The key team changes and NRL Fantasy form guide heading into round five of the 2018 Telstra Premiership season.
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Canberra Raiders v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 7.50pm Thursday at GIO Stadium
Raiders: Josh Papalii joins Blake Austin in being dropped from the top 17 in recent weeks, with Liam Knight added to the bench and Luke Bateman starting at lock, pushing Elliott Whitehead to the second row. Junior Paulo will start at prop with Shannon Boyd to come off the bench. Jarrod Croker is coming off his first 50 of the season while Siliva Havili's price rises are starting to slow after last week's 24. Nick Cotric followed up a round three 70 with a meagre 8 against Manly in round four.
Bulldogs: Aiden Tolman is sidelined with an ankle injury, with Adam Elliott joining the starting pack and Kerrod Holland added to the bench. Michael Lichaa showed what he's capable of last week, combining 41 tackles and 115 run metres in an 80-minute performance worth 58 points. Raymond Faitala-Mariner continues to be a gem of a cash cow and is also Canterbury's best scorer this season with 48.5 points a game. Jeremy Marshall-King's cash cow prospects received a blow with just 8 points last week but he's capable of bouncing back if he holds the five-eighth spot long term.
Cronulla Sharks v Sydney Roosters, 6pm Friday at Southern Cross Group Stadium
Sharks: Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan return from injury this week with Edrick Lee and Trent Hodkinson dropping out of the side. No player in Cronulla's grinding clash with the Storm last week made more than 50 points, with Matt Prior going closest with 48. That meant it was a quiet week for Fantasy guns Paul Gallen (42) and Andrew Fifita (38), with Gallen's price tag continuing to tumble. Dugan was a late withdrawal last week and his injury troubles are the biggest roadblock to him becoming a quality option at the back or in the centres.
Roosters: No changes. Latrell Mitchell fired for the first time of 2018 against the Warriors for 54 points, while James Tedesco somehow managed 53 despite looking to be well contained for much of the match. Ryan Matterson's run as a borderline 50-point player came to a halt with 35, and it was a similar story for Blake Ferguson who spent a lot of time trapped in his own in-goal and finished on 27. Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Mitchell Aubusson are both sells if they're still in your side.
St George Illawarra Dragons v South Sydney Rabbitohs, 7.50pm Friday at Jubilee Oval
Dragons: Leeson Ah Mau pipped all the Fantasy stars in the Red V forward pack to be his team's top scorer in the win over Newcastle with 58, just ahead of Euan Aitken's 57 and James Graham's 56. Both Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt have averages in the 50s this season. The only change to their side this week is Hame Sele named on the bench, although Jeremy Latimore is likely to again join the 17 on game day.
Rabbitohs: Adam Reynolds' return means cash cow Adam Doueihi moves to the bench – Doueihi has at least one price rise in him but is getting close to peaking after earning $157,000 so far – while Braidon Burns drops out of the 17. Dane Gagai has been named on the wing with Hymel Hunt to play centre. Cameron Murray is getting better and better, hitting 53, 60 and 61 since taking on the No.13 jersey at Souths and scoring the match-winner against the Bulldogs last week. Damien Cook is a genuine captaincy candidate after Cameron Smith's form slump.
Wests Tigers v Melbourne Storm, 5pm Saturday (3pm AET) at Mt Smart Stadium
Wests Tigers: No changes. Robbie Rochow grabbed 62 points including a try on Monday and has now earned exactly $150,000 in price rises, and counting. Corey Thompson is doing even better as a cash cow with a whopping $247,000 price jump this year.
Storm: Will Chambers and Dale Finucane have both copped one-match suspensions and Finucane is also out injured for a month, with Young Tonumaipea and Kenny Bromwich joining the starting side. Felise Kaufusi could be a late inclusion after being named in the reserves. Cameron Smith's 23 against Cronulla rings alarm bells for about 30,000 NRL Fantasy coaches but it's worth remembering that came in a game where nobody scored well (Ryan Hoffman was the only Storm player to score more than 34). It also included zero attacking stats and -13 in demerits from a missed tackle, three penalties and a sin binning. He looks to be carrying a leg injury, having not kicked goals or kicked in general play on Friday night. Surely it's as low as Smith goes this year, but it'll send his price tumbling in the short term. He's still Melbourne's best Fantasy scorer with Nelson Asofa-Solomona (9) struggling last week and Jesse Bromwich and Brodie Croft both sells.
New Zealand Warriors v North Queensland Cowboys, 7.50pm Saturday (5.30pm AET) at Mt Smart Stadium
Warriors: Shaun Johnson and Simon Mannering are both named to return from injuries, with Mannering to play his first game of the year off the bench. Curiously he's become the most expensive player in Fantasy this year without playing a minute of footy yet. Sam Lisone is also back from suspension. Solomone Kata had a try and five tackle busts on Saturday for 53 points as the Warriors won without Johnson and with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck only coming up with 14 Fantasy points. Tohu Harris made "just" 41 but still averages 53 for the season and looks a keeper on the evidence we've seen so far.
Cowboys: Jordan McLean is out for three months with a foot injury, with Scott Bolton starting at prop and Corey Jenseon joining the bench. Coen Hess is coming off back-to-back big scores with last week's 61 arguably more impressive than the previous round's 80 as it came without a try, and with 55 points in base stats. Jason Taumalolo bounced back with 52 but Johnathan Thurston is unfortunately a sell after only scoring more than 32 just once in four games.
Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos, 7.35pm Saturday at McDonald Jones Stadium
Knights: Ken Sio joins the Knights backline this week with Nathan Ross moving to centre to cover for Tautau Moga, who is out for the season with a ruptured ACL. Kalyn Ponga is proving to be a gem of a buy, averaging 57 points a game after racking up another 10 tackle breaks last week. Slade Griffin has been one of the league's best cash cows and a handy scorer to boot, combining 47 points a game with a $176,000 price boost.
Broncos: Corey Oates and Tevita Pangai jnr have been named in the 21-man squad this week, although Pangai is only in the reserves, with Oates to return from injury on the wing. Jonus Pearson drops out of the 17. Andrew McCullough is NRL Fantasy's best scorer from the opening month of the season, with just over 59 points per game, while Josh McGuire again looks a borderline keeper this season. Jamayne Isaako could be closing in on his peak price after making just 17 last week.
Gold Coast Titans v Manly Sea Eagles, 2pm Sunday at Marley Brown Oval
Titans: Jai Arrow could make the switch from cash cow to keeper after excelling in his first run as the Titans' lock with 65 points as the Gold Coast stunned the Broncos. The move meant Ryan James shifted to prop where he made a season-high 48, but the loser in the reshuffle was Bryce Cartwright who was restricted to a very brief cameo off the bench for 3 points and looks like a sell considering the team performed so well without him in the starting side. There are no changes for the Gold Coast this week, as expected.
Sea Eagles: Manly have been hit hard by injuries with Tom Tbrojevic (ankle, round 7), Curtis Sironen (knee, season) and Kelepi Tanginoa (knee, season) all sidelined. Dylan Walker's return is the good news, with Frank Winterstein and Jack Gosiewski joining the forward rotation. Jake Trbojevic is a rock-solid captaincy candidate after averaging 58 points in the first month of the season and Daly Cherry-Evans isn't far behind with a tick under 57 points a game. Lachlan Croker's price rises could be on the wane after he made just 15 last week.
Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers, 4.10pm Sunday at ANZ Stadium
Eels: Unchanged. No Parramatta player scored 50 last week with Daniel Alvaro and Nathan Brown the only two Eels to average more than 45 points a game this year. A win can't be too far away for Brad Arthur's men but it's wise to steer clear of their players until then.
Panthers: Unchanged. Dylan Edwards is averaging exactly 50 points a game at fullback and is the fourth best WFB in the game so far in 2018 (behind Kalyn Ponga, Tom Trbojevic and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck). James Maloney is sure to be in high demand after last week's 85 in the absence of Nathan Cleary, considering his price tag of just $378,000, even if he's been a very inconsistent Fantasy scorer in the past (last week his 2018 average was just 12). Viliame Kikau edged ahead of Bryce Cartwright as the most popular player in Fantasy last week and he repaid the faith with a try and 54 points – his third score above 50 in four games. He's already made a whopping $261,000 in price rises. James Fisher-Harris is another quality cash cow who earned 59 points and a $64,000 price boost this week, while his new role at lock means Trent Merrin is playing limited minutes at prop and looks a probable sell.