NRL Fantasy value buys: The backs
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 backline stars who loom as potential bargains in 2017.
Jarryd Hayne (Titans, winger/fullback, $200,000)
It would be no surprise if Jarryd Hayne is the most-owned Fantasy player at the start of the 2017 season. The Titans superstar and former Dally M winner had a fairly quiet campaign after returning to the NRL last year, averaging about 25 points from five matches. He's capable of just about anything on his day – back in 2014 he actually became the most expensive player in Fantasy (something just about unheard of for a fullback) with almost 63 points per game. Don't expect those kinds of numbers again just yet but Hayne can still be a quality cash cow.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors, winger/fullback, $286,000)
The superstar Warriors recruit averaged 33 Fantasy points a game across seven matches in 2016, before his season was ended by injury. Those scores are well down on his massive 56.5 points a game for the Roosters in 2015. He's back in action again and has been handed the Warriors captaincy to boot, suggesting he'll be keen to out to inspire his teammates whenever possible. With a starting price of $286,000 and a break even around 30, even if he scores in the mid-40s next season he'd be great value.
Mitch Moses (Wests Tigers, half, $375,000)
Moses was one of the NRL's big improvers last season, lighting up the final half-dozen rounds after becoming the main man at the Tigers following the axing of Robbie Farah at hooker. In the first 17 rounds of the season Moses after 32 points a game, but following Farah's final game as a Tiger in Round 17 Moses averaged a whopping 52 in his final eight matches of the campaign. He's not renowned as a consistent player – as capable of coughing up errors and missing tackles as he is of setting up tries – but if Moses can continue his run as a 50-point scorer he'll be a steal at $364,000.
Kane Elgey (Titans, half, $197,000)
After a year out of the game Elgey is expected to return to the Titans halves in 2017 despite the success of Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor as a playmaking combination last season. In 2017 Elgey burst onto the scene as one of rugby league's most promising young halves but his time on the sidelines means he's been given a healthy discount – if he can post regular scores in the mid-to-low 30s it would be enough to earn him about $100,000 in price rises.
Jamal Idris (Wests Tigers, centre, $148,000)
On the one hand, Jamal Idris is one of the few players with the size and skills to score regular 40s for your Fantasy side in the centres – something achieved by Raiders duo Joey Leilua and Jarrod Croker last year. On the other hand, after more than a year out of the game Idris is a bit of an unknown quantity right now. He'll need decent game time to be worthwhile as a Fantasy buy, but with a very low starting price Idris could easily become one of the season's key cash cows.
Dean Whare (Panthers, centre, $205,000)
One centre who does look like getting quality game time after missing last season is former Kiwis international Whare, who spent only 56 minutes on the park last year. He's made his return from a knee injury this pre-season and should be capable of bumping up his price if he can lock down a centre spot at Penrith early in the campaign.
Billy Slater (Storm, winger/fullback, $212,000)
Like Whare, Slater played just a single game last season, with his price based on a discount from his 2015 performances. That makes him great value at the start of the new campaign – on the proviso he actually lines up for the Storm and stays fit. The former Kangaroos No.1 is still in doubt for Round 1 and isn't traditionally a massive Fantasy scorer due to a lack of tackle breaks, but he's still a $300,000-point player on his day so could make some easy money for your squad if he can contribute regular scores in the 30s.
Sione Mata'utia (Knights, centre/second-rower, $299,000)
There are two good reasons to consider buying Sione Mata'utia this season: 1) he's undervalued; and 2) he's available in the notoriously tricky centre position. The dual-position player may have represented Australia on the wing as a teenager but it's his mid-season shift to the back row last year that will have Fantasy coaches excited this season. Mata'utia averaged 27 points from the 11 games he played at centre last season (including an injury-affect -2 in Round 5), but averaged a strong 40 points a game when starting in the forward pack. He's a big-minute player in a team expected to do a lot of defending so those scores should stick around this year if he regains a spot in the second row.
Konrad Hurrell (Titans, centre, $311,000)
One of the most gifted tackle-breakers in the game, Hurrell once again became a Fantasy go-to option last season after making a mid-season switch from the Warriors to the Titans. The powerful centre is priced at $311,000 with a break even of about 34 thanks in part to a string of brief cameo appearances off the bench for the Warriors early last season – but once he became a regular starter for the Gold Coast he scored 43 points a week. If he carries that form into 2017 he'd be about $100,000 underpriced.
Akuila Uate (Sea Eagles, winger/fullback, $177,000)
Not that long ago, Uate was a fixture on the wing for NSW and Australia. The Sea Eagles will be hoping to see more of that barnstorming speedster of old after signing him from Newcastle, where Uate scored just 18 Fantasy points a game last year. Those scores included just a single try and two line breaks from 10 matches – numbers that will surely improve if Uate gets anywhere near back to his best. At the very least the Sea Eagles are a stronger attacking outfit than Newcastle, so the winger should see a few more scoring chances come his way. At just $177,000, he could be worth a gamble.