Round 1 NRL Fantasy winners & losers
The opening round of the 2016 NRL Telstra Premierhsip has come and gone and many NRL Fantasy coaches will be feeling a lot like new Manly coach Trent Barrett right now, with all the promise of the pre-season in charge of a brand new squad seemingly undone by a disastrous first week of the new campaign.
But remember, the competition isn't won or lost in Round 1. There is plenty of time in the season to build an all-conquering NRL Fantasy squad – but you'll have to make the right trades, starting this week.
Here's my rundown on which players enjoyed a dream start to the new year and which ones had a week to forget in Round 1.
New-look sides Parramatta, Manly and the Warriors all struggled in Round 1, while familiar looking outfits from the Broncos, Bulldogs and Cowboys all made a smooth start to the year. It was a similar story for in Fantasy, with several popular new names struggling while established Fantasy stalwarts like Simon Mannering (83), Shaun Fensom (71) and James Graham (69) excelled in Round 1.
Cowboys back-rower Ethan Lowe was the best scorer of the opening round with 85 points, including a try and a try-saving tackle, while hookers Nathan Peats and Jake Friend both scored 66 and could find themselves in a lot of teams this week as Fantasy coaches scramble to replace one or two injured hookers (more on that below).
Greg Inglis started the season with a bang with 65 and could rival last year's standout Fantasy fullbacks James Tedesco and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Established Fantasy guns Shaun Johnson (62), Andrew Fifita (60) and James Tedesco (55) also shone.
A few potential value buys also made a great start to the season. Props Agnatius Paasi (57) and Jake Trbojevic (56) exceeded expectations, Knights hooker Tyler Randell tackled his way to 65 points in an 80-minute performance, Robbie Rochow (51) also played big minutes for Newcastle, and Rabbitohs back-rowers Paul Carter (54) and Kyle Turner (53) both excelled against the Roosters and look set to secure their starting spots following a long-term injury to John Sutton.
Injuries always take their toll on NRL Fantasy teams but they arrived earlier than usual this season. Quality hookers James Segeyaro and Michael Lichaa were both on track for impressive Round 1 scores before going down with injuries – Segeyaro suffering a broken arm and Lichaa exiting with a knee injury. Fantasy legend Paul Gallen (knee) was probably the most high-profile injury of the weekend, while everyone's favourite Fantasy bargain Ben Henry continued his luckless run with the latest in a string of knee injuries. All look like must-trade options at this stage.
Meanwhile both Canberra halves Blake Austin (knee) and Aidan Sezer (cheekbone) picked up injuries, and the Rabbitohs lost Adam Reynolds (jaw) and John Sutton (pec). As frustrating as these injuries are to Fantasy coaches, remember they also open up opportunity for new prospects who could become great value buys in the coming weeks.
There were a lot of poor scores elsewhere, as is understandable in the first game of the season. Ben Hunt (29) and James Roberts (22) struggled for points despite Brisbane's win over Parramatta; Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's price is set to slide fast following his 17-point debut for the Warriors (despite making 200 run metres); Kade Snowden (13) played just 28 minutes up front for Newcastle; Semi Radradra (20), Valentine Holmes (10) and Latrell Mitchell (8) showed how hard it is to score points from the wing when you don't grab a try; Steve Matai (5) continued his record as a mediocre Fantasy scorer; and rookie Brisbane winger Greg Eden (3) might struggle to increase in value for a while.
This is probably the key point to keep in mind when trading this week: don't give up on a player (or your team) because of one mediocre round. Try to look beyond a player's score to predict whether they'll still be a good scorer in the long run.
For example, Penrith's Bryce Cartwright (37) and Raiders recruit Elliot Whitehead (32) both underwhelmed in Round 1, but they also both played the full 80 minutes for their teams and have the potential to make a bigger impact in future. Cartwright was the NRL's most prolific offloader last season but made just two offloads against the Raiders, and missed five tackles in searing heat in the first game of the season, while Whitehead had five missed tackles and almost no attacking stats in the first game of his NRL career. Those two players are both in my team and will be staying there this week.
One of the most vital stats to keep an eye on for forwards in your side is 'minutes played', which you can now see by clicking on any player and looking at their stats breakdown. Other 80-minute forwards this weekend included Mannering, Andrew McCullough, Manly's Nathan Green and Mitch Aubusson.
When making trades this week, aim firstly to replace any injured players, and secondly to bring in any fast-rising cash cows. Avoid rage trading a good player based on one poor score, as they could come back to bite you with a great performance next weekend.