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A simple introduction to NRL Fantasy

With only a little bit longer to wait until the off season from hell is behind us (and we can finally focus on football), it’s a stressful time for those of us gearing up for another season of Fantasy NRL. I have been playing for while now and for the last four seasons have run my own private cash league, with a lot of us finishing near the top of the overall standings. We welcomed a few new teams this season, so I wrote an introduction to help get them started. While the concept is quite simple, it can also be extremely complicated. I tried to type this guide up as just the main things that you need to know to get started, the best way to learn is by playing so you will pick up the more intricate parts as the season progresses.

Please note that this is all based on the official NRL Fantasy comp. While Supercoach is the same concept, it has different positions for players as well as a different scoring system and different pricing.

You pick a team of 21 players. Your starting 13 is broken into positions like a real league team (one hooker, two front rowers, three back rowers, two halves, two centres and three wingers/fullbacks), and then you have four players on your interchange bench who also score points, and another four ’emergency’ players that don’t score points for your weekly total, but still make/lose money each week. These emergency players will also be counted as playing if there is a last minute change/injury and one of your players doesn’t play the game.

You have a $9.6 million salary cap and can chop and change your team as much as you like before kick off in the first game of round one. Each player is assigned a value based on their scores last year, and the price of players will fluctuate depending on how much they score each game. After the round ends the players’ price will change, you can either keep players if they are performing well and milk as much money as you can, trade them for a player of higher value using the extra money, or eventually cash them out by trading them for someone who costs the lowest price of $212K.

That is important while setting up your team, as the most expensive players at the start of the season are probably going to score big points, but they also probably aren’t going to get any more expensive, so you should aim to be trading ‘guns’ in when they drop to a more reasonable price.

On the same token, the players you want to get at the start of the season are rookies who haven’t played a game yet and are now going to be playing NRL (preferably in the starting 13 and not off the bench, as they will get more points), or players who had average/injury-affected seasons last year. While player prices at the start of the season are based on their average score from last year, players who played reduced minutes due to injury will obviously have a lower average score and therefore a better price this year.

Also take into consideration that a lot of big players retired last year and their starting spots and some of their workload will have to be picked up by other players, for example Jonathan Thurston retired, so Michael Morgan looks like he will take a much bigger role at the Cowboys and a young guy will have to take a spot in the halves (likely Jake Clifford). Same deal with Billy Slater, Sam Thaiday, Ryan Hoffman, Luke Lewis, Simon Mannering etc.

At the start of your season should be loading up your team of a mix of rookies and undervalued players, but you want players that are still going to score big points to earn quick cash.

Keep in mind you have limited trades after round one kicks off. You have unlimited trades until round one, but after round one you have 34 trades for the entire season. You can make two trades every week after the round finishes, or three on bye rounds, and there is 25 rounds total so you shouldn’t need a calculator to figure out that you can’t make maximum trades every week.

The start of the season is usually the time where you should make max trades each week because coaches are still figuring teams out so some players will be dropped to the bench, back to reserve grade and there will likely be a fair few injuries at the start of the season (there’s been a few in the trial games already).

Points-wise, your hooker, front rowers and back rowers will score the most consistently as players get points for tackles, offloads and run metres. Halves can score just as high, points are awarded for kick metres, try assists, line break assists and kicking goals (so consider if players are going to be goal kickers for their team). Centres/wingers and fullbacks rely mainly on attacking stats to score points and typically score less consistently, but it’s not unusual to see a winger or a fullback score the highest score of the season, then a complete garbage score the next week.

You will also pick a captain who gets double points, and a vice captain who only gets regular points; but if your captain doesn’t play, your VC will get double points. So obviously try to make the player who consistently scores the best your captain. Ideally this would be a player that plays the full 80 minutes, does a lot of defence as well as attacking stats. In the past it’s been Cam Smith as an 80 minute hooker making 40+ tackles a game while getting lots of kick metres/try assists/line break assists and kicking goals. Last year it was Damien Cook who had a lot of those defensive stats plus a heap of linebreaks/tackle busts/tries.

For your bench players, you have four players that are going to score points normally towards your total, so you still want them to be players that are playing big minutes and in their starting 13, but obviously you still want them to make money, so you still need to look for value.

I will post my current team at the bottom so you can leach off my knowledge, and I will give a short explanation on all of my picks. My team will change another 100 times before the season starts, and ultimately nothing will be decided until the NRL round one team lists are released, as nobody really has any idea who is going to be playing in what position.

Scoring system:

Try: 8 points
Try Assist: 5 points
Field Goal: 5 points
Try Save: 5 points
Line Break: 4 points
40/20: 4 points
Tackle Bust: 3 points
Goal: 2 points
Offload: 2 points
Line Break Assist: 2 points
Forced Dropout: 2 points
Tackle: 1 point
Kick Defused: 1 point
Metres Gained: Run metres divided by 10
Kick Metres: Kick metres divided by 20

Missed Tackle: -2 points
Error: -2 points
Penalty Conceded: -2 points
Sin Bin: -5 points
Send Off: -10 points

MY STARTING SIDE:

Josh Hodgson: Coming back from an injury-affected season. He’s pretty good anyway and rumour is that he may play the full 80 minutes. Good for defensive and attacking stats.

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James Graham: Jack De Belin has been suspended indefinitely, so the other Dragons forwards will get extra work. I am quite sure that I will change this selection depending on team lists.

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Reagan Campbell-Gillard: I think the Panthers will go well this year and RCG has lots of potential and will be looking to push for an Origin spot this season. I think he will go up in value.

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Matt Gillett: Didn’t play nearly all of last year due to injury. Gun player who will likely get extra minutes at the start of the season due to other Broncos injuries. The main question mark is that we don’t know how Seibold will work his forward rotation at the Broncos, with a lot of young players with plenty of potential.

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Jai Arrow: Gun forward who is only the price he is because the last half of the season saw him play less minutes due to a minor injury the Titans were nursing. Will likely be in my team all year. Genuine captaincy option depending on Titans’ forward rotation.

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Elliot Whitehead: He’s an 80 minute back rower who is priced low because he spent a lot of time last year playing as a centre to cover injuries, which he won’t be doing this year (apparently) with Bateman the man to cover the backline.

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Michael Morgan: Will be the Cowboys’ main playmaker after Thurston retires. Gun and likely be in team all season.

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Aiden Sezer: Playing halfback instead of five-eighth for Raiders. Also will have an inexperienced halves partner after Blake Austin left the NRL after last season. Also second choice goal kicker after Jarrod Croker.

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Jordan Kahu: Available as a centre or winger/fullback (WFB). Likely to play fullback for the Cowboys as replacement for Ben Barba. Fullbacks score better than centres (actually, everyone scores better than centres, they are a headache every season).

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Kurt Capewell: Also a dual position player as he played centre and in the back row last year. Should get more time in the back row this year with Luke Lewis retiring, and should definitely score better than a centre.

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Josh Mansour: Underpriced after a year of injuries. Fast, agile and very strong. Although it’s much better to have three fullbacks here instead of any wingers, Mansour is a beast and gets a heap of his points from tackle busts. He’s massive and acts as an extra forward to get the Panthers out of their own half.

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Clint Gutherson: Dual position so can play in the halves or in the backline. Great attacking stats and hopefully will play fullback this year after Corey Norman left the Eels to go to the Dragons and it’s apparent that Bevan French is questionable as a fullback. Depends on team lists.

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Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad: All signs point to him being the Raiders’ starting fullback after they announced Jack Wighton will be moving to five-eighth. Undervalued. Could be a great buy if he keeps the number one jersey.

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BENCH:

Adam Blair: Still iffy about this one. The Warriors lost a couple of forwards with James Gavet going to the Knights and Simon Mannering retiring. I’ve been told there is a chance that Blair will start in the back row, and he can be a great player and play big minutes when he’s switched on and fit.

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Cameron Murray: Amazing player who has been shuffled around with the bench for the past few seasons with Souths having such a stacked forward pack. Could play 80 and has amazing potential, but Wayne Bennett is a notorious pain in the ass as a coach when it comes to fantasy players, with a strong possibility he will refuse to let any forward play big minutes.

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Joe Stimson: Storm lose Ryan Hoffman to retirement, and word is that Stimson will replace him. Should make money, but may change depending on team lists.

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Victor Radley: The Roosters are the team to beat again this year, and Radley showed last year how good he was and is apparently killing it at training. Can cover back row and hooker, so hoping he floats between the two as he has good attacking stats too.

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RESERVES NOT IN STARTING 17:

Dylan Brown: Will be starting five-eighth for the Eels. Basement bottom price so can only go up in value. Too hard to turn down a starting halfback at that price.

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Brett Morris: A winger, but can cover fullback as well. Experienced rep player who scored a first half hat trick in the World Club Challenge last week. Will hopefully make some money at the very least, and likely to cover fullback if Tedesco is unavailable.

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Jack Bird: Extremely cheap after pretty much being rubbed out of the entire 2018 campaign. Almost guaranteed to be starting for the Broncos and can also cover the halves if Kodi Nikorima gets sent back to the bench as a number 14.

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Adam Keighran: Will be starting for the Warriors in the halves. Basement bottom price and guaranteed to make money if he can keep his spot, which he should with the Warriors very low on options as halfback after they released Shaun Johnson.

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