The Latrell Mitchell contract saga is finally over, with the Test centre released by the Roosters deal to link with Souths – so what does that mean for NRL Fantasy?
There are implications for both the Tricolours and Bunnies backlines in 2020, while a potential shift from Roosters centre to Souths fullback could be good or bad news for Mitchell's own Fantasy output.
An automatic pick in the Chooks' centres over the past three seasons as well as their first-choice goal-kicker, Mitchell leaves a big gap.
His spot in the centres looks most likely to be filled by promising youngster Billy Smith, although if Trent Robinson wants to lean on experience he could shift Brett Morris in one spot and use England Test winger Ryan Hall in his natural position.
Sadly for Fantasy coaches, Smith's try and eight tackle busts in round 25 against Souths last season boosted his second NRL appearance to 56 Fantasy points, meaning he will not start at rookie price.
Latrell Mitchell joins South Sydney Rabbitohs
In fact he is set to start at $425k – a shandy below a raft of established centres like Waqa Blake, Tim Lafai and Curtis Scott.
It means Smith has a break even around 30, meaning he is only really worth a look if you back him to average at least 35.
The hard-working Hall averaged 35 in his six games in 2019 and at $450k there isn't a great deal of upside to him price-wise either, even if he gets an extended run.
The Roosters goal-kicking is likely to fall to former Shark Kyle Flanagan, who takes over from the retired Cooper Cronk in the halves.
Flanagan will start at $533k based on his eight games for the Sharks in 2019, in which he was already the first-choice goal-kicker when he played.
Five key match-ups of the Roosters' 2020 draw
Flanagan may get a boost to his attacking stats by shifting to Bondi but the recent Mitchell move doesn't change his situation Fantasy-wise.
The Bunnies have two well-established centres in Braidon Burns and James Roberts, plus versatile backs like Dane Gagai and Campbell Graham who can play wing or centre.
What they don't have is an established top-line fullback, with Mitchell likely to leapfrog Alex Johnston and Adam Doueihi and wear the No.1 jersey.
The likely three-quarter line of Graham, Burns, Roberts and Gagai will likely be unaffected. Johnston now looks almost certain to miss the starting 17 for round one (assuming he remains at the club) while Doueihi's $457k price tag is set to slip if he starts the season, as expected, from the interchange.
Adam Reynolds should retain goal-kicking duties so his Fantasy scoring shouldn't shift too much in 2020.
Mitchell to enter 'keeper' territory?
So what about Mitchell himself? Is a shift to Redfern and a probable move to fullback going to boost his Fantasy scores or at least aid his consistency?
Let's start with his 2019 performances. He played 22 regular season games and finished with an average of 45. It was the best of any centre; the only players available at centre in Fantasy to average more – John Bateman and Briton Nikora – both played in the back row.
Centre is traditionally a tough position to find reliable Fantasy scorers. Mitchell will be available at CTR regardless of where he plays for Souths while the other two will be reduced to just 2RF, meaning there's already a big case to find a spot for the tackle-busting Taree product.
However assuming veteran Bunnies half Adam Reynolds – one of the league's sharp-shooters – retains the goal-kicking duties, Mitchell will be starting with a hefty handicap to his scoring.
Mitchell slotted 89 goals last season, equating to eight Fantasy points per game. Take that out and his hefty 45 average drops to a far less impressive 37.
Can he find the extra attacking stats to bridge the gap?
The main criticism of Mitchell as both a rugby league player and a fantasy prospect is a tendency to go through very quiet patches in games – something that could well be remedied by a move to fullback.
Mitchell struggled in his first stint as a No.1 but that was back in his debut season in 2016. Out of interest, he averaged 32 in Fantasy that year, with around two thirds of his games at the back with the other third on the wing.
He is without question a totally different player now and while he would need to ensure his fitness is up to the extra running required at fullback, it seems a safe bet he would otherwise be better equipped to handle the position.
Last year Mitchell had a top score of 98 but a low of 15 points in 80 minutes in round 25, with six scores of 32 or below.
He had 10 or more carries just six times, and in seven games he ran the ball seven times or fewer – including that monster round eight game against the Tigers, in which almost every carry seemed to be a line break or try.
Five key match-ups of the Rabbitohs' 2020 draw
That consistency should even out at fullback with the freedom to roam across the field and plenty of kicks to field. However, his 9.7 points per game from tackles will also drop substantially, with fullbacks rarely averaging more than four per game.
That's around 14 Fantasy points to be made up from additional run metres, busts, tries and try assists to just keep level with his 2019 output.
For an attacking sensation like Mitchell that is not out of reach but factor in the near-inevitable teething issues in the new position with new teammates and the chance he may be eased into the role, possibly starting the season switching between spots with the likes of Dane Gagai and Adam Doueihi more than capable at the back, and all signs point to a likely price drop over the early parts of 2020.