As the NRL Preseason gets into the full swing of things, there are a few positional match ups from each team that all fantasy coaches should keep an eye on. In this article we will dive into how each team's pre season moves could help decide some tough fantasy decisions.
Canberra Raiders: Number 13
After a strong end to 2022, the Raiders seem poised for another finals run in 2023. Besides the loss of Adam Elliot and Ryan Sutton there is very limited movement in the Raiders squad, but the loss of Elliot presents an opportunity for four players to take his starting position at lock.
The main contenders for this position appear to be Corey Horsburgh and Corey Harawira-Naera, both mid-rangers with value to be had, while cash cow Trey Mooney is in the background ready to make the most of a strong pre-season. Ricky Stuart could also opt for the left-field option of Elliot Whitehead, similar to how he did at the start of 2022,and provide some alternate options for the backrow at the same time.
The inclusion of Corey Horsburgh at lock would give fantasy coaches an early chance to pick up an underpriced keeper. Priced at 590k to start the 2023 season, Horsburgh has always generated a strong point per minute average, with a 0.98ppm over his NRL career, though it does drop slightly to 0.90 when playing 50 plus minutes. Even at these returns, it would be expected to see Horsburgh work his way up to a 50 point average, as he has strong base stats (46 point average) when playing 50-plus minutes and averages 1.4 tackle breaks and offload per game. Horsburgh would also expect to see time in the prop rotation or potentially start there if Stuart opts to play Tapine at 13, and could prove to be the safest fantasy option besides Tapine in the Raiders pack. The only concern with Horsburgh is his tendency to be ill-disciplined and pile up demerits but fantasy coaches would hope an experienced pack around him will assist in his maturity as a player.
After starting three games at lock in 2022, Corey Harawira-Naera also appears to be in contention for the starting gig but his underlying numbers in the position are underwhelming. In the 2022 season Harawira-Naera generated a 0.70ppm when starting at lock, and across all games in 2022 only averaged 0.68ppm. To be of any value to fantasy coaches Harawira-Naera would need to be playing 80 minutes per game, but given how Stuart rotates his middle that seems unlikely. A saving grace for Harawira-Narea may be the movement of Elliot Whitehead to lock, similar to the start of 2022, allowing Harawira-Naera to play on the edge, where he has a 45.8 average and averages 75.1 minutes, giving him the potential of 100k in price rices. Regardless of where he is named, Harawira-Naera may not provide enough relative value to coaches. With an array of mid-range edges this year all expected to score similar to Harawira-Naera at nearly 100k cheaper, and a low points per minute output when playing in the middle, Harawira-Naera appears to be an avoid.
The last man to consider for the starting lock position is Trey Mooney. A big minute forward capable of playing on the edge, Mooney could fit into the Raiders backrow logjam similar to Harawira-Naera but at a cheaper price and better output. With some injury affected games aside Mooney was able to average 51.2 points in the NSW Cup with 41.4 points in base stats along with 3 tackle breaks and 1 offload per game (0.78ppm). Having primarily trained in the middle in the offseason Mooney appears ready to take the next step in the NRL. Being priced at 250k Mooney is still worth monitoring if not given the starting job, as he should see an increase in his minutes as he becomes more comfortable playing in the NRL, and could be worth being a 21st man in most squads to allow for money to be spent elsewhere.
How Ricky Stuart looks to name his team is always a mystery to fantasy coaches but over the pre-season and trials it will be worth monitoring how Stuart looks to use Corey Horsburgh, Corey Harawira-Naera and Trey Mooney. The workrate of both Horsburgh and Mooney will provide value if given the right opportunities and it will be worth monitoring how Elliot Whitehead gets used to determine the value of Harawira-Naira. Though given the lack of success the Raiders had in 2022 with Whitehead at lock, it seems unlikely Stuart would return to that, slashing Harawira-Naera’s fantasy relevance, unless his workrate in the middle improves.
If you haven't yet check out the Raiders NRL Fantasy preview. TK & Rich rip into the fortunes of TK & Kyle rip into the fortunes of Joseph Tapine, Hudson Young, Corey Horsburgh, Nick Cotric, Trey Mooney, Xavier Savage, Jamal Fogarty and Tom Starling.