A front row log jam, potential new halves combination, some promising youngsters and a fantasy banker point to some interesting opportunities in the nation's capital for fantasy coaches in 2014.
Shaun Fensom ($412,100) has been an elite player on the fantasy front over the past few seasons and should be hugely popular again in 2014. He gets the bulk of his points due to his role as a tireless and highly effective defender. However, as a man capable of offloading, breaking the line and diving over for the odd four pointer it means that on his best days he can go absolutely massive. Despite Canberra's heavily stacked front row, Fensom should still get 80 minutes or close to it most weeks and seems unlikely to be called away to representative duties at this stage.
Josh Papalii ($357,400) also emerged as a genuine fantasy option in 2013 and although he will miss some games over Origin he is capable of some huge scores due to his ability to bust tackles and break the line. He's not quite as consistent as Fensom though so you will need to endure the odd quiet game. Anthony Milford ($310,100) earns dual position status in the halves this year and as a fullback but will be more attractive to Fantasy coaches, given the extra room he will have to run at the back.
Skipper Terry Campese ($260,400) is a lot cheaper than the topline halves but comes with a huge "buyer beware" sticker after several seasons ruined by injury. During his fantasy heyday, Campese was one of the best in the business due to a high defensive workrate, stacks of kick metres and plenty of attacking stats via try assists and line break assists. If he can return to that form then he should improve markedly on his current price tag – but are you prepared to take the chance on a player who breaks down as often as a first-run Hyundai Excel?
Jack Wighton ($171,900) is capable of big things and is relatively cheap due to a lengthy injury layoff last year. He does have plenty of competition for spots in the backline but if he's named to start at centre in Round 1 he could be a great pickup at his price.
Canberra have plenty of players at the minimum $107,000 price point who could potentially taste NRL footy early in 2014. Young half Mitchell Cornish ($107,000) is highly rated and if Milford plays fullback and Josh McCrone gets moved to the hooking role that would clear the way for Cornish to partner Campese in the halves. It may not happen in Round 1 but if the Raiders endure a sluggish start to the season, Ricky Stuart may lose patience and start ringing the changes.
Shannon Boyd ($107,000) is a gigantic young prop who seems destined for big things in the NRL and could well play first grade this year. Just be aware there is stacks of competition for front row spots at Canberra so even if he does get a run he could well do so with very limited minutes in his debut season. Still, he could be a good downgrade option for coaches looking to offload an underperforming front-rower and free up some cash.
Raiders player prices
Shaun Fensom (2RF) $412,100
Josh Papalii (2RF) $357,400
Anthony Milford (HLF, WFB) $310,100
Jarrod Croker (CTR) $267,400
Terry Campese (HLF) $260,400
Reece Robinson (WFB) $248,400
Edrick Lee (WFB) $223,500
Joel Edwards (2RF) $220,100
David Shillington (FRF) $220,000
Paul Vaughan (FRF) $215,200
Brett White (FRF) $212,900
Sami Sauiluma (CTR, WFB) $210,100
Glen Buttriss (HOK) $203,200
Dane Tilse (FRF) $200,800
Josh McCrone (HLF) $195,200
Matt McIlwrick (HOK) $174,300
Jack Wighton (WFB, CTR) $171,900
Bill Tupou (WFB) $165,200
Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (FRF) $148,300
Jake Foster (2RF) $133,100
Lagi Setu (2RF) $126,600
Sam Mataora (2RF, FRF) $107,000
Mark Nicholls (2RF) $107,000
Kurt Baptiste (HLF, HOK) $107,000
Kyle O'Donnell (2RF) $107,000
Moses Pangai (WFB, CTR) $107,000
Jarrad Kennedy (2RF) $107,000
Shannon Boyd (FRF) $107,000
Haydon Hodge (CTR, WFB) $107,000
Mitchell Cornish (HLF) $107,000