For the second consecutive week, last week’s results saw a total front flip in the positions where it matters and in the minds of each respective punter and how they view these relevant teams. The Roosters sent the Dragons and the rest of the competition a serious message with a complete and utter domination of one of the best team’s in the game, with Latrell Mitchell again showing why he has been likened to a baby Greg Inglis. Penrith got out of jail against Manly, the Storm obliterated Canberra, and Brisbane knocked off Cronulla in a close game to draw level with the Sharks on 26 competition points.
Friday night we see an absolute blockbuster that really could be a grand final preview, with Souths and Melbourne meeting in a titanic clash. Cancel Friday night’s date, you’ve got dinner with the footy.
Let’s take a look at fantasy picks for the entire weekend of NRL action.
Newcastle Knights vs Wests Tigers
The Tigers’ very slim hopes of making a historic run to the finals were ended last week with a hugely constipated, disappointing loss to the Bulldogs. That takes all the sting out of this game, with both teams now with nothing to play for. The Knights lost a close one to the Cowboys last week to snap their mini-momentum, and even with the return of Kalyn Ponga, it’s hard to get too excited about this one. Get an early dinner for the main event.
Gun: Kalyn Ponga ($16.6m)
I’m hoping this becoming a completely meaningless game will see it open up and allow Kalyn Ponga to return to the form he showed at the start of the season where he was the no.1 scoring fullback in the game. He looked fresh last week after a month out of the game and managed 1280 in a bit of a stink-a-thon, so I’d invest the $16m in him to have a ripper in Newcastle.
Dud: Matthew Eisenhuth ($17.9m)
It’s been an underwhelming year for Matthew Eisenhuth who was really touted as a top line POD heading into this season. There’s just been way too many average scores, petering out just south of 1200 which is coincidentally his average. I don’t see any improved upside in this game or for the rest of the year. At $18m he makes no sense to me.
Point of Difference: Mitchell Barnett ($18.1m)
Hardly a cheap option, but MItchell Barnett has returned to the form we all knew he was capable of when he burst onto the scene two years ago and he would be an astute POD for your team right now. His average is nearing 1250 and he is regularly pumping out scores well in excess of that, including a 1350 last week in a loss. I think he betters that this week.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Melbourne Storm
A week ago these two would have probably been the two favourites to make the grand final. The Roosters’ annihilation of the Dragons may have changed that, but these are still two of the absolute best teams in the competition and this promises to be an absolute ripper. They both play very different styles that will certainly clash, and you’d be a much more confident punter to predict who wins this than me. I’ve got no idea, so I’m just going to sit back and enjoy it.
Gun: Damien Cook ($20.9m)
The best fantasy NRL player of the year and there’s no two ways about it. Damien Cook is a complete freak and is putting together one of the best individual fantasy seasons we’ve ever seen. He’s averaging 1737, has gone north of 2000 multiple times (including last week) and he comes up against a Storm side who are notoriously vulnerable through the middle, just where he is most dangerous. No brainer.
Dud: Angus Crichton ($21.7m)
The young back rower is a fantasy stud and seemingly will be for the next decade, but I think this will be the week we see a bit of a dip in his incredible fantasy scoring. There isn’t a better defensive team than Melbourne, so the potential for Crichton supplementing his base stats with attacking points is decreased. He’s a top 20 scorer but for nearly $22m I’d look elsewhere this week.
Point of Difference: Cameron Munster ($20.4m)
Odd to have someone of this stature and this price as a POD, but Munster consistently isn’t in the top 5 halves owned and I believe this week he tops the lot. The Rabbitohs are a decent defensive team, but I feel like there may be points in this one for the Storm as the Rabbitohs look to make a statement against a team many believe are the benchmark. I can see Cameron Munster going off in this one.
St George Illawarra Dragons vs New Zealand Warriors
The Dragons were humiliated by Latrell Mitchell and the Roosters last week in what could have been a statement game for a team once considered the consensus best in the competition. They looked second best from the opening minute till the last, and rightfully they have plummeted in premiership favouritism. They head home for a monumental clash against the Warriors, who were similarly as pathetic last week against a much worse team. The Warriors will see the finals, but having won just one of their past five games, they are trending in all the wrong direction. St George must reassert themselves here.
Gun: Cameron McInnes ($19.8m)
Cameron McInnes is the 13th highest scoring player in the game. While it’s hard to justify going away from Damien Cook, if you need to save the million let’s try and make that feel better. McInnes is averaging north of 1400 and the results of his team don’t have a large effect on his game. He is a tackling machine who has turned himself into a very dangerous runner of the ball, and against a monster Warriors pack perhaps McInnes could find a hole or two darting out of dummy half.
Dud: Simon Mannering ($18m)
This pains me to say but time to draw a line through the great Simon Mannering. Once the most reliable forward in fantasy football, the retiring back rower has struggled to find anything remotely resembling the form we are familiar with, culminating in just a 652 last week. You can’t justify pouring $18m into a guy who is no longer a focal point of the Warriors set up and will surely slowly start being phased out as the season ticks on. A great serviceman but no longer a gun fantasy player.
Point of Difference: Tariq Sims ($17.6m)
Tariq Sims has finally reached the place many thought he could when he burst onto the scene with the Cowboys a decade ago. He’s played for his state, he’s starring for his club and he will likely be the focal point of a team that should make a deep finals run. He’s also built himself into a really interesting fantasy player, with a 1238 average seeing him into the top 50 players. The Warriors are woeful defensively, and if Sims can find a hole in the Dragons’ lethal left edge, he may be the POD of the week.
Parramatta Eels vs Gold Coast Titans
This is a real bottler of a game, with both teams very evidently running out the clock on seasons that really promised a lot. The Eels, fresh off a top 4 finish, brought back their prodigal son Jarryd Hayne yet they find themselves last on the ladder. The Titans, despite their wealth of young talent, have another wasted year even after ridding themselves of Jarryd Hayne. Not much else to say.
Gun: Ryan James ($21.4m)
Not many other options here. Ryan James has been the form forward of the past month (outside of Rhyse Martin) with his 1538 average sending him catapulting into the 6th place position of all scorers. Who knows whether there are points or not in this game, but that won’t effect James’ scoring. Another 1400+ for the big man.
Dud: Jarryd Hayne ($13.8m)
I’m sure plenty out there will be looking for Hayne as a sneaky option against his former team, but I don’t see it. He’s had a strong month for what he has become, a largely irrelevant fantasy player, but he comes up against a young and athletic back line and will go face to face with his old mate Konrad Hurrell, who will almost certainly be hellbent on putting shot after shot on his former teammate.
Point of Difference: Phillip Sami ($13.3m)
This is not a reactionary pick to last week, because you should never chase those points, but we all know what Sami is capable of and if he can get consistent ball he will score big. The Eels are woeful defensively and there’s no reason why he and Brenko Lee can’t cause similar havoc for the Eels and their right edge.
Sydney Roosters vs North Queensland Cowboys
The Roosters were easily the biggest winners of Round 20 with their domination of the Dragons. This week it’s almost the complete opposite game, as they host the cellar-dwelling Cowboys. The Roosters should continue their rise and juice up that points difference.
Gun: James Tedesco ($22.7m)
The easy pick here would be to go with Latrell Mitchell after his starring performance last week, but James Tedesco still put up 2055 even being overshadowed by his Origin teammate. That goes to show what a berserk fantasy player Teddy is and why he really should be your only choice at fullback every week unless you need to save the money for a Damien Cook. Fifth highest scorer in the game.
Dud: Jason Taumalolo ($24.4m)
The price is really what throws me off the most here. I can’t justify pouring nearly $25m into a player who’s team will spend the majority of the game chasing shadows. Forwards tend to see their scoring dip when their teams get smashed because of a lack of base stats and that’s the only way I can see this going.
Point of Difference: Daniel Tupou ($15.2m)
I’ve been waiting for an explosion game from Daniel Tupou and I’m picking this to be the week. The Roosters will surely look to build off last week’s huge win with another statement to the rest of the competition and Tupou is long overdue a game with 2+ tries. The new Roosters set up bodes so well for him and had Latrell flicked one or two of those to him last week he’d have had it then. Worth the $15m.
Cronulla Sharks vs Manly Sea Eagles
The Sharks need a win here to keep their hopes of hosting a first round knockout final at home. The loss to their closest rivals for one of those spots, the Broncos, really hurt their chances of that happening and they will need to be sharp to ensure the Trbojevic brothers don’t further condemn any hopes of playing elimination games at Shark Park.
Gun: Valentine Holmes ($20.3m)
I’d love to but I just can’t go anywhere else but Valentine Holmes. Manly are absolutely ropable defensively, the Sharks are at home in desperate need of a win and Val is the second highest scoring player in the game in arguably the best form of his career. No brainer.
Dud: Tom Trbojevic ($22m)
I’ve made the mistake of putting Tom Trbojevic in this category before only for it to blow up in my face, but I’m confident this week. The Sharks are an elite defensive team and usually keep scores quite low. While Tommy Turbo can still put up big scores without many points being scored, for $22m on the road against a much better team, I can’t see the value. If it were at Brooky maybe it’d be different, but not this week for TT.
Point of Difference: Sione Katoa ($8.3m)
We’re yet to get a big game from Sione Katoa, obviously because his rookie season has been derailed by injury, but this kid is immensely talented and against a team that is pathetic defending particularly on the edges, this could be the week to roll the dice. He won’t hurt your salary cap too much and it’s a position that scores less than some of the others, so it would be a good place to save money. Katoa is in my side.
Penrith Panthers vs Canberra Raiders
The Panthers were lucky not to have their top 4 hopes gutted last week with a late comeback win over a Manly side that badly need this season to finish. They come up against a Raiders team who were absolutely towelled up by the Storm, and now face the ordeal of heading to the foot of the mountains to play a Panthers side who are in desperate need of a strong performance. Canberra will be industrious but I can’t see them nearly having the quality.
Gun: Tyrone Peachey ($16.5m)
Absolutely must pick Tyrone Peachey this weekend. The excitement machine has been moved to fullback and should he remain in that position I think he could go 2000. He is as talented an offensive player as there is in the game and having the ball in his hands as much as a fullback can only lead to a huge score. He’s a lock for me.
Dud: BJ Leilua ($17.1m)
Penrith emphasis defence as the most important area of their game and that usually leads to a pretty tough night at the office for the attacking players on the opposition team. BJ Leilua has had a strong month of footy, finding himself more involved, but coming up against a left edge of Dean Whare and Isaah Yeo, I see absolutely no success for the superstar centre.
Point of Difference: Waqa Blake ($13.6m)
Waqa Blake is absolutely cooking right now and has become the go-to man in this young Panthers backline. He is scoring for fun at the moment and with the freak athletic abilities he possesses, it’s not at all surprising. It looks as though he’s growing into his body, and despite it being a small sample size, he’s averaging over 1400 per game. Big in for me.