The big team changes and NRL Fantasy form guide heading into this week's Telstra Premiership fixtures.
Parramatta Eels v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Thursday 7.50pm at ANZ Stadium
Eels: Kaysa Pritchard replaces Cameron King at hooker in Parra's only change. Marata Niukore remains in the starting side where he's producing solid scores at less than $400k. Jarryd Hayne turned back the clock in a 90-point effort last round and on current form looks a quality POD option in the centres, while Daniel Alvaro's 64 against the Knights was his second-best score of the season.
Bulldogs: No changes. Last week Will Hopoate became the first player in the NRL era – and possibly ever – to make 10 tackle breaks and 10 offloads in a single game, and was four points shy of a Fantasy 100. Rhyse Martin, who made a ton a week earlier, continues to impress with 60 while Lachlan Lewis's stocks fell a little – even as his price kept climbing – with 28 points.
NRL Fantasy Review - Round 18
Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders, Friday 6pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium
Sharks: Jesse Ramien returns at centre in place of Kurt Capewell in Cronulla's only change. Matt Moylan sliced the Panthers defence apart a couple of times last week on the way to 82 points while Andrew Fifita scored 50 points in 63 minutes – a big increase on his game time compared with Aaron Woods' first game at the club. Meanwhile Paul Gallen's minutes took a plunge, with 22 points in 47 minutes – his first sub-50-minute game since he was injured in round six.
Raiders: Brad Abbey returns from concussion at fullback with Nick Cotric moving to the wing and Michael Oldfield shifting to centre in place of Jarrod Croker (knee, season). Jordan Rapana returned with a bang for Canberra with 62 Fantasy points including a couple of sharp tries. Josh Papalii is scoring consistently well while Nick Cotric made 44 at fullback last week.
Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers, Friday 7.55pm at Suncorp Stadium
Broncos: A broken ankle is set to rule Jaydn Su'A out for the rest of the year, with James Roberts returning at centre, while Tevita Pangai jnr starts in the second row and David Fifita drops out. Anthony Milford is averaging 65 in his past three and bumped his season average above 50 and he shapes as a point of difference buy for the run home if you're short of a half.
Panthers: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Josh Mansour, James Maloney and Nathan Cleary return to the starting side with Tyrone Peachey to come off the bench. Caleb Aekins, Tyrone Phillips, Tyrone May, Jarome Luai and Wayde Egan drop out. Viliame Kikau is still starting and still tearing defences apart, racking up 76 against the Sharks last week.
Newcastle Knights v Gold Coast Titans, Saturday 3pm at McDonald Jones Stadium
Knights: Sione Mata'utia (concussion) is out, with Nathan Ross joining the backline and Lachlan Fitzgibbon returning from suspension on the bench. Mitchell Pearce was the match-winner in his return from injury with a try and 73 points – featuring a massive 611 kick metres, almost certainly the most in a single game by any player this season. Herman Ese'ese is averaging 59 in his last three, while Danny Levi scored 61 in his first 80-minute game at hooker for the season.
Titans: Jai Arrow and Keegan Hipgrave return, pushing Jarrod Wallace to prop, Moeaki Fotuaika and Will Matthews to the bench and Leilani Latu and Jai Whitbread to the reserves. Ryan James's scores have dipped back into the 40s with the tackle breaks and try-scoring plays drying up recently, while rookie five-eighth AJ Brimson made a season-high 51 in a strong all-round game against the Roosters.
Inside The NRL - Episode 19
Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Saturday 5.30pm at ANZ Stadium
Wests Tigers: Chris Lawrence (hamstring) is out, Michael Chee Kam starts in the second row and Alex Twal returns on the bench. Robbie Farah hasn't just turned back the clock, he's scoring as well as ever in Fantasy and has a chance of finishing the season with a staggering 70-point average. His 80-minute role looks even safer if possible with news that Josh Reynolds won't be back this season due to a shoulder injury. Moses Mbye was quiet last week with 30 points but remains a handy WFB or 18th man option.
Rabbitohs: Jason Clark returns from suspension on the bench in place of Mark Nicholls in South Sydney's only change. Damien Cook (79) and Angus Crichton (58) showed no signs of a post-Origin lull for Souths last week, with Cook probably edging ahead of Cameron Smith as the No.1 captaincy choice this round. Adam Reynolds was also terrific in the Rabbitohs' rout of the Bulldogs and has now averaged 65 in his last three games, while Sam Burgess has made three 50+ scores in a row for the first time all season and could be a steal at $622,000.
North Queensland Cowboys v St George Illawarra Dragons, Saturday 7.35pm at 1300Smiles Stadium
Cowboys: Justin O'Neill replaces Antonio Winterstein on the wing, while Coen Hess starts for Shane Wright with Francis Molo joining the interchange.There's very little doing here, Fantasy-wise, with Jason Taumalolo averaging 55 and nobody else really a keeper in this side.
Dragons: Unchanged. Cameron McInnes may be in the shadow of Damien Cook, Cameron Smith and Robbie Farah but he showed what he can do with 67 tackles and 83 points last week – he's in quite a few overall points teams and could give those sides a slight edge in the run home if he repeats those kinds of numbers a few times.
New Zealand Warriors v Melbourne Storm, Sunday 2pm at Mt Smart Stadium
Warriors: Peta Hiku is benched with Gerard Beale moving to the centres and Ken Maumalo returning on the wing. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's 63 against Brisbane was his second-best score of 2018 and proved very handy for those teams who were missing James Tedesco and Kalyn Ponga. Issac Luke made 72 in that game but there are half a dozen more reliable options at hooker. Shaun Johnson is worth persevering with despite a couple of low scores.
Storm: Origin stars Billy Slater, Josh Addo-Carr, Will Chambers, Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi return with Jahrome Hughes, Cheyse Blair, Young Tonumaipea, Ryley Jacks and Joe Stimson dropping out. Dale Finucane could be back from his broken thumb soon as he's named on the reserve list this week. Brodie Croft holds onto the halfback spot ahead of Ryley Jacks and Jahrome Hughes. Cameron Smith has scored at least 61 points in each of his last six games, averaging 75 points a game in that time.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters, Sunday 4.10pm at Lottoland
Sea Eagles: No changes, with Tom Wright holding the five-eighth spot after being a late inclusion in the starting side last week. Jake Trbojevic (70 last week, 56 average) is one of the most reliable guns in Fantasy while Martin Taupau has held an average in the mid-50s since Anzac Day. Manase Fainu looks set to stick around in the Manly side and he's scoring plenty of points, with a line break, a try assist and 45 tackles for a score of 77 last week. After a couple of lean weeks Daly Cherry-Evans bounced back with 56 against the Storm.
Roosters: James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell, Cooper Cronk, Boyd Cordner, Victor Radley and Mitchell Aubusson return with Matthew Ikuvalu, Paul Momirovski, Sean O'Sullivan, Nat Butcher, Lindsay Collins and Poasa Faamausili dropping out. Ryan Matterson was eased back in his long-awaited return from injury with 47 minutes for 32 points, and has been named on the bench this week with Radley preferred as Cordner's second-row partner.