While the previous weekend presented some obvious challenges with only four games, Round 14 doesn't get any easier as Fantasy coaches nervously wait to see if their Origin stars will back up or not.
With no Thursday night football this week and the appeal of several players diminishing following their Round 13 bye coverage, coaches are facing some big decisions as part of a pivotal week in their NRL Fantasy season.
NRL Fantasy teams analysis: Round 14
Cowboys v Dragons, Friday at Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Cowboys: Our first team list and the first Fantasy dilemma with Tom Dearden, Jeremiah Nanai, Reuben Cotter and Valentine Holmes all named in the reserves. Given how well the Cowboys went last week, Todd Payten may be tempted to give the trio an extra break after Origin given their short turnaround — so it's crucial to keep an eye on late mail. Outside of Dearden (who is 18th Man for the Maroons), Nanai seems the most likely to backup, but he could well be on the bench given how well Thomas Gilbert and Helium Luki went last week. In terms of what we do know, Jason Taumalolo's price has dropped to close to $550k and is looking like a great option after overcoming his injury while Murray Taulagi is the forgotten outside back this year, with a three-round average of 45.3 despite an ownership of less than four percent. The ship may have sailed on Reece Robson, whose price is now pushing $750k, but Scott Drinkwater is still an option at $553k, although his biggest appeal was bye-round coverage. I'd rather wait and get Ryan Papenhuyzen back shortly.
Dragons: Not a lot of Fantasy relevance here. Early season cheapie Talatau Amone is a decent downgrade to get you an extra number in Round 17 and has quietly averaged 43 in his last three, setting him up for another round of price rises. He could benefit from Ben Hunt's Origin experience, although the captain is expected to back up. If Hunt is out, Moses Mbye or Jayden Sullivan could shift into the halves, which would allow Amone to be more involved. Jack Bird has played 80 minutes (and even 90) in the last four weeks, but has only one score in the 40's — making him a far from intriguing option. Michael Molo is a popular downgrade but Josh McGuire is lurking in the reserves. Cody Ramsey is a potential trade target given he's on track to make $50-100k in the next few weeks while also covering Round 17, and has looked good since switching to fullback in the last two weeks.
Match: Cowboys v Dragons
Round 14 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Titans v Rabbitohs, Saturday at Cbus Super Stadium
Titans: Jayden Campbell's long-term injury sees AJ Brimson move back to fullback (after averaging 45.7 in his last three games at five-eighth) with cheapie option Paul Turner coming into the halves. Beau Fermor has peaked in price and could be moved on to a keeper before Round 17, although there's no rush to do it now given he's still scoring reliably. All eyes will be on whether Tino Fa'asuamaleaui backs up from Origin — the Titans captain is the most owned and highest scoring player for the club this year and could well be a keeper through to the end.
Rabbitohs: Kodi Nikorima retains the fullback spot ahead of Blake Taaffe in a blow for the near 10 percent of coaches who still own the young gun. Peter Mamouzelos' inclusion on the bench is a blow for Damien Cook owners, with the Blues hooker likely to split time with the young number nine. He's certainly a hold, but not a captaincy option this week. Popular cheapie Davvy Moale is also playing NSW Cup, and hasn't been listed in the 22-man squad this week, nor has Trent Peoples.
Match: Titans v Rabbitohs
Round 14 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Roosters v Storm, Saturday at Sydney Cricket Ground
Roosters: With no JWH, Nat Butcher remains in the starting side as he continues to reward those who brought him when Victor Radley went down. He is a great hold through the byes before moving on before Round 17 — which should be around the time that Radley is back. Joey Manu's 87 last week was the highest score of the round, but he's unlikely to produce that again back in the centres, especially against the Storm. He's still a decent option, but probably not now that Round 13 has passed. Angus Crichton, however, is, despite the hefty price tag.
Storm: Xavier Coates is expected to back up but he's far from a trade-in option this week. With a tough matchup against the Roosters followed by the Broncos, Coates could easily drop in price by a significant amount without the attacking returns that he was delivering a month ago. There's still no Ryan Papenhuyzen while Tyran Wishart is in the reserves — Nick Meaney instead preferred at fullback. Brandon Smith has fallen in price by over $250k and could be an option despite dropping back to the bench to accomodate the return of Nelson Asofa-Solomona. If Harry Grant fails to backup, Smith will assume the hooking duties this week and in Round 17 for Origin III — a position where we know he scores well.
Match: Roosters v Storm
Round 14 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Broncos v Raiders, Saturday at Suncorp Stadium
Broncos: Payne Haas has been named and is expected to back up in a boost for the many coaches who own. Adam Reynolds is also back from injury and will partner Ezra Mam in the halves — both of which are great options with a friendly schedule ahead and Round 17 coverage. Selwyn Cobbo and Kotoni Staggs will be popular pickups once the State of Origin period is over, but it's hard to bring them in now with uncertainty around whether they'll back up or not this week.
Raiders: Joe Tapine led all Raiders with 69 points last week, and is shaping as a genuine gun despite only being owned by under five percent. Xavier Savage produced some attacking returns to top 50 last week and is set for some nice price rises, while James Schiller — who was already a popular cheapie given his dual position flexibility — starts on the wing for the suspended Jordan Rapana.
Match: Broncos v Raiders
Round 14 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles, Sunday at Campbelltown Sports Stadium
Wests Tigers: Interim coach Brett Kimmorley has restored David Nofoaluma to the side while Jacob Liddle starts at hooker in place of Jake Simpkin. Jackson Hastings is coming back down to earth after a dream run, but he's still a hold as the Tigers get their first-choice spine (as well as Adam Doueihi) back together. Kelma Tuilagi can be moved on after losing his starting spot to Luke Garner.
Sea Eagles: Reuben Garrick is all the talk after another big score — he has averaged 66 in his last three games and has a mouthwatering matchup this week against Wests Tigers. He has handled the fullback jersey with aplomb since taking over for Tom Trbojevic and is certainly a trade-in target. Tolu Koula continues to perform well without breaking free with the attacking stats; he's a comfortable hold for now but can be moved on before Round 17. Christian Tuipulotu can also go — his 10 on the weekend will start to see him lose the $160k-odd he's made.
Match: Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles
Round 14 -
Venue: Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
Knights v Panthers, Sunday at McDonald Jones Stadium
Knights: Kurt Mann is back, but it's via the interchange bench — meaning he could come down in price over the coming few weeks before presenting an interesting option for Round 17. Mann's inclusion means it's time to move on Chris Randall. Leo Thompson is still owned by over 18 percent of coaches. He's unlikely to make much more money at this point and can be moved on; the 20-30 points he will give you in Round 17 can be bettered in the next three weeks by upgrading him.
Panthers: Somewhat as expected from Penrith with their Origin contingent all named to back up. The only change from Round 12 is the omission of Spencer Leniu, whose place on the bench has been taken by Matt Eisenhuth following his strong performance last week, and should be moved on from your team following his bye round coverage. Izack Tago and Taylan May should be held as there's more points to be made over the coming weeks before making a decision closer to Round 17. James Fisher-Harris is in great form — as he usually is at this time of year — with a three-round average of 61, and is a great pickup this week with Mitch Kenny, Scott Sorensen and Jaeman Salmon all named on the bench.
Match: Knights v Panthers
Round 14 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Warriors v Sharks, Sunday at Moreton Daily Stadium
Warriors: Tohu Harris was a popular pickup last week and remains so this week, despite only scoring 31 in a challenging night against the Sea Eagles. With interim Stacey Jones at the helm, Harris will no doubt be a focal point of the Warriors' pack over the rest of the year — despite the return of Josh Curran on the bench. Curran's inclusion on the interchange could benefit coaches if he drops in price over the coming few weeks, and could be one to watch. Euan Aitken is a hold, but has just two scores above 50 since Round 5 and is also worth keeping an eye on.
Sharks: Nicho Hynes is a potential captaincy option this week against the Warriors, with Jesse Ramien returning from suspension to bolster the Sharks' attack. Royce Hunt is also one to keep an eye on after keeping his starting spot at prop. With Wade Graham listed among the reserves, Cameron McInnes is an increasingly popular selection following his recent form at lock. He's fallen in price by close to $100k since the start of the season and could be a great option for the back half of the season, after averaging 57 in his past three games.
Match: Warriors v Sharks
Round 14 -
Venue: Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe
Bulldogs v Eels, Monday at Accor Stadium
Bulldogs: Jake Averillo remains at fullback with Matt Dufty out of the side, but the biggest talking point is the form of Matt Burton. With 73 in a losing side pushing his three-game average above 70, Burton is well and truly a captaincy option most weeks, and he's close to a must-have given his dual position flexibility. Max King can be sold before Round 17 but there's no rush as he continues to churn out 50's, while cheapie Jacob Kiraz can also be moved on in the coming weeks after making his money. Raymond Faitala-Mariner is one to watch at just $364k, although his minutes could be affected by the likely return of Tevita Pangai jnr next week.
Eels: Maika Sivo is back after dominating in NSW Cup over the past few weeks and could start to benefit coaches straight away with a favourable matchup this week against the Bulldogs as well as Round 17 coverage against Wests Tigers. Isaiah Papali'i's attacking potential has dropped following his shift from the edge to middle, but his base is so good that it should give coaches little fear. Will Penisini has hit form in a reward for those who held and is a hold right through the byes, while plenty of attention will be on how many minutes Ryan Matterson gets in Origin and whether that affects his minutes for the Eels. Matterson had been on a tear up until his call-up, averaging 76 over his past three games.
Match: Bulldogs v Eels
Round 14 -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney