Scout Report: Round 21 teams wrap
Johnathan Thurston is out but some big names are back as NRL Fantasy coaches look to snap up the big guns for the crucial final few rounds of the season.
Roosters: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is out with a knee injury, meaning Mitch Aubusson returns to the pack and Dale Copley rejoins the side at centre. Those who held onto Jake Friend were rewarded in Round 20 with a quality 65, with the Roosters hooker making a whopping 72 tackles against Melbourne. Mitchell Pearce and Boyd Cordner both scored 54 in that game and are decent point-of-difference options. Latrell Mitchell is a sell after a lean couple of weeks, particularly if you can afford Cameron Munster or James Tedesco.
Broncos: UPDATE: Despite being named to make his return, Matt Gillett has been ruled out by the Broncos with Jaydn Su'A set to return to the 17. With Josh McGuire and Sam Thaiday also out through suspension, Alex Glenn returns to the second row, Tom Opacic starts at centre after playing off the bench last week while Herman Ese'ese is added to the bench. Andrew McCullough continues to thrive in the 80-minute role, which he should keep for at least another couple of weeks until Kodi Nikorima recovers from injury.
Bulldogs: No changes this week. After his recent scoring spree Brett Morris couldn't find the tryline last week so his score dropped back to a typical winger's 21. After a run of 80-minute games Aiden Tolman spent about half an hour on the bench last week after coughing up a couple of errors. Curtis Rona is a week away from becoming a dual-position player available at centre as well as the wing.
Dragons: Leeson Ah Mau is out with a three-match suspension, with Jacob Host and Will Matthews joining the bench and Tyrone McCarthy the 18th man. Tackle break specialist Euan Aitken continues to be just about the most consistent centre option in Fantasy, while Jack de Belin played the full 80 on the weekend for a typically strong 62-point effort.
Warriors: A reshuffle in the backline this week with Tui Lolohea moving into the starting side at fullback and Blake Ayshford dropping back to the bench, but the big news here is the continued absence of Bodene Thompson through an ankle injury. Goal-kicking or no goal-kicking, Shaun Johnson remains the top Fantasy half this season.
Panthers: No changes, although potential rookie Andy Saunders and Viliame Kikau have been added to an extended bench. Te Maire Martin will play reserve grade this week in his return from injury and could be back in the side at five-eighth in Round 22, which in turn could affect Bryce Cartwright's scores in the final rounds.
Eels: Beau Scott and Vai Toutai return to the side with Cody Nelson and Bureta Faraimo dropping out. Manu Ma'u is facing the judiciary on Wednesday night and could cop a suspension. Clint Gutherson has scored well since moving into the halves and could be a keeper at centre – as long as he keeps producing attacking stats (he had two try assists last week and three line breaks, an assist and a try the week before). Time for Michael Gordon to be upgraded to a top-line fullback.
Wests Tigers: No changes. James Tedesco had a quiet game last week but could light up against a weakened Eels side. Elijah Taylor continues to play big minutes but a lack of attacking stats means he's likely to stay a mid-40s scorer most weeks.
Cowboys: Johnathan Thurston is out with a hamstring injury – although coach Paul Green does give him some chance of being a late inclusion.
Storm: No changes for Melbourne. Cameron Munster could be the most traded-in player in Fantasy this week, following a 60 in Round 20, but he's not cheap at $484,000. Cameron Smith was yet again the most reliable captaincy option last week and is as close to a must-have as you can get in Fantasy.
Rabbitohs: Zane Musgrove is in and straight into the starting side at prop, while Michael Oldfield replaces Joe Burgess on the wing and Damien Cook and Jack Gosiewski join a seven-man bench. Adam Reynolds is owned by less than five per cent of teams and is a point-of-difference keeper option in the halves.
Raiders: No changes. Jarrod Croker's in superb form but beware he has been scoring a lot of points through tries, which could dry up at any time (just look at Brett Morris's drop in scoring last week). In saying that, he's a key part of one of the better attacking backlines in the NRL so the chances are likely to keep coming his way. Elliot Whitehead and Jordan Rapana also remain keepers.
Sea Eagles: Addin Fonua-Blake has been added to an otherwise unchanged 17. Jamie Buhrer is averaging more than 65 points across his last three games. Jake Trbojevic bounced back after a quiet run with 59 points on Monday night, although he's still playing around 60 minutes a game – not the 80 minutes he was playing a month ago.
Knights: With Mitch Barnett suspended and Jarrod Mullen out with a hamstring injury, David Bhana and Jack Cogger return to the starting side while Jake Mamo is back from suspension at fullback and Daniel Saifiti returns on the bench.
Titans: Greg Bird returns at lock, bumping Agnatius Paasi out of the starting side. Nathan Friend is out through injury, while Nathan Peats is in doubt. Ryan James is suffering a Fantasy form slump – his past three games have earned him a solid 42 points a game, but it's a far cry from the 60 points he was earning each week before that. Still, he's surely a keeper.
Sharks: James Maloney returns at five-eighth in the place of Fa'amanu Brown. Paul Gallen's price continues to slide but he's good value already at $452,000 – about $120,000 cheaper than teammate Andrew Fifita. Ben Barba's been in irresistible form lately.