NRL Fantasy player watch: Johnathan Thurston
Johnathan Thurston, HLF, $647,000
The best playmaker in rugby league can dominate the attacking stats on his day, but will the rise of Michael Morgan hurt Johnathan Thurston's NRL Fantasy prospects?
Scoring potential: 4/5
In 2014, 2015 and 2016 Johnathan Thurston led the league for try assists, but in 2017 he was restricted to just seven NRL matches and his halves partner Michael Morgan topped the competition's try assist tally instead. This season Thurston is back, with his Cowboys side looking as strong as ever with Morgan now a Test star and fellow Kangaroo Jordan McLean joining a forward pack led by Jason Taumalolo and a fit-again Matt Scott. He was easily the best half in Fantasy in 2015 with a staggering 33 try assists (the next best that year was 22), so at his best, he's a great Fantasy scorer. But with Morgan now a star in his own right, Thurston no longer has to do it all himself at the Cowboys. That could hurt his numbers for assists and kick metres.
Injury is the biggest concern for Thurston as he returns from the shoulder surgery that ended his 2017 campaign after State of Origin II. But assuming he returns to full fitness he's a fairly reliable Fantasy prospect – he'll pull the strings for one of the premiership powerhouses and should be a mainstay.
At $647,000, Thurston will start the new season with a break-even of 44, four points less than his 2016 average and a whopping 14 points below the 58 points a game he scored in 2015. If JT gets back to his dominant best he'll be a cut-price keeper, but even if he hits the 48 points a game he made in the past two seasons he'll be slightly undervalued. He's still not cheap, so if you pick him up you'd want 50+ points a game. But if you expect him to make those numbers he's significantly cheaper than rival halves Shaun Johnson ($835,000), Mitchell Pearce ($824,000), Nathan Cleary ($818,000) and Daly Cherry-Evans ($715,000).