Tuesday 23 February 2010

Fox Sports Fantasy NRL 2010 Primer: Prop Forwards

Fox Sports Fantasy NRL 2010 Primer: Prop Forwards

READ THIS FIRST! Fantasy NRL Fans - you cannot afford to miss this breakdown of the Bargains & Busts of 2010.
Or via
http://tiny.cc/FantasyNRLBargainsBusts - Updated for Round 1!

Our comprehensive Fox Sports Fantasy NRL Preview continues here on wdnicolson.blogspot.com and we have EXCLUSIVE Individual Player Scouting Reports (from NSC) on every player listed in the game.

So before you finalise your team for 2010 - check back here for every position broken down to sort the stars from the duds.

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Prop Forwards

Ben Hannant Bulldogs 8.0 684
+ You’ll get at least 30/15/100 every week from Hannant in 50-60 minutes of football (he had a 34/15/130 AVG in 2009). But you’ll have to pay an extra point or two on your cap to get him. Durability isn’t an issue for the Canterbury prop as his 18 GP in 2009 was his lowest in 3 seasons.

Fuifui Moimoi Eels 8.0 833
+ A dominant force in the Parramatta run to the 2009 Grand Final and his surge boosted his Fantasy NRL totals. He was a 17/13/120 man last year and had 104 TBs but only played 43 MPG. Fui also has try-scoring ability which is rare for a prop but like Hannant – you’ll pay extra for the privilege.

Petero Civoniceva Panthers 7.5 378
+ Still has it in his 34th year and although he may not play 55 MPG again in 2010 – he’s got 20/16/120 written all over him despite his ‘advancing years’. Props with Petero’s motor are rare but the NRL has a few of them at the moment and the big unit is still clearly the top go-forward merchant at the Panthers.

Luke Douglas Sharks 7.0 715
+ This kid should be in the NSW State of Origin team. That’s how good Douglas is and he has yet to miss a game since debuting in 2006 and we haven’t even mentioned he’s a prop. So durability gets a big tick and his stat line is normally around the 35/12/100 range. A 60 minute prop for 7.0 is an absolute bargain.

Luke Bailey Titans 7.0 701
+ Bailey is the best prop at the Titans and has an attractive price tag of just 7.0. He’s got the fitness for 60 MPG with a tasty workrate of 28/16/130 in 2009. But he’s 30 this year and the workload on his body looks to be catching up with him, so he has risk.

Brent Kite Sea Eagles 7.0 602
+ It’s been a rough time for the 2008 Clive Churchill Medalist since the day he beat Michael Robertson for the award… he lost his rep jumpers and his mojo carrying the ball in a big way. Played just 47 MPG in 2009 for a 24/12/90 workrate and you have to wonder if he’s still Des Hasler’s number one prop at Brookvale. Hard to see a great deal of upside despite his durability.

Adam Blair Storm 7.0 689
+ There’s no doubt Blair is a good player but his Fantasy game is very hit and miss. One game you might get 12 runs for 120 metres with 25 tackles and the next get 5 runs for 36 metres and 19 tackles – in short he’s not a reliable player from a stats perspective and that’s the only one that matters in Fantasy NRL. For 7.0 you can do better.

Steve Price Warriors 7.0 532
+ He’s got a few years on Civoniceva but after being stripped of the captaincy at the Warriors – you can bet Price is eager to have a big year. One of the few players who can break the 20 runs in a game mark and has played nearly 55 MPG the last two seasons – the downside is he has managed just 28 games in the same time period. You might get 20/16/120 out of Price in 2010 – which at 7.0 is money for jam.

Carl Webb Cowboys 7.0 536
+ Cannot justify any recommendation of Carl Webb in your Fantasy NRL team. There are better options at 7.0 and better options at 2.5. Even if he recaptures his best ever form – he’s a borderline pick. Nothing to see here – move onto a player who will actually help your Fantasy team.

Justin Poore Eels 7.0 543
+ Moves from a front row depth chart that he topped at the Dragons to arguably the third best at Parramatta. The Eels were clearly planning for life after Nathan Cayless when they signed Poore and despite posting 30/14/110 last year – it might be tough to match or improve those numbers in a much deeper Parramatta front row.

Nathan Cayless Eels 7.0 743
+ Despite entering what could be his last NRL season Cayless remains a solid pick – even if at 7.0 he’s a little high to consider over others. His numbers (26/13/105) dipped slightly last year from 2007 & 2008 as did his minutes and with Justin Poore on board he’s got more competition for hitups. Still he’s the Eels skipper so he will play.

Roy Asotasi Rabbitohs 7.0 597
+ A second straight off-season of rehab for Asotasi means he may start 2010 slowly. This time it was a knee reconstruction and very rarely does a player get back to his best form in the first season back. Still he’s got 25/15/120 potential and plays big minutes for the Rabbitohs when fit (60+ per game 2007-2009). Pre-injury he’d be a steal at 7.0 but this time it’s buyer beware.

Michael Weyman Dragons 7.0 573
+ A lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of Weyman in the Dragons pack now that Justin Poore has moved to Parramatta. Good judges always considered Weyman had quality football in his future and the Raiders showed a lack of patience by letting him join the Dragons. Still you can’t help but wonder if the fresh start was the reason for Weyman’s success – put him down for 20/13/110 each week with an upside of 25/17/140.

Sam Thaiday Broncos 6.5 705
+ Will play in both the backrow and front row, so he'll log plenty of minutes. At 6.5 Thaiday is a value pick for your front row. He can be a little inconsistent statisically but he still cranked out a 30/14/100 average. Not the dynamic edge runner we thought he might be, but he'll pump out the points for your Fantasy team - even if the Broncos struggle.

Michael Hodgson Bulldogs 6.5 606
+ Remains an under-rated player even after being a key reason behind the Bulldogs 2009 resurgence. Might be a little highly valued at 6.5 but he is consistent with 22/13/100 pretty much his weekly staple last year. The arrival of Mickey Paea and the Dogs depth up front might work against him though.

David Shillington Raiders 6.5 345
+ Even the most one eyed Raiders fans were surprised by Shillington's call up for the Four Nations tour but statistically at least - he measures up. While he may lack lateral movement in defence his numbers last year - 18/15/120 were impressive, especially in the runs/metres department. His game is to eat metres and although that's not a stat for Fox Sports Fantasy NRL - his runs are. Not the worst option at 6.5.

Adam Cuthbertson Sharks 6.5 257
+ Big addition to the Cronulla pack but needs to play signficantly more minutes for the Sharks than he did for the Sea Eagles to make a Fantasy impact. Numbers aren't great at 17/10/70 but his value lies in his off-loading ability. If he gets a licence to off-load at will at the Sharks and plays more than half a game (37 mpg in 2009) - he'll produce.

Kade Snowden Sharks 6.5 726
+ One of the bargain buys in 2009 hasn't been priced out of consideration this year. At 6.5 he is still relatively cheap for a prop who played 57mpg with a 32/13/105 average in 23 games. There is more depth at the Sharks this year but there's no reason to think he won't line up alongside Luke Douglas in the starting front row each week.

Matthew Cross Sea Eagles 6.5 282
+ Even if he was under 6.0 you wouldn't consider him. He will struggle to start at the Sea Eagles and even if he gets a bench role - his numbers for Melbourne last year (18/6/50) should scare you off his scent immediately. Look elsewhere please.

Brett White Storm 6.5 463
+ Earned the 'enforcer' tag for laying out Steven Price in Origin 3 last year but his numbers are fairly mediocre for an Origin prop. You can get 20/11/90 for much cheaper than 6.5 and with White not fit for the start of 2010 - he shouldn't be on your radar.

Jeff Lima Storm 6.5 658
+ Was rumoured to be leaving the Storm at the end of 2009 but wisely Melbourne held onto the powerhouse front rower. The leader of the engine room at the Storm didn't set the world on fire with his numbers last year (23/14/108) but he carried niggles throughout the year and has 25/15/120 upside when fit. That may not seem like a big jump but for 6.5 that's a great output.

Sika Manu Storm 6.5 275
+ Manu is a blockbusting runner who suffered a terrible ankle injury late in 2009 and will not be ready for Round 1. For 6.5 you'll pay overs for a player with upside (he can break the line and tackles) but you can get more consistency elsewhere.

Russell Packer Warriors 6.5 568
+ Had some huge games in 2009 but never seemed a favourite of Warriors coach Ivan Cleary. Everytime you thought he was primed to start for the Warriors - he'd get dropped or play barely 20 minutes. As front row prospects go - Packer is as good as they come but you can't be sure how he's going to be managed by Cleary early on. Has 30/18/140 upside but might not play enough to average that all season.

Sam Rapira Warriors 6.5 609
+ Was the one constant in the Warriors front row last year and his 25/12/102 average provided good Fantasy points each week. Rapira is part of a strong Warriors prop rotation that also features Steven Price and Russell Packer and they'll do the bulk of the grunt work in 2010. A solid option at prop. 

Chris Houston Knights 6.5 663
+ Could move back into the second row for the Knights in 2010 after neccessity saw him play at prop for the second half of last season. A tireless defender, Houston averaged 30/10/73 in 2009 in 56mpg.
WARNING! - Facing police charges for supplying drugs - stood down by Newcastle indefinitely. March 1, 2010. 

Matthew Scott Cowboys 6.5 517
+ Now the leader of the North Queensland front row with Shane Tronc's defection to Super League. Scott put his potential into practice in 2009 with a powerhouse second half and finished with a 17/14/120 average. You won't get a big tackle count from Scott but with Tronc's departure he could assume some of the workload in defence.

Jason Ryles Roosters 6.5 0
+ Former Dragons front rower didn't stay away from the NRL for long, lasting just one year in France before the Roosters pounced. In 2008 he averaged 27/16/138 which are great numbers and added 50 offloads - so he can get it done. Worth looking at for the 6.5 pricetag and he should be the #1 prop at the Roosters.

Keith Galloway Tigers 6.5 309
+ The Tigers 2009 playoff campaign was dealt a heavy blow when the big red head was unavailable from Round 11-20 through injury. While he returned for the final 6 weeks the Tigers missed his 16/12/106 production during the critcal middle period of the season. There's depth in the Tigers front row this year so his numbers aren't going to skyrocket - but he is a decent Fantasy play.

Josh Miller Raiders 6.0 623
+ It looks like Miller might be the Canberra lock forward in Round 1, with coach David Furner leaning towards playing skipper Alan Tongue at hooker. Miller is a stat junkie - you don't notice everything he does but at the end of the game his stat sheet reads: 26/13/94 in 44mpg. For 6.0 that's good value.

Jason King Sea Eagles 6.0 503
+ New co-captain of Manly with Jamie Lyon, King is now guaranteed a spot in the 17 each week. But he's not a great fantasy option with his 21/11/85 average about the most you can expect week to week. Solid footballer but not much of a Fantasy asset.

Junior Palau Sea Eagles 6.0 0
+ Hard to believe the Fox Sports boffins came up with this value for a guy who has never played an NRL game and is long odds to play one in 2010.

Aiden Tolman Storm 6.0 684
+ Consider Tolman based on his 2009 average of 22/12/90 first, then realise that he did that in just 40 minutes of football each week. In 2010 he'll be a key part of the Melbourne forward pack and could play signficant minutes now that Dallas Johnson has moved on. At 6.0 he's a great pick. 

Jeremy Latimore Warriors 6.0 132
+ Too highly priced to consider for Round 1, but the Warriors signed a talent away from the Eels in Latimore. What goes against him is he's at best, the 4th ranked prop when everyone is healthy in Auckland - and that's not worthy of spending 6.0 on.

Steve Simpson Knights 6.0 382
+ Veteran enters the season facing the end of a good NRL career. Has lost a lot of the mobility he once had and could end up part of a front row rotation in Newcastle by season's end... if he lasts that long. Has been a good footballer but his 26/8/65 average just doesn't get him on your Fantasy team.

Ben Cross Knights 6.0 138
+ Enters the final year of a 3 year contract with the Knights having played just 16 games. Was a late bloomer at the Storm (via Canberra) and if he plays a full year you might get 25/13/120 - but he might also get injured again. He's 32 this year but doesn't have a decade of NRL football on his legs so might be worth a gamble.

Richard Fa'aoso Knights 6.0 661
+ Starts the year on the injured list so avoid for the time being. Was capable of some big scores during 2009 but his minutes were limited even with Ben Cross injured. Not a long term investment but might be a good Fantasy stop gap mid-year.

Antonio Kaufusi Cowboys 6.0 416
+ North Queensland invested heavily in the former Test & Origin prop and saw Shane Tronc leave for England as a result. Has not been the same player since major knee surgery and has looked too slow and unfit for the North Queensland climate. That being said he did play rep football for a reason - whether or not he's capable of returning to that form is the question you have to ask yourself. Risk.

Daine Laurie Panthers 6.0 140
+ Didn't have too many nice things to say about the Wests Tigers once he had signed with Penrith, which is odd given they gave him his chance at the NRL as a rawboned rookie. Damaging on his day and devoid of any Fantasy points on another... a brave selection.

Luke Stuart Rabbitohs 6.0 695
+ The epitome of a Fantasy Footballer. Plays good minutes each week (60mpg), doesn't miss a game and has pumped out almost identical 30/14/110 seasons in 2008 & 2009. In short - for 6.0 Stuart does everything you want from a front rower and costs you less than he should for the privilege. Only downside to him is the depth in the Rabbitohs pack - but even losing minutes he'll still be a Fantasy factor on your team.

Dan Hunt Dragons 6.0 703
+ Looked destined to replace Justin Poore as Michael Weyman's front row partner in 2010 until Wayne Bennett sprung a surprise in the trials and named Matt Prior there instead. Even if Hunt doesn't start he should replicate his 27/11/87 from the bench and is a good investment at 6.0.

Nick Kenny Broncos 5.5 473
+ Now the first prop picked in Brisbane, Kenny has come a long way in a couple of seasons. His numbers have risen each season (2007 - 20/7/56, 2008 - 20/10/77 & 2009 - 22/13/101) as his role in the team has expanded. His minutes also took a leap in 2009 to 46.5mpg but injury has curtailed his overall impact on the team. Good cheap option for a starting prop.

Chris Armit Bulldogs 5.5 451
+ May not be ready for Round 1 because of injury and although his price is fair for a guy who put up a 15/11/92 average last year - he did it in reduced minutes from 2007 & 2008. With the arrival of Mickey Paea and Jarrad Hickey having a full pre-season - Armit's minutes are unlikely to improve. And he's no sure thing to stay in the first grade squad as it is.

Dane Tilse Raiders 5.5 456
+ The 'Giraffe' as he is known is a solid Fantasy play. His numbers aren't amazing but 19/13/99 is nothing to sneeze at in 40mpg. Is consistent but only his hitup count is likely to fluctuate week to week - defensively he's maxed out at 20 per game.

Troy Thompson Raiders 5.5 400
+ Could find holding down a first grade spot tough in 2010, as the Raiders have a bunch of players vying for front row births. His recovery from an Achilles tear was slow, even though he played 19 games he wasn't the same player. A 19/10/77 average is ok in 32mpg.

Michael Henderson Titans 5.5 471
+ Looks established in the Titans front row rotation and is a hard worker on both sides of the ball. Averaged 19/12/94 in his first full season on the Gold Coast and has a nice off-load to his game. Consider.

Frank Puletua Panthers 5.5 542
+ Held off the youngsters at Penrith for a front row birth alongside Petero Civoniceva in 2009 with a good season averaging 20/13/103. Whether or not he can keep the likes of Matt Bell, Sam McKendry, Tim Grant and Daine Laurie at bay again in 2010 at the age of 32 is the question.

Ben Ross Rabbitohs 5.5 20
+ If he manages to get onto the field and play for the Bunnies in 2010 - it will be a great story. It looked like his career was over in Round 1 last year when with the Sharks he effectively broke his neck attempting a tackle. Very much in the mix for a bench spot with South Sydney if he can prove his fitness - which will most likely come from playing for the Bears in the NSW Cup.

Jarrod Saffy Dragons 5.5 361
+ The union convert finally had a season of first grade and was a servicable piece of the Dragons regular season machine. Played 18 Games for a 24/9/65 average in 2009. You can do better in this price range but Saffy has earned another crack at the NRL in 2010.

Bryce Gibbs Tigers 5.5 483
+ Penalty and error prone but Tim Sheens has shown the faith longer than many expected him too. That's because when you watch Gibbs play you can't help but think he's capable of more than a 24/13103 average - which isn't half bad as it is. His minutes played last year (53.4) is more than you expect and for 5.5 that makes you consider him.

Jason Cayless Tigers 5.5 0
+ Signed from St.Helens to beef up the Tigers bench - Cayless is an intriguing Fantasy option. He was a good front rower for the Roosters before he left and from all reports - did a great job in the UK. But you're never sure what to expect when a player comes back to the NRL after a few seasons in the Super League, so be cautiously optimistic.

Todd Payten Tigers 5.5 550
+ The halfback in the body of a prop... how many times will Ray Warren bring out that cliche in 2010? Still the big bopper with a silky smooth passing game is always going to bring something to his team when he plays. Averaged 23/11/79 in 2009 in a variety of positions and will set up the odd try or two with his off-loading skills.

Ashton Sims Broncos 5.0 385
+ Came through the junior ranks at St.George-Illawarra with massive raps and yet now at 25 - we're still waiting for that potential to be realised. Sims is a solid NRL forward but he's never shown he's anything more than that. Brisbane will rely on him to step up as a leader in their pack in 2010 and he must improve his 17/10/77 numbers if he is to do that.

Jarrad Hickey Bulldogs 5.0 224
+ Hulking front rower with the ability to be a factor in every game he plays in. The problem is Hickey's frame counts against him as the pounds come easily and maintaining fitness seems to be an issue. That being said when he performs - you can't miss him. Only played 28mpg last year with a 13/9/62 average and faces an uncertain future in first grade at Canterbury.

Scott Logan Raiders 5.0 238
+ Stuck around for another season in Canberra and one can only imagine it wasn't to play in the QLD Cup with Souths Logan (ironically enough). His 2009 average of 18/11/81 doesn't really light up a room and at 34 - Logan shouldn't be seen lighting up your Fantasy team either.

Trevor Thurling Raiders 5.0 367
+ Teases with the odd quality performance but 16/9/67 means there were plenty of ordinary ones. Fighting for a birth on the Canberra bench entering 2010 and that insecurity should be reason enough to bypass him at your selection table.

Matt White Titans 5.0 391
+ Behemoth of a front rower who has modeled both his game and his hairstyle on Gold Coast teammate Luke Bailey. Problem is he only pulls off one form of imitation and that's the hairstyle. Produced 18/10/79 in 2009 and could improve on that. But by how much... that's for you to speculate.

George Rose Sea Eagles 5.0 402
+ Arguably the player of the match in the recent All-Stars match. A great story of persistence, Rose made a difference off the Manly bench in 2009 and looks set to join Jason King, Brent Kite & Josh Perry in a deep front rotation at Brookvale this year. His 15/9/79 average should imrpve.

Josh Perry Sea Eagles 5.0 444
+ Might shove former international Brent Kite to the bench in 2010. Perry is capable of more than he averages at the end of a season (20/10/78 in 2009 down from 21/12/106 in 2008) and coach Des Hasler needs to find that button that gets him going early. Bit of a bargain at 5.0.

Brad Morrin Bulldogs 4.5 125
+ Will never be more than a stop gap option at the NRL level but in fairness to Morrin - he does a decent job when he's called into the squad. Averaging 14/8/66 in under 30mpg isn't terrible.

Aaron Cannings Titans 4.5 240
+ Could find a place on the Titans bench as the season progresses but doesn't appear to be in the running for Round 1. Averaging 16/8/68 is not going to cut it in a Fantasy team.

Daniel Tolar Knights 4.5 17
+ Missed practically all of 2009 with a knee-cap injury and is lower on the depth chart at Newcastle than he'd like as a result. Netted 20/9/74 from 20 games in 2008 so if he gets a chance in the NRL again - he might be handy.

Tim Grant Panthers 4.5 330
+ Penrith coach Matthew Elliott wants to give a local junior a chance at playing alongside Petero Civoniceva up front but like the rest of the depth chart - the 22 year old Grant will have to earn it. Averaged 21/8/64 in around 30mpg last year whilst playing 17 games.

Frank-Paul Nu'uausala Roosters 4.5 503
+ Strangely priced at 4.5 when he had 49 offloads along with an average of 17/10/74 as he played every game for the Roosters in 2009. If you think he can improve the workrate numbers to say 20/13/100 - get Frank-Paul into your squad straight away.

Jared Waerea-Hargraves Roosters 4.5 86
+ A shoulder injury has ended his pre-season and will take a large hunk out of 2010. May return midway through the season. Keep an eye on his rehab because he has the potential to be an impact Fantasy option when healthy.

Josh McGuire Broncos 4.0 244
+ 'The Big Show' was a big dud in 2009, looking way to slow for the speed of the NRL in his debut season. Given just 30mpg in 14 matches and averaged 18/7/61 in the process. Look elsewhere at the moment.

Scott Anderson Broncos 4.0 334
+ For a player to be valued at 4.0 when he's played in the last two Grand Finals is a questionable situation you should be looking to take advantage of. In just 30mpg he produced an average of 17/8/65 and has moved to the Broncos for a chance to play more minutes in a rotation where there are openings.

Ryan Tandy Storm 4.0 118
+ Went from the Premier League/NSW Cup wilderness for a few years to the 2009 NRL Grand Final where he added value from the Melbourne bench. Started the pre-season injured though and with the depth at the Storm - he's no guarantee to reclaim that bench spot in 2010.

Tim Mannah Eels 4.0 497
+ Did an alright job as a rookie with the Eels - but was given only 3 starts in 28 games. His numbers 17/9/72 were about what you could expect from 30mpg but with Justin Poore and Shane Shackleton joining in 2010 - Mannah's minutes may be even more limited. A risk despite the 4.0 price, given the depth of the Parramatta pack.

Scott Geddes Rabbitohs 4.0 356
+ Give Geddes credit for sticking with his dream and overcoming a number of career threatening injuries to keep himself in the running for a bench spot with the Bunnies for Round 1. Averaged 20/11/81 in 16 games last year so he can help your squad if you're desperate.

Michael Greenfield Dragons 4.0 0
+ Looked to be on the verge of something special at the start of 2008 before injury stopped him in his tracks. Didn't play a game in 2009 after averaging 16/10/85 with Souths the year before - has a killer off-load if Wayne Bennett can find a place for him on the Dragons bench.

David Hala Broncos 3.5 22
+ Didn't make the final pre-season squad so shouldn't be considered yet. Emerging prop forward in the Brisbane ranks though - so don't discount later on.

Tim Natusch Broncos 3.5 53
+ Signed from Newcastle - Natusch may get a chance at some point during 2010 but he is too low on the depth chart at this stage to consider.

Broderick Wright Sharks 3.5 284
+ For a forward who had good numbers every time he played for the Eels in 2009 (26/11/84 in 42mpg) - he looks to be in a real struggle to break onto the Cronulla bench for Round 1. If he gets into the 17 each week - you might get some value from his 3.5.

Sione (John) Kite Storm 3.5 51
+ Promising front row prospect moved to the Storm after their offer was too good to refuse. Faced a tough task to break into the Bulldogs pack as it was (will be no different at Melbourne) but if he can overcome his current injury this kid has a heck of a motor.

Sione Tovo Knights 3.5 12
+ If injuries strike the current Knights pack - Tovo still might be behind the likes of Mark Taufua and Dan Tolar for an opportunity. Will be on the outside looking in.

Marvin Karawana Knights 3.5 330
+ Not sure why he's listed as a prop but Karawana will still earn points there this year so look at where he lines up for the Knights and figure out whether that's worth paying 3.5 for. He's really a utility (half/hooker/backrower) without much statistical impact, so move along please. 

Leeson Ah Mau Cowboys 3.5 17
+ Was a boom Toyota Cup front rower who got squeezed out by the emergence of Russell Packer. The Cowboys signed Leeson and his brother Isaak as a package deal for 2010. Leeson has the bigger upside if he gets an opportunity in the NRL.

Brendan Oake Eels 3.5 59
+ Has versatility on his side as he can play anywhere in the pack but getting a start in the Parramatta pack looks a tough ask at this stage.

Sam McKendry Panthers 3.5 7
+ Matthew Elliott needs to find the next big thing for the front row to play alongside Petero Civoniceva at the Panthers and McKendry is neck and neck with Tim Grant for that role that Frank Puletua will eventually vacate.

Garret Crossman Rabbitohs 3.5 10
+ Could probably find his way onto another NRL club's bench but will find it tough to get out of the NSW Cup with the Rabbitohs.

Jon Green Dragons 3.5 173
+ Bit of a smokey selection. The loss of Justin Poore elevates Dan Hunt to a starting spot and opens up a spot in the prop rotation for either Green or Michael Greenfield and/or Jarrod Saffy. Consider.

Ricky Thorby Dragons 3.5 7
+ Expected to play a few games in the top grade but there's no guarantee of a start so he's not really worth considering.

Trent Merrin Dragons 3.5 41 + The best youngster with limited first grade experience on the Dragons roster vying for a front row spot. That being said there's some solid options ahead of him on the depth chart - but he is highly regarded by the coaching staff.

Martin Kennedy Roosters 3.5 38
+ Has bulked up in the off-season and there are opportunities for front rowers at Bondi in 2010. But he needs a big pre-season to get on the bench for Round 1.

Alan Schirnack Tigers 3.5 51
+ Got a taste of the NRL last season but there's a lot of quality ahead of him on the depth chart.

Kane Cleal Rabbitohs 3.0 0
+ No longer has a contract with South Sydney.

Andrew Fifita Tigers 3.0 0
+ Son of former Saints prop John Fafita - could get a run at some stage in 2010 but the Tigers look deeper at prop than they have for years so may have to wait a while.

Danny Williams Bulldogs 2.5 0
+ Williams was the player the Dogs received for Willie Mason a couple of seasons back but has failed to crack the NRL lineup with any regularity. A toiler but nothing more.

Eliah Bailie Sharks 2.0 0
+ Bit of an unknown quantity - behind a number of players for first grade consideration this season however.

Siosaia Vave Sharks 2.0 0
+ Signed from the Gold Coast Titans on the strength of a huge Toyota Cup season in the front row. Had massive hitup counts each week and could get an opportunity off the bench in Round 1 - definitely one to watch if you're after a cheap option at prop.

Selasi Berdie Titans 2.0 7
+ You just hope his nickname is Big Bird and the big prop will be looking to add to his 2 career NRL games in 2010. Fringe first grader however.

Darcy Lussick Sea Eagles 2.0 0
+ There's a real drop off in experience up front for the Sea Eagles in 2010 after the main men and if injury strikes any one of Kite, King, Perry, Cross or Rose - Lussik might get a chance in the top grade.

Jesse Bromwich Storm 2.0 0
+ Was a key factor in the Storm's Toyota Cup premiership victory and got a chance on the trip to England for the World Cup Challenge. With Brett White's injury keeping him out of the early part of the season - Bromwich may get a taste of the NRL sooner rather than later.

Louis Fanene Storm 2.0 0
+ Well behind on the depth chart, not in contention.

Sinbad Kali Storm 2.0 0
+ Has a great name but needs a big first half of the NSW Cup season to put his name forward for a NRL spot when the representative season hits.

Isaak Ah Mau Cowboys 2.0 0
+ Follows his brother (Leeson) north for a chance at the top grade. The Cowboys could struggle this year but first grade might still be beyond Isaak in 2010.

Mose Masoe Roosters 2.0 0
+ In the mix for a bench spot but unlikely to be picked for Round 1.

Tinirau Arona Roosters 2.0 0
+ Considered an outside shot at selection... but surer things are far better options in Fantasy NRL.

Aaron Woods Tigers 2.0 0
+ Won't get a chance in the foreseeable future at the Tigers.

Liam Ayoub Tigers 2.0 0
+ See Aaron Woods, only even less of a chance at first grade.


All feedback welcome.

Sunday 14 February 2010

The Night Rugby League Was Fun Again - Indigenous All Stars v NRL All Stars Review

It may have been a balmy evening in mid-February but Rugby League kicked off Season 2010 with a celebration of how much fun watching the game should be.

For some fans the off-season can't end quickly enough and for others (who like their cricket) the new season comes around too quickly... but if you parked yourself in front of the telly with some friends (or were lucky enough to get to Skilled Park on the Gold Coast and see it in person) you would have to agree - the fun is back.

The Final Score was the Indigenous All Stars 16 defeating the NRL All Stars 12.
Opening the season has traditionally fallen to the Dragons and Rabbitohs in the Charity Shield but clearly - the All Stars Match will take pride of place in the pre-season schedule for the forseeable future.

The crowd was treated to a match that had enough of 'the good stuff' (hits, runs, steps, flick passes etc) to gloss over the errors and general lack of cohesion in attack - but given it was the first game of the pre-season for almost every player, that was understandable.

But clearly by this tweet sent to
The NRL Tweet during the game - the atmosphere was amazing: rubyprecious @NRLTweet you have to be here, the atmosphere is insane! best game I have ever been to!

That's a fair rap on the contest - pre-season or not!

Here are some of the highlights from
The NRL Tweet's Tweets during the match - follow us on @NRLTweet.
So Johanthan Thurston is the initial recipient of the Preston Campbell Medal... but because (for whatever reason) the medal was only named in Preston's honour late in the week - no medal was made... for the FIRST match ever played - this is very poor. Given the fans were voting for the Man of the Match - it should come as no shock to see Thurston get the nod. Although his biggest play of the game - putting Soward over for the match winner - came AFTER the voting closed at the 70th minute mark.

The standout players in our books were Michael Jennings, George Rose, Sam Burgess, Blake Ferguson and Thurston. But it was a trial match - so it would be unrealistic to expect every player to live up to their star billing.

The Game Stats:
Tries: Wendell Sailor 3m, Ben Jones 32m, Jamie Soward 74m.
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 2/2.
Field Goals: Scott Prince 0/1.
Tries: Josh Morris 54m, Benji Marshall 59m, Michael Jennings 61m.
Goals: No Attempts.
Field Goals: No Attempts.
@ Skilled Stadium, Gold Coast QLD. Saturday 13th February, 2010.

What did you think of the game and is the concept worth continuing every year?

Friday 12 February 2010

Fox Sports Fantasy NRL Guide - Season 2010 Primer

Our 2011 Fantasy Team Tips are available via our Round Previews. Round 1 is here.
Bookmark wdnicolson.com to stay informed.

2010 Season Primer.

READ THIS FIRST! Fantasy NRL Fans - you cannot afford to miss this breakdown of the Bargains & Busts of 2010.
Or via http://tiny.cc/FantasyNRLBargainsBusts - Updated for Round 1!

The Fantasy NRL Season is here once again for 2010 and when considering which 'Fantasy Game' to cover this year - wdnicolson.blogspot.com decided to pick the one that is the most interesting week to week.

And for four straight years that has been Fox Sports Fantasy NRL.

The 2010 Fantasy NRL competition is now open, and we have EXCLUSIVE Individual Player Scouting Reports (from NSC) - that help you identify the bargains and busts for the new campaign. We're doing our best to update every playing category - but if in doubt go for people who will cross the line and eat up the tackles & hitups.

NOT The Footy Show's 2010 League Code is 1756-4389 - so sign up and see if you can rise above the mediocre!

Please join our 'NOT The Footy Show' Fox Sports Fantasy NRL League - CODE: 1756-4389

We'll also be running Fantasy updates via The NRL Tweet and this website - so sign up today!

A text list of all players is available here. Check out their site for the basic game info and to enter your team for the upcoming season.

The All Important Scoring System can be viewed HERE.

Even though you can view each players 2009 total points and individual stat totals for each category via drop down menus on the Fox Sports Fantasy NRL site - it is vital that you familiarise yourself with what each stat is worth to the player you picked. If you know this - watching NRL games is far more enjoyable (or frustrating if your player is a penalty and error machine).

Each Player is given a unique NSC Scouting Report which will include statistical ‘speak’.

This means the use of abbreviations for the names of Statistics used in Fox Sports Fantasy NRL: Workhorse players in particular will have 3 categories abbreviated together with 30 Tackles, 15 Hitups/Runs and 100 Metres Gained shown as follows 30/15/100.

Who will you chose in 2010?

We've broken down EVERY category for the most objective Fantasy Guide ever available for the Fantasy NRL Game in Australia.

Prop Forwards

Ben Hannant, FuiFui MoiMoi or Steven Price?


Cameron Smith, Robbie Farah or Michael Ennis?

Back Row Forwards

Nathan Hindmarsh, Paul Gallen or Sam Burgess?


Johnathan Thurston, Scott Prince or Benji Marshall?

Inside Backs

Jamie Soward, John Sutton or Greg Inglis?

Outside Backs

Jarryd Hayne, Billy Slater or Brett Stewart?


Who are your early 'must-pick' players? Let us know via @NRLTweet, comment below or via email @ wdnicolson@optusnet.com.au

Monday 8 February 2010

The Sam Burgess Factor: South Sydney Fans Get Excited

First let's start with a pop quiz: 

Name the last three Englishmen to feature in an Australian Rugby League Grand Final?

Adrian Morley is an obvious choice, given the big unit played in three straight deciders (2002-2004 - winning with the Sydney Roosters in 2002) but it would not be surprising to hear Ellery Hanley or Martin Offiah as two popular options. Hanley is arguably the best English Rugby League player of the last 30 years and Offiah was a try-scoring sensation with a great nickname ('Chariots Offiah').

The Black Pearl (Hanley's nickname) is a guess that at least fits the criteria - he played in the 1988 decider for the Balmain Tigers (infamously KO'd by Terry Lamb early on) and 47 First Grade for Balmain in 1988, then Western Suburbs in 1989 before returning to the Tigers in 1996 and 1997. Offiah on the other hand barely featured in Sydney club football - playing in just three seasons (1989 and 1993 with Easts and 1991 with St.George) for only 27 First Grade Games and zero appearances in the Finals let alone a Grand Final.

But both were superstar talents who came to Australia during the Northern off-season and backed themselves against the best. 

While it is a shame they didn't stick around long term - the fact is their presence in the game was a huge boost for club football in Australia.

Now the answers to the quiz are Adrian Morley with the Sydney Roosters in 2002, 2003 and 2004, prop Harvey Howard with the Brisbane Broncos in 2000 and hooker Lee Jackson with the Newcastle Knights in 1997. 

Howard and Jackson were internationals but didn't leave a lasting impression on the game in Australia.

But now in the space of 12 months, the NRL has captured two top flight Englishmen in Gareth Ellis (who joined the Wests Tigers in 2009) and Sam Burgess who will play for South Sydney in 2010. Both have the ability to leave that lasting impression that the NRL needs.

And in 2010 - Sam Burgess is the big story.

When Sam Burgess decided to leave the Bradford Bulls at just 21 years of age and with three full seasons of Super League already under his belt, it was for one reason: to try and make his mark on the NRL.

At 6'5, 112kg the lad from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire doesn't lack size (think a more athletic young Jason Ryles) but it is his footwork and skill that has set him apart from the average prop coming through the rugby league system.

His future may be as a lock forward or second rower with his new club South Sydney (given the depth of the front row at the Rabbitohs) and his new coach John Lang will be salivating at the prospect of having two ball runners like Burgess and Brisbane import Dave Taylor in the team. These two are potentially an even better combination than Lang's premiership winning 'hair bears' duo of Tony Puletua and Joe Galuvao at Penrith.

But explosiveness, footwork and skill are not the only attributes that set Burgess apart. He loves the tough stuff close to the ruck and will take it up when his team needs a big run and although he isn't a tackling machine by any stretch - he can hit (we're not to blame for the soundtrack).

Burgess plays very direct in attack, he'll look to run through the line rather than just to it - which if you've got footwork results in... well in case you haven't seen it before: Sam Burgess Try v Australia in 2009 Four Nations Final.

In that spectacular effort, he made Petero Civoniceva look like a rookie defender and had the audacity to dummy to his supports and run past Billy Slater to score under the posts. Burgess had an almighty impact on that Four Nations Final* - including another try after halftime that put England in front with half an hour to play. In the second try he sees a gap and hits it at pace - running off a Gareth Ellis short ball near the line.
(*Note: England lost the match 46-16 - conceding six straight tries after taking the lead.)

Both tries give you an indication of the attacking game Burgess brings to the table. He is a monster physically and yet in both tries used his head and skills to turn opportunities into points.

Big fellas are a dime a dozen in the game these days, but those ones who can add footballing brains to their brawn are pure gold.

The NRL should count their blessings that South Sydney owner Russell Crowe didn't take no for an answer from Bradford when his brains trust decided Burgess was too good not to throw the kitchen sink at. 

What Crowe's purchase of Burgess brings is an English player to the NRL BEFORE his prime (not even Hanley, Offiah, Morley or Ellis had this going for them - as all were seasoned footballers in England) and his presence will draw increased interest from fans not only in the NRL but also the UK Super League.

Because when Burgess is a hit for South Sydney - fans of every other NRL club will start watching the Super League a little bit closer, wondering who their team might target for next season. And every fan in the UK will be watching Burgess closely to see how their boy is doing.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Burgess and Ellis defections is the generation of English players who didn't test themselves in the Australian arena. Morley was just one of a group of incredibly talented players that had the opportunity to explore playing in Australia but didn't. As good as Jamie Peacock, Keiron Cunningham, Stuart Fielden, Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Andy Farrell and Jason Robinson are/were - none of them took the chance to enhance their reputations and challenge themselves in the NRL, while they were considered 'the best in the game' by the press. Although Sinfield and McGuire still have a chance to switch while they are in their prime, there will always be a sense of disappointment in Australia that we never saw the best that England had to offer over the last dozen years - week in, week out.

In Burgess however, the English game has a chance to make a statement - we can breed ours as good as yours.

Because despite a stirring 60 minute performance in the 2010 Four Nations Final, England has not produced the same level of game-changing talent that the NRL has in the last ten years. As good as the above listed Englishmen are or have been - they haven't been able to turn the tide in international football.

New Zealand who broke through for a 2005 Tri-Nations crown and then won the biggest one of all - the 2008 World Cup - had their game breakers emerge through the NRL competition. Their success was no shock for those who have seen the influx of quality Kiwi players in the NRL over that time frame.

With Burgess now in the NRL - will the best talent Great Britain has coming through the ranks follow his lead and challenge their international peers in the best rugby league competition in the world?

As good as Burgess is, on an international scale he will need help to get England over the hump and beat Australia in a Test Series. This doesn't mean that every good player in Super League should come to Australia, because we all know that unless you're a top flight footballer the Australian game can chew you up and spit you back out very quickly... just ask Chris Thorman, Richard Mathers (albeit injury cut short his stay), Jordan Tansey, Keith Mason, Ian Sibbit etc... Nor is the request wishing for the best player at each Super League club to play in the NRL - but the special ones... those who could use their experience in the NRL to better the international game - get on the plane tomorrow.

The NRL is better off for having Sam Burgess in its ranks and International Rugby League would benefit greatly if more British players the quality of Burgess and Ellis defect in the next few years.

The final word on the issue goes to former Australian and current Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks coach Ricky Stuart who had this to say back in 2006 as the Kangaroos took part in the Tri-Nations.

"I won't go singling out individuals but I think there's a number of (British) players that would do very well in the NRL. They'd become better footballers very quickly and they certainly have the ability to handle the NRL."

"I think there's some players there that it would be great for their careers. If they become better players then it's going to benefit international footy two-fold."

Ricky Stuart has always been a passionate believer in the value of the international game and despite losing his job as Kangaroos coach after the 2008 World Cup Final - he always will push for a stronger battleground for the next generation of footballers to be part of.

His dream was to play for his country (and he managed to do it in both Union and League) and in 21 year old Sam Burgess - the English game now has a player for all youngsters to truly look up to and think 'that could be me someday'.

Rugby League fans - get excited, Slammin' Sam Burgess is here where he belongs.


As a follow up to the quiz - can you name the 4th and 5th last Englishmen to have played in a Rugby League decider in Australia?