Entering Round 24, there are just four point separating first from eighth in the NRL. It’s very likely we’re going to have to wait until Sunday evening next week to have any idea who is going to be playing who in the finals.
While we won’t have clarity this weekend, we will have a Daily Fantasy NRL SuperContest champion after PlayON‘s $25,000 guaranteed game runs on Saturday.
Let’s take a look at each match to help you build the best possible lineups and win a share of these massive cash prizes.
New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers
The Panthers lost their grip on a top 4 spot with a woeful performance at home to Newcastle last week. The absence of James Maloney means Nathan Cleary now has to do everything, which improves his fantasy prospects but hinders his team. I have no confidence in this team going forward and I think you can just about draw a line in their chances. The Warriors’ poor form has seen them slump to 8th, a position they likely will stay. I think this will be your 5v8 matchup in two weeks.
Gun: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ($19.4m)
Impossible to go past RTS here. The Warriors captain has been in stunning form and has roared into Dally M thinking with no clear favourites for the game’s top honour. His last month of footy has been exceptional, despite his team’s bad form, and he’s now a top 10 scorer with a 1479 average. Penrith are a decent defensive team but with Tuivasa-Sheck’s strong base stats and constant threat to break the line, he’s worth your money.
I’m struggling to find a dud for this one. Shaun Johnson could be a candidate, but I don’t trust this Panthers team and I think there could be points there for the rollercoaster that is the Warriors halfback. There’ll be plenty for the forwards on both teams and perhaps a lack of discipline from both teams could lead to a plethora of points.
Point of Difference: Waqa Blake ($14m)
Waqa Blake is quickly becoming the star we all thought he could be. He is now the go-to weapon in Penrith’s backline, and is being given time and space to wreak havoc upon the opposition with his freakish combination of size, speed and strength. He’s also built himself into a reliable fantasy player, and against a suspect Warriors defence he could better his 1314 average. A cheap option with a lot of upside.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Parramatta Eels
The Cowboys and Eels will battle it out on Friday’s marquee fixture for the wooden spoon. Channel Nine must feel sick this is what they’ve been left with. These two teams, despite an improved past month, are just awful. This will be the great Johnathan Thurston’s final home game, so let’s hope we get a vintage game from JT and also from Thurston ;).
Gun: Jason Taumalolo ($24.5m)
Hopefully you got the joke just from before. Jason Taumalolo has been back to his rampaging best the past month or so and will be fresh as a daisy coming off his one-week suspension. Get on this guy no matter the cost. He will be up for Thurston’s last home game and he’s attempting a late run at dethroning Damien Cook as the game’s best PlayON scorer. He’s about 100 points off at 1559 but if he keeps throwing up 2200s like he did last game out, maybe he can do it.
Dud: Corey Norman ($15.8m)
I was hopeful Corey Norman might thrive returning back to the position where he first made an impact with the Broncos but that has not been the case. Norman has gone from being a borderline gun a few years ago to being completely irrelevant, and as a result the Eels are desperate to offload him. He’s a sub 1000 scorer every week and not worth your time.
Point of Difference: Johnathan Thurston ($15.8m)
Why not! For the hugely disappointing year both he and his team have had, Johnathan Thurston has been better the last month or so, and is only averaging a few points less than Daly Cherry-Evans, who has become a popular buy in recent weeks. This is a sentimental pick, sure, but why not roll the dice and back the great man to say goodbye to Townsville with a bang!
Canberra Raiders vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Raiders undoubtedly produced the upset of the round last week, stunning the Roosters with a 12-0 half-time lead and a late penalty goal. They were good for the win, but I can’t see how they back it up. The Rabbitohs have lost back to back games for the first time since the start of the season, coming off the brutal Roosters encounter with a poor showing to the Broncos. To be honest they were never going to win that game, but I believe in them and they should right the ship here.
Gun: Damien Cook ($21.6m)
A couple of down weeks, but Damien Cook is still the 2018 fantasy king. No one averages more points, no one has scored more points and no one is a bigger threat to go absolutely berserk. The Raiders can be susceptible around the middle with their gigantic forward pack, but really Cook offers tremendous value against any opposition. Rabbitohs should get back to their winning ways and Cook will be heavily involved.
Dud: John Sutton ($18.2m)
John Sutton has been a bit of a yo-yo this year, putting up big scores and great performances but also some real head-scratchers. Last week’s sub-800 was evidence of that, and coming up against defensive stopper Elliot Whitehead I don’t like him to turn it around significantly. He’s expensive and outside the top 100 for averages.
Point of Difference: Josh Papalii ($21m)
Big Josh Papalii has thrived since being given the no.13 jersey for the Raiders and should now absolutely be in your considerations. Back to back 1400+ scores has seen him jump back into the top 25 and seen his average tick just over 1350. He’s loving the extra minutes and work rate of playing through the middle and is a nightmare for the opposition to handle, particularly when he gets his hands free. Not cheap but ownership is low and he’s a proven gun.
Gold Coast Titans vs Melbourne Storm
The Titans scored six unanswered tries to turn around a huge deficit against Manly last week and leapfrog the Sea Eagles in the process. Nothing else is really relevant for them here. The Storm, on the other hand, now find themselves in first place after the Roosters shock loss to the Raiders and with the Titans and Panthers at home all that stands between them and yet ANOTHER minor premiership, who would bet against them?
Gun: Josh Addo-Carr ($19.4m)
The Fox has been relatively invisible since Origin. He was the leading try scorer leading up until that point, was scoring tries for fun for the Blues, but they’ve dried up a bit for the Storm. That just won’t last, and against a woeful defensive team that are more interested in getting the back back than stopping it, Addo-Carr will have plenty of chances to break the line and grab four-pointers. I’m picking a hat-trick.
Dud: Anthony Don ($14.8m)
I can’t wait for this guy to move to a top club (which should be at the end of this season) so everyone can see how great he is. Anthony Don is one of the NRL’s best hidden secrets and will be a fantasy stud when he joins a team that is worthy of his abilities. Unfortunately that won’t be this weekend, and against the Storm who are at absolute worst the second best defensive team in the competition and who are particularly strong at defending the edges, is Don, no good.
Point of Difference: Felise Kaufusi ($16.1m)
Felise Kaufusi is now the Storm’s no.1 fantasy player, ahead of even the great Cameron Smith. Kaufusi has become one of the most damaging edge back rowers in the competition, and the fantasy numbers are following. His base stats are improving almost weekly and that consistent danger of breaking the line has made him hugely relevant to fantasy owners. At barely $16m he’s a bargain price for a very, very good football player.
Sydney Roosters vs Brisbane Broncos
The Roosters were pounced upon by the Raiders from the get go last week, trailing the Raiders 12-0 at the break and failing to break their line at the end to lose their place at the top. It was a predictably poor start coming off the huge game against the Rabbitohs, who coincidentally were well beaten by their opponents. The Broncos continue to be an enigma and there’s no way to know which team is going to turn up this week. That being said the Roosters won’t lose back to back games and I don’t like Brisbane away from home.
Gun: Boyd Cordner ($19.8m)
Boyd Cordner looks a different player in recent weeks. I am certain there was a meeting at some stage following Origin, asking the Roosters and Blues captain to become more of a facilitator rather than just running short balls off his halves. Cordner is now playing a role normally reserved for a Wade Graham-type player, placating and playmaking down the short side for Latrell Mitchell, and I like it. His base stats are still there but it’s made him become an even more dangerous runner, and he’s stealing line break and try assists simply by just giving the ball to Latrell. Big tick for me.
Dud: Latrell Mitchell ($17.7m)
It makes no sense, but Latrell Mitchell’s ridiculous form does not translate to PlayON’s scoring. He’s barely inside the top 100 scorers despite a monster month of tries, tackle busts and goal kicking. I feel like plenty of people, myself included, will be wrapped up in what our eyes are telling us but it’s important to pay attention to the scoring and right now Latrell isn’t doing it nearly as well as his teammate Blake Ferguson.
Point of Difference: Sio Siua Taukeiaho ($15.1m)
It took me about 10 minutes to write that name so you’d better listen. SST (lol) has roared back into fantasy relevancy after Jaered Waerea-Hargreaves found himself on the outside looking in, and he is quickly becoming the gun player we thought he may be at the start of the year. His average is creeping up towards 1300 after a run of big scores, including last week’s 1348 in a loss. He has elite level footwork and ball skills, while also contributes plenty of hard metres. He’s a good mid-priced POD with plenty of upside.
Cronulla Sharks vs Newcastle Knights
The Sharks continue to win games by less than 12 points and as such as now putting real pressure on the Panthers and Dragons above them to grab that fourth spot. They host a Newcastle team last week that should be commended for their commitment to a season that has been dead for some time. They overcame injuries to Mitchell Pearce, consistent absences of Kalyn Ponga and the rest of the mess that surrounds this team and are still producing wins like last week’s against Penrith. This won’t be easy for Cronulla again, but they’ll win 1-12.
Gun: Valentine Holmes ($20.2m)
Valentine Holmes continues to motor away as the standout outside back of the season and finally looks at home in the no.1 spot. He’s no longer trying to be a playmaker, it simply isn’t who he is, but Billy Slater was never that either and he is the greatest fullback of all time (unless you ask Paul Gallen, who inexplicably said Ben Barba was the best during the week). Holmes is killing teams with his timing, support play and speed, and he’s got the 7th best average as a result. Can’t go wrong at the moment.
Dud: Kalyn Ponga ($16.6m)
Kalyn Ponga has been named at 6 again and as such shouldn’t be a part of your plans. He only mustered 940 in a win at five-eighth last week and away to a strong defensive team in Cronulla will only see that number decline. Knights fans will also be panicking he’s already began flirting with rugby union too.
Point of Difference: Andrew Fifita ($20m)
Andrew Fifita’s ownership has vastly dried up in recent weeks after a putrid month or so of terrible scores, by his lofty standards. Last week it appears Jim Dymock lit a fire under the polarising prop, and perhaps it was the kickstart the big man needs to return to top 5 form. It’s a risk, because you feel like he could just as likely score 800 as 1800, but he’s a proven superstar and I’m backing the latter.
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Canterbury Bulldogs
The Dragons used a late surge to overcome the Tigers last week and leapfrog the Panthers back into the top 4. Unfortunately they lost Paul Vaughan to a “freak injury” in training during the week and it appears their season is back on life support. They come up against the Bulldogs, a team who condemned their season last year in the final round, and they will be looking to add further pain here. As a long suffering Dragons fan, this game terrifies me.
Gun: Tyson Frizell ($17m)
Tyson Frizell appears to be the man to pick up the Paul Vaughan slack, moving into the center of the park last week and doing an absolute job. We all know he’s an absolute stud, and has had the best fantasy season of his career, and I think he can continue churning out big scores playing in the middle like his 1487 last week.
Dud: Josh Jackson ($18.9m)
Josh Jackson remains an incredible high priced player with no fantasy pedigree. This week he comes up against admittedly a broken team, but also finds himself one-on-one with Tariq Sims, and that is not an option that makes him appealing. He needs attacking stats to be relevant and I don’t see Tariq allowing any of that to happen.
Point of Difference: Luciano Leilua ($7.6m)
The younger brother of BJ showed last week that he has some of the same skills as his star sibling. Luciano was simply unstoppable last week and is set to have a huge role in this team going forward after the injury to Vaughan. He’s got all the skills and he’s near bottom dollar price. No brainer for me, especially after that 1800 against the Tigers.