Finding underpriced players at the start of a new season is crucial if you are going to be a successful NRL Fantasy coach. Here are 10 forwards who loom as potential bargains in 2017.
George Burgess (Rabbitohs, prop, $302,000)
A couple of years ago George Burgess was one of the most destructive ball carriers in the NRL, an almost unstoppable force who regularly required three defenders to bring him down. That brought him a lot of tackle breaks and NRL Fantasy points – but he was sorely lacking in both of those last season after struggling with a groin injury. Once a 50-point Fantasy scorer, Burgess scored only 32 points a game and his price tag dropped by a whopping $205,000. If he can regain his old form in 2017 he could be a bargain.
Robbie Farah (Rabbitohs, hooker, $435,000)
Farah once rivalled Cameron Smith as the top scorer in NRL Fantasy, but was reduced to just nine NRL games for the Wests Tigers last season in his troubled final year at the club. He's still capable of playing the full 80 minutes and piling up the Fantasy stats – he was the only NSW forward to not miss a minute of last year's State of Origin series – and if he returns to that role at NRL level with Souths he could again become one of the game's top scorers. He played the full 80 minutes four times for the Tigers last year and averaged 59 in those games – well above his season average of 47.
Nat Butcher (Roosters, second-rower, $173,000)
Former NYC star Butcher is an NRL Fantasy star in the making – the only problem this season is he's playing in a stacked Roosters forward pack. The young gun's Holden Cup record is staggering – as well as scoring seven tries and making 44 offloads last year the big-minute back-rower also averaged 43 tackles, 188 metres and four tackle breaks a game. He will be aiming for a bench spot in the Roosters' NRL side this year where those kinds of numbers won't be achievable, but if injury frees up a starting spot he could become a quick moneymaker in 2017.
Josh Aloiai (Wests Tigers, second-rower, $231,000)
Aloiai started 2016 as a rookie on the Tigers bench and never played more than 40 minutes in the first 18 rounds last season, but played at least 40 in the seven games after that and is expected to hold a starting spot this year. The extra minutes predictably had an effect on his Fantasy scoring, with Aloiai making 21 points a game up to Round 18 and 32 per game after that. He's priced based on a season average of about 24 points a game, so if he can continue to hit scores in the mid-30s he should be a decent earner.
Manaia Cherrington (Sharks, hooker, $143,000)
Former Wests Tigers rake Cherrington could be the new Sharks No.9 this season, replacing the retired Michael Ennis. Ennis scored 41 points per game – well above Cherrington's average of 17 from five games in 2016. Cherrington only played about half an hour per game in those appearances, so a starting spot would guarantee his scores (and price) increase in 2017. He does have competition though in the form of Daniel Mortimer, youngster Jayden Brailey and potential Sharks recruit James Segeyaro.
Jarrod Wallace (Titans, prop, $291,000)
The 25-year-old former Broncos forward moves to the Titans where he's set to take own a larger role, having been primarily used off the bench at Brisbane. The numbers behind his likely rise as a Fantasy prospect are simple: he averaged 30 points a game last season – hence his sub-$300,000 price tag – but averaged 40 in the four games where he started at either prop or lock. If he becomes a mainstay in the Gold Coast starting side expect Wallace's price to rise.
Coen Hess (Cowboys, second-rower, $267,000)
A bench forward for North Queensland, Hess averaged 33 points across five regular-season matches last season – but if an injury strikes the Cowboys' starting pack he could become a valuable Fantasy prospect. Hess earned three starting berths for the Cowboys last season and played the full 80 minutes each time, averaging 30 tackles and about 150 metres in those games – and scoring a try in all three matches. Two of those games came in the finals against Brisbane and Cronulla, so are not counted towards his 2016 average, meaning he's underpriced at the start of the new campaign.
Matt Prior (Sharks, prop, $322,000)
While Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita are two NRL Fantasy monsters in the Cronulla Sharks pack, prop Matt Prior is a smokey to be a value buy in 2016. The key for the veteran front-rower was an increase in minutes in the back half of the 2016 season. After Round 20 last year his game time jumped from around 40 minutes a game to around 50 per game, including a 73-minute effort against the Raiders in the first week of the finals and a 54-minute, 189-metre stint in the Sharks' grand final win. He's priced as a 34-point player but averaged 47 points a game when playing 50 minutes or more, so if those big-minute stints continue he'll be a value buy.
Addin Fonua-Blake (Sea Eagles prop, $253,000)
This one's pretty clear cut – if Fonua-Blake is named in Manly's starting side in Round 1, he's one to consider throwing into your front row. The 21-year-old averaged 26 Fantasy points from his 14 games in his rookie NRL season, but the final four of those games saw him elevated to the Sea Eagles' starting front row. In those four starts his minutes gradually increased and so did his Fantasy scores – 25, 35, 36 and 48. If he continues to hit consistent scores in the 30s – let alone the 40s – he'd be a bargain.
Daniel Saifiti (Knights prop, $345,000)
One of the bright spots of an otherwise forgettable 2016 season for Newcastle, Saifiti showed a lot of promise in his rookie NRL campaign. The young prop improved as the season went on and his minutes increased as well – in the second half of the year he spent at least 40 minutes on the park in all but one game. But it was his performance in the final month of the season that should have NRL Fantasy coaches intrigued – after averaging 33 points a game Saifiti reeled off scores of 42, 55, 58 and 40 to finish the year. If he hits consistent 40s and 50s in 2017 his price should shoot past $400,000.