NRL Fantasy coaches hunting for bargains have this week been given the biggest clue as to how each club is planning to line up this season, with all 16 teams naming strong line-ups for this weekend's trial matches.
So who are the winners and losers for Fantasy and which players should you be swapping into – or out of – your starting squad?
NRL Trials - Week 3
Raiders v Roosters, Saturday 4pm (AEDT) at Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan
Raiders: Cheapie Corey Harawira-Naera has not been named but is set to miss the start of the season anyway following a drink-driving charge, with Hudson Young getting the first chance to take John Bateman's old row in the second row. Cash cow winger Bailey Simonsson missed the All Stars with a minor leg injury but has named to play here, while new signing Ryan James gets his first run for the Green Machine after missing almost two years to injuries.
Roosters: Popular rookie Sam Walker looks a long way from a role in the starting team at this stage, named on the bench behind fellow cash cow Lachlan Lam and Drew Hutchison – who is filling in for the injured Luke Keary (hamstring). Lam is set to play five-eighth this year with Keary to play halfback – which could suggest Keary will take a larger share of kick metres this season, or could mean nothing. We'll get confirmation of goal-kicking duties with prop Siosiua Taukeiaho likely to be the kicker while he's on the park.
- NRL team lists: Week 3 trials squad announcements
- Casualty Ward: Minor injuries cause stars to sit out trials
- Where to watch all the trials
Storm v Knights, Saturday 5.30pm (AEDT) at Albury Sports Ground
Storm: Rookie Dean Ieremia gets his chance on the wing with Suliasi Vunivalu having left for rugby union but Reimis Smith is likely ahead of him in the pecking order, filling in for Brenko Lee (hamstring, round one) in the centres this week. Harry Grant starts at hooker as expected with Brandon Smith to come off the bench. Keep an eye on goal-kicking duties with either Cameron Munster or Ryan Papenhuyzen to get a significant boost to their Fantasy scoring this season.
Knights: The big winner here is Connor Watson who starts at lock, where he can expect to play big minutes in the middle rather than his old jack-of-all-trades bench utility role. Mitch Barnett has been shifted to one edge with new signing Tyson Frizell on the other. Tex Hoy is a fairly popular cash cow option as he fills in for the injured Kalyn Ponga at fullback, but with Ponga a chance to return any time before round four Hoy remains a risky option. Cheapie Phoenix Crossland gets a chance to impress at five-eighth but will likely be replaced in the early rounds by Kurt Mann who is out with a family commitment, with Blake Green the likely first-choice No.6 when fit.
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Titans v Warriors, Saturday 5.50pm (AEDT) at Oakes Oval, Lismore
Titans: Superstar signings David Fifita and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui both start with Tyrone Peachey resuming his old bench role. There's plenty of Fantasy interest in AJ Brimson, Brian Kelly, Jamal Fogarty and Mitch Rein this season, with all four included in a full-strength starting side.
Warriors: Halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita (quad) is out while new recruit Ben Murdoch-Masila's prospects have taken a hit with the veteran named on the bench behind starting second-rowers Josh Curran and Bayley Sironen. The injured Eliesa Katoa (eye socket) will take one of those starting spots when fit. Cash cow hooker Wayde Egan, tackle-busting centre Euan Aitken and workaholic lock Tohu Harris all start and will be players to watch this season.
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Sharks v Bulldogs, Saturday 6pm (AEDT) at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Sharks: Middle forwards Aiden Tolman and Toby Rudolf are out injured, so don't get too excited by the sight of cheapie Billy Magoulias at lock this week. Will Kennedy starts at fullback but is set to lose the role to Matt Moylan when Shaun Johnson returns from an Achilles injury and bumps Moylan out of the halves between round five and eight. Expect to see Chad Townsend take the goal-kicking and the bulk of kicking in general play while Johnson is out. Andrew Fifita excelled in the All Stars game with 55 minutes of game time but will come off the bench here, behind first-choice props Braden Hamlin-Uele and Aaron Woods.
Bulldogs: Canterbury have named a squad so the make-up of the starting side won't be known until closer to game day, although the team's most intriguing Fantasy option Jake Averillo is sidelined with a wrist injury.
Dragons v Rabbitohs, Saturday 6.30pm (AEDT) at Glen Willow Oval, Mudgee
Dragons: St George Illawarra have named their full squad rather than a starting side but expect Jack Bird to play in the centres this year despite suggestions he could move to the back row. Fellow recruit Andrew McCullough could be a cut-price keeper if he matches last year's numbers (and stays injury-free).
Rabbitohs: Keaon Koloamatangi and Jacob Host both get an audition to be Jaydn Su'A's partner in the second row here, with Su'A left out of the side and Cameron Murray named at lock. Both Koloamatangi and Host cost well under $400k. Big-name recruits Jai Arrow and Josh Mansour will come off the bench this week.
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Panthers v Eels, Saturday, 7.30pm (AEDT) at Panthers Stadium
Panthers: Another team that has named a squad rather than a starting line-up this week, Penrith are a fairly settled side although there will be competition in the front row and centre with James Tamou and Zane Tetevano gone and Brent Naden sidelined for the opening four rounds. Moses Leota is expected to start ahead of possible cash cow Spencer Leniu at prop while Matt Burton, Paul Momirovski and Tyrone May vying to be Stephen Crichton's centre partner.
Eels: Tom Opacic looms as a slightly underpriced option in the centres following Michael Jennings' suspension but Parramatta's real Fantasy targets are established keepers like Mitchell Moses, Ryan Matterson and Nathan Brown. Meanwhile Blake Ferguson is fairly cheap after scoring a career-low four tries last season, so there's plenty of upside if he regains the knack for crossing the stripe this year.
Broncos v Cowboys, Saturday 7pm (AEST) at Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe
Broncos: After training and being named in the centres Tesi Niu will almost certainly become a dual-position player ahead of round one and looms as a handy cut-price emergency player covering the outside backs. Young gun Jordan Riki starts in the second row ahead of Ben Te'o after playing well for the Maori All Stars, while Jamayne Isaako, Jake Turpin and Matt Lodge could all be value buys. Corey Oates is set to shift to the second row this year but will do so via the bench this week.
Cowboys: It's time to scrap Valentine Holmes from your squad after the Origin star was named on the wing, with Scott Drinkwater at fullback and fellow custodian contender Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow named in the centres. Cheapie Peter Hola is looking like a risky option after being named on the bench. Jason Taumalolo is almost a forgotten man in Fantasy following news he'll get less game time this year but could still make a significant impact. He's been promoted to the front row with Jordan McLean and Josh McGuire out with hamstring injuries, with Reuben Cotter promoted to starting lock.
Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles, Sunday 5pm (AEST) at Leichhardt Oval
Wests Tigers: A hamstring injury to Moses Mbye means new signing Daine Laurie starts at fullback, although Mbye is expected to win the No.1 jersey when fit. Popular cheapie James Roberts starts at centre. Jacob Liddle has some competition for the hooker role from Jake Simpkin but starts in the No.9, while the promotion of playmaker Jock Madden into the five-eighth role ahead of Adam Doueihi could potentially cut into Luke Brooks's kick metres.
Sea Eagles: While much of Manly's backline including Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran have been rested (giving a chance to youngster Josh Schuster at five-eighth), the forward pack looks close to full strength which is a bad sign for new signing Andrew Davey who has to settle for a bench role behind Jack Gosiewski and Curtis Sironen. One forward missing is likely starting hooker Lachlan Croker, with Cade Cust getting his chance in the No.9 this week.
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