There are two big changes to NRL Fantasy in 2021, but which players will be the main beneficiaries and who should you be targeting for your squad this year?
Rule change 1: Forced turnovers
(Four points for turnover tackles, intercepts, steals)
This was the more eye-catching of the two major rule changes for NRL Fantasy this season, with a new scoring category that could swing individual match-ups during the year.
Don't expect it to make a dramatic difference to the scoring potential of players across the season however.
Under the new rule, the following players would have received the biggest increases in points per game last season:
- Dunamis Lui +3.76 points per game (9 turnover tackles, 7 steals in 17 matches)
- Jake Clifford +3.71 ppg (12 turnover tackles, one steal in 14 matches)
- Josh Hodgson +3.56 ppg (7 turnover tackles, 1 steal in 9 matches)
- Jahrome Hughes +3.5 ppg (13 turnover tackles, 1 stael in 16 matches)
- Brandon Smith +3.46 ppg (11 turnover tackles, 2 steals in 15 matches)
- Tom Trbojevic +3.43 ppg (6 turnover tackles in 7 matches)
2021 NRL Fantasy point-scoring system
In terms of Fantasy relevance the biggest winner there is arguably Tom Trbojevic, already a popular buy due to his history as a quality scorer at the back plus his discounted price following last year's injury-affected season.
Trbojevic's biggest strength here is his ability to force turnovers with last-ditch try-saving tackles – now a monster play in Fantasy combining four-point turnover tackles with five-point try saves.
It's a small sample size considering he only played seven games last year, but Trbojevic is a player capable of producing those big plays on a regular basis.
Josh Hodgson's numbers are impressive although some will be surprised to see the Raiders rake only made a single one-on-one strip last season after making 14 the previous year – easily the most of any player.
Not only did no other player get near that tally in 2019, but 14 clubs didn't make 14 steals during that season.
Hodgson does have upside as a potential moneymaker at hooker. He's priced as a 38-point player based on last year's performances but scored 48 points a game the year before, and an extra few points a game from forced turnovers is an extra edge.
He will need to play the full 80 minutes to challenge the 50-point-per-game mark.
Jahrome Hughes is another interesting name on this list. His halves partner at the Storm Cameron Munster is a player in high demand with the likely goal-kicking duties following the departure of Cameron Smith, with Smith's 130 kick metres per game also likely to be split between Munster and Hughes (Smith's replacement at hooker, Harry Grant, doesn't typically kick).
If Hughes gets the bulk of those extra kick metres, plus more assists in Smith's absence and an extra boost from turnover tackles, he could join Munster as a cut-price keeper in the halves.
Here are the individual league leaders for turnover tackles, intercepts and one-on-one steals last season.
Most total turnover tackles in 2020: Jahrome Hughes 13; Jake Clifford, Luke Keary, Jarrod Croker, Herman Ese'ese 12; Brandon Smith, Liam Martin, Jeremy Marshall-King, Luke Garner, Elliott Whitehead, Nathan Cleary, Curtis Sironen, Tyson Frizell 11
Most intercepts in 2020: Alex Johnston 5; Stephen Crichton 4; David Nofoaluma, Josh Addo-Carr, Scott Drinkwater, Brian To'o, Dane Gagai, Suliasi Vunivalu, Nick Cotric 3
Most one-on-one steals in 2020: Dunamis Lui 7; Lachlan Lewis, Mitchell Dunn 4; Brian Kelly 3
NRL Fantasy special: How stats are calculated into points
Rule change 2: New positions
Middle forwards and edge forwards
This one's more of a subtle change but arguably will have a larger impact on how Fantasy squads look this year. Gone are the old "front-rower" and "second-rower" positions, replaced by two positions that more closely reflect how modern rugby league is played.
One consequence of that change are that there appear to be fewer dual-position players this time around, with the old prop/lock players now available in one position only. It makes any dual position players particularly valuable, such as Ben Murdoch-Masila, Angus Crichton, Cameron Murray, Tohu Harris, Tevita Pangai jnr, Jackson Ford and Tom Gilbert.
Another result of the change is that middle forward is now a marquee position with Broncos stat-machine Payne Haas joining the versatile Cameron McInnes and star locks Jason Taumalolo, Isaah Yeo, Pat Carrigan and Jake Trbojevic.
Meanwhile there are relatively few monster scores in the edge forward position with Angus Crichton, Ryan Matterson and Tohu Harris the obvious standouts.
It boosts the value of Crichton, Matterson and Harris, one or all of which are likely to be must-haves at some point this season.
But there are also plenty of great value buys on the edge at the start of the year so you can afford to wait on the big names unless you plan on making one of them your early-season captain.