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2019 premiers the Sydney Roosters.

What's the secret to success in the modern NRL? It's not hiring the best coach, or "giving 110%".

It's making smart use of the salary cap.

The best NRL teams get value for money from their stars and don't waste big contracts on mediocre players. And that's also the secret to success in NRL Fantasy.

You've got $9.8 million to spend on 21 players. Get the right combination of established stars, value buys and promising rookies and you could be beating your mates in a head-to-head league and winning big prizes.

It'll change the way you watch rugby league, and it's free to play.

Players score points based on their on-field performances each round of the NRL season, and their price tags change based on their scores. You can make 34 trades throughout the year, and turn your team of plucky battlers into an all-star line-up.

Don't want to bother with a salary cap? Play Draft instead. Get a league of friends together for the thrilling live draft, where each NRL player can only be selected by one team. Do you use your No.1 pick on Cameron Smith, Damien Cook or Payne Haas?

In Draft, you design your league as you like: how many players per team, how your draft will work, who needs to approve trades between teams, etc. Make smart trades and swoop on rising stars as they emerge and you could be the grand final winner.

In both versions of the game you decide whether to play for total points, or face off against a new opponent each week in a head-to-head league – complete with finals series to decide the league champion.

Sound tricky? There will be plenty of free advice on the game's best buys throughout the season on NRL.com and on the NRL Fantasy Podcast.

Here are the prizes up for grabs for the classic Fantasy game:

  • Early league creator: Start a new league and fill it with 16 or more teams (classic mode) or 10 or more teams (Draft) to go in the running to win a VIP trip for two to the NRL Grand Final (3 nights)
  • Overall prize winners: 1st – VIP trip for two to the 2021 NRL Nines (3 nights) plus $5000; 2nd & 3rd – VIP trip for two to the 2021 NRL Nines (3 nights); 4th & 5th – $750 in KFC vouchers
  • Weekly prize winners: 1st – $300; 2nd & 3rd – $100
  • 16 club champions (best team among supporters from each club) – $250 NRL Shop voucher
  • Highest-value squad after 25 rounds – $500 in KFC vouchers

Beyond the joy of beating your mates and going in the running for prizes, playing Fantasy makes watching the footy itself more interesting. Now every game matters – you don't have to be a Broncos fan to appreciate a barnstorming Payne Haas run when he's your Fantasy captain, or a Roosters fan to enjoy a James Tedesco try when he's your Fantasy fullback.

You'll also quickly become an expert on which rookies are the players to watch, and will be ahead of the curve when it comes to spotting the next Kalyn Ponga or Nathan Cleary.

So sign up for free now, get a few mates together and start a league.