,000) gets a start at prop but like Davis's centre spot it could be shortlived, with Luke Douglas due back in the side next week. Rookie forward Leivaha Pulu ($130,000) is on the bench but could drop out when Douglas returns.
Knights: It's cheapies galore in Nathan Brown's first Newcastle line-up with Jaelen Feeney, Pat Mata'utia, Jacob Saifiti, Daniel Saifiti and David Bhana (all $130,000) plus Chanel Mata'utia ($134,000), Lachlan Fitzgibbon ($134,000) and Pauli Pauli ($168,000) all in the side. Feeney and Jacob Saifiti are the best options, with Feeney lining up at fullback and Saifiti getting a starting spot in the second row. The Mata'utias could be bumped out of the side in future rounds by their suspended brother Sione or the likes of Jake Mamo or Nathan Ross.
Storm v Dragons, Monday night
Storm: Billy Slater ($295,000) returns from shoulder surgery and is good value after an injury-affected 2015 season. Richie Kennar ($135,000) gets a starting spot in the centres with Cameron Munster out injured, while Nelson Asofa-Solomona is 19th man. Cameron Smith is the safest captaincy option in NRL Fantasy.
Dragons: A few value buys in this Red V side, with Kurt Mann ($269,000) starting his new fullback role, Tim Lafai ($244,000) joining Josh Dugan in the centres, Leeson Ah Mau ($357,000) starts at prop, as does Russell Packer ($211,000), and Mike Cooper ($466,000) beats Jack de Belin to the lock role once owned by Trent Merrin.