Rugby league is almost back! And that means the NRL Fantasy season is also ready to resume, with some new rules for the shortened, new-look Telstra Premiership.
Here's how it's going to work.
With the 2020 season now running for 20 rounds rather than 25, each NRL Fantasy team will now have a total of 28 trades across the course of the season rather than 34. That includes any trades made already, so if you made two trades after the opening round of the season you will have 26 trades remaining.
On the plus side, you can now use a maximum of four trades (rather than two) for both round 3 and round 4. With no bye rounds during the reshaped season – due to State of Origin being pushed to year's end – the bonus trade rounds have been brought forward. From round 5, each Fantasy side will be able to make the usual two trades per round.
Head-to-head league grand finals will now take place in round 20, with the finals starting from round 17 (depending on your league's setup).
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All major prizes will remain intact for Fantasy in 2020, with weekly prizes remaining for the 20-round season. Coach subscription payments have been suspended while the season is on hiatus, but will resume with round 3.
So, how should you use your extra trades before the next round? Here are some early talking points.
- Gold Coast Titans cash cow Kallum Watkins is one player who will need to be traded after he returned home to the UK after his father contracted coronavirus.
- Superstar Broncos forward David Fifita is also looming as a sell, sidelined indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery to repair his lateral meniscus. The injury means Jamil Hopoate ($267k) is likely to keep a starting spot for another three rounds in place of the suspended Tevita Pangai jnr, despite the return of Alex Glenn.
- The Wests Tigers have signed very promising hooker Harry Grant for the remainder of the season, and he could line up in the No.9 jersey as soon as next round. While it's bad news for the moneymaking prospects of Billy Walters (who can still earn more prices rises if he gets a bench spot) it means there's a new base-price cash cow in town.
- Jordan Rapana is back in the NRL and back at the Raiders, signing on for the remainder of the 2020 season after returning home from Japanese rugby union. He's not a must-have in classic Fantasy by any means just yet but could be one to snap up for your Draft team.
- Also at Canberra, 2019 Fantasy sensation John Bateman is one of the winners from the prolonged break between round two and three, and could be fit to play after shoulder surgery.
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- Bulldogs recruit Joe Stimson is a sell, ruled out until October after injuring his shoulder.
- Star Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary is probably a hold despite facing a two-match ban after being untruthful to the NRL's Integrity Unit over social distancing guidelines.
- No obvious new trade targets just yet at the Sharks but they should be much-improved with Bronson Xerri, Briton Nikora, Josh Dugan and probably Matt Moylan set to return from injuries.
- Paul Momirovski has arrived at the Storm as part of the swap deal with Grant and could become a sneaky keeper option in the centres this season, having averaged 50 points a game when playing centre at the Tigers last year (albeit including goal-kicking).
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- Knights hooker Jayden Brailey is out for the season with an ACL injury, which could open a starting spot at hooker for tackle-busting livewire Connor Watson.
- Jazz Tevaga is due back at the Warriors, which could potentially affect the role of promising rookie back-rower Eliesa Katoa.
- And finally, State of Origin players will now be available (if fit) for the entire 2020 season. The lack of tricky bye rounds in the middle of the year means Fantasy coaches should be looking to pack their team with stars as soon as possible – so even if your team is untroubled by injuries at the moment it could be a wise move to make use of the extra trades available and swoop on the early-season bargains now, to help you afford those big guns later.