After 5 months, 13 days and 23 hours it is finally footy season again, with the NRL kicking down the doors and re-entering our lives with a blockbuster clash to open the Season 2019.
Rugby league fans have watched as the rich have gotten richer with the Roosters, Dragons, Rabbitohs and Sharks all securing major additions. Even the strugglers have gotten better, with Junior Paulo returning to the wooden spoon-winning Eels, Des Hasler making the move back to the fellow cellar-dweller Sea Eagles and the Titans making a raft of signings. This ensures we will once again see a hugely competitive competition from top to bottom, after last year’s edition saw just one win separating first from eighth.
Let’s get the daily fantasy season going with the Broncos heading south to take on the Storm.
Melbourne Storm vs. Brisbane Broncos
We enter a new era between these two modern rivals as both teams look to usher in a new set of representative stars who will make up the contents of the Queensland and Australian team for years to come. Gone are Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk in purple, while Wayne Bennett has departed Red Hill signalling the last of a generation of legendary Broncos. While Cameron Smith remains, it will now be the likes of Cameron Munster, Anthony Milford, Felise Kaufusi and Tevita Pangai-Junior who carry this great showdown forward, and all four should be in your thinking longterm as far as fantasy rugby league.
I get the feeling this game may be more open than we are used to seeing in the past where defensive battles have broken out. A plethora of fresh faces may just ensure we see an open, expansive game of footy.
Gun: Cameron Munster ($13.7m)
I expect this to be the year Cameron Munster emerges as one of the finest players in the NRL, if he hasn’t already. He has everything, skill, speed, toughness, reads the game well, makes the right decisions, and now he surely has the reigns to the most stable franchise the sport has ever seen. His exact role in this side remains slightly unclear following the departure of Billy Slater, but it will be fascinating to watch. His greatest strength is unquestionably his running game and I believe he is a more natural fullback than five eighth, so there’s the chance we see Munster in a more old school no.6 role where he plays at third receiver to exploit the opposition defence with his legs as much as his arms. His base stats are elite for a half and should he be given the freedom to run the show for Melbourne I think we will see a huge fantasy season for the diminutive Queenslander.
Dud: Tevita Pangai-Junior ($12.2m)
This will be the only time this man features anywhere near the dud category because he is a fully-fledged fantasy superstar. However, after an injury-interrupted pre-season, Tevita Pangai-Junior finds himself starting from the bench in the 2019 opener and will likely see drastically reduced minutes for potentially the first few weeks. Avoid him until that period is over, he is rightfully highly-priced and will be worth every cent of it when he returns to the side, particularly if he wrangles the no.13 jersey back from Matt Gillett, but until then spend your money elsewhere.
Point of Difference: Anthony McCullough ($12.4m)
Anthony Seibold almost overnight turned Damien Cook from a change-of-pace rotational hooker into a New South Wales representative who produced one of the best years we’ve ever seen from a no.9 not named Cameron Smith. The Broncos’ coup to bring Seibold north of the border could prove huge dividends for Anthony McCullough, who has been an intriguing fantasy option for years. The only thing that has really held back McCullough from being an elite fantasy player has been injuries and at times peculiar game plans. Wayne Bennett is infamously conservative particularly with his dummy-halves, but if Seibold can unleash McCullough’s extremely underrated running and passing game, he could be in for a similar progression in scoring than we saw from Cook. By no means will he lead the competition in scoring like his South Sydney counterpart, but he could be a winning point of difference play for many fantasy coaches.
That’s all for the season opener. Check back soon for the full Round 1 Preview, but in the meantime, be sure to pick your team and play for a share of thousands in guaranteed cash prizes.