NRL Picks and Preview: Round 7

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Sam McPhee is back for NRL Round 7 to share who he is (and isn’t) targeting in this week’s fantasy games at PlayON.

The Dragons are now the only remaining undefeated team in the competition after the Warriors were hugely disappointing at home to a confusing Broncos side. St George Illawarra on the other hand dominated a decimated Cronulla side for the second time this season and continue to look like the team to beat. The Roosters and Sea Eagles however continue to be extremely beatable, with Manly’s defence a complete mess and Sydney still unable to find any combination with James Tedesco and Cooper Cronk. Round 7 offers a sumptuous week of fixtures, with the chance for teams to further stake their claims as the real deal or for others to continue to prove they are irrelevant this year.

Sydney Roosters vs Canterbury Bulldogs

As I mentioned before, the Roosters have struggled to find a connection between their two marquee signings. In hindsight, we probably should have expected this. Cronk comes from the rigid Melbourne Storm system where everyone knows their role, where to be at all times and the clinical perfection demanded to execute this. Tedesco on the other hand is a master of broken play, benefitting from broken lines and chaos to produce his excellence. It really was the only form of attack the Tigers had for two or three seasons and he thrived in it. He now no longer has that time on the ball and is struggling with the structure demanded at the Roosters. The confusing Bulldogs throttled an even more confusing Cowboys side in North Queensland last week. This really is the most open season I can remember, there seems to be only one team you can trust and the rest could smash or be smashed every week. It’s both fantastic and terrifying. This one could go either way.

Gun: Blake Ferguson ($18.2m)

Ok, I’ve caved. Blake Ferguson now belongs in the gun class. He is not only scoring tries but now consistently setting them up, particularly for his giant inside forward Ryan Matterson. Ferguson is the emphasis from the start of every set for the Roosters, earning them valuable metres from the wing, and is the focus at the end of each sets. He’s still averaging nearly 1500 points per game after six games. He’s the best they’ve got.

Dud: Latrell Mitchell ($17.8m)

The kid is a future star of the game, but at the moment Latrell Mitchell is not much more than a YouTube player. By that I mean he looks fantastic on the highlights, there will be YouTube mixes made of him for years to come, but he isn’t doing enough to influence games for long periods and the Roosters badly need that right now. An 1100 average is far from depressing, but Latrell could and should be closer to 1300. At that price his aforementioned teammate is more worthy of your money.

Point of Difference: Jared Wearea-Hargreaves ($17.3m)

Relegated to the bench this season the injury to Sio Siua Taukaeiaho should see Jared Waerea-Hargreaves offering intriguing value. He was arguably the best prop in the game for a couple of seasons during the Roosters’ dominance around their 2012 premiership and he will be raring to go with increased influence. In a game that should be a forwards battle, JWH could be a good option with low ownership.

New Zealand Warriors vs St George Illawarra Dragons

The Dragons throttled an injury-ravaged Sharks team last week in a game that was a microcosm of their season: they have an incredible roster driven by a monster forward pack allowing their lethal halves and outside backs to wreak havoc on opposition defences BUT they are yet to produce an 80 minute performance and have been unable to put their foot on the throat of their opponents at times. The Warriors produced their worst performance of the season against a Broncos side no one can figure out, and their task will only get tougher this week. I think the Warriors regressed to the mean last week and will struggle again versus a Dragons team eager to continue proving itself. They also have a fantastic record in New Zealand.

Gun: Matt Dufty ($17.4m)

At the start of the season I proclaimed Matt Dufty ready to step up and join James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic as the kings of fantasy football. So far I have been right. The kid is an out of control firehose, no one is able to get anywhere near him. His pace is blistering, his footwork is untouchable and he is looking every bit of the player Dragons fans imagined in their wildest dreams. Coming off a monster 1575 last week, Dufty should surpass his 1345 average again in a game that should give attacking players plenty of chances to score.

Dud: Isaac Luke ($16.8m)

Isaac Luke generates most of his attacking points with bursts through the middle of the ruck, an area St George is very strong in. The likes of Jack De Belin, Cameron McInnes, James Graham and Paul Vaughan defending through the middle all offer highly athletic and disciplined defenders that will nullify a lot of Luke’s impact. Look elsewhere.

Point of Difference: Cameron McInnes ($17.7m)

Cameron McInnes has quietly put together another hugely impressive season, averaging 1158 including a brilliant 1545 last week. He has improved his running game, adding another string to the Dragons’ attacking bow and is keeping up his usual defensive work rate. You could do a lot worse than the potential NSW hooker.

Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm

A few years ago this would have been the marquee match of the round, but with the Broncos in a strange purgatory of ‘are they or aren’t they good’ and the Storm transitioning into their new era, the matchup has lost a lot of its vigour. Brisbane must back up last week’s upset with another strong performance. Melbourne also are yet to show any consistency, and will be looking to find that at many of their Queensland players’ home away from home.

Gun: Cameron Smith ($23.7m)

After a very uncharacteristic start to the season, Cameron Smith was back to his brilliant best last week, notching up 1475 and controlling every facet of the game. Expect that to continue in a stadium he is very familiar with against an opponent he knows well.

Dud: Anthony Milford ($20.2m)

He loves playing at Suncorp, but averaging under 1000 and coming off a lowly 535 even in a win means Anthony Milford is absolutely a no-go zone. He’s a no-go zone against everyone right now, let alone Melbourne. His State of Origin prospects seem to be fading by the day, as are his scores.

Point of Difference: Ryan Hoffman ($18.4m)

Ryan Hoffman has enjoyed a fantasy resurgence back in the purple jersey, offering a constant threat off Melbourne’s left edge. That edge becomes all the more attractive with Matt Gillett missing from the Broncos side. Gillett is arguably the best forward in the competition, and one of the best defenders in the game. His void could be problematic for the Broncos and hugely beneficial for Hoffman.

Point of Difference: Andrew McCullough ($20.3m)

One of the most unheralded players in the game, but Andrew McCullough really is the measuring stick for the Broncos. When he is scheming out of dummy half, making dangerous runs and short passes near the try line, Brisbane become infinitely more threatening. He has been their most consistent player for years now and is a reliable option every week with low ownership.

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Canberra Raiders

The Rabbitohs trounced the Roosters on Thursday night but I am still finding it very difficult to figure them out. The talent is obviously there, and the return of Sam Burgess can only help further, but they are yet to show any kind of consistency. The Raiders papered over their cracks with an 18-2 win over the Eels, which should be considered a bye week at this stage. Rabbitohs should win this comfortably, but this season has proven what should happen doesn’t always occur.

Gun: Angus Crichton ($22.4m)

Angus Crichton is in full groove now, averaging 1395 after a slow start. You know all about him, I’ve written about him at length. He’s a lock every week, and against this Canberra team he should have plenty of opportunities to rack up another 1500 game.

Dud: Elliott Whitehead ($18.5m)

Poor Elliott Whitehead has gone from one of the best options in fantasy NRL to one of the worst, all because of his immense versatility. He has been Mr Fix It for the Raiders who have been hit by injury, suspension and a plethora of changes from coach Ricky Stuart. His average has fallen below 1200 and coming off an 800, at that price don’t pick him till he’s back in a settled role.

Point of Difference: John Sutton ($17m)

The veteran Bra Boy John Sutton has experience a renaissance this season and is showing the kind of form that saw him play for NSW. Sutton is benefitting from playing on the Rabbitohs’ lethal left edge, but he looks fit and healthy and confident for the first time in years. Coming off a 1500 performance last week, Sutton could be in for another big one.

Wests Tigers vs Newcastle Knights

Alright, I don’t really have any other choice other than to say the Tigers are for real. I cannot explain it nor can I understand it, but there isn’t any more denying it. This should be a great game for spectators, with both teams playing great footy with a lot of confidence and a nice mix of exciting talent.

Gun: Esan Marsters ($18.1m)

A few weeks ago I told you to keep an eye on this kid, particularly if he kept the goal kicking duties. Well Esan Marsters continues to impress and improve every week, and has earned his ‘gun’ status. Averaging over 1200 and coming off a fantastic 1400 at Brookvale, Marsters is the go-to man in the Tigers backline right now.

Dud: Lachlan Fitzgibbon ($18.6m)

A fantastic young player who likely has Origin in his future, but Lachlan Fitzgibbon has benefitted in recent weeks from attacking stats that I don’t think are sustainable. His work rate isn’t huge, and against a Tigers team that has been watertight, I cannot justify that price tag.

Point of Difference: Ben Matulino ($16.8m)

The Tigers big name signing from the Warriors had a slow start to his new surroundings but has grown into the role in recent weeks. Everyone knows his attacking prowess, his footwork at the line and offloading ability, but he seems to be taking on a leadership role within the club and it is starting to show on the field. A 1300 point game last week at Manly, he could match that again this week against an inexperienced Knights pack.

North Queensland Cowboys vs Gold Coast Titans

Who would have thought at the start of the season this would be an intriguing matchup? The Cowboys are a total mess at the moment, coming off a home throttling to a Bulldogs team no one believes in. They need a big win this week, but I’m not so sure they’ll get it. The Titans have had some bad losses but some equally as impressive hard working performances. This will be a good one.

Gun: Ryan James ($19.7m)

Ryan James is so unlucky NSW are stacked with forwards or he would be an absolute lock. Week in week out he is the Titans leader, no matter if he’s playing at lock, on the edge or as prop. Averaging nearly 1400 this season, he will need to be even more involved coming up against Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess.

Dud: Jason Taumalolo ($23.8m)

Yes, he’s coming off his best score of the season, a monstrous 1908 that reminded everyone what he can do, but this is even more reason why you should steer clear. Jason Taumalolo has seen his minutes and impact decreased with the gluttony of forwards the Cowboys have at their disposal. One of the most expensive players in the game and just not scoring like it this year.

Point of Difference: Kyle Feldt ($14.4m)

Kyle Felt will play Origin this year. The barnstorming winger is tied third for tries this season and has upped his work rate. He is about all that is going right for the Cowboys’ backline and is their best hope for consistent points. At that price, an average of over 1000 and coming off a hugely impressive 1265, I think Feldt is a no brainer.

Parramatta Eels vs Manly Sea Eagles

Who knows? Honestly, who knows what is going to happen here? Manly could put 60 on the hapless Eels if everything clicks, and given the yo-yo nature of their team this year that is likely, but really who has any idea what team is going to turn up in maroon each week? The Eels are due a good performance, there is simply too much talent in this team for it to be this pathetic. So I ask again, who knows?

Gun: Api Koroisau ($18.7m)

This category could be a coin toss between the Trbojevics each week, and both are the two best options in all of fantasy sports every week. But repeating that every week would be boring, so let’s talk about the frontrunner for the NSW no.9 instead. Api Koroisau has always had the talent, but has been unable to manage and produce consistent 80 minute performances. Until now. His combination with the aforementioned brothers may see his way into the Blues side, and it would be totally warranted. He is the form hooker in the competition, and is averaging 1250 to back that up.

Dud: Clint Gutherson ($16.7m)

Plenty will be tempted to pick Parramatta’s cult hero but Clint Gutherson cannot be expected to rescue this team so soon after a major injury. 980 in his comeback game was impressive, but we likely won’t see the best of Gutho until later in the year. Avoid till then.

Point of Difference: Brian Kelly ($14.5m)

Every time this kid touches the ball it looks like he is about to break loose. Brian Kelly has all the talent in the world, and his 1010 average has only been let down by one or two really bad scores. That suggests, if he can find some consistency, he will be a valuable scorer. I can see a lot of scoring in this game and Kelly could jag a couple of tries against the NRL’s leakiest defence.

Cronulla Sharks vs Penrith Panthers

The Sharks were trampled by the Dragons last week, but the bigger concern was the injuries to Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham. The good news is what was thought to be a season-ending ACL injury to Fifita turned out to be a minor injury and he is set to play. Gallen and Graham will not play though, nor will Trent Hodkinson who has been kicked to the bench with Matt Moylan shifting back to five eighth and Dugan to fullback. I don’t like any of these moves and think Penrith will slaughter them.

Gun: Dylan Edwards ($19.8m)

If you read this preview each week you know I’ve been singing this kid’s praises all year. Last week’s 1835 was another example of how special he can be. Dylan Edwards is the finishing touch to everything the Panthers do, and against a Sharks team that really has lost its way, he could top that total this week.

Dud: Matt Moylan ($14.2m)

He’s hardly expensive, but Matt Moylan at halfback is not the same as Matt Moylan at fullback. He’s averaging 800 and scored 600 last week. His forward pack is a shell of its normal self and they are playing one of the hottest teams in the competition. No thanks.

Point of Difference: Tyrone Peachey ($14.9m)

I really think Tyrone Peachey could be one of the best centres in the game if he was given a consistent run there, but much like Elliott Whitehead, his versatility is also his undoing. However, he seems to have found the perfect partner in James Maloney, if his 1630 last week is anything to go by. He is a known ball hog, but an excitement machine. Low risk at that price and high reward against a reeling Sharks team.

Good luck!

Qualify for the NRL $25,000 SuperContest each day of Round 7 at PlayON