After a set of Round 1 team lists packed with rookies and intriguing selections, NRL.com's Lone Scout answers the big questions from NRL Fantasy coaches looking to finalise their 25-man squads.
Where is the best area to spend the cap? I usually spend it between hooker to half and leave centre and winger/fullback low in terms of cap spend, any advice here?
From Michael Rodie
Yeah the rough rule this year is spend big in the forwards, and go for cheapies in the backs. There are several bargains in the halves and winger/fullback in particular, whereas in the front and second row the best value players appear to be mid-rangers who are set to get larger roles for their clubs this season (or who are new to their club).
Would you recommend against spending all your money first up or does it not really matter?
From Mark Farmer
I always like to have a bit of spare cash available when the season kicks off, because I know I'm going to want to make a trade or two after Round 1. Keep in mind that player prices will start changing as soon as Round 1 ends, so if a player performs well and catches your eye this weekend he's almost certainly going to be more expensive next week. You don't want to miss out on recruiting somebody just because you left yourself with zero dollars in your cap at the start of the season.
Hi Scout. I'm trying to weigh up the better option between Mansour, Fergusson or Gordon? Any help would be great.
Those three are tough to split, as they all have room for improvement. Josh Mansour has proved he can be a keeper with his stunning scores from 2014, but are his tackle-busting days over or was 2015 a blip on the radar? Blake Ferguson is a big talent who could improve his numbers at fullback, but there are no guarantees about that and if he struggles at the back he could find himself back in the centres with someone like Latrell Mitchell getting the No.1 at the Roosters. That leaves Michael Gordon as probably the safest bet, purely because his minutes on the field will increase and his scores should also rise as he becomes a full-time fullback rather than a fullback/winger at the Sharks last year. As the Eels' goal-kicker he's likely to also get more goals than he did at a Sharks team that struggled to score points at times last season.
If Mansour or Ferguson fire they have the potential to become keepers, but Gordon is probably the most reliable option if you're simply looking for value.
Which players do you believe are traps? I'm looking at the likes of Ben Barba (because he has burnt us before), Greg Eden (does he or Oates, who was used off the bench lots last year, lose out on Reed's return?), Jayden Nikorima (Pearce return is still unknown), Jaelen Feeney (Mamo is back in NSW Cup), or a whole host of other Knights options?
From Matthew Lippiatt-Sidman
There are a lot of traps around in Round 1, although I'm not sure if Barba, Nikorima or Feeney count. Those three all look like genuine cash cows, while Eden's place in the Broncos team is in a bit of doubt as you say – plus as a winger he's not guaranteed big scores in the short term anyway.
Others include Nathan Davis at the Titans, with Nene Macdonald due back soon, Jack Littlejohn who will be replaced by Luke Brooks, and Cody Walker who is likely to be replaced by Luke Keary next week. NRL.com Fantasy guru Chris Kennedy has a whole article on these traps here, so make sure to take a look before finalising your squad.
How do you reckon players like Jake Granville and Michael Morgan will perform in NRL Fantasy this year?
From Aaron Harvey
About the same as last year. There are no real line-up changes at the Cowboys, and last year's gameplan was good enough to win them the premiership, so it's hard to see anyone's role changing a great deal for them this season. Jake Granville could get a rise in minutes on the field but there are no guarantees that will happen.
When picking my Fantasy squad I look for two things: keepers and moneymakers. If a player isn't among the top few in their position and is unlikely to grow in value, I don't pick them. Granville and Morgan are both terrific players, but I think there are better options around for Fantasy this season.
What's your personal opinion on James Roberts? Will he get even better under Wayne Bennett or will his average scores drop because he's not the star player for the Broncos like he was at the Titans.
From Brandon Scott Lee
My hunch is that those two factors will cancel themselves out and he'll remain roughly a 40-point player, which is pretty good by centre standards in Fantasy. For that reason I'm looking elsewhere at the start of the season as I usually aim to get a few genuine Fantasy guns and then pack my squad with players I expect to improve this year – but if you expect him to improve his scores, get him into your team. Either way, he's likely to be a keeper in the centres so would at least save you a trade.
Is Josh Reynolds a good starting half value buy given you might expect him to take the reins in Hodkinson's absence? As well as him talking up his change in attitude and his focus on consistency? I have him with Johnson in my team.
From Brad Stoicescu
Josh Reynolds hasn't traditionally been a big Fantasy scorer but there are two simple factors that suggest he'll rise in price this year. One, he often played off the bench last season when Trent Hodkinson and Moses Mbye were available for the Bulldogs. Two, when he partnered Mbye in the halves he made the majority of the kick metres. This season he'll play 80 minutes every week when fit and if he continues to dominate the playmaking duties then he's good value. Whether he'll make as much cash as the Roosters cheapies or match the genuine Fantasy guns in the halves is another question.
I have Damien Cook from Souths as my hooker. Is it too much having a $400k player coming off the bench?
From Darren Davison
In a word, yes. Cook was super for the Bulldogs in his few appearances last year but was always going to share the Rabbitohs dummy-half duties with Cameron McInnes this year, and now that he's not even starting he's a definite no-go in my book.
For cheap front row forwards, who has better upside as a cash cow: James Gavet or Russell Packer?
From Rachael-Robert Jane
Packer is starting for his team and is by all accounts fitter than he was at his time at the Warriors, so he gets my vote over Gavet. Beware Packer wasn't much of a Fantasy scorer in the past, but at $211,000 he's certainly cheap for a starting prop.
How many minutes do you see Cartwright playing? He's a great option if he plays big minutes with his offloading and attacking ability!
From Archie Wheeler
He is indeed! He's aiming to get to 80 minutes on a regular basis eventually but it's hard to see him getting there straight away, especially in a Panthers side that features Tyrone Peachey and Elijah Taylor on the bench. I'm still backing him to play big minutes and improve on last year's Fantasy scores.
Agnatius Paasi or Elliot Whitehead as a fifth second-rower? Also Nathan Peats with his quality bye schedule vs Michael Lichaa – both are hoping to be 80-minute players from what I gather?
From Jono How
Whitehead might be playing in a Raiders side with a lot of back-row options but I still think he has better job security than Paasi, who could drop out of the Titans' starting front row next week when Luke Douglas returns from suspension. Whitehead was also an 80-minute player in the Super League and Ricky Stuart has tended to ask his edge second-rowers to play the full 80 in the past, which is a good sign for him. Even if Whitehead doesn't play the full game from Round 1 that could happen later in the season as he gets used to the NRL.
The Peats v Lichaa question is a tricky one. Peats does have possible competition for minutes from 18th man Kaysa Pritchard on Parramatta's extended bench but is capable of playing 80 and will play in all three major bye rounds. Still, Lichaa has more improvement in him considering he's just about a certainty to play the full 80 every week and is likely to get more attacking stats this season after scoring almost exclusively through tackles last year. I'd lean towards Lichaa as value is everything at this stage of the season, but Peats would certainly be a handy player to have when the byes arrive in Round 12.
The new NRL Fantasy season kicks of on Thursday night with the Eels hosting the Broncos, and players from those clubs will be locked out just before kick-off. You will still be able to trade other players into your squad on Friday and across the weekend.
Good luck to your team this week!