The first bye round of the 2016 Telstra Premiership season made for some lower-than-usual scores, but a few NRL Fantasy favourites stood tall.
The surprise top scorer of the round was Canberra bench forward Joseph Tapine, who scored twice off the bench in the Raiders' comeback win over the Bulldogs on the way to 75 Fantasy points.
Tapine might be owned by fewer than 1000 Fantasy coaches but the next best scores were all made by popular Fantasy buys.
In-form Raiders centre Joey Leilua (71) produced another big attacking performance, Knights cheapie Pauli Pauli followed up last week's 61 with an even better 70, workhorse forwards Aiden Tolman (70) and Elijah Taylor (69) both bagged rare tries, while Eels star Semi Radradra (68) and in-form Dragons centre Euan Aitken (62) earned two tries and 16 tackle breaks between them.
Meanwhile popular bye-round pickup Corey Norman started the Origin period strongly with 59 – and could be set for more big scores if Kieran Foran remains on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, while captaincy options James Graham (54) and Ben Hunt (57) both scored well.
Shaun Fensom scored just 37 points in his return from injury at Canberra, playing just 39 minutes against the Bulldogs. Fensom will be closer to full fitness next week and should get more game time – and he still is a quality points-per-minute player – but the risk with him now is his role in the pecking order of an increasingly strong Raiders pack. Junior Paulo is set to join the front-row rotation from the Eels, while young back-rowers Luke Bateman and especially Joseph Tapine are going from strength to strength and could see increased game time in future weeks.
Kieran Foran's rough season continues with the Eels halfback leaving the field with a shoulder injury in Newcastle on Monday night after scoring just 14 Fantasy points.
The promotion of Auckland Nines sensation Bevan French to the Eels backline on Monday was bad news for NRL Fantasy coaches who had Vai Toutai in their squad, although Toutai could return for the Eels if Brad Takairangi is shifted from centre to the halves to replace the injured Foran.
Meanwhile Knights rookie Jaelen Feeney – still owned by about 35,600 Fantasy coaches – didn't fare much better in Fantasy terms at five-eighth than he did at fullback early in the season, scoring just 12 to remain at the $128,000 base price this week.
Anthony Milford (38) seems to get a mention in this section every few weeks, but he's also capable of busting out a 80+ score on any given round as well. His season average remains above 51 and if he's in your side you're probably best off just taking the good scores with the mediocre and saving yourself a trade.
Also, don't panic if you didn't get many points this week – particularly if your focus is in your head-to-head league. The teams that didn't have many players in action in Round 12 are likely to have an advantage in the next few weeks with full-strength sides, while others will be without their Eels and Dragons players for Round 13 due to the bye.
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