Supercoach by the Numbers

Filed in Other by on February 22, 2011

For any rugby league fan under the age of 56 who has heard of the internet and is worth his first tryscorer multi, the time has come to think fantasy football. For those of us on top of things, that means draft preparation. For the majority, that means Supercoach selection.

The prices are out, the entry forms are open, the analysis has begun. Before selections are made though, heed the following advice. It will take you a long way.

Seven Players Who Will See More Time

1. Nathan Smith (Penrith) $206,600

Frank Pritchard’s move to Canterbury along with Gavin Cooper’s transfer to North Queensland has left a hole in the Penrith backrow and Nathan Smith will be the beneficiary. Such a dearth of backrow talent outside of Lewis and Waterhouse should see Smith play plenty of minutes and he is known for his tackling. Expect his numbers to go up with his minutes.

2. Gavin Cooper (North Queensland) $237,200

Cooper will get plenty of work up in North Queensland as the Cowboys once again face another season of misery. For the first time in his career, Cooper is in the best three backrowers in a club and that should see his on-field time go up from 44.5 minutes per game to quite possibly 80. Cooper is an all-game player who will make the most of those of his extra playing time.

3. Shane Rodney (Manly) $260,100

“Sugar” Shane managed 57.4 minutes a game last year and did so with Chris Bailey eating into his time. Des Hasler realised by the end of the season, however, that Rodney was a player who should get near on 65-70 minutes a match. As Matt Ballin’s numbers rose in 2010 when the penny dropped for Hasler, so too should Rodney’s minutes in 2011.

4. Ryan Hinchcliffe (Melbourne) $219,200

The 2010 Storm Player of the Year was purchased by Melbourne as a back-up for Cameron Smith but he has established himself as the starting lock forward after a stellar 2010. Melbourne’s pack was decimated in the off-season and with Johnson and Hoffman gone and Lowrie proven a bust, Hinchcliffe looks like an 80-minute player this season.

5. Michael Greenfield (St George-Illawarra) $121,600

Greenfield only played seven games in 2010, averaging 21.9 minutes per match, struggling to get a run behind an all-star pack. With the likes of Smith, Saffy, Costigan and Thorby all gone and Greenfield fully recovered from a serious neck injury, he looks set to be the latest beneficiary of Wayne Bennett’s magic hands. The former South Sydney prop should be a regular in the Dragons prop rotation.

6. Ben Barba (Canterbury) $201,200

For reasons unknown to any Canterbury fan, Kevin Moore showed a great deal of reluctance playing Barba in 2010, even when Ben Roberts went down hurt and showed his traditional stupidity. Barba now will get a decent crack at Luke Patten’s old fullback jersey and can reasonably be expected to play entire games, up from his 50 minutes per match in 2010.

7. Troy Thompson (Melbourne) $199,600

The move from Canberra will do the world of good for Troy Thompson. A renowned hard-worker, Thompson got shuffled down the order at the Raiders. In a new environment with a coach who will appreciate his attitude, Thompson’s minutes should rise from 35 to around 45 minutes per match.

Six Rookies to Consider

1. Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly) $87,500

Trent Hodkinson’s move to Canterbury means the QRL Player of the Year will get first shot at the starting Manly halfback role. If he develops anything like Hodkinson did, and every indication is he will, Cherry-Evans will be a value pickup.

2. Gareth Widdop (Melbourne) $183,700

The race for the Melbourne six jumper is on with plenty of contenders but it is believed Widdop has his nose in front of the likes of Chase Stanley, Luke Kelly and Mo Blair. Widdop has already represented England yet has played only three games for the Storm. Widdop looks a good type to have as a back-up five-eighth.

3. Beau Henry (Newcastle) $87,500

The highly-touted halfback has made the move north from St George-Illawarra to Newcastle and will be given every chance to secure a top grade berth at his new club. Rick Stone should be looking at a Gidley-Mullen halves combo but he reportedly wants Gidley in the No.1 jersey. That makes it a race between Beau Henry and Ben Rogers, a race that Henry surely wins.

4. Kalifa Faifai-Loa (North Queensland) $260,200

Faifai-Loa played two games for the Dragons last year and set Supercoach players alight with two sterling performances. He will be the first outside back chosen by Neil Henry and he has the speed to sit atop the NRL tryscoring list. His price is high because of those two efforts but if there is one rookie to risk at such a cost, it is the Cowboys flanker.

5. Daniel Harrison (Manly) $87,500

Harrison couldn’t break into first grade at Canterbury so he has moved home to Manly, looking for an opportunity. He won’t get a start early in the season but should one of Watmough, Rodney or Glenn Stewart go down, Harrison will get his chance. He can be stored on the bench as a cheap backup or picked up throughout the season when his time arrives. He is a tackling machine so will get plenty of points when he does get a run. Think Shaun Fensom.

6. Shaun Johnson (New Zealand) $94,300

The race for the New Zealand halves positions is wide open with James Maloney, Brett Seymour, Isaac John, Feleti Mateo and Shaun Johnson all in the mix. Johnson is probably not in front but he has massive raps on him and was outstanding in the Toyota Cup. He could get his chance this year and is well worth a risk at such a cheap price.

Five Players to Pick Out of Position

1. Mitch Aubusson (Sydney Roosters) $271,200

Aubusson will play in the second row all season for the Roosters but is available to play in the centres in Supercoach. The result is more tackles and more hit-ups. Aubusson averaged 55.45 in 2010, a decent score for the second row but an outstanding number for the centres. The lesson, as always: jam as many backrowers into your three-quarter line.

2. Nathan Smith (Penrith) $206,600

See Smith, Nathan and Aubusson, Mitch, above.

3. Ashley Harrison (Gold Coast) $306,800

For reasons unknown to me, the hard-working Ashley Harrison is available to be picked-up at five-eighth despite the fact he hasn’t donned the six jersey since late 2008 and he has only worn it nine times since 2005. He averaged 62.74 last year and is the safe bet in the high variation position of five-eighth.

4. Jeremy Smith (Cronulla) $220,900

If the decision to make Harrison a five-eighth is weird, the call to make Jeremy Smith a six is absurd. Smith has played one of his 97 NRL games in the six, back in 2008. He is injury prone but when he is fit,he does rack up solid fantasy numbers and he will have plenty of tackling to do at Cronulla this year.

5. Ben Smith (Parramatta) $246,300

With Parramatta spending plenty on outside backs and Smith bulking up and now a permanent fixture of the Eels backrow, it would be a fair bet to suggest the pointy-chinned Eel will be playing closer to the ruck all season. He averaged 50 last year and he is expected to post consistently decent numbers again. Ben Smith as a centre is a good value play.

Eight Players Coming Home

1. Dallas Johnson (North Queensland) $261,800

Johnson returns to the NRL after a year in France, joining the Cowboys. He is renowned for his heavy tackling, having ranked top-five in the NRL for averages tackles over much of the last half-decade. His requirement for tackling is likely to be higher at North Queensland than Melbourne and he is no doubt freshened from his trip overseas. Johnson is a no risk proposition.

2. Matt Orford (Canberra) $155,900

Matt Orford has never been the best fantasy player but he could be in for his best season at the Raiders. He is in no risk of losing his jersey, he has an exciting young backline outside of him and the Raiders are traditionally a free-wheeling team. Orford’s should get plenty of try assists to pump up his score and at his price, he is one of the best value halfbacks in Supercoach this season.

3. Chris Hicks (Parramatta) $168,900

Parramatta have revived the NRL careers of three expatriate outside backs with Chris Hicks, Paul Whatuira and Chris Walker all set to wear the blue and gold this season. Hicks is the clear pick of the three. He is the only one assured of a start and he is a genuine try-scorer. He is not a lock for a big score but he is one of the best of the returning brigade.

4. Casey McGuire (Parramatta) $196,400

When the Eels announced they were bringing McGuire back after four years in France, I was sceptical. McGuire, though, has apparently been training the house down this summer and turned in a ripper in the recent trial against the Tigers. He is a risk but Parramatta are short at both halfback and hooker and he is a good player. 

5. Chris Houston (Newcastle) $94,300

The best value bet in the draft is Chris Houston. A year sorting out his legal drama and his price falls to $94,300. He is an absolute steal. He is probably a second or third level backrower at a bargain basement price. He is the one player you have to pick.

6. Shaun Berrigan (New Zealand) $196,400

Berrigan is a Test level player with a great deal of experience and a steady head, something the Warriors desperately need. The worry is that he could be sharing time with Aaron Heremaia.

7. Mark Riddell (Sydney Roosters) $196,400

I find it hard to recommend Riddell as a pick-up considering the hooking situation at the Roosters. Jake Friend has a mortgage on the starting job and Anthony Watts will play when he returns. Riddell wasn’t a big scorer before he left and it is hard to see him putting up big numbers in 2011.

8. Greg Eastwood (Canterbury) $175,100

Eastwood has never been a big scorer, he is hurt and he returns to a Canterbury forward who will all be splitting minutes. Eastwood is a top class player who rarely puts up good fantasy numbers. Pass.

Four Big Price Players to Include

1. Paul Gallen (Cronulla) $422,100

Gallen is the second most expensive player in Supercoach but he is a must have. He does everything for Cronulla. He makes all the tackles, does all the hit-ups and scores a fair percentage of their tries. His average of 86.3 in 2010 says it all.

2. David Stagg (Canterbury) $323,900

Stagg is the top tackler in the NRL and if Kevin Moore doesn’t lose his mind again and start substituting him, Stagg will be the top-tackler in the NRL again. He regularly makes 50-plus tackles a game and is not averse to busting a tackle or popping an offload. Stagg is a licence to score points.

3. Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) $333,200

You can’t go wrong with any of the big-three hookers in Cameron Smith, Issac Luke or Cameron Smith (and preferably two of the three) but Farah just seems to score that little bit bigger on a more consistent basis. He makes more tackles than Luke and lays on more tries than Smith. He has a hand in everything at the Tigers and that is not about change in 2011.

4. Shaun Fensom (Canberra) $307,800

Fensom was the fantasy steal last year, bursting into the NRL and averaging 38.4 tackles per game. He has been handed the mantle of the being the new Alan Tongue. He has a huge thirst for work and will be the apple in the eye for many a Supercoach owner for many a year to come.

Six Bargain Basement Beauties

1. Justin Carney (Sydney Roosters) $94,300

The nuggety wing/centre hasn’t played much in the way of NRL since breaking his leg but he will get his chance at the Roosters with Carney certain to start on either the left wing or at left centre. He looked like a very promising player when he burst onto the scene and he is a very good chance of saving his career with a big season in 2011.

2. Shane Shackleton (Parramatta) $102,500

The Shack Attack went down in the opening game of the season in 2010. He has never been a star fantasy type but he is well worth a spot as a back-up backrower at the low, low price. Shackleton played City-Country in 2009 and should get some decent numbers this year.

3. Dene Halatau (Canterbury) $102,500

Halatau is an interesting play. He is certainly not a backrow option but in the centres there is upside in picking him at only $100k and change. Halatau will be a likely bench player if he stays healthy so should be good for a few minutes and may be bumped up if Canterbury hit an injury crisis.

4. Jonny Mannah (Cronulla) $94,300

Cronulla are pretty weak on for talent again this year and it is hard to find four names who will get regular time from the Sharks bench. Mannah is probably the third or fourth best prop at the Sharks and he is now fully recovered from his cancer scare. 30-35 minutes regularly would make him a good value back-up prop.

5. George Burgess (Souths) $102,500

If George is half as good as his brother, he is going to be a fantasy star. Sam Burgess was the man in 2010 and George could prove just as valuable in 2011. Burgess won’t start early in the year but if the raps are sound, he should be in the top seventeen by season’s end. He is one to hang onto.

6. Tim Moltzen (Wests Tigers) $147,100

Where will Tim play this season? That is the big question. I’d prefer him to play seven but he will likely wear the one, which will be better for his fantasy numbers. He is selling for less than $150k and his price should go up.


Thanks to Corey Davis/Getty Images AsiaPac for the photo


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