The Fantasy King: Year in Review (part 4)

Filed in Uncategorized by on September 6, 2013

By Mick 'the King' Adams

Fantasy is not a subjective concept. As such, any attempt to list top ten players of the year or select an All-fantasy First XIII will be rendered moot for the simple fact that looking at the Supercoach ladder will tell you exactly the same story in a thousand words fewer. This list is not that. Rather, it’s simply my own favourite stories from fantasy this year- breakouts, comebacks and champions, whatever you want to call it. We’ll start with the most obvious:

The Draft

I have spent the past couple of weeks immersed in NFL stats in preparation for my fantasy drafts for that competition. And while our humble NRL fantasy competition is many miles removed from that world of advanced metrics, average draft positions, and exhaustive media coverage, at least we’re on the way. The inaugural season of draft leagues in the major rugby league fantasy platforms has been a long-overdue but welcome remedy to the staleness of the old system, making for decisions far more complex and agonising than “should I start Gallen or Parker as my captain this week?”

That being said, I fear that the NRL schedule as it currently stands will prevent rugby league from ever truly being set up for fantasy. The origin period does irrevocable damage to the season and until we get that mid-year break and knockout competition that we all know would revitalise the game, NRL fantasy will remain no more than a frivolous distraction (albeit a fun one).

Adam Reynolds

Reynolds is well on the way to becoming the game’s next leading halfback, and has all but assumed the mantle in fantasy. His Supercoach average of 67 was only good for third best, a bit of a way back from leaders Maloney and Thurston, who remain above him in the pecking order. Maloney posted four Supercoach centuries, including that incredible 181 in round 21, while Thurston did it five times. Reynolds only managed three, while also having lower lows (seven scores under fifty compared to Maloney’s four and Thurston’s three). So he’s still got some way to go. But in just his second year Reynolds has elevated himself above almost every other half in the game, with plenty of room to improve.

Andrew Fifita

It’s funny to think that at the beginning of 2012 the story dominating the rugby league headlines was Tim Moltzen’s reneging on his Dragons contract to stay at the Tigers. Fifita’s departure to the Sharks went almost unnoticed, and indeed even in that story he took second billing to the similarly Shire-bound Bryce Gibbs.

A couple of seasons later Moltzen is on his way out of the NRL and Fifita has emerged as an out-and-out star. Corey Parker’s 120 against the Dogs last night should secure him the Supercoach points championship for another year, but Fifita will rightly be removed from all draft boards within the first three picks next year. He made that NSW jersey his own too in his debut series, possibly the Blues’ best over the three games. Let’s hope he makes Adam Reynolds feel welcome at training camp next year.

Shaun Johnson

In 2012 there was no player as spectacularly boom or bust than Johnson, who suffered the grand final hangover of all grand final hangovers as the Warriors limped home losing their last eight matches. This year, although the Warriors remain a disappointment, Johnson has been much improved, and is reaching some sort of consistency with his fantasy output. As always, when he misses he misses big, and we have seen six tallies fail to beat thirty. Beyond that however he has shown up in every contest and on top of his four centuries there were seven scores above 60. I got burned by Johnson hard in 2012, I may almost be ready to trust him again.

Sonny Bill Williams

It may have been a brief sojourn back in the game that made him. It may have once again revealed the distastefully mercenary nature of his character and attitude. It may even culminate in a thoroughly undeserved premiership in his one-and-done return to rugby league. But it’s been great watching Sonny Bill go around this year, and his fantasy numbers just confirm his immense talent.

That being said, when he does once again depart from the NRL the door should be firmly locked behind him. We need to show the self-respect to realise that no player is bigger than the game, and safeguarding the future through player development and competent management will always be more important than short sighted tilts at on-field success achieved by throwing money at self-serving code hoppers.

Jamie Lyon, Matt Gillett and David Simmons

The Centre/Wing slot remains the hardest to successfully fill. With four starting CTWs required and no guarantee of form carry over from one week to the next, getting the most out of your backfield requires a lot of luck. For this reason, players who are all but sure things every week of the season like Lyon and Gillett are invaluable. Both have been doing it for years now, and should be the first CTWs taken in next year’s drafts, ahead of Michael Jennings. The latter was much fancied (including by me) at the start of the season, and he has had a good year with an average of 57, but fell short of being the true breakout I was expecting him to be and was overshadowed by fellow Roosters recruits Maloney and Williams.

Simmons also had a fantastic year, one that was thoroughly unexpected. He will start 2014 a key member of a Panthers that backline that will be fairly potent. Questions remain about their halves however. Dumping Luke Walsh for Peter Wallace is at best a lateral move, while Jamie Soward remains enigmatic. If he recaptures his 2009-2011 form the Panthers will fire, but his undeniable mental fragility is always a worry. Simmons has done more with less this year however, so his value will be high regardless.


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