Scout Report: Round 18 teams wrap
With Origin players out of action for the final major bye round of the season, there are plenty of cheap NRL Fantasy options in action this week.
Eels: Jeff Robson is back at his old club and will line up at halfback, while Brad Takairangi returns in the centres and Tim Mannah is back from injury in the front row. Robson is likely to take some kick metres off Corey Norman, while Michael Jennings is on Origin duty and Cody Nelson and Rory O'Brien drop out of the 17.
Roosters: With Aidan Guerra and Blake Ferguson away on Origin camp Joseph Manu returns on the wing and Chris Smith joins the bench, while Latrell Mitchell has been named despite doubts over a knee injury and Ryan Matterson is 18th man. Dual-position centre/winger Manu could be a handy cashout option at $140,000. Mitchell Pearce is owned by less than 1.5 per cent of Fantasy teams but with a season average of 54 and no byes left could be a point of difference option in the halves. Jake Friend averaged 68.9 points per game after Round 10 but only 47.8 since then, even though he's still made at least 50 tackles in his last three games.
Bulldogs: Josh Jackson and David Klemmer are away on NSW duty while Greg Eastwood returns to the back row, Danny Fualalo starts and Tim Browne joins the bench. Kerrod Holland is 18th man while Craig Garvey is also on an extended bench, but both are likely to drop out of the 17. Aidan Tolman has played the full 80 minutes in the past couple of weeks and is earning big scores in base stats. Brett Morris has scored five tries in his two games back from injury but is still a risky option on the wing.
Wests Tigers: James Tedesco's NSW call-up is a big loss for his NRL Fantasy owners, while Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods are also out. Elijah Taylor is named at lock and expected to spend some time at hooker, while Josh Edwards, JJ Felise and Michael Chee-Kam join the 17. Chris Lawrence is proving a handy option in the centres.
Panthers: English recruit Zak Hardaker gets his first NRL start on the wing in place of Josh Mansour, while Suaia Matagi and Will Smith join the bench with Sam McKendry out with a knee injury. With an average well above 50 so far Nathan Cleary is a keeper in the halves, while Trent Merrin is coming off back-to-back 70+ scores.
Sharks: With a whopping five Origin players missing, Valentine Holmes returns from injury on the wing while Fa'amanu Brown will line up at five-eighth and Matt McIlwrick, Jesse Sene-Lefao and rookie Kurt Capewell join the bench. Ben Barba is probably a hold despite a few quiet scores recently – he relies on attacking plays rather than big run metres, but with games against the Roosters, Knights, Titans and Raiders coming up there should be points on offer.
Raiders: With Josh Papalii injured and Like Bateman suspended the Raiders have added Iosia Soliola and Clay Priest to their pack this week. With four tries in the past fortnight Jarrod Croker is coming off a couple of big scores, while fellow centre Joey Leilua has a high break even but is still capable of hitting it against a weakened Cowboys side.
Cowboys: New face Josh Chudleigh is one of five inclusions this week for the Origin-depleted Cowboys, along with Coen Hess, Tautau Moga and bench players Ben Spina and Patrick Kaufusi. No sign of cheapie Jahrome Hughes despite a strong performance back in Round 12 that earned him 52 points. Javid Bowen is now available at centre or winger/fullback after four games in the centres.