NRL.com's resident Fantasy guru runs through all the winners and losers from the first official team lists of the 2019 Telstra Premiership season.
Round 1 team news
Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos, Thursday 7.50pm at AAMI Park
Storm: With Billy Slater gone and Scott Drinkwater injured, Jahrome Hughes ($502k) starts at fullback. The loss of Slater's playmaking abilities could create more opportunities for halves Cameron Munster ($667k) and Brodie Croft ($561k) to thrive. Potential cash cow Joe Stimson is out with a lower back injury, with Kenny Bromwich starting in the second row. Cameron Smith ($894k) is always a great captaincy option if you can fit him under your salary cap.
Broncos: Jack Bird ($289k) is the most-owned Fantasy player at the Broncos and will be good value if he can get back to his pre-2018 form. With a break even of 37, Matt Gillett ($556k) is an interesting option at lock in his return from a neck injury – although his game time is a mystery at this point. Tevita Pangai jnr ($640k) is a risky buy after being named on the bench, but could break into the starting side in the coming weeks (or play big minutes off the interchange anyway). Bench utility Kotoni Staggs ($280k) is one to avoid. Rookie prop Thomas Flegler ($212k) should get at least four bench games before Payne Haas is available and could hold his spot beyond that if he plays well.
How to spend your money in NRL Fantasy
Newcastle Knights v Cronulla Sharks, Friday 6pm at McDonald Jones Stadium
Knights: There are six new recruits in Newcastle's starting side but all eyes will be on Kalyn Ponga's switch to five-eighth. In Fantasy terms his tackle counts will rise but his run metres and tackle breaks will likely drop – and at $784k he needs to score 53 points a game to hold his current price. James Gavet ($377k) and Tim Glasby ($481k) both have some potential upside. Sione Mata'utia ($446k) is priced as a 30-point scorer but could hit regular 40s if he can play big minutes in the second row. Mitchell Pearce ($745k) and Jesse Ramien ($568k) could be among the best scorers in their position this season.
Sharks: Popular cheapie Bronson Xerri ($212k) has missed the cut for a starting spot, with Sosaia Feki ($418k) and Sione Katoa ($370k) on the wings and veterans Josh Dugan and Josh Morris in the centres. Kurt Capewell ($428k) and Briton Nikora ($212k) will start in the second row and are both good value – and available at centre in Fantasy. Andrew Fifita ($864k) is in a quarter of teams and looms as one of the best captaincy options in Fantasy after a very strong pre-season.
Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Friday 7.55pm at Sydney Cricket Ground
Roosters: Angus Crichton's Fantasy prospects have hit a speedbump with the new Rooster named on the bench in round one as he continues to return from a shoulder injury. Don't get carried away by the news Mitchell Aubusson ($382k) is starting in his place. Victor Radley ($503k) starts at lock and has plenty of upside if he can play upwards of 50 minutes each week. Latrell Mitchell ($669k) and James Tedesco ($795k) are both elite scorers for their positions, while Joey Manu ($475k) could be undervalued after a superb run of form in the second half of 2018.
Rabbitohs: Cameron Murray ($595k) gets his start at lock and looks excellent value, with Sam Burgess ($671k) moving to the second row. Popular cheapie Corey Allan ($212k) is stuck on the bench with Dane Gagai ($555k) moving to the wing and Braidon Burns ($323k) getting a start at centre. Points could be hard to come by for Allan if used purely as injury cover for the back five, although there's a chance he starts this week if Greg Inglis is a late scratching. Tevita Tatola ($310k) starts at prop and could hold that spot for the opening three rounds with George Burgess serving a suspension. Damien Cook was the best player in NRL Fantasy in 2019 and comes with a massive $969k price tag this year.
Player watch: Sam Burgess and Cam Murray
New Zealand Warriors v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Saturday 3pm (5pm local) at Mt Smart Stadium
Warriors: Issac Luke (shoulder) is out with Nathaniel Roache ($282k) starting at hooker, but the big Fantasy news is in the halves where Adam Keighran ($212k) has won the race to replace Shaun Johnson and at base price he should probably be in your team. Isaiah Papali'i ($549k) is undervalued as a player but has been stood down for a match by the club over a drink driving offence. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ($654k) is among the elite WFBs but doesn't necessarily have much improvement in him after winning the Dally M award last year.
Bulldogs: Nick Meaney ($362k) may have got some love from Fantasy coaches in the pre-season but he hasn't convinced Dean Pay he's worth a run over Will Hopoate ($621k). Last year's standout Fantasy cash cow Rhyse Martin also hasn't made the cut. Kerrod Holland ($440k) was an excellent Fantasy scorer in the second half of 2018 and is a potential cut-price gun if he matches that form. Christian Crichton ($273k) gets a spot on the wing. Dylan Napa ($355k) and Aidan Tolman ($572) both provide value in the front row, with Napa set for more minutes after getting limited game time at the Roosters last year while Tolman's workload stepped up after Aaron Woods's exit last season and could remain high with David Klemmer having now left the club.
Wests Tigers v Manly Sea Eagles, Saturday 5.30pm at Leichhardt Oval
Wests Tigers: David Nofoaluma (shoulder) is set to miss a couple of weeks and Moses Mbye (knee) remains sidelined, with Corey Thompson, Mahe Fonua and Robert Jennings making up a new-look back three. Luke Garner ($340k) replaces the injured Chris Lawrence in the second row, and could have the spot for three to five months. Ryan Matterson ($681k) has the other starting spot in the second row and is a potential keeper, while Esan Marsters ($617k) was an elite scorer at centre last year despite only scoring three tries in 24 games. Rookie Tom Mikaele ($212k) gets a bench spot with Chris McQueen ($228k) missing out.
Sea Eagles: Rookie Reuben Garrick ($212k) gets a start on the wing, while Brendan Elliott ($228k) replaces the injured Tom Trobojevic (due back round three) at fullback. Curtis Sironen ($453k) is priced as a 30-point player but scored 38 a game last year. Jake Trbojevic ($867k) and Martin Taupau ($852k) are both captaincy options, while Daly Cherry-Evans($823k) isn't too far behind.
North Queensland Cowboys v St George Illawarra Dragons, Saturday 7.35pm at 1300Smiles Stadium
Cowboys: Jordan Kahu ($287k) is the new North Queensland fullback and looks good value with a break even of 19 considering he'll double as the team's first-choice goal-kicker. Jason Taumalolo ($821k) returns to lock after playing a trial on an edge with Josh McGuire ($591k) back to the bench. Ben Hampton has been left out of the top 17, while Te Maire Martin is keeping Jake Clifford out of the side. Michael Morgan looks a steal at $450k if he can score like he did without Johnathan Thurston in 2017.
Dragons: He may have been the most popular cash cow of the pre-season but Zac Lomax ($212k) has missed out on selection in round one, with fellow dual-position young gun Mikaele Ravalawa ($212k) getting picked on the wing instead. Jacob Host ($228k) is the new starter in the back row in the absence of Jack de Belin with Tyson Frizell ($700k) switching to lock. Host's run in the starting side may be limited with Korbin Sims to return from suspension in a couple of weeks. Tackle machine Cameron McInnes ($837k) is the Red V's best Fantasy scorer.
Morgan ready to move on without Thurston
Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels, Sunday 4.05pm at Panthers Stadium
Panthers: Viliame Kikau will miss three weeks with a knee injury, with Jack Hetherington ($325k) starting in his place. Nathan Cleary ($769k) is one of the best-scoring halves in Fantasy and could improve on last year's efforts after his scoring took a dip mid-season when he returned from injury. Dylan Edwards ($571k) is a potential keeper at the back and is good value with a break even of 38, while Sione Katoa ($400k) is a good price for a starting hooker – albeit one who is facing competition for minutes from Wayde Egan ($289k).
Eels: Dylan Brown ($212k) is pretty much a must-have player as a rookie starting half with good job security, but he's not Parramatta's only rookie on offer with Fijian winger Maika Sivo ($212k) to start on the wing. Reed Mahoney ($492k) also looks a good buy as a potential big-minute hooker, although Will Smith is on the bench and there have been reports the Eels are looking to sign fellow rake Matt McIlwrick. Junior Paulo (hamstring) is in doubt and Manu Ma'u (knee) will miss six weeks.
Masters of the key fantasy stat
Gold Coast Titans v Canberra Raiders, Sunday 6.10pm at Cbus Super Stadium
Titans: AJ Brimson must settle for a bench spot with Michael Gordon starting at fullback, while Tyrone Roberts returns in the halves and Tyrone Peachey starts in the centres. Bryce Cartwright ($273k) has a very sketchy recent history as a Fantasy scorer and is one to be wary of on the bench. Jai Arrow ($753k) is capable of matching the elite 2RF scorers, while Ryan James ($779k) is named in the second row but tends to score better as a middle forward.
Raiders: Cheapie Bailey Simonsson ($212k) starts on the wing with former Warrior Chanel Nicoll-Klokstad ($379k) in the No.1 jersey. Simonsson is replacing Jordan Rapana (shoulder, round 8) but Michael Oldfield (groin, round 2) is also out and could challenge him for a spot as soon as next week. Nicoll-Klokstad has a break even of 25 and should outscore that at fullback. Englishman John Bateman ($593k) starts at lock but is an awkward price. Potential cash cows Royce Hunt ($212k) and Emre Guler ($292k) have both missed the cut. Josh Hodgson ($658k) will improve on last year's injury-affected season, but will it be enough to make him a Fantasy keeper?
In 2019 you can take on Rabbitohs superstar Damien Cook in your NRL Fantasy league, plus Lone Scout, Chris Kennedy and more members of the NRL Fantasy community. League creators can add celebrity teams via the League page.