We’re blessed with two blockbusters this weekend, beginning on Friday night with what many believe is a grand final preview when arch and historic rivals the Roosters play the Rabbitohs. Round 22 then is wrapped up with a replay of the 2016 finale, with the Sharks and Storm battling. Regardless of who wins, the top 8 is set for another reshuffle.
Let’s break down each game and look at who should be on your radar for your daily fantasy NRL games.
New Zealand Warriors vs. Newcastle Knights
The Warriors stunned the Dragons last week, jumping out to an 18-0 lead on the former competition favourites and just about holding them off at the end. They continue to be road warriors, but their home record is starting to become a bit of a worry. They are just 4-5 at home despite being a top 8 team. Eight wins from 11 away is the best mark in the competition. Most teams would be fighting to secure a home final, but in the case of this team perhaps they are happy where they are.
Gun: Shaun Johnson ($17.9m)
Shaun Johnson has had a hugely disappointing month of footy in terms of fantasy scoring but, as one of the best fantasy halves of all time, he is long overdue a monster score. Newcastle are very poor defensively, with only them and Manly having conceded more than 500 points this season. The Warriors should be hellbent on putting up a cricket score to show their home fans something, and I’m picking Johnson to have a hand in plenty and maybe jag one himself.
Dud: Mitchell Pearce ($18.3m)
Mitchell Pearce has been a welcome addition to the Knights team since his return from injury, bringing with him structure and experience they desperately needed. For whatever reason, that has not translated to fantasy points for the former NSW halfback. His average has fallen below 900 and the 383 he tossed up last week was particularly dire. The Warriors will know reducing his time with the ball will go a long way to helping them decide the game, and I expect they try to force Jack Cogger to do a lot of the playmaking. No Pearce for me.
Point of Difference: Danny Levi ($10.8)
Danny Levi is the perfect player if you’re looking to save $10m on Damien Cook. Levi has been electric the past month, becoming the undisputed no.1 hooker for the Knights, a decision that should have been made at the very beginning of the season. The monster Warriors pack are susceptible to Levi-types around the ruck who can get out and take advantage of the tired big boys. He’s throwing up regular 1200+ scores and is the premier budget hooker option.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Sydney Roosters
I’m of the opinion these are the two best teams in the competition and will be playing for the premiership on the first weekend of October. The Roosters and Rabbitohs both started relatively slowly but both have been nearly unbeatable over the past couple of months despite Origin interruptions. I really hope the lazy Sydney fans make a point to get out to this game, because it may well decide the minor premiership and could be the best regular season game we see this season.
Gun: Damien Cook ($21.7m)
There isn’t much else to say about this guy. The only reason he shouldn’t be in your team every single week is if you are that bad at building the rest of your team and need to save the money to fit everyone in elsewhere. Averaging an absolutely absurd 1803, nearly 250 more than the next best, and coming off one of the scores of the year (2400 vs Melbourne). Every. Single. Week.
Dud: Cody Walker ($17.5m)
Cody Walker’s value is built on his ability to break tackles, break the line and produce tries. This isn’t the game for him. The Roosters are the best defensive team in the competition, and it’s likely this will be a very conservative game. They’re an extremely disciplined line in defence, where Walker is best with a broken line and chaos ensuing. Save the money.
Point of Difference: Joseph Manu ($14.9m)
He’s probably a bit overpriced, but Joseph Manu oozes talent and last week we got maybe the best look at that so far in his short career. This week he comes up against Hymel Hunt, far from a defensive stopper. The Roosters obviously have Latrell on the left and he is the focal point for their attack, but Manu showed last week he can be comparatively deadly and they will be best served targeting Hunt’s side of the field rather than Dane Gagai.
Gold Coast Titans vs. Penrith Panthers
So we’ve arrived at the Panthers. The club made the long overdue decision to sack Anthony Griffin midweek, a move many had believed was coming since the end of last season. For whatever reason, they waited until a month out from the finals, a finals series they will be featuring in. I actually applaud what they’ve done here, the only thing that matters for Penrith going forward is re-signing Nathan Cleary. So really, who cares what the media or fans think? They’ve identified Ivan Cleary as the key to keeping Nathan, so if that’s what it takes then that’s what they need to do. Yes, it’s a complete mess and looks terrible, but if it helps them keep their superstar young halfback no one will care and no one will remember.
Gun: Tyrone Peachey ($16.5m)
I hope you listened to me and got on Tyrone Peachey last week. He is made for the fullback role, getting the ball wide off the ruck, having one-on-one opportunities against defenders and in a position where he doesn’t need to be thinking pass first. He was electric in the role, scoring a try and creating chance after chance on his way to 1725, one of the best scores of the week. I think he goes around 1400 every time he wears the no.1. My lock of the week against a team that leak points.
Dud: Corey Harawira-Naera ($17m)
After a stunning breakout year last year, Corey Harawira-Naera’s season hasn’t quite taken off. Even when coming off the bench last year CHN was unstoppable, putting up numbers similar to Villame Kikau this year. He’s just struggled to find the same impact this year with Penrith’s forward pack a little more crowded. His average has fallen below 1000 and he couldn’t muster 700 off the bench last week, he’s far too expensive.
Point of Difference: Josh Mansour ($14.5m)
Josh Mansour has perennially been one of the best fantasy wingers in the game for a long time because of his fantastic base stats combined with a constant try-scoring threat. He’s taken a bit of time to really look comfortable back in first grade since yet another injury derailed his season, but he looks a lot stronger now and Mansour should be a part of your plans. He put up 1318 with a try last week and if he can cross the line again he could go even bigger.
Manly Sea Eagles vs. Canterbury Bulldogs
Manly stunned the Sharks last week thank’s to a left-footed golden boot winner from Daly Cherry-Evans, marking a much stronger month of footy from the worst defensive team in the competition. This is a bit of a bludger of a game, with neither team having any finals relevancy, but there are certainly highly-relevant fantasy players. Let’s hope it’s an open game so we can reap the rewards.
Gun: Jake Trbojevic ($23.7m)
He was setting the standard as the best scorer in PlayON earlier this season, but Jake Trbojevic fell away just slightly over the Origin period. He looks to be returning to the early season form, dragging his average back up towards 1500. There should be plenty of work for Jake regardless of the style of game.
Dud: Josh Jackson ($19.1m)
Josh Jackson has suddenly emerged as a relevant fantasy player but I don’t think it’s sustainable. He has perennially been an average scorer, with moderate base stats but a near total lack of attack. That has changed in the last month or two, seeing his average skyrocket to 1338. Manly are far from a strong defensive team, but what goes up must come down and Jackson does not have the pedigree to keep doing this.
Point of Difference: Shaun Lane ($15.7m)
Never chase last week’s points, but Shaun Lane has had a really strong season for Manly when he’s had prolonged time on the field. The gigantic back rower runs fantastic lines and is a complete handful for the opposition defence. He and DCE have struck up a strong combination, and at $15.7 he presents a strong mid-range buy with a 1200 average.
Parramatta Eels vs. St George Illawarra Dragons
This may prove to be the most pivotal game of the Dragons’ season. If they can easily knock aside the Eels like they should, perhaps it can get their season back on track. Anything short of that will surely only compound the pressure and lack of belief that appears to have infected the team as well as the fanbase. Parramatta are last on the table, while the Dragons were first just a few weeks ago. It should only go one way, but I have a feeling it won’t be that simple.
Gun: Tyson Frizell ($16.8m)
Tyson Frizell appears like he may be the one to pick up the Paul Vaughan slack, putting in huge minutes and work last week on his way to a score above 1600. He’s had a brilliant season on the right edge, and may become an 80 minute player as the Dragons chase a top 4 place. Base stats are there and if he can add a line break or try he will go massive.
Dud: Jarryd Hayne ($13.8m)
Jarryd Hayne has had his best month of footy since re-joining the NRL from the NFL. I can’t see it continuing. He looks to have been given more freedom in the Eels attack, but they come up against a team that up until recently was one of the best in the league, and in particular he comes up against a very solid defensive centre in Euan Aitken. Yes, Latrell Mitchell destroyed him a couple of weeks ago, but that’s Latrell Mitchell, he’ll do that to anyone. I’d look elsewhere than Hayne, I think this might be a conservative game.
Point of Difference: Tariq Sims ($17.6m)
Tariq Sims very quietly has become one of the best fantasy forwards in the game, now boasting a 1400 average. The back rower continually has an extremely low ownership, and I understand why, but you can’t deny the facts any longer, Tariq is legit. With Paul Vaughan out for at least a month, he should see a minutes increase too and maybe finds himself spending time in the middle where he will rack up more base stats than being on the edge.
Canberra Raiders vs. Wests Tigers
The Tigers remain the only team with a minute chance of sneaking into the top 8. They sit 4 points behind three teams in 6, 7 and 8, but it would be a stunning turnaround to make it. Those prospects don’t get any easier with a trip to Canberra an absolute must win. The Raiders have been there abouts in every game they’ve played in during the past couple of months, so I’m hoping this is full of points.
Gun: Jordan Rapana ($20.9m)
The best fantasy winger in the game has returned to the form we all expect from him, tearing teams apart in combination with BJ Leilua, producing sensation finishes in the corner and proving a nightmare out of dummy half. He’s now a top 20 scorer in the game, thanks to last week’s 1995, and at home against an average defensive team he should be ripe for another big total.
I’m struggling to find any real duds for this game. The Raiders are pretty reliable in terms of genuine fantasy options, and I’m hoping their willingness to attack at home will allow plenty of chances for the Tigers in reverse. The forwards should still get their work done, but the players of interest in this game are all in the backs and I think there’s plenty for both sides.
Point of Difference: Mahe Fonua ($12.7m)
Mahe Fonua is back in the team and could be a late inclusion into the starting team. He was one of the form outside backs throughout the first half of the season before a long term injury derailed his year. He’s now back and I think he would be an astute POD, particularly if he does get back into the starting team. He’s a base stat machine and has a nose for the try line as well, with a 1270 average on the year. Big fan of Fonua.
Melbourne Storm vs. Cronulla Sharks
What a game to end Round 22. The Sharks were hugely uncharacteristic last week against Manly, leaking points and blowing leads in a game that really hurt their standings. They would love to host a first round final at Shark Park, perhaps needing the home ground advantage more than the other teams in the running, and that loss hurt. Melbourne also were beaten last week, but by a vastly better team in South Sydney. It was a reality check for Melbourne, who just aren’t the same team as they were with Cooper Cronk. They’ll make the top 4, and may just win this game, but I can’t see them beating the Rabbitohs or Roosters when it matters.
Gun: Cameron Smith ($22.9m)
This may prove to be a low scoring game without much for the outside backs, but regardless of how this game turns out Cameron Smith is the best option. He’s always going to give you value in defensive games because of his work rate, and he chips in with forced drop outs and line break assists as well. In high scoring games he adds try assists and goals to that. Safe pick.
Dud: Valentine Holmes ($20.1m)
Outside of Damien Cook, Valentine Holmes has been the hottest fantasy player in the game. Last week that was halted slightly, and the Sharks put up 5 tries in the game. They won’t go near that this week, and that’s why he’s my dud here. The Storm are a top 2 or 3 defensive team in the competition and the chances for line breaks and tries just won’t be there for Val. Spend the money elsewhere this week.
Point of Difference: Jahrome Hughes ($10.8m)
Jahrome Hughes took advantage of the absence of Billy Slater during the Origin period and earned himself a place in the team going forward. He is a powerful runner of the ball with real skill, and is hugely fantasy relevant. He’s averaging 1135 and his scores haven’t fluctuated too much further south of that. He is a danger when he runs the ball and offers a budget price as an outside back playing in the halves.