Sydney Roosters NRL Fantasy Guide for 2014, part one: must-haves and maybes.

If you are anything like me, you watch a game these days and have a smartphone in your hand, getting the constant speculative fantasy score updates.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck breaks two tackles for the line break and runs 40 metres before offloading to Shaun Kenny Dowall for the try assist? That’s 19 points right there on NRL Fantasy.

Jenko runs 90 metres for the intercept try? That’s 17.

Rugby league — to Supercoach and NRL Fantasy addicts — is fast becoming like The Matrix: a lot of data but all we see are eight points, 16 points, four tackle busts equals 12 points and so on.

matrix

“All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead…”

Is it sad? Probably, but shee-yet: it makes watching a Broncos-Tigers game infinitely more exciting when you are only interested in the Chooks.

Here, I’ll attempt to give the officially unofficial analysis of the Roosters team and how they relate to the NRL fantasy concept.

(Note: the scoring in NRL Fantasy is more predictable and rewards halves more because it includes kicking, hence my affinity for it — although a lot of this analysis can be ported over to Supercoach in a pinch.)

It’s also an interesting year for the Roosters squad in terms of potential cash cows — which wasn’t the case last year. The Roosters used just 25 players in 2013, a league low. That is unlikely to happen again, maybe ever. And that’s not overstating it.

Therefore, players such as Samisoni Langi and Kane Evans may have the opportunity to see game time and potential price increases.

If you are like me, you’ve already made your team. And if you are as interested in this stuff as I am, you may enjoy the following.

(Another note: I’ve included detailed stats for some and not for others; this is because I am basing it on stats accrued and tallied through the player rankings on 26 Rounds last year, and not all players have complete totals I am afraid.)

Must-haves

Sonny Bill Williams, Second Row, $374,200.

Source: News.

Source: News.

From a pure ability standpoint he’s a must have: on a given day he can get four offloads, four tackle busts, break the line, set up and score tries and even had a game late last year when he completed 41 tackles. He rarely misses tackles and only missed three games last year.

But the biggest benefit — if you are going for the overall win as opposed to head-to-head — is the bye draw.

The Roosters play in each of the bye rounds before an Origin match, and SBW is clearly ineligible for the three-game series. That means, during those short weeks, you will have a superstar and potential captain each and every time.

The downside risk is that he had a relatively dream run with injuries last year, and may step in at five-eighth during those pre-Origin games should James Maloney play — which would lead to a reduced tackle count and metres run tally.

But overall, he’s still a must have in his last season before heading back to the Super 15.

2013 Averages per game: 0.4 tries, 0.33 try assists, 0.57 line break assists, 0.57 line breaks, 24.6 tackles, 1.2 missed tackles per game, 1.3 one-on-one tackles, 2.7 tackle busts, 2.57 offloads, 0.9 errors, 0.71 penalties conceded, 107.1 metres per game, 11.95 runs per game at 8.99 metres per run.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Front Row, $334,200.

Source: Roosters.

Source: Roosters.

Given his price, the bye draw and the level of improvement he showed last year in terms of his offloading (he had a number of games with four offloads, and averaged 1.57), it can be reasonable to assume he’d improve on those averages slightly.

Just looking at his base stats from last year (tackles, offloads, metres gained and tackle busts) and on a given day he will get a minimum of 47.

The downside risk is always clear with JWH though: suspensions and send-offs. But thankfully you can get his back-ups at extremely cheap; more on them later, though.

He’ll play every major bye round and should improve those averages assuming he plays the 50-odd minutes per game he played last year.

2013 Averages per game: 0.05 tries, 0.11 try assists, 0.21 line break assists, 31 tackles, 0.74 one-on-one tackles, 1.21 missed tackles, 0.95 tackle busts, 1.47 offloads, 0.32 errors, 122.31 metres gained, 13.79 runs, 8.87 metres per run.

Daniel Tupou, winger, $206,700

With the favourable byes and the way he finished last year — especially under the high ball — he’s a must have at that price as one of your reserves. I fully expect him to lead the NRL in tries this year and he is a tackle busting fiend capable of 200 metre games with three line breaks and two tries.

It’s weird to have a winger as a must-have, but you have to fill three spots at the back and the vast majority have question marks: Greg Inglis, Jarryd Hayne and Josh Dugan are always injury concerns as well as Origin contenders and mad expensive; Ben Barba is inconsistent; Josh Hoffman is wing-bound and less involved as a result; Brett Stewart doesn’t make metres; Michael Gordon was disappointing last year from a fantasy standpoint and is getting old; Josh Mansour is an injury risk; the list goes on.

Tupou is on an upward trajectory skills-wise and should benefit more from a full offseason with Michael Jennings. If you can use him off the bench and get three other specialists, so much the better. But on a value-for-money standpoint I’m putting Toops in the squad.

2013 Averages per game: 0.52 tries, 0.13 try assists, 0.74 line breaks, 3.3 tackle busts, 3.17 tackles, 0.48 one-on-one tackles, 0.74 missed tackles, 0.48 offloads, 0.91 errors, 94.13 metres gained, 9.61 runs, 9.8 metres per run.

Maybes

Aidan Guerra, second row, $238,500.

His tackle busting ability, nose for tries and line breaks and form from the end of last year make him nearly a must-have — but it’s dependant on him snagging a second-row starting spot. if he does, grab him at that price. He’s unlikely to force his way into the Queensland squad, meaning he’ll play during the pre-Origin bye rounds.

However, if he is coming off the bench, it’s a no. He wouldn’t muster the minutes required to justify it at all, and he’s far better in an 80 minute scenario when he can warm into a game than he is getting spot minutes in the middle third of a match.

In short: if he starts, yes. Off the bench, no.

Stats unavailable.

Jake Friend, hooker, $354,500

Jake saw a minutes decrease last year as Trent Robinson deployed a two-rake rotation policy with Daniel Mortimer getting anywhere between 15-30 minutes a game. He still made nearly 40 tackles a game and set up a try every third game, and his kicking game improved to the point it actually became a weapon.

But the latter cannot be relied on to score points with Maloney and Mitchell Pearce also in the team, while it’s likely that Robbo will use the same rotation policy again. At his price, there are better options available — Issac Luke is just $3,400 more and bound to play the 80 for the Bunnies, plus Souths also play all three pre-Origin bye weeks

The Origin schedule works in his favour though, and has this writer umming and ahhing. In an ideal world you’d have him or Luke alongside Cam Smith at hooker, with dual-position cheapie Nathan Peats as a backup second-rower.

The downside risk is small but real: he’s played himself into the backup hooking role for Queensland. If the Maroons captain goes down, Friend will miss five games during the Origin period. That’s why I’ d lean more towards Luke because he’s flat-out ineligible and bound to play the 80 this year plus has the same bye coverage — but with Friend you’ll get 47-53 a game with equally tremendous bye coverage assuming Smith does as he always does and gets through to Origin without an injury.

2013 Averages per game: 0.25 tries, 0.33 try assists, 0.25 line breaks, 0.29 line break assists, 37.83 tackles, 0.96 one-on-one tackles, 1.08 missed tackles, 1.04 tackle busts, 0.25 offloads, 0.13 errors, 40.21 metres gained, 4.67 runs, 8.61 metres per run.

James Maloney, halves, $375,600.

He’s the Roosters’ most expensive player and also the one most capable of a monster score: in 2013 he had a 140-point game from memory and is capable of that on any given day. His support play is exemplary and his line-breaking ability on individual runs is highly underrated. He kicks goals and shares general kicking duties with Mitchell Pearce, and had 20 try assists during the regular season last year.

Normally, he’s a must have — but he’s elevated himself to Origin status, and if he’s picked again will miss five games during that period. Looking at the contenders, he’s probably the favourite for the Blues’ five-eighth spot especially after winning a premiership — Carney, Sutton and Campese look the most likely to challenge, with Carney the likeliest of the challengers but a player whose team may be decimated by ASADA.

You could pick him and eventually trade him out during the bye periods, but among the contenders there is some real competition at that spot. John Sutton scores big, has a great bye schedule and also faces the prospect of a shift to lock, meaning his base stats of tackling, metres and offloads will see a huge increase.

At this stage I am avoiding Maloney only because of the bye schedule, but I could be swayed by kick-off because the potential scorelines are so damn tempting. I’m leaning towards Aidan Sezer, who should score big points this year from general kicking alone and whose running game showed vast improvement towards the end of 2013.

But it’s all up in the air. Maloney is a definite maybe.

2013 Averages per game: 0.41 tries, 4.41 goals, 0.91 try assists, 0.73 line breaks, 0.73 line break assists, 16.45 tackles, 1.04 one-on-one tackles, 3.45 missed tackles, 2.18 tackle busts, 0.27 offloads, 1.14 errors, 59.64 metres gained, 5.91 runs, 10.09 metres per run.

Boyd Cordner, second row, $324,200

During an eight-game stretch last year Boyd seemed like a mortal lock to be a must-have in 2014. He ran for over 100 metres in seven straight games and scored a try or two in each. But then he got injured.

And he’s firmly in the maybe category because of it, with the bye schedule almost rendering him an avoid purchase.

He missed five games through injury during the regular season last year and should at least miss five more this year thanks to the bye schedule and his Origin call-up, and he’s had two knee reconstructions, a shoulder injury and an ankle syndesmosis complaint.

He’ll play injured though, and if that purple eight-game patch of form is an indication of what he’ll do this year he’s almost a must-have despite the injury and bye concerns, because his price is so tempting.

But another downside risk is dependent on whether Robbo plays him at lock or right-side second row. That eight game stretch came when he was the right-side backrower, and when he acted as the second man on the double-decoy play and had a defined role out wide. At lock his workrate does suffer, as does his consistency.

It’s a lot of red flags that would normally push him into the avoid category, but the potential — if he reaches it — could see you get scores in the 60s and 70s on a regular basis.

2013 Averages per game: 0.47 tries, 0.11 try assists, 0.42 line breaks, 0.11 line break assists, 26.47 tackles, 0.53 one-on-one tackles, 1.63 missed tackles, 1.84 tackle busts, 0.79 errors, 97.73 metres gained, 11.26 runs, 8.68 metres per run.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, winger, $250,500. 

thematrixshtep-oThe kid is capable of nine tackle-bust games with 200 metres and a couple of line breaks, and when that potential is combined with the bye schedule it would seem he’s a must-have. And if Mini gets injured he should see a jump in some stats as he’d instantly shift to fullback.

But he only scored nine tries last year and is coming of a broken leg suffered during the world cup. For an extra $30K you could get Jorge Taufua, who scores more tries regularly.

But at that price, and with his level of involvement, he’s a borderline must-have unless you manage to stack your WFB position with specialist fullbacks such as Hayne, Dugan and co.

2013 Averages per game: 0.36 tries, 0.09 try assists, 0.82 line breaks, 2.91 tackles, 0.5 one-on-one tackles, 0.64 missed tackles, 4.05 tackle busts, 0.32 offloads, 1.0 errors, 135.68 metres gained, 15.04 runs, 9.02 metres per run.

Michael Jennings, centre, $313,800

Source: The Australian.

Source: The Australian.

The closest of all the maybes. Last year Jenko was a consistent 50+ per game; he led the NRL in tries and barely missed a tackle, while his one-on-one tackling improvement added a few points on any given game.

This year his combo with Toops should develop more with an increase in try assists and line break assists a real possibility. He’s the most likely of anyone in the team to score a hat-trick and is a constant menace.

But Origin means he will miss five games. Definitely. He’s the surest to miss time of all the players on this team. His price is a toughie too, because it could pretty easily drop. You could purchase him now and trade him out just before Origin, but if you’re stingy on trades you could get Jamie Lyon or Simon Mannering for roughly the same price, both of whom score just as well and won’t play Origin.

2013 Averages per game: 0.74 tries, 0.26 try assists, 0.7 line breaks, 0.39 line break assists, 15.08 tackles, 1.78 one-on-one tackles, 0.78 missed tackles, 3.3 tackle busts, 0.39 offloads, 1.0 errors, 108.26 metres gained, 9.74 runs, 11.11 metres per run.

Sam Moa, front row, $256,100.

He’ll give you 15 runs, 140 metres and 25-30 tackles on a given game. Not bad, sure, but at that price there is probably better value — think Jack de Belin, who should start for the Dragons this year and is just $9,000 extra. Moa doesn’t offfload much and rarely breaks the line, while someone like de Belin is capable of it and keen to prove his worth.

The Roosters can’t win a premiership without someone like Moa, but you could probably win your league without him.

However, he is great for bye coverage and is consistent, hence the maybe tag. It’s just an awkward price is all; I’d rather skimp there with a rookie cash cow (Kane Evans?) and spend the extra coin on a blue-chipper in the second-row or halves.

2013 Averages per game: 0.15 tries, 0.1 try assists, 0.2 line breaks, 22.55 tackles, 0.3 one-on-one tackles, 1.2 missed tackles, 0.35 offloads, 0.25 errors, 99.7 metres gained, 11.4 runs, 8.75 metres per run.

Click here for part two which discusses the potential cash cows in the Roosters squad and those to avoid unless a gun is literally pointed at your head. 

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