The NRL Fantasy season has been run and won, with Manly fan Shane Ewart claiming the top prize as the best Fantasy team of the season.
Sam Salt, Chris Walker, Kerry Brim and Daniel Tenbrink took out the other overall points prizes.
The 16 Club Champions – the top-scoring teams from each NRL fanbase – are:
- Broncos - Al Larchin
- Raiders - James Thompson
- Bulldogs - Chris Walker
- Sharks - David Prior
- Titans - Ray Sharma
- Sea Eagles - Shane Ewart
- Storm - Codey Donaldson
- Knights - Charles Walters
- Cowboys - Kerry Brim
- Eels - Daniel Di-Salvatore
- Panthers - Michael Elliott
- Rabbitohs - Kai Siko
- Dragons - Jacob Collie
- Roosters - Ashton Messell
- Warriors - Sam Salt
- Wests Tigers - Hayden Ayrton
But while congratulations are in order for this year's prize winners and head-to-head league champions, the rest of us already have one eye on climbing the ladder next season.
It's never too early to get planning, so I've got things started with a sneak peak at a group of players who could be among the bargain buys of 2022.
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Bargain hunting: The 2022 value buys
A year ago Cameron McInnes was one of the most dominant Fantasy players in the league, a tackling machine with an underrated running and passing game who could rack up scores of 70+ on a regular basis.
A season-ending ACL injury cut short his time at the Dragons and a switch to Cronulla means he's set to play lock rather than his favoured hooker position, but with a hefty discount for missing the 2021 campaign McInnes shapes as a potential cut-price keeper in 2022.
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Papenhuyzen averaged 49 points a game last year then added goal-kicking and made a stunning start to 2021 to average 73 points when playing the full 80 minutes this season.
But after a serious head knock in round 10 the fullback played a string of games off the bench, averaging 19 points across five matches before returning to the starting side. That makes him underpriced heading into 2022 – assuming he can regain the kind of form he showed at the start of this season.
Burton looks a gem of a buy for the Bulldogs next season, a readymade star playmaker who has been biding his time behind Nathan Cleary at the Panthers in recent years.
His ability to rack up huge kick metres rivals Cleary's but he also has enough speed and evasiveness to lock down a starting role as a centre this year, averaging a solid 42 points per game in that position.
But as a half Burton scored a superb 62 points per game, and if he can maintain that kind of form he looks like being a cut-price gun next year while being priced as a 48-point player.
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There weren't many bright spots for the Dragons this season but one of the shining lights was the late-season form of development player Amone, who averaged 47 points from his three starting appearances at five-eighth.
The best of those was a 71-point effort against the Roosters including five tackle breaks, and with Corey Norman to leave the club there's every chance Amone takes a full-time starting role alongside Ben Hunt in the halves next season.
Priced at 25 after playing the bulk of the season off the bench, Amone could be a bargain if he starts in round 1.
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Trindall was one of three halfbacks to score well in Fantasy this season – Chad Towsend and Shaun Johnson being the others – but Trindall was the man who finished the season with the No.7 on his back and looks set to partner new recruit Nicho Hynes in the halves next season.
He played the first half of the year as a bench utility before breaking into the starting side, and he averaged 61 points from the final six games of the year when given the halfback role. He'll be priced at 35 to start the 2022 season so could be a bargain option in the halves once more.
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The retirement of Josh Morris leaves a vacancy at centre at the Roosters next season and while young gun Joseph Suaalii could become a first-team regular, the same can be said of Smith who has impressed in limited chances between long-term injuries.
He has scored a try in each of his four full games at NRL level and is likely to remain an attacking threat in one of the best backlines in the league, and could start the new season priced as a low-20s player with the potential to score up to 40 points a game.
It was another season of disappointment for the Wests Tigers but they did unearth a few promising players for the future, including second-rower Blore who was solid after earning a place in the starting side midway through the season.
He looks great value at the start of 2022 because of his discounted starting price – he averaged just 13 points in seven games off the bench before averaging 44 as a starter, and will start the new year priced as a 27-point player.
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A mid-range option who should offer some value next season, CNK averaged 44 points per game when playing the full 80 minutes last year but injury restricted him to just eight matches including a couple off the bench in 2021.
He still managed a couple of good scores – 62 against the Titans and 61 in 54 minutes against the Warriors – but looks set to be priced as a mid-30s player at the start of 2022.
A winger who averages 26 points a game usually isn't something to get excited about in Fantasy, but there are a few factors in Coates's favour.
For one thing, he's a 20-year-old with a ton of talent who has already earned a State of Origin call-up for Queensland. For another, he's switching from a struggling Broncos side to a dominant Storm outfit next year.
Not only should his attacking chances increase, but he's likely to get the most out of his talent under the mentoring of master coach Craig Bellamy.
Coates scored an impressive 11 tries in 17 games for a Brisbane team that had the third-worst attacking record in the league this year, but that number could rise rapidly when he takes the place of 21-try speedster Josh Addo-Carr on the Melbourne wing.
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