There's an old-fashioned face-off for the most popular gun half at the start of 2020 while one young playmaker is the most-owned cash cow in NRL Fantasy (at the time of writing anyway). Here are the top half candidates in NRL Fantasy this season.
Most popular options
He's in 40% of teams, he's almost base price at $249k, and he's tipped to start alongside Nathan Cleary in the Panthers halves in round one. With a break even of just 17 he only needs to score 30 points a game to earn upwards of $150,000 in price rises, and based on last year's scoring he's projected to average around 34. Luai has some competition for the No.6 jersey from Matt Burton, while rival rake Tyrone May is free to play from round five although the early signs are that he'll start as a bench utility.
Moses made the leap from inconsistent player to genuine Fantasy weapon last year, leading the league in try assists and kick metres as the Eels returned to a finals force. Not only are Parramatta among the favourites this season but they also have arguably the easiest draw in the league – at least at the start of the season when they'll take on six bottom-eight teams from 2019 then a Bronocs side they destroyed in the first round of last year's finals series. With that schedule Moses could explode out of the blocks in the early rounds with plenty of assists and goals.
A dual-position half/winger-fullback who is set to wear the No.1 for the Titans this season, Brimson is one of the most talented young players at the Gold Coast who could excel in the new role. Priced as a 32-point player, Brimson averages 40 at fullback and 45 when you take out injury-affected games. The Titans have a horror draw to start the year which isn't a great sign for their backline player's Fantasy scoring, but Brimson has managed to score well in losing efforts in the past so should be a handy cash cow somewhere in your starting side.
The safe bets
Cleary is the kind of player seemingly made for NRL Fantasy – a half who doesn't miss many tackles, gets a ton of kick metres, kicks goals, and scores and sets up tries. He finished last season with a monstrous four-try score of 120 against Newcastle (the second time he's scored 120 a single game) and averaged 54 for the season. The bonus is he's no longer playing beside a fellow dominant playmaker with James Maloney gone. Cleary scored 66 in his one game without Maloney last year and scored 77 and 80 in two games without Maloney in 2019. Don't expect him to score like that every week but the signs are promising.
NRL Fantasy player in focus - Nathan Cleary
Last year's top-scoring half, Cherry-Evans does all the basics well – he's got an above-average running and defensive game for a half, and gets through a lot of kick metres and assists. He also had the goal-kicking duties for the first half of last season which inflated his scoring a little. Without goals he's still an excellent Fantasy prospect but may lose his No.1 half rank to Cleary or Moses.
Milford has a reputation as an erratic Fantasy scorer but he's actually been surprisingly consistent in recent years, averaging better than 50 points a game in the past two seasons. The main reason is the huge amount of kick metres he racks up every week, which gives him a solid base to go with good numbers for run metres, tackle breaks and assists. The arrival of Brodie Croft at the Broncos shouldn't hurt Milford's scoring too much (expect Croft to take over much of the short kicking while Milford retains the long clearance kicks) but it's hard to see an enormous upside unless Brisbane rout a few teams early on.
CNK's analysis of his spine and winger-fullbacks
Drinkwater moved to the Cowboys as a fullback but was a five-eighth in his junior days, and will be battling Jake Clifford to be Michael Morgan's halves partner this season. He was the standout player at the NRL Nines in Perth and has plenty of potential to be a Cameron Munster-style running pivot who can rack up quality Fantasy scores even without bulk kick metres. His price and dual-position flexibility (he's also available at WFB) is tempting but his scoring and job security are question marks.
A near base-price half at $246k, Walters impressed when playing at hooker at the NRL Nines and is in the mix as a dummy-half option for the Tigers with Jacob Liddle injured and a swap deal for Melbourne's Harry Grant seemingly falling through. Even so, a bench spot is probably Walters' best chance at game time early on. He has a break even of 17 so would need to score in the high 20s to be worth buying, so while some interchange minutes could potentially be handy if he looks close to a starting berth he'd become a steal.
Last year Mann played at fullback, centre, winger, five-eighth, halfback and off the bench for the Knights, with limited minutes and a lack of consistency contributing to a meagre return of 23 points per game. But he's been anointed Adam O'Brien's first-choice No.6 this season, and that's good news for his Fantasy prospects – he scored 36.6 points a game there last year and averages 37.6 at five-eighth in his career. He only needs to score in the mid-30s to be a quality cash cow this season. The main risk is the presence of rival playmakers Connor Watson, Mason Lino and youngster Phoenix Crossland in the Newcastle squad.