Scout Report: Round 23 teams wrap
The key team changes, injury news and NRL Fantasy form guide heading into Round 23 as the head-to-head Fantasy finals heat up.
Rabbitohs: Aaron Gray replaces Hymel Hunt in South Sydney's only change. Sam Burgess played big minutes again last week despite a ribs complaint but a sin-binning kept him to 41 points - taking his stretch of sub-50 scores to six straight games. Adam Reynolds has also gone a while without hitting 50, while Fantasy superstar Angus Crichton hasn't scored less than 50 since April.
Bulldogs: No changes for the Bulldogs this week, with Chase Stanley again named in the halves, Matt Frawley to come off the bench and Michael Lichaa out of the 17 (but in the reserves). James Graham hasn't quite got his groove back since returning from injury and has settled into a run of mid-40s scores, while his front-row partner Aiden Tolman is faring better but still scores in the 40s more often than not. David Klemmer has produced two of his three best scores of the season in the last fortnight, mainly through base stats, so could be a cut-price option at $376,000.
Eels: Tepai Moeroa is back, with Frank Pritchard dropping out of the 17 and Kenny Edwards moving to the bench. Nathan Brown is proving to be a sensational Fantasy buy this year with a superb back half of the season, while Mitchell Moses could be a sneaky cut-price option in the halves if you're chasing a risky POD after hitting 69 and 60 in the last two weeks.
Knights: Nathan Ross is sidelined with a fracture in his back so Dane Gagai starts at fullback with Joe Wardle returning at centre, while Shaun Kenny-Dowall's return bumps Chanel Mata'utia off the wing. Mitch Barnett scored two tries on the way to 86 points last weekend but his scores tend to vary wildy week-to-week (since the byes he's had two 30s, two 40s, a 50, a 60 and an 80).
Broncos: Joe Ofahengaue is out with a three-week suspension with Jai Arrow taking his place on the bench, while Ben Hunt is named in the No.9 jersey despite the fact he's set to come off the interchange as he did so effectively last week. People have already been asking me about Hunt after his stunning 88 against the Titans but I'd urge caution - not many (any?) bench hookers are keepers in Fantasy, and Hunt won't score a hat-trick or play against the Titans every week. Kodi Nikorima is averaging 52 when playing the full 80 minutes in the halves but that has included seven tries in seven games.
Sharks: James Maloney is back from injury but Jack Bird is out, with Kurt Capewell starting at centre, Fa'amanu shifting to hooker, James Segeyaro moving to the bench and Adam Clydsdale out of the side. Andrew Fifita only has one 50 in his past seven games which isn't enough for a player of his price (and has resulted in his price sliding $144,000).
Dragons: After coming off the bench last week Tyson Frizell is named to start, with Hame Sele and Blake Lawrie joining the bench and Jacob Host and Jake Marketo dropping out. Jack de Belin is in great touch and has been the second-best scorer in Fantasy in the past three weeks, just behind Angus Crichton. Paul Vaughan ranks third in that list, showing that hard-working forwards will continue to score well regardless of their team's form. Matt Dufty is looking like a Dylan Edwards-like keeper, with decent scores in the mid-30s when he doesn't go big.
Titans: Kevin Proctor returns in the second row, with Morgan Boyle bumped to the bench and Agnatius Paasi dropping out. Ryan James has bounced back into Fantasy form recently with scores of 70, 58 and 56 while high defensive workloads helped Jarrod Wallace (55) and Nathan Peats (62) last week.
Storm: A big blow for Fantasy coaches here with Cameron Munster again left out of the 21-man squad, along with Tohu Harris who also remains in the casualty ward. Munster was expected to return this week and will leave Fantasy coaches who face sudden-death head-to-head matches with a decision to make. Cameron Smith got a six-minute rest last week but remains Mr Reliable as far as Fantasy skippers go.
Roosters: The Roosters have brought back two big guns for their clash with Melbourne with Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner both named to start, while Daniel Tupou's injury means Mitchell Aubusson yet again becomes Mr Fix-It and moves into the centres. Ryan Matterson and Victor Radley both shift to the bench with Aidan Guerra also joining the starting side. Latrell Mitchell is coming off back-to-back 50s and Isaac Liu has reeled off three 50s on the trot but Mitchell Pearce remains the standout gun at the Roosters with a no-frills 61 in a losing side against Manly.
Panthers: No changes for Penrith this week, although Matt Moylan and Dean Whare could still potentially be late inclusions after being named on an extended bench. Dylan Edwards' 72 against the Tigers was his second-highest score of the year and brings his average to a tick under 50. Nathan Cleary now costs a whopping $575,000 after an excellent second half of the season.
Cowboys: North Queensland have lost Antonio Winterstein (hamstring) and Gavin Cooper (calf) to injuries, with Javid Bowen and Ben Hampton coming into the 17 this week and Coen Hess starting in Cooper's place. Michael Morgan has hit 62 and 87 in the last couple of weeks, while Jason Taumalolo's scores have been a little underwhelming with 48 and 41. Both could benefit this week from taking on the team with the second-most missed tackles in the league.
Warriors: Issac Luke has been benched, with Nathaniel Roache getting the start at hooker, while Ryan Hoffman's return bumps Jazz Tevaga out of the 17. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored a welcome 55 last week - his first score above 50 since Round 14.
Raiders: No changes, with Elliott Whitehead remaining at lock where he played last week. Despite Canberra enjoying a great win over the Sharks last week only Josh Hodgson (60) and Jordan Rapana (47) really scored well, but the likes of Jarrod Croker, Joey Leilua, Nick Cotric and Rapana could be queuing up for tries against a badly out-of-sorts Warriors side this week.
Wests Tigers: Unchanged. James Tedesco is busting tackles at will these days, Tui Lolohea continues to score reliably well and mid-ranger Matt Eisenhuth grabbed his first 50 last weekend, while Tigers prop Alex Twal has the No.1 consistency rating in Fantasy this season, for what it's worth.
Sea Eagles: Addin Fonua-Blake is back in place of Kelepi Tanginoa on the bench. Daly Cherry-Evans hit a season-high 82 last week and could be hitting top form at just the right time for his Fantasy owners with the head-to-head finals upon us, with his price still $90,000 below that of Nathan Cleary. Martin Taupau is also getting back to his fearsome best with 50s in the last two weeks while Tom Trbojevic is coming off a two-try effort against the Roosters and will be backing himself to score more against the Tigers.