Again, in order of highest finishing Australian teams:
A funny year for the Brumbies. All sorts going on behind the seens, culminating in their captain and leader, Stephen Moore jumping ship to the Reds. Despite that they somehow managed to finish as the top Aussie Team. I think that says more about how disappointing the Tahs were, and I don’t expect them to top the Tahs this time round. They’ve got some good young players, but losing Moore, Pocock, Toomua, Tomane is really going to hurt. I think it’s very telling that there’s only one player over $400k – Christian Leali’ifano – and I think the whole rugby world is wishing him the best. There’s potentially a couple of interesting players to watch, but I’m not going to be fishing in the Brumbies’ pool of players unless I’m desperate.
– Tumbleweed ……..
– Kuridrani $364k should be a lock for a top 50 spot if he maintains his form from last year. I expect the Brumbies will lean a lot on him in attack, and there is some risk that opposing team focus on him to shut him down. At $364k he’s fairly priced. With the Brumbies facing a tough opening game and then a couple of easier ones at home, perhaps he’s a week 2 sub into your team. The other man who should push 4 stars is Josh Mann-Rea $200k. Assuming he locks down the starting point, and given the points hookers can get, he could be great value at $200k. Last season 12 hookers got into the top 50, so he’s just got to be in the top 2/3s.
– This is an interesting bucket, as there’s some value here. If Hawera $225k can lock down the starting FH spot, which it seems like he probably has given he was wrapped in cotton wool at the Brisbane 10s then he’s a great value pick. Kyle Godwin $261k has got good super rugby pedigree. Toua $343k looked very good last season and he’s the safest bet along with Scott Fardy $313k. All of those players aside from Toua are very reasonably priced.
– Whoever replaces Cubelli at scrummie. They won’t set the world alight, but whether it’s Powell or lonergan, and it’s most likely Powell, then you’re getting a starting SH from a decent side at $112k. That said, there’s a few of those kicking around.
– Henry Speight $238k has some great upside IF he can stay fit. Priced at $238k he could be a steal for a run of Brumbies home games, if play some open, running rugby and Hawera can get the back-line moving.
By their own high standards the Waratahs were disappointing last season and didn’t make the playoffs. They’ve got a strong enough squad to be the best Australian team, and I expect them to improve slightly this year. Foley is absolutely key for them, and he seemed to be playing himself back into top form throughout the Autumn internationals
– Israel Folau $625k is fantasy gold. I thought he was hit and miss last season but he was still top try scorer and second top points scorer. Such is his ability to turn nothing into something very special that he could be sitting on 9 points 70+ minutes into the game and then one break, step, tackle bust, and a 50 yard try later, he’s one of the weeks top try scorers. At $625k he is PRICEY but can you afford not to have him? Especially with the Tahs opening at home to the Force. Michael Hooper $414k should just squeeze into the Top 20 again as well. He suffered a little from the Tahs not being on top of their game last year, but his work rate around the park, and influence in the loose and off set-piece moves is a real game changer. He’s a rock in my backrow.
– I’m expecting big things of Bernard Foley $398k this season and he might even push the Top 20. He averaged just under 40 last year and I’d like to seem him nudge over the 40 this year.
– Assuming Jed Holloway $384k comes back somewhere close to his best he should be a lock here, although relatively expensive. There’s some potential for Hooper’s backrow partners to nudge into this buck and someone like Rob Horne, or a Kellaway / Robinson, but all a little risky in my opinion.
– Latu / Roach – Whoever’s playing 50-60mins is a steal here. Whether it’s $154k or $140k, you can pick up a starting hooker on the cheap and they should be 3 or 4 star potential.
– Taqele Naiyaravoro – I think it’s a little controversial putting him down here as he’s 4 star potential. He terrorised teams in Europe, but last time he played for the Tahs he was even more hot and cold than Julian Savea. Still, at $179k he’s a solid bench pick and you can see how the Tahs manage to use him. Got the potential to be an amazing blend of Naholo and Nadolo, but will it happen. In the 2 games he played last season he averaged 40 points. If he has a monster week 1 his price will rocket.
The Rebels didn’t take the next step many expected or hoped of them last year. Despite a reasonable start last year, all be it against some of the lesser teams, they fell apart after halfway, and shipped 80+ points in Canterbury. Their pre-season showing hasn’t been great so far, getting beaten by the Reds and the Force, but they should top those teams in the season and possibly even the Brumbies. They’ve got a few interesting fantasy plays. However, fair warning, their first 5 games aren’t easy, and they have an early bye in week 3, so maybe some of the below are wait and see plays when their values drop.
– Sean McMahon $416k – fantasy stallwart. Superb player, which for backrows translates into fantasy points. Given the amount of tackling he has to do for the Rebels he’s usually a pretty consistent point scorer. Word of warning, his last performance was a 93 pt run out again the Jags, so his price might come off the first few games unless he churns out something similar.
– Reece Hodge $345k is a lock for Top 50, and might push 5 stars. He single handedly carried the Rebels backline at times last season and seems to be cementing down the inside centre spot. His strong running and ability with the boot make him one of the best options for centre (yes, that’s right Bossman, I’m having to admit Hodge is the real deal now). James Hanson $239k is keenly priced, and if he’s locking down the hocker spot he should be able to replicate his points from last season and is a good bench option. Lopeti Timani $447k, playing at 8 for the Wallabies really grew into that role and by the end of the Autumn internationals looked well at home and was knocking plenty of people about. On that form he should significantly step up his fantasy performance from last year. Little bit pricey though.
– Naivalu $405k should safely end up here even if the Rebels struggle again, and has some good upside, but it’s priced in. Toby Smith $247k is about the only prop you’ll find in this category, for good reason as he averaged nearly mid 20s last season. If you’ve got the cash to spare, which is unlikely this season, the he’s a solid season long pick.
– Marika Koroibete $112k – A man with great league pedigree and huge upside. If the Rebels follow through on their commitment to shape their game around Koroibete and Naivalu then he’s got 4 start potential. But, it is the Rebels, and they flatter to deceive a lot of the time.
– Ben Volavola $129k – a great back-up play if he can either secure the full back spot, or Debreczeni lays an egg the first few games and gets pulled, or gets injured.
The Reds were a mess last year and for the most part couldn’t get anything going. Stephen Moore and Scott Higginbottom are huge signings for them and should provide some real leadership up front. If they can solidify the front 8, then the back 7 have a better chance of working out how to play together properly. They’ve got 2 very winnable straight off the bat and if they can go 2-0 if might just give them the confidence to step it up a level this season. I like them over the force, easily, and potentially to pop ahead of the Brumbies / Rebels, whoever’s the 3rd placed Aussie team. There have been some promising signs in their pre-season, but it’s all down to if they can get out of the blocks early. Either way, fantasy points on the offing:
– Samu Kerevi $693k- The man’s a beast and he’s priced at a beastly amount. The 3rd highest points scorer last season despite being in a poor team. The question isn’t should you have him, it’s when and how you try to get him in. He had a slow start last season then from week 6 was untouchable averaging 68 points. He could get off to a flyer this year, which would then make it impossible to get him in until halfway through the year. Stephen Moore $479k should continue to be in the top handful of hookers, and Top 20 points. Just keep an eye on those subs, and when he comes off. Last year he started to get less and less game time after being typically a 70-80 minute man in years gone by. Lastly Scott Higginbotham $400k is a great player in the loose, with has a nose for the line. The Reds could legitimately have 3 top 20 players this season. Realistically I think he’ll be borderline, but as I’ve written his name already he can stay up here rather than down below.
– Hendrik Tui $330k was one of the few shining lights for the reds last year, relentlessly carry the ball and making hard yards. Under the radar for a while, with Mad Mark the first to get him in, he quickly became a staple in the backrow and at $330k this year is very good value. Andrew Ready $345k had a strong season last year, and should be good for points again, in a much improved pack.
– Eto Nabuli $171k had a strong start to last season and then tailed off badly in the second half. His ability to get points will be hugely influenced by the quality of the ball the backs get, and then whether they’re able to get their game going. He’s a good value pick with some upside at his current price, and his experience last season should better position him to get more involved across the park. At 6’5″ and 100kg+ he should be doing some damage.
– Sam Talakai $112k- seems to have the spot opposite Slipper locked down and is another great value prop pick.
– Quade Cooper $380k / Karmichael Hunt $241k – similar in a great number of ways. I’m not big on Cooper because I just don’t think he has the big match temperament, but he has ability in spades and that means points, just not consistently. Hunt, likewise, has raw talent, but didn’t really show much last season. That experience should stand him in good stead this year, and with a better team ahead of him he’s got more upside. He’s also listed at centre and probably playing full back so an excellent option for the bench. (full disclosure: this is exactly the same thinking I had last year and I quickly dropped him from my bench when it became apparent the reds were horrible, and it was taking him some time to adjust)
The Force are poor. I don’t see that changing anytime soon unfortunately, sorry Force fans. At least you can comfort yourselves in that your not the Kings. Few and far between in terms of fantasy options.
– Dane Haylett-Petty $508k had an excellent super rugby season, locked down his Wallaby shirt, and quite frankly should get the hell out of dodge. He’ll get plenty of points this season at FB, but I think he’s just a little risky at $508k because the Force are going to generally be poor again and he might have a no shows where the Force just aren’t in the game.
– There’s three players that should be in this bucket, but I don’t think they’ll make it. So they’re below.
– Polota-Nau $424k, at hooker, should be racking up 4 star points. Ben McCalman $358k and Matt Hodgson $337k are great footballers as well. I think they’ll all struggle because the Force will struggle and whilst they’ll push 400 points close, they won’t get there.
– Take your pick, half the squad is $112k seemingly. The reason being they won’t get many points.If I had to pick someone, Ryan Louwrens $112k at scrum half looked really dangerous a couple of games last season. Problem is he’s got some serious competition in the $112k scrum half bucket.
– ? Answers on a Postcard ? By definition this should be someone with a tonne of upside, but that’s a risky pick. There’s a load of risky picks there, just not anyone with a tonne of upside.