The biggest week of the NRL Fantasy season is upon us, with coaches poring over the first official team lists of the year searching for bargains.
Round 1 team news
Panthers: After all the pre-season focus around Fantasy’s best player, Nathan Cleary, he has now officially been ruled out for at least the first three weeks of the season. It is incredibly hard to justify sitting on $1.2m of salary cap for the first three weeks of the season but it will also be very tough to get him back into your side when he does return. Sean O’Sullivan fills in at halfback. Stephen Crichton starts at a very appealing $350k while Izack Tago ($334k) presents a lower-tier cheapie option in the right center slot.
Sea Eagles: Bank-busting fullback Tom Trbojevic ($1m) looks set for another huge season but his eye-watering price makes it near-impossible to squeeze both him and clearly into a starting squad. Daly Cherry-Evans ($822k) is the third-priciest player in Fantasy. Ethan Bullemor ($331k) should have a starting edge spot for at least a month or so but has Josh Schuster to return any time from round four. Haumole Olakau’atu has surprisingly been named despite an elbow injury. Possible mid-season cash cow Tolutau Koula could be ruined for Fantasy coaches after the exciting speedster was named in jersey 14 in the absence of Dylan Walker.
Raiders: The big news here is that rookie Brad Schneider ($240k) has beaten out Sam Williams to replace Jamal Fogarty, and is almost a must-have at the price. Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has held Xavier Savage out of the 17 and rookie James Schiller partners Matt Timoko in the centers with Jarrod Croker to ease back via reserve grade. Returning winger Nick Cotric ($369k) is relatively cheap after struggling at the Bulldogs last year. Adam Elliott makes his club debut on the bench with Tom Starling in the utility role.
Sharks: Ronaldo Mulitalo starts at center with ex-Rooster Matt Ikuvalu on the wing and no Connor Tracey. Nicho Hynes ($602k) will be popular after dominating in the trials and claiming goal-kicking duties but is already fairly pricey. Cam McInnes ($780k) will miss the first few weeks and Wade Graham ($461k) will be out a bit longer than that, opening the door for Wilton ($484k) in the back row.
Broncos: Star recruit Adam Reynolds is out due to a positive COVID diagnosis with Albert Kelly and Billy Walters to start in the halves. Unfortunately Reynolds’ absence makes it harder to determine who would have been his starting halves partner, making possible cheapie Walters ($240k) a slightly risky proposition. Jamayne Isaako ($450k) starts at fullback, at least until Tesi Niu’s return, while Selwyn Cobbo and Corey Oates get the wing spots and Keenan Palasia starts with Tom Flegler suspended.
Rabbitohs: Rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias ($300k) will be a popular pick-up but fullback Blake Taaffe ($350k) is likely out of the starting side when Latrell Mitchell returns next week. Lock Cameron Murray ($749k) could be in for a big year after being handed the captaincy. Jaxson Paulo ($327k) has migrated into the centers with Taane Milne on the wing.
Roosters: Billy Smith gets a start in the centers with returning Rooster Paul Momirovski ($466k) on the wing over Kevin Naiqama and likely to kick goals. Connor Watson starts at hooker this week while Sam Verrills is suspended while Luke Keary and Sam Walker finally get to play a game together in the halves. Smith is appealing at $300k while Angus Crichton and James Tedesco are the big Fantasy guns on the side.
knights: No huge surprises for the Knights, with Kurt Mann confirmed as the new lock, Dom Young on the wing, the returning Dane Gagai in the centers, Chris Randall slotting in at hooker for Jayden Brailey while Leo Thompson and Jirah Momoisea nab bench spots.
Tackle machine Randall ($350k) is rightly one of the most-owned players in Fantasy right now and is set for big minutes as starting hooker. Kalyn Ponga ($600k) starts relatively affordable after struggling somewhat last year, although he wo n’t have goals this year. Jake Clifford ($521k) will be on goals and dominated the kick meters through the trials while also scoring a solo try in both games, presenting an intriguing option following the departure of Mitchell Pearce. Mann ($472k) is another interesting option after making a move into a ball-playing lock role.
Warriors: The returning Shaun Johnson starts in his old No.7 jersey while Chanel Harris-Tavita fills in at fullback for Reece Walsh, who misses round one suspended. Rocco Berry ($358k) and rookie Viliami Vailea ($240k) are the center pairing with each set to attract some interest from Fantasy coaches. Euan Aitken and Eliesa Katoa are the edge forward pairing, Bunty Afoa starts at prop with Matt Lodge suspended and Josh Curran starts at lock.
Dragons: Jack Bird starts on an edge alongside recruit Jaydn Su’A with Tariq Sims the surprise omission. Moses Suli (centre), Aaron Woods (prop), Moses Mbye and Jack Gosiewski (both bench) also make their club debuts. Five-eighth Talatau Amone ($350k) is easily the most appealing Dragon price-wise after also impressing through the trials. Tyrell Sloan ($500k) has won the fullback role but has less upside. Zac Lomax $499k) could be a cut-price keeper after shedding plenty of value last year, assuming he can get back to his best from him.
Wests Tigers: Kelma Tualagi starts on an edge ahead of Luke Garner (bench). English recruit Oliver Gildart (centre), the returning Jackson Hastings (five-eighth) and Tyrone Peachey (bench) make their club debuts and Jake Simpkin steps in at hooker while Jacob Liddle is sidelined.
Jackson Hastings ($450k) played well in the trials and looks reasonable value at starting five-eighth despite not doing much general play kicking or goal kicking. Simpkin ($403k) is cheap for a starting hooker but has Liddle returning any time from round four onwards.
Storm: Fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen has been passed fit, Nick Meaney is the surprise five-eighth during Cam Munster’s one-week ban while Brandon Smith starts at hooker this week with Harry Grant suspended. Tyran Wishart and Jayden Nikorima both earn bench spots, Josh King starts at lock and Xavier Coates makes his club debut on the wing.
Smith ($678k) has been cleared to play after counting the All Stars for his one-match ban, although a try-heavy 2021 has elevated his price. Papenhuyzen ($636k), will be popular at the price, Wishart ($220k) played well in the trials but is probably out the team next week and Coates ($330k) is in a stack of teams but will probably need plenty of tries to be worthwhile.
Eels: New recruit Bailey Simsonsson ($356k) and rookie Sean Russell ($260k) form a very cheap starting wing pair while Will Penisini ($350k) is set for a big year as a starting centre. Isaiah Papali’i ($782k) and Reed Mahoney ($780k) are premium price and will need huge seasons to hold value. Jakob Arthur grabs the final spot in the 17 on the bench.
Titans: David Fifita ($800k) will cop a scoring hit with the reduction in tackle bust points but has a chance to increase his minutes after coming off the bench for stretches last season. Youngsters Toby Sexton ($600k) and Jayden Campbell ($550k) start fairly pricey after breaking finishes to 2021. Erin Clark ($412k) is arguably the most appealing Titan right now after winning the No.9 jersey, though his minutes could be variable with Will Smith on the bench. Beau Fermor has claimed a starting edge forward spot with Kevin Proctor benched.
Cowboys: Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow ($470k) starts at fullback, Jeremiah Nanai ($350k) and Heilum Luki ($439k) form a new back row and Tom Dearden ($524k) has earned a start in the halves alongside recruit Chad Townsend ($532 k). Valentine Holmes ($526k) starts in the center position he spent the summer training in.
Bulldogs: A stack of new faces in the backline with Matt Burton ($593k) the pick of them, playing in the halves where he scores much more heavily than at center where he spent a lot of last year. Braidon Burns, Brent Naden, Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Dufty also make their club debuts. Jake Averillo will be his partner with him to start the year. Tevita Pangai jnr also makes his first Bulldogs appearance at edge forward but isn’t cheap at $668k.