Footy is back and it's a monster round for NRL Fantasy, with coaches allowed to make up to four trades this week and next. Here are all the key talking points and players to watch heading into round three.
This week's team news
Broncos v Eels, Thursday 7.50pm
Broncos: Alex Glenn and Joe Ofahengaue return to the Brisbane pack this round but David Fifita's injury is the big news here, with the star second-rower in more than 40% of teams a trade-out now assuming he'll miss up to six weeks. Jason Taumalolo looks the most obvious target for those who don't have him. Fellow second-rower Jamil Hopoate ($267k) scored 43 in 80 minutes in round 2, filling in for the suspended Tevita Pangai jnr who will miss another three weeks; if Hopoate can reel off three more 40s in the next few rounds he's projected to jump in value by $150k. Tom Flegler will earn a big price rise next week but the looming return of Matt Lodge (potentially as soon as this week) could hurt his game time while DPP lock Pat Carrigan ($501k) is looking rock-solid after back-to-back 50s. Jake Turpin ($570k) could play the full 80 at hooker after the departure of Andrew McCullough to Newcastle.
Eels: Marata Niukore replaces Nathan Brown (suspended, two weeks) at lock and Ray Stone joins the bench. After a quiet round one Mitch Moses had a welcome return to form with 89 points against the Titans in round 2, and he's certainly a hold for now with rival half option Nathan Cleary suspended for a fortnight. The rejigged draw isn't great news for Parramatta who initially had a terrific schedule in the early rounds against poorly rated teams.
Cowboys v Titans, Friday 6pm
Cowboys: Michael Morgan will miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury, with Jake Clifford starting at halfback and Mitchell Dunn replacing Gavin Cooper (calf) in the second row. Jason Taumalolo is a top target for a lot of teams after busting out 83 points including a try and a staggering 345 metres against the Bulldogs in round 2. Mid-range moneymaker Scott Drinkwater has had a great start to the year, averaging 48.5 from two rounds, while Val Holmes (ave 45.5) and Coen Hess (43.5) have also impressed.
Titans: It's been a rough year already for the Titans, who are without star fullback AJ Brimson (back) and cut-price centre Kallum Watkins who has returned to the UK for family reasons. Tyrone Roberts is set to play fullback in Brimson's absence, with cheapie Jamal Fogarty getting a chance in the halves. I'll be waiting at least a week to see how Fogarty goes, his job security isn't terrific with Roberts and young gun Tanah Boyd also available.
Holbrook confident Titans have learnt from 0-2 start
Roosters v Rabbitohs, Friday 7.55pm
Roosters: Boyd Cordner and Josh Morris are into the starting side in place of Mitch Aubusson (family reasons) and Matt Ikuvalu. James Tedesco's traditional slow start to the year means his price is likely to slip below $800k soon despite scoring 51 points in round 2.
Rabbitohs: Alex Johnston and Troy Dargan replace Cody Walker (suspended, two weeks) and James Roberts in the backline with Bayley Sironen and the promising Patrick Mago added to the bench. Liam Knight is the most-owned Rabbitoh in Fantasy but has been a little underwhelming so far – he's hardly a must-sell but could make way if you need to pounce on a guaranteed cash cow this week. Jaydn Su'A recovered from a poor opening round to score 53 against his old club Brisbane (after a lot of coaches – yours truly included – had sold him) and retains a starting spot ahead of Ethan Lowe.
Warriors v Dragons, Saturday 3pm (5pm NZT)
Warriors: It's been a luckless year so far for a Warriors side that has already made big sacrifices to keep the Telstra Premiership season going, with Jazz Tevaga joining fellow middle men Leeson Ah Mau, Bunty Afoa and Jackson Frei on the injured list. It means there are plenty of minutes up for grabs for promising rookies Eliesa Katoa ($323k) and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown ($281k). Katoa has been benched this week with Isaiah Papali'I preferred in the second row, but Taunoa-Brown's stocks are rising after being promoted to starting prop with Ah Mau, Afoa and Frei out long-term.
Dragons: Cameron McInnes, Tariq Sims, Korbin Sims and Mikaele Ravalawa are back, while Zac Lomax ($449k) will partner fellow cheapie Brayden Wiliame ($268k) in the centres with Matt Dufty holding onto the No.1 jumper. Tyson Frizell is averaging 56.5 from two rounds. Dual-position lock Blake Lawrie ($619k) has two scores about 50 and is playing above his price tag so far.
Sharks v Wests Tigers, Saturday 5.30pm
Sharks: Briton Nikora's return bumps Scott Sorensen to the bench and possible cash cow Billy Magoulias out of the 17. Jack Williams retains his starting spot at lock so isn't an urgent sell, even if he's been disappointing so far with a 28-point average. Toby Rudolf ($289k) has plenty of price rises ahead of him after a strong start to the season off the bench, while Blayke Brailey has played the full 80 minutes in both of his games as Cronulla's first-choice hooker. Bronson Xerri has been suspended after a positive drug test.
Wests Tigers: All eyes here are on the No.9 jersey, where new recruit Harry Grant ($246k) looks a must-have cash cow. He's arrived from Melbourne and had outrageous numbers in the Intrust Super Cup last year, averaging 68 Fantasy points including 14 tries and 21 try assists. The man he replaced, Billy Walters, should earn a few more price rises if he keeps a role on the bench where he's named this week. Fellow recruit Luciano Leilua is scoring like a cut-price keeper so far, while prop Alex Twal has two scores in the 60s this season and starts at lock this week.
Will Bateman remain a Raider?
Storm v Raiders, Saturday 7.35pm
Storm: Tui Kamikamica and Tom Eisenhuth are out, with Brandon Smith and Christian Welch joining the bench. Ryan Papenhuyzen hasn't hit the heights of 2019 just yet but is always capable of producing a bumper score and remains a hold. Promising big man Tino Faasuamaleaui has a couple of scores in the 20s and is looking a slow-burn moneymaker at best, so far. Cameron Smith is in less than 10% of teams – his lowest ownership for years.
Raiders: Jordan Rapana ($425k) returns to the club but has been named among the reserves after the coronavirus cut short his stint in Japanese rugby, with Ricky Stuart naming an unchanged 17. With an average of 53 Corey Horsburgh is looking like a terrific buy so far, and fellow big man Emre Guler ($360k, average 45.5) isn't too far behind.
Panthers v Knights, Sunday 4.05pm
Panthers: Nathan Cleary is suspended for two rounds after a terrific on-field start to the season, giving cheapie Jarome Luai ($305k) a chance to shine in the halves. Matt Burton joins the side as Cleary's replacement. Apisai Koroisau ($623k) could be the NRL signing of the season and is a must-have Fantasy player with an average of 70.5 so far. Isaah Yeo ($653k) is an intriguing prospect after scoring 78 and 59 in two big-minute games in the middle, and he starts at lock this week with Kurt Capewell in the second row and James Fisher-Harris shifting to prop. Yeo didn't score that well in any of his 18 matches last year and has only once averaged more than 45 points a game across a season (in six NRL seasons), so it's too early to tell whether his early 2020 form will stick around – but if he can keep an 80-minute lock role he could be a bargain.
Knights: Kalyn Ponga's one-match suspension means Tex Hoy will debut at fullback, with Connor Watson ($650k) getting what's likely to be a short stint at hooker in place the injured Jayden Brailey (ACL, season) with Andrew McCullough not named after signing with the club last week. Kurt Mann ($409k) is looking good value in the halves so far.
Sea Eagles v Bulldogs, Sunday 6.30pm
Sea Eagles: Manly's starting side is unchanged, with Corey Waddell and Taniela Paseka replacing Morgan Boyle and Haumole Olakau'atu on the bench. Tom Trbojevic struggled in round one but bounced back with 59 in round 2, and is now a $44k discount on his starting price. Daly Cherry-Evans is averaging 61 so far and will be among the top-scoring halves – especially with no Origin breaks this season – while Martin Taupau has started strongly with back-to-back 56s. Danny Levi ($501k) looks a sell after averaging 28.5 from two rounds and with a lot of good options at hooker this year.
Bulldogs: Cheapie Brandon Wakeham has been replaced by Jack Cogger, with Kieran Foran still yet to return from a shoulder injury, in bad news for Wakeham owners. Joe Stimson is out long term and is also a sell (unless you want to hold him as a loophole option, with the Bulldogs playing the final game of the next couple of rounds).