By Mick 'the King' Adams
So round one is in the books and as usual it threw up a lot more questions than it answered. Not surprisingly fantasy scores were a little down as many teams struggled to find a rhythm and really get their attack going. As a result, some of the changes to the Supercoach scoring system were not as pronounced as they might have been, although multiple try scorers such as Nathan Merritt, Jarryd Hayne and Akuila Uate certainly made for some very happy team owners.
With drafts completed, it’s time to go around the grounds with some observations of what we’ve seen so far.
Any Broncos fan would be troubled by that woeful second half performance on Friday night, and nowhere was this inadequacy more glaring than in the halves. The recruitment of Scott Prince always had the potential to be a bust, and the early signs are not good. As a Prince owner I’m keeping the faith for now, but he is one I thought could benefit from the implementation of 6 fantasy points per forced dropout, and didn’t come close.
Elsewhere the forwards were poor, Matt Gillett being the only bright spark, while Justin Hodges sent out a reminder that he is in the top echelon of fantasy backs on the rare occasions he is not injured. Hodges made less than 8m on only one of 13 runs for an average of over 11m per run, good news for both Supercoach and Dream Team.
Nick Tedeschi gave him a big wrap in this week’s From The Couch, and a look at David Klemmer’s round one stats bear out Nick’s glowing opinion of the rookie prop. His 24 points might not seem all that impressive, but it came off just 17 minutes of game time. In that 17 minutes he made 16 tackles and 7 hit ups, suggesting a bright fantasy future for the debutante.
Is this the beginning of the end for Dene Halatau? Hasler’s persistence with the serviceable ex-centre at the expense of players with seemingly more upside (hello David Stagg) last season was perplexing, and Halatau was a rubbish fantasy prospect despite regularly playing 80 minutes. Halatau played only 30 minutes against the Cowboys on his way to a meagre 13 points. If his time as a first grade starter is not yet over, his time as a viable fantasy option just may be.
Josh Dugan. What a dickhead. Surely there is no way back for the Cruiser loving fullback, and anyone who reached for him in their drafts will be rueing the decision, which wasn’t vindicated on the field either. At least his drinking buddy Blake Ferguson had a respectable day out as one of the Raiders’ best fantasy scorers.
Josh McCrone was one of a few surprises in the halves across the NRL, but as is always the case judgement should be reserved until he can string a few more big games together. Matt McIlwyck on the other hand could be a handy addition to fantasy squads.
When thinking about the makeup of my team this year I was hesitant to draft any Sharks forwards, fearing that the tough competition for work and minutes might spread the points around a bit. Those fears proved semi-founded after round one, with recruits Heighington and Lewis a little down on the big numbers they are usually reliable for. The player I really feel sorry for is Jayson Bukuya, who has a tremendous potential to be one of the leading fantasy forwards in years to come but was squeezed right out of the seventeen. If ASADA gets their way however, that competition for minutes might be a lot less intense before long.
Albert Kelly had a sensational fantasy game for the Titans, and made for a handy late round draft acquisition. What was most impressive in his big haul against his former club was the fact that he made 26 tackles. Amongst all halfbacks and five eighths, only Cherry-Evans had more. If he can maintain such a high work rate throughout the year while at the same time sparking a bit of life into the Gold Coast backline he could be in for a breakout year.
Cherry-Evans’ big tally could be a sign of things to come for the game’s top halves this season with the changes to scoring. A try and a couple of assists and there’s 40 points right there. When your halfback can make over thirty tackles, as Cherry-Evans did, that doesn’t hurt either. But where did Steve Matai come from? Impressive game, fantasy and otherwise.
I didn’t watch Newcastle slaughter the Tigers on Monday night, so don’t really know if the Knights were that good or the Tigers were that bad. Whichever way you look at it though, Akuila Uate’s stats make for an impressive read. Leaving aside the hat trick, which obviously helps, Uate had 11 tackle breaks and 4 line breaks, while 9 of his 13 runs were over 8, at an average of over 12m per run. And nary an error in sight. An ominous sign.
I’m not convinced Jarrod Mullen’s big game means too much though. He’s never been a particularly exciting fantasy prospect and I’m not expecting that to change in 2013. Interestingly though, he was one of only two players in round one to have multiple forced dropouts (Adam Reynolds being the other). I guess the top halves will improve on this as the season goes on, but it was surprising how little impact this new addition to the Supercoach scoring system had in round one.
I spent much of January and February compiling a spreadsheet of 2012 NRL data, and one of the first things that struck me was just how many missed tackles and errors the Warriors made. On multiple occasions all 17 players had a missed tackle recorded, and while Manu Vatuvei is responsible for about 70% of all errors in the NRL, his teammates don’t seem to mind getting in on the action. Their disgraceful showing against the Eels does not bode well for 2013. Surprisingly enough Vatuvei was error free in that debacle, although that is probably explained by the fact he only lasted 17 minutes. My preseason faith in Mateo has been shaken, but he is sure to improve with a few games under his belt.
JT is likely to be among the very top fantasy players this year. Encouragingly, even without his three try assists he would have put up 70 Supercoach points, and he is another half who surprisingly didn’t force any dropouts. Elsewhere, the strength of the Cowboys’ pack and bench might be diluting the fantasy impact of those forwards judging by round one scores. Only starting props Tamou and Scott had over 10 runs, while Dallas Johnson and hooker Scott Moore were the only ones to make more than 30 tackles.
Well Jarryd Hayne answered some questions with a fantastic game on Saturday night. The Eels squad on paper isn’t nearly as bad as their preseason spoon favouritism might suggest, although depth is a big issue and the forward pack isn’t especially fearsome. If he can keep his best players on the park who knows what Ricky Stuart might be able to do with this team. Ken Sio picked up right where he left off in 2012 with a great fantasy showing, but the real surprise is obviously Sandow, the only Eel to break 100. The Bulldogs should present stiffer opposition however.
Kevin Kingston was surprisingly one of the best fantasy hookers last year, and with the captaincy given to him full time following Lewis’ departure he seemed a sure bet to continue this upward trend. The recruitment of James Segeyaro has seemingly put paid to that however. Ivan Cleary’s decision to play both at the same time, sharing dummy half duties, was much talked about following the Panthers impressive win against the Raiders, but the numbers showed that in reality it wasn’t even close. Segeyaro, who has a lot more upside than the admittedly reliable Kingston, outscored the incumbent in every possible stat including game time, and his dynamic play suggests that he should continue to cut into Kingston’s game time.
Inglis and Merritt dominated the highlight reels, but it was George Burgess who should really be getting fantasy players excited, coming off the bench to lead the Bunnies in hit ups, the majority of them over 8m for an average of over 9m per run. His tackle count may have been a little low, but that only serves to make his 92 Supercoach points even more impressive, and suggests that the younger Burgess brother’s time may have arrived.
St George Illawarra
Very few positives came out of the Dragons’ insipid performance against Melbourne, and you’d have to think Nathan Fien’s elevation to Willie M medal winner is all but assured should he remain in first grade this season. Trent Merrin was the only Dragon to put together a decent score, and even that was down on expectation given many think he is in for a huge fantasy year. The always dependable Jason Nightingale, who as a Dragons fan I wouldn’t swap for any winger in the competition, was the only other Dragon to break 50 in Supercoach.
The Roosters didn’t have too many positives to come from the Thursday night thrashing at the hands of the Rabbitohs, but from a fantasy perspective all three of their big off-season recruits showed enough to suggest they will be valuable additions. Despite being fairly quiet in attack, Maloney and Jennings both posted respectable scores while Sonny Bill was one of the Roosters’ top tacklers despite a truncated performance off the bench.
Ouch. The Tigers beat out some tough competition in looking like the worst team of the round, and the fantasy landscape for the Tigers is just as grim. Most troubling was Aaron Woods coming off the bench and only managing 39 minutes. Worryingly for Woods owners he will once again be coming off the bench, with round one debutante Jack Buchanan again named to start. Buchanan went alright in his first hit out, with 30 tackles and 12 hit ups. Only 3 of those passed 8m though for an average of 7m per run. He had a few tackle breaks but otherwise no real attacking stats so it remains to be seen whether he has the dynamism to become a top notch fantasy prop.