The NRL moves into the Easter weekend with a fascinating weekend of footy. Let’s take a look at each fixture and break down your daily fantasy targets.
New Zealand Warriors vs. North Queensland Cowboys
This is a curious one. The Cowboys have lost four consecutive games since losing Jason Taumalolo but I feel they are a much better side than they are showing, even without the Dally M medalist. The Warriors have shown their typical inconsistent form, capable of wonderful play one week and unbearable self destruction the next. I feel like the Cowboys are long due a strong performance and their experience should be enough to surprise a shock result over a NZ team you cannot trust.
Gun: Josh McGuire ($11.3m)
The Queensland and Australian representative has thrived in the absence of Jason Taumalolo, playing his favoured back row role which benefits his work rate and minutes. He’s putting up scores consistently over 450 since returning to the 12 and I think he’s real value at $11.3 million. This should be an ideal game for Josh McGuire, and he will definitely be apart of my plans in a game I’m predicting to be fought out through the big men.
As I cast my eye across these two teams I don’t see a whole lot of red flags. The Warriors are one of the strongest performing fantasy sides in the competition with the vast majority of their squad averaging over 300, despite shaky form. The Cowboys I think are long overdue a performance representative of the talent in their squad, so I fancy anyone with the normal level of fantasy relevancy.
Point of Difference: Lachlan Burr ($7.6m)
To put it shortly; pick Lachlan Burr. Playing the hugely fantasy-friendly position of lock, Burr is quietly averaging a huge 566 and given his huge base stats, he’s a no brainer at the price. I don’t need to say any more, should be in 80% of teams.
St George Illawarra Dragons v. Manly Sea Eagles
Both teams are in much improved form, as they show their is life without their best player. The Dragons look all the better without Gareth Widdop choking the middle of the field from the fullback position, while Manly have weathered Tom Trbojevic’s absence as well as humanly possible so far. This should be a ripper of a match between two teams on a confident run, but you feel the Dragons’ superior and reliable forward pack will likely decide the result. Corey Norman looks a new man with St George, and if Ben Hunt plays like he did last week every week they will go deep into September.
Gun: Cameron McInnes ($16.1m)
One of the more expensive hookers in the game but also absolutely one of the best, Cameron McInnes has thrived with the added captaincy responsibility and has taken the next step in his career. He is in complete control of this side, thriving off playing behind a monster forward pack and inside two of the best halves in the competition. He is so unlucky Damien Cook is around or he’d be a lock for NSW. Averaging north of 600, he’s got everything you want in a fantasy player.
Dud: Matt Dufty ($9.5m)
Matt Dufty has failed to make a mark in terms of fantasy scoring this year, severely lacking the attacking stats that made him a second-tier fantasy fullback last year. He is fully capable of going huge though, and I may regret writing this because I am a huge Dufty fan, but at the moment he is averaging below 250 and that makes him a no-go until we see something different. Maybe Manly’s shoddy defence is the team to crack it open though.
Point of Difference: Blake Lawrie ($7.5m)
The big man has become a fan favourite very quickly and reminds me a lot of George Rose, who had a similar following at both Manly and indeed St George during his time in first grade. Blake Lawrie is extremely skilled for a large human being, and combines a huge points per minute with solid base stats to see him averaging 434 on the year with a couple of 500s thrown in. At his price, like Lachlan Burr, he should be in a huge amount of sides.
Gold Coast Titans v. Newcastle Knights
Potentially the most enjoyable game of the week, the Titans host the Knights in a contest between two teams who have no interest defending and just want to throw the pill around. Kalyn Ponga has restored order to being one of the best fantasy NRL players in the game following his return to fullback, and hopefully with it bringing back the relevancy of Lachlan Fitzgibbon, who has been largely invisible this season. I still believe the Titans can be a fantasy gold mine but they’re still cursed with the inconsistency that has plagued them throughout their existence. Maybe this one can spark them.
Gun: Kalyn Ponga ($13.7m)
I know it’s boring picking his bloke every week but against the Titans who can just be so spectacularly awful at times, Kalyn Ponga is the guy. The most exciting player in the competition and has a low score of 499 since returning to fullback, he’s underpriced given his slow start to the year and is just so, so easy to root for. He could put up 700+ with a bunch of line breaks, line break assists, try assists and tries against Gold Coast, and it’s hard to ever leave him out. I won’t be.
Dud: Edrick Lee ($9m)
Many thought the move to the exciting young Knights could turn Edrick Lee into a really intriguing fantasy option, but his lack of attacking stats and ZERO base stats have made him completely irrelevant. A 286 average with several scores below 200, until Newcastle get their left edge going, Lee and indeed Lachlan Fitzgibbon shouldn’t be on the radar. Lee in particular makes even less sense given the cheaper options in the outside back slot.
Point of Difference: Mitch Barnett ($11.1m)
Mitch Barnett burst onto the fantasy scene a few years ago, appearing to be the new Paul Gallen, but that fell away over the past couple of years in a real disappointment to fantasy players everywhere. This year he looks to be slowly re-approaching that form, and last week’s 674 was evidence of that. He has really strong base stats when he gets the minutes, and the season-ending injury to Aiden Guerra will ensure he sees plenty. With attacking stats Barnett is a star, he wouldn’t be a bad POD choice.
Canberra Raiders v. Brisbane Broncos
The Raiders have been the biggest surprise of the opening stages of the NRL season, sitting third with just one loss to their name. That being said, they haven’t beaten a single team in the top eight and I believe their record is a complete myth. I don’t believe in them, I certainly don’t think Jack Wighton is a five-eighth and it’s only a matter of time until the bubble bursts. That being said, Brisbane are hardly the team to do it. They’ve been awful, and a trip south couldn’t come at a worse time.
Gun: John Bateman ($9m)
The Englishman continues to bang out huge scores, averaging 528 on the year because of his huge work rate and threat for attacking stats. He is proving himself a hugely reliable asset and has backed up the early form few believed would be permanent. It’s looking more and more like that will be the case for John Bateman, and a 500+ average for a player under $10m is a huge win.
Dud: Nick Cotric ($10.3m)
The stupidly talented Nick Cotric has failed to make any impact on the Raiders’ red hot start to the season and I believe it is largely due to the decision to move Josh Papalii into the middle of the field. Cotric thrived off the left edge with Papalii and Jarrod Croker, scoring opportunistic tries and feeding off the offloads of his inside men. They are having far less success down that flank this year, and Cotric is suffering hugely as a result with a sub-250 average. He’s a no-go until things turnaround.
Point of Difference: Payne Haas ($6.9m)
He won’t be a POD for much longer, because everyone will be wanting to jump on Payne Haas very soon if they haven’t already. He returned to the team after a suspension last week with a monster 590 without attacking stats. He is an absolute beast, and will accrue huge base stats given his ability to offload and bust tackles. Will be the last week we see an ownership below 40%.
Parramatta Eels v. Wests Tigers
The Eels were hugely disappointing last week, falling to a Raiders team while resorting back to the inefficiencies that saw them crowned wooden spooners last year. For Parramatta it’s really simple, if they complete their sets they are a good team. If they don’t they’re terrible. They need their big but inconsistent pack to continue rolling the ball forward without error, allowing Mitch Moses and Clint Gutherson the momentum and platform to attack the opposition defence. If they’re receiving the ball without that, they’re infinitely less dangerous. The Tigers are a solid unit and won’t give anything easy. Should be a ripper Sunday afternoon showdown between two western Sydney rivals.
Gun: Alex Twal ($11m)
Alex Twal, as anyone with any clue about NRL fantasy predicted, has become the stud we all thought he could be with a starting role and the minutes to supplement his incredible points per minute and base stat output. Twal has skyrocketed his average above 520 despite a bench role to start the year off the back of two big scores since promotion to the starting side, including last week’s 726. He’s an underpriced and unheralded star, get him in.
No duds here for me. Can see this being a high-scoring affair with plenty of points for both backs and forwards. It’s set to be 24 degrees and sunny on Sunday in Sydney, so a fast deck will be on offer for two teams that aren’t afraid to throw it around. No one to avoid here, pick at your leisure.
Point of Difference: Daniel Alvaro ($13.5m)
Daniel Alvaro was one of the best PODs of last season, but has been somewhat neglected so far this year. His average is slightly down, sitting on 400, but last week’s 540 on base stats shows he is fully capable of being a real star and his low ownership now pushes a proven stud into the POD range. Injuries to starters see Alvaro with a lot of upside.
These are my picks. Who are you locking into your lineup? Head over to the PlayON Lobby now and put your fantasy skills to the test. After all, this weekend is your last chance to qualify for the $2,500 Anzac Day SuperContest.