Bye watch: Fantasy guide to the draw
Aiming to chase the prizes in NRL Fantasy this season and climb the overall rankings ladder? You'll need to keep the fixture list – particularly the bye schedule – in mind when picking your squad and planning your trades.
How does the draw affect NRL Fantasy? A few ways. The main factor is each club's bye schedule – players who will be available on the major bye rounds when State of Origin players are out of action are all the more valuable for Fantasy coaches aiming to climb the overall points ladder.
The other, less obvious factor is the "difficulty" of each team's draw. Generally speaking, backline players tend to get more attacking opportunities – and therefore more Fantasy points – when they play against weaker teams, while tackle-hungry forwards get to do more defending against stronger teams. Therefore you might be better off buying backs from teams with "easy" draws and forwards from teams with tougher draws.
So, who are the big NRL Fantasy winners and losers from the NRL draw?
Non-Origin players from the Rabbitohs and Eels: These are the only players who have the chance to play in all three major bye rounds – Round 12, Round 15 and Round 18. Fantasy coaches playing for overall points will need to keep an eye out for any quality buys from these clubs after the first dozen rounds of the season. Both clubs also play the bulk of their games at home in the second half of the season, making their players even better prospects for trading in before Origin.
Non-Origin players from the Bulldogs, Sharks, Storm and Roosters: These players play in two of the three major bye weeks so will also be valuable for teams chasing overall points. Expect to see internationals James Graham and Jesse Bromwich and former NSW skipper Paul Gallen in a lot of Fantasy teams in the middle part of the season.
Origin players from the Broncos, Raiders, Titans, Sea Eagles, Knights, Cowboys, Panthers, Dragons, Warriors and Wests Tigers: The fact that 10 clubs make this section shows that the NRL has done well in limiting the impact on State of Origin on the Telstra Premiership campaign, with all of these clubs losing their Origin players for just one match during the season. Of course those stars could also be rested in the week after an Origin game, but the most durable big guns are a strong chance of turning out for their club in 23 of their 24 regular season matches.
Origin players from the Rabbitohs and Eels: Greg Inglis will play just two NRL matches from Round 12 to Round 18 next season, while any Eel who gets called up to Origin level (like Michael Jennings) will play just three games between Round 12 and Round 19. This also makes incumbent NSW players and Rabbioths stars Adam Reynolds and Robbie Farah risky propositions in the middle part of the season.
Rabbitohs backline players: With arguably the toughest draw in the NRL in 2017 and five of their first seven games away from home, the South Sydney backline could struggle to score points compared to previous seasons. The flipside is their big men may get more defensive work than usual – potentially good news for the Burgess brothers.