NRL Round 11 rolls on and Sam McPhee is back to share who he is (and isn’t) targeting in this weekend’s games. See his top targets, then be sure to pick your lineups.
Origin spots are now well and truly up for grabs in both teams after the stunning decision by Cameron Smith to retire from rep footy weeks out from the first game. Both coaches will surely now be re-thinking original plans, with the possibility of seeing both NSW and Queensland opt for the next generation of stars. That makes Saturday and Sunday’s games so interesting. Kalyn Ponga, Ben Hunt, Latrell Mitchell, Damien Cook and Api Koroisau are but a few of those to look out for.
Gold Coast Titans vs Newcastle Knights
All eyes will be on Kalyn Ponga who now is very much in the frame for the utility spot for Queensland following Smith’s shock retirement. He comes up against the perfect opponent to stake his claims, with the Titans defence having more holes than Swiss cheese. On the other side, Bryce Cartwright, who was once touted an Origin superstar, no longer even looks a first grader. But this game is all about Ponga, who I’d like to remind everyone was born in WA. But of course, that’s in Queensland.
Gun: Kalyn Ponga ($18m)
I’m all in on him. Kalyn Ponga knows he is one game away from an Origin debut and I believe he cements it here. We’re living in a special time seeing Ponga and Nathan Cleary take to first grade so easily, I can’t remember seeing two kids find it this effortless. Ponga is a must have.
Dud: Mitchell Barnett ($17.6m)
People were calling Mitch Barnett the new Paul Gallen after his debut season, at least from a fantasy standpoint, but that has well and truly dried up. At that price you can grab Aiden Guerra who averages 300 more per game. Makes no sense.
Point of Difference: Nathan Ross (15.8m)
Nathan Ross, the Ross Dog, White Lightning, has had his fantasy output quelled by being moved into the centres but even still he is long overdue a break out game. Who better to find that form against than the Titans? He will smash his 920 average.
North Queensland Cowboys vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs eased past the Dragons in one of the most surprising results of the season, but it will count for nothing if they don’t at least put in a strong showing against a wobbly Cowboys team being led by someone in a headgear who I refuse to believe is the great Jonathan Thurston. This could go either way. Plenty of Origin hopefuls featuring.
Gun: Damien Cook ($18.8m)
The highest scoring hooker by a mile (astonishing 1600 average) and the favourite for the vacant NSW hooking role, you’ll sense a trend here with my picks. I’m taking all the stars looking to crack the premier event in Australian sport and against a monster Cowboys pack Damien Cook could wreak havoc through the middle.
Dud: Jonathan Thurston ($17.1m)
I don’t know who’s been playing 6 for the Cowboys but it certainly isn’t Jonathan Thurston. Greggs Alexander was torched for saying JT should’ve retired earlier this year but, sadly, he was bang on. It appears his best is well and truly behind him and with an average barely above 800 he is an absolute no go.
Point of Difference: John Sutton ($17.5)
John Sutton’s short passing, offloading and footwork late at the line could be the perfect weapon against a relatively immobile Cowboys pack and dodgy edge defence. John Sutton has quietly notched up 1150 points per game in a star studded fantasy outfit and I think this matchup makes him a mouthwatering selection.
Melbourne Storm vs Manly Sea Eagles
I can’t say I know what has happened behind the scenes with this decision but I can’t help but feel Cameron Smith’s extremely lackluster start to the season led to his blindsiding of Queensland. The good news for Melbourne is he will be available through the period that has traditionally destroyed the Storm in the past. Manly produced a huge win over Brisbane last week but I don’t trust them as far as I can out-squad Marty Taupau. I think they get smoked.
Gun: Cameron Munster ($20.7m)
It would appear Cameron Munster is one of but a few locks to make this Queensland side but he will still be motivated to ensure it is him wearing the no.6 alongside Michael Morgan when the teams are announced. Munster has re-found last year’s form in recent weeks and should be able to tear through a Sea Eagles defence that no one should trust.
Dud: Tom Trbojevic ($22.4m)
I can’t believe I’m doing this either but the rollercoaster that has been Tom Trbojevic’s season has likely cost him the fullback role for NSW. His inconsistencies have been hugely puzzling, surely related to constant injuries, but there is no one better at defending the edges than Melbourne and I think Tommy Turbo could be in for another long night. Too pricey and way too streaky for my liking.
Point of Difference: Api Koroisau ($18.9m)
I would think Tom Trbojevic’s fall from grace will also have hurt Api Koroisau’s chances of grabbing the NSW no.9 spot, but while he is still in for a chance and against a Storm team who have been infamously poor at defending the middle, the Manly hooker could be an against the grain choice. Averaging over 1200 and with plenty to play for, there are worse choices.
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Canberra Raiders
The Dragons were brought crashing back down to earth with an impotent performance against South Sydney last week. I do not envy the Raiders, who have to head north to play a team that really needed a loss. Canberra somehow have managed to stay competitive despite a plethora of internal issues but I think this will be a game for St George Illawarra to right the ship and notch up a big score.
Gun: Matt Dufty ($17.1m)
The Dragons fullback is usually the measuring stick for their offensive output. If he’s in the thick of things the points follow. If he has a quiet game maybe the Saints struggle slightly. A Sunday afternoon against a team that seems to change every week is the perfect storm for the pint-sized, pin-balling Matt Dufty. He will beat his 1167 average.
Dud: Jack Wighton ($17.2m)
Dufty’s opposite number Jack Wighton is certainly a talented footballer but, like Valentine Holmes, is being forced into the fullback role when he is not suited to the position. Wighton is an elite runner of the ball but his passing game is really lacking and I think his play will be too predictable to worry St George. Averaging well under 1100, you’d have to be crazy to justify spending more on him than Dufty.
Point of Difference: Joseph Tapine ($15.5m)
After years of promise, Joseph Tapine is becoming the week-in-week-out fantasy stud we all thought he could be. He has featured in this category before but now we know what his roles and minutes will be and he deserves to be in here again. Still moderately priced but a north of 1200 average means he should certainly be in the front of your mind when you’re looking for a mid pricer.
Cronulla Sharks vs Canterbury Bulldogs
At times these are two of the most difficult teams to watch because their respective attacking output can be so constipated despite a bevy of offensive stars. This game will either see both open up in a memorable affair or, more likely, it will be a Sunday afternoon meeting to forget. Every week Andrew Fifita notches out another man of the match performance Brad Fittler must be losing sleep.
Gun: Andrew Fifita ($22.4m)
You really can’t go anywhere else right now. Andrew Fifita is playing the best football of his life. His 1428 average feels on the low end if you are witnessing the carnage he leaves in his wake each and every week. You know he wants to show up his former NSW teammates Aaron Woods and David Klemmer. Just spend the money and move on.
Dud: Paul Gallen ($18.4m)
I think this game will just move much too fast for Paul Gallen. With the likes of Woods, Klemmer and Josh Jackson dictating the speed through the middle of the park I think an unfit and banged up Gallen will be ran out of this game. Too pricey an option for someone averaging mid 1000s.
Point of Difference: Josh Jackson ($18.1m)
Josh Jackson is expected to sleepwalk into another Origin series and he has never really been any kind of fantasy relevant but I can see Jackson having a large impact against a makeshift Sharks side. He has gone looking for more of the ball this year and he is undeniably dangerous when he gets himself into attacking positions.
That’s all for this week’s picks and analysis. Good luck!