The NRL season moves into its second month of footy with the top teams slowly starting to separate themselves, and there appears to be a few surprise packets.
The Parramatta Eels look very much to have shaken off whatever virus they had throughout the entirety of last year, instead playing a mistake-free brand of footy that is working wonders. The usual suspects are also there, the Storm and Roosters, while the Raiders so far have impressed albeit against lesser opposition and were throttled by Melbourne.
It appears as if it’s going to be another very unpredictable season.
Let’s take a look at this week’s matchups, with an eye on who you should (and shouldn’t) be targeting in your daily fantasy games.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v. New Zealand Warriors
The Rabbitohs were stunned by Manly at Brookvale last week thanks to a last-second Daly Cherry-Evans field goal. Until then they had looked almost unflappable, with convincing wins over the Dragons and Roosters, but there will be cause for alarm as their injury list continues to grow. Reports are Greg Inglis may not play again after several injury issues and off-field struggles. Braidon Burns is also missing, so a lot of their backline strike will be absent. They play a Warriors team that appear to have regressed to what they know best, unreliable, at times spectacular but all too frustrating football. Rabbitohs should do this in a canter.
Gun: Cameron Murray ($12.2m)
Hard to keep ignoring the form of Cameron Murray who has become an NRL fantasy gun overnight. His huge workload and base stats make him an extremely safe pick every week, and I’ve been impressed with his opportunistic support play, sniffing in around the quick passing and kick game of Damien Cook and the star Rabbits halves. Averaging north of 550, he’s a great play at a great price.
Dud: David Fusitu’a ($8.2m)
Last year’s leading try-scorer, David Fusitu’a is suffering from the absence of Shaun Johnson and has managed just one try so far this season. The fluency has gone from the Warriors’ right edge and against a solid defensive team like the Rabbitohs, there is still upside on the flying winger who relies almost purely on attacking stats to earn points. He’s a no-go until the Warriors show us something.
Point of Difference: Jazz Tevaga ($12.8m)
Jazz Tevaga has inherited the starting hooking role and he’s shown he has real upside in the position, averaging above 450 in his couple of performances there so far this season. The Warriors appear intent on having Isaac Luke as a complimentary role this season, which is to the benefit of fantasy players with a bit of backbone who want to pack the left-field choice of Tevaga or Nathaniel Roache. The go-forward of the monster Warriors pack means their hookers often get running starts to attack retreating defensive lines, which makes them attractive choices. A potentially golden POD.
Newcastle Knights v. Manly Sea Eagles
Kalyn Ponga burst back into the thinking of NRL fantasy players after a vintage performance back in his more familiar fullback position last week, laying on two tries playing that extra man off the ruck. There is no doubting it is his best position, and I for one am annoyed by the fascinating in turning every decent ball-playing fullback into a five-eighth. The Sea Eagles produced the shock of the week last week in downing the Rabbitohs, but they lost Tom Trbojevic to what could be another long-term injury, so with him goes any chance of them mounting a real challenge over that period.
Gun: Kalyn Ponga ($13.7m)
Kalyn Ponga roared back into relevancy last week with his best score of the year, a 437 that could have been even more should he not have been narrowly denied a try of his own. Back in his normal fullback role, at home to one of the worst defensive teams in the competition who are missing their best player – it’s a no brainer for me. Pick the most exciting player in the competition.
Dud: Daly Cherry-Evans ($15.4m)
Daly Cherry-Evans’ value is tied directly to the presence and form of Tom Trbojevic. Without him, both DCE and Manly are a completely different entity, and with his huge price tag it just doesn’t make sense to invest. He is the clear and dominant ball-player and has been impressive so far this season, but so much of his attacking stats come as a result of Tommy Turbo’s line-breaking ability and without him, DCE’s value is well below $15.4m.
Point of Difference: David Klemmer ($13.5m)
A player always of immense ability and intrigue as far as fantasy goes, David Klemmer has become an overnight gun at the Knights, with a 526 average putting him among the elite in front rowers. He is the go-to man in a forward pack screaming out for a leader, and offers a cut-price option to the likes of Andrew Fifita and Martin Taupau. Worth the money and an easy guy to root for. Ownership remains very low.
Cronulla Sharks v. Sydney Roosters
The game of the round, the Sharks were kneecapped last week by the late scratching of Shaun Johnson but still put up a huge showing for themselves despite lacking a real playmaker. They weren’t far off beating an impressive Eels side, and should be up for this one against their east coast rivals should Johnson be available. The Roosters just keep on keeping on, and appear to have forgotten their first round humbling at the hands of the Rabbitohs. Expect this to be an extremely physical encounter with two huge forward packs battling it out. Might be only one or two plays in it.
Gun: Briton Nikora ($6.6m)
Amazing to say a rookie is a gun but Briton Nikora absolutely is. The only first-year player to average over 500, he’s a constant threat to break the line and combines that potential with solid base stats for an edge forward. He is so fantasy-friendly it’s not funny, and at that price should be the first player everyone picks every week.
Dud: The Roosters
Hear me out. The Roosters are the only team in the NRL that does not feature a single player with a 500 average as far as PlayON daily fantasy. What does that tell you? Well because virtually every player in the side is an international representative, there is only so much of the ball to go around. It means every week it could be a different star who carries the load, but no real go-to player. Both edges are deadly, they have rep forwards coming out of the woodwork, and they’re all at a premium price. I would be looking elsewhere than the best team in the competition.
Point of Difference: Jayden Brailey ($8.9m)
Jayden Brailey continues to be a cut-price option in the hooking role that gets better and better every week both as a footballer and a fantasy option. With another season of footy under his belt Brailey is unlocking the potential that saw him debut as a teenager and he is thriving off the back of the Sharks monster pack. He has a free role to get out of dummy half whenever he chooses and has the possibility of line-break and try assists with flat block balls close to the line. Averaging just under 450, he represents real value.
St George Illawarra Dragons v. Canterbury Bulldogs
The Dragons have won back-to-back games on the boot of Corey Norman, as the new signing looks to have settled in to life with the famous red V very quickly. He has been the most impressive of the Dragons halves since the move, and will only get better as his combination with Ben Hunt and fullback Matt Dufty grows. There is a lot of positive signs coming out of St George. The Bulldogs meanwhile put in another promising showing against the Storm, failing only after Rhyse Martin was unable to convert from the sideline. They’ve been hanging in the last couple of weeks despite my torrent of abuse.
Gun: Paul Vaughan ($13m)
Paul Vaughan is back to his best after a slight down year last season. He is the physical leader of the Dragons pack, giving their sets momentum from the start and offering a constant threat off the passing game of Cameron McInnes close to the line. His minutes have seen an uptick after the absence of Jack De Belin, the ageing of James Graham and injuries to Korbin Sims and Tyson Frizell. He’s an elite front rower fantasy option.
I can’t see too many duds in this game. Both sides have shown improved performances after re-shuffles in the past two weeks, neither seems overly confident defensively so there should be points for the other teams and there isn’t anyone horrifically priced on either side that should warrant a red flag. There aren’t a huge amount of guns so it’s hardly a game of real note anyway, but I wouldn’t be actively avoiding anyone.
Point of Difference: Corey Harawire-Naera ($9.2m)
Under-priced due to a lack of early starts but Corey Harawire-Naera has huge fantasy pedigree and now he’s earned his way into the starting side he is a great POD option. He showed at Penrith he has a penchant for attacking stats with elite line-running ability and he has enough of a work rate to justify the risk. The Dragons have been far from convincing defensively and there’ll be chances for CHN to add to his 408 average, which includes a 554 getting the satrt last week.
Canberra Raiders v. Parramatta Eels
The Raiders quietly are 3-1 on the season and find themselves in the top 4, despite anyone really taking notice. Their wins have come against the Jason Taumalolo-less Cowboys, Titans and Knights, so it’s not a major achievement, but the offseason changes they’ve made at least for now appear to be paying dividends. Same goes for the Eels, who have rejuvenated the career of Mitch Moses by freeing him up with more ball, while Clint Gutherson is back to his absolute best. This could be a ripper of a game with both teams in good form.
Gun: Clint Gutherson ($10.6m)
Clint Gutherson is back to his absolute best. As is often the case with ACL injuries, sufferers are exponentially better in their second season since returning than their first, and Gutherson is no different. He has been the fulcrum for a massively improved Eels attack and is a threat to go north of 500 every week, like he did last week against a solid Cronulla side. I’m far from convinced by the Raiders and Gutherson is an elite level outside back option.
Like the Dragons-Bulldogs game, I don’t see a whole lot of downside for any of the players here. Of the relevant fantasy options on each team, both the forwards and backs should see plenty of work and space to accrue points, and neither have yet to convince me defensively so I can see both teams putting plenty on the score sheet. Should be plenty for all.
Point of Difference: Reed Mahoney ($8.9m)
His ownership continues to be low and I don’t understand why. Reed Mahoney has made the no.9 role his own, so much so that the Eels aren’t even considering bringing in a utility to spell the live-wire no.9. A 475 average with a number of 500+ scores, 80 minute footy and the reigns to run, Mahoney is a fantastic cut-price hooking option behind a solid forward pack that gives him great go forward. Start picking him people.
That’s all for Round 5. Be sure to head to the Lobby and play for your share of thousands in guaranteed cash prizes, then we’ll see you back here for Round 6.