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NRL Fantasy teams analysis: Round 1

It's one of the biggest days of the NRL Fantasy season, with the first team lists of the season providing some huge clues about which players will be great value and who you should avoid.

Here are all the key talking points for every club heading into the opening round of 2021.

Round 1 Fantasy talking points

Storm v Rabbitohs, Thursday 8.05pm AEDT at AAMI Park

Storm: With Reimis Smith ($300k) replacing Brenko Lee (hamstring) at centre, George Jennings ($362k) has won the race to the vacant wing spot while Brandon Smith ($602k) starts at hooker for the injured Harry Grant (knee, round four) and could get a boost to his scoring in the early rounds.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona ($583k) starts at lock with Dale Finucane out for six weeks with a calf injury. Christian Welch ($537k) could also get some extra game time with Finucane sidelined and Smith playing at hooker rather than in the middle rotation.

Goal-kicking duties have elevated the Fantasy prospects of Ryan Papenhuyzen ($658k), who could be among the elite three WFBs this season. Cameron Munster ($671k) could step up another gear in the absence of Cameron Smith.

Rabbitohs: Jacob Host ($354k) has beaten Keaon Koloamatangi ($385k) to the vacant edge forward role and will be good value if he holds the spot all season, with a career average of 37 points a game when playing more than 50 minutes. But don't be surprised if the promising Koloamatangi challenges for a start at some point.

Latrell Mitchell ($493k) is the most-owned Souths player after his heroics in the Charity Shield, and could be a cut-price gun at winger/fullback this season – or remain just below the elite scorers like he was last season.

Damien Cook ($856k) is a solid captaincy option at hooker, even if there's a slight chance he gets spelled at dummy-half for bench playmaker Benji Marshall late in blowout wins.

Knights v Bulldogs, Friday 6pm AEDT at McDonald Jones Stadium

Knights: Connor Watson ($323k) starts at lock as expected with Jayden Brailey ($410k) back in the No.9 jersey (and a new co-captain with Daniel Saifiti). Both Watson and Brailey look excellent value this year.

Tex Hoy ($314k) gets the start at fullback plus the likely goal-kicking duties, and he has a small window to make cash before Kalyn Ponga returns from injury in about a month.

Injuries to Hymel Hunt (hamstring, round 2) and Edrick Lee (foot, round 2-4) mean Starford To'a and Gehamat Shibasaki start on the wings with Enari Tuala at centre. Young gun Dominic Young ($228k) has been left out of the 21 so looks a long way down the pecking order at this stage.

Bulldogs: Jake Averillo ($302k) has been named at five-eighth after overcoming a pre-season elbow injury and looks great value, with his new halves partner Kyle Flanagan ($726k) to do the bulk of the playmaking but perhaps without the point-scoring opportunities he had at the Roosters.

Nick Cotric ($484k) will become a dual-position WFB/CTR and is a possible keeper in the centres, although he's scored better as a winger in the past. Jack Hetherington ($322k) starts in the front row and looks cheap, while fellow recruit Corey Allan ($416k) averages 31 as a fullback and is priced accordingly.

The Dogs need an exemption to play non-top-30 player Bradley Deitz as a bench hooker, with Jeremy Marshall-King (foot) out injured this week.

2021 NRL Fantasy point-scoring system

Broncos v Eels, Friday 7.05pm AEST (8.05pm AEDT) at Suncorp Stadium

Broncos: Maori All Stars rookie Jordan Riki ($344k) starts in the second row and looks an excellent buy, while Tesi Niu ($263k) is named in the centres and will become a dual-position player.

Matt Lodge ($390k) looks under-priced as long as he keeps a starting role at prop (with Payne Haas suspended until round four), and Anthony Milford ($427k) has upside if he can return to anything like his 2019 form.

Jake Turpin ($533k) starts at hooker and looks set to play 80 minutes with no dummy-half on the bench.

Goal-kicking fullback Jamayne Isaako ($399k) is at least a little under-priced, while Brodie Croft has beaten Tom Dearden to the halfback spot for now.

Eels: Not a lot of value cheap options in this side although Ryan Matterson ($807k) and Mitchell Moses ($766k) are proven keepers in their positions.

Blake Ferguson ($393k) has some upside at his price following the worst try-scoring season of his career, while new signing Tom Opacic ($333k) could be value in the centres. Nathan Brown ($734k) got through a tonne of work in the second half of 2020 and could be a keeper in the middle this year.

Warriors v Titans, 3pm Saturday AEDT at Central Coast Stadium

Warriors: Wayde Egan ($441k) and Eliesa Katoa ($599k) have both been named to start despite injury concerns, with Egan a potential cash cow at hooker although Jazz Tevaga could take minutes off him from the bench.

Ben Murdoch-Masila ($405k) is a popular cash cow option but could struggle for points after being named on the bench. Cheapie Josh Curran ($246k) has missed the 17, while new recruit Bailey Sironen ($440k) starts on an edge.

Tohu Harris ($807k) is a safe keeper in the forwards and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ($626k) is a fairly reliable WFB option. David Fusitu'a ($268k) is in a lot of Fantasy teams but has never really been a quality scorer.

Titans: Tino Fa'asuamaleaui ($574k) is the most-owned player in Fantasy and a great recruit for the Titans, but questions remain about whether he can bump his average score from the low 40s to the low 50s this year. If he does he'll be a steal.

David Fifita ($710k) has a loftier price tag but a more proven Fantasy record and looks a cut-price keeper capable of averaging 60.

AJ Brimson ($667k) is a likely keeper at WFB, Jamal Fogarty ($666k) was good last year and should improve with goal-kicking and Brian Kelly ($464k) could emerge as one of the year's best Fantasy centres.

The presence of Erin Clark on the bench hurts Mitch Rein's chances of being an 80-minute hooker.

NRL Fantasy edge forwards deep dive

Roosters v Sea Eagles, Saturday 5.30pm AEDT at the Sydney Cricket Ground

Roosters: Lachlan Lam ($446k) has beaten Sam Walker to the five-eighth role as expected, making him a handy cash cow option. Walker is in 20% of teams but will be one to pick up later on if he does get the call-up. Adam Keighran is the bench utility.

Angus Crichton ($833k) was superb in the Tricolours' trial win over Canberra and is a captaincy candidate available in the middle or edge forward positions, while James Tedesco ($850k) was already the game's best fullback and may get the odd kick at goal this year. 

The first-choice kicker is Siosiua Taukeiaho ($674k) who is a potential keeper in the middle, having averaged 50 points last season. Lindsay Collins ($500k) has been promoted to the starting side as Taukeiaho's front-row partner, with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to come off the bench along with $246k cheapie Daniel Suluka-Fifita.

Sea Eagles: Tom Trbojevic's injury has given Dylan Walker ($317k) the chance to start the season at fullback. He's got a good price tag but hasn't got much experience at the back so remains somewhat of a risk – and as he's already a dual-position HLF/CTR he won't be made available at WFB.  

There is some value elsewhere with Lachlan Croker ($307k) at hooker with no dummy-half specialists on the bench, although young five-eighth Josh Schuster ($274k) missed the side with Kieran Foran starting and Andrew Davey ($364k) has to settle for a bench spot.

Daly Cherry-Evans ($866k) is a point-of-difference option in less than 8% of teams despite being the second-best half in Fantasy behind last year's No.1 player Nathan Cleary.

NRL Fantasy halves deep dive

Panthers v Cowboys, Saturday 7.35pm AEDT at Panthers Stadium

Panthers: Kurt Capewell ($504k) has been promoted to the starting side with Liam Martin to come off the interchange. Capewell only started four times in the back row last year, with scores of 75 (with a try), 55, 3 (with an injury after two minutes) and 64 (with two tries).  

The departures of James Tamou and Zane Tetavano means there are minutes up for grabs for middle men Moses Leota ($452k, now starting at prop) and Spencer Leniu ($307k). New recruit Paul Momirovski ($368k) has won a starting spot in the centres.

Nathan Cleary ($973k) is the most expensive player in the game but is also the most reliable captaincy candidate, currently in one third of Fantasy teams. He's unlikely to match the heights of last season unless Penrith cruise to the minor premiership again, but has a high floor and the ability to hit 100 points on his day.

Api Koroisau ($805k) isn't cheap but is a non-Origin hooker capable of scoring 60 points a game.

Cowboys: Valentine Holmes ($498k) starts on the wing where he's a no-go for Fantasy, with Scott Drinkwater ($477k) to start at fullback.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow ($346k) will become a dual-position player after being named in the centres. Fellow centre Esan Marsters ($386k) looks under-priced after his first year averaging less than 30 points a game, after scoring in the high 30s or better in 80-minute games in his previous three seasons.

Jason Taumalolo ($827k) remains the most-owned Cowboys player in Fantasy but coach Todd Payten has said his game time will drop this season, meaning he's one to target later in the year when he's a little cheaper.

The Cowboys actually have three hookers in their 17, although Reuben Cotter is likely to play as a middle forward as he did in the trials with Reece Robson and Jake Granville splitting time at dummy-half.

NRL Fantasy edge forwards - best of the rest

Raiders v Wests Tigers, Sunday 4.05pm AEDT at GIO Stadium

Raiders: Bailey Simonsson ($246k) is very cheap for a first-choice winger, and while his career average on the wing of 28 points per game is not great it's enough to ensure he makes money this year. Cheapie Sebastian Kris replaces the injured Jarrod Croker (shoulder) in the centres but it'll only be for a week or two so he isn't a buy.

Ryan James ($454k) is a one-time Fantasy superstar but could struggle for minutes in the middle rotation via the bench in his first taste of NRL since round 6, 2019.

Popular cash cow option Corey Harawira-Naera is suspended at the start of the season and isn't guaranteed to bump Hudson Young out of the starting side when he returns so will be one to keep an eye on in a few weeks.

Wests Tigers: With Adam Douihi suspended, Moses Mbye starts at five-eighth with new signing Daine Laurie ($246k) at fullback after an electrifying performance in last week's trial against Manly. Laurie will be a very popular buy ahead of round one, even with some risk over his job security going forward with Mbye a chance to replace him.

Jacob Liddle ($304k) looks great value as a starting hooker, especially with no hooker named on the bench. James Roberts ($336k) is another cash cow in the centres, and the promising Stefano Utoikamanu ($246k) will be pushing for decent minutes off the interchange.

Joe Ofahengaue ($417k) starts at prop, where he averaged 42 points from four games last year at Brisbane – albeit playing 55 minutes per game which may be more than he gets at the Tigers.

With a price discount following one of his worst seasons in the top grade, Luke Brooks ($544k) is once again the team's chief playmaker after Benji Marshall's exit and scored 53 points a game in 2019.

Dragons v Sharks, Sunday 6.15pm AEDT at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Dragons: A few surprises here. Potential cash cow Jackson Ford ($441k) has missed the cut altogether but Tyrell Fuimaono ($339k) starts at lock and Josh Kerr ($481k) starts on an edge, with both players to become dual position this week.

Kerr struggled on an edge in the Charity Shield so could be switched back to the middle rotation at some point this season, perhaps with Fuimaono who has only ever started games as an edge forward or centre.

Bench forward Daniel Alvaro ($296k) also looks decent value, while Adam Clune replaces the suspended Corey Norman at five-eighth this week.

Jack Bird ($374k) hasn't played since the first half of 2019 but will be great value if he can match his scoring from the start of that season (43.6 points per game). That is a big "if" considering his run of injuries.

Zac Lomax ($627k) will be a reliable scorer but is very expensive for a centre. Andrew McCullough ($725k) is priced at 54 but averaged 65 in 80-minute performances for Newcastle last season – including two tries in seven games.

Sharks: Matt Moylan ($310k) is cheap based on a poor injury and Fantasy record in recent years, but with a break-even of 23 he should at least make some money if he stays fit. In 80-minute appearances he averaged 28 last year, 33 the year before and 34 in 2018.

Moylan is set to replace the injured Shaun Johnson for the first seven weeks of the season, which also creates an opportunity for Chad Townsend ($446k) to increase his scoring through goal-kicking and increased kicking in general play.

Toby Rudolf ($545k) starts at lock while former Fantasy gun Andrew Fifita played well in the All Stars game but hasn't made the top 17 at this stage, named in jersey 20.

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