The battle of the Preseason - St George Illawarra Dragons
Updated: Feb 4
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.
St George Illawarra Dragons: Five-Eighth
Having not made the finals since 2018, the Dragons are hoping for a change in fortunes come the 2023 season with a reliable forward pack and an explosive backline. The team itself has had some distractions leading into the pre-season with Cody Ramsey being ruled out for 2023 due to illness, with Tyrell Sloan likely to take his spot. A further distraction for the Dragons is five-eighth Talatau Amone being stood down under the NRL’s No Fault policy. His replacement appears to come down to three contenders, and this battle could provide fantasy coaches with value in multiple positions.
The frontrunner for the vacant spot is injury dependent with Jayden Sullivan recently suffering a hamstring injury, but seems likely to be ready for Round 2. If healthy Sullivan would provide 10 points of value to coaches. Currently priced at 340k with a breakeven of 24, Sullivan should provide steady cash generation for coaches as he has averaged 35.5 fantasy points when playing in the halves. As is the case with many young halves, Sullivan has struggled with demerits, as he averages 4 missed tackles per game, though his time playing in the middle in 2022 and physical maturity should help alleviate these concerns. Sullivan has also shown to have solid base stats in the halves due to strong tackle numbers (24.5 per game) and running game (70 metres per game), but with Ben Hunt as his halves partner would not be expected to generate many points in kick metres. Sullivan should provide coaches with consistent 30s through base stats alone but the real value in Sullivan will come when he is able to showcase his attacking flair, which unfortunately may be sporadic in a weak Dragons team.
The Dragon’s Mr. Fix it, Jack Bird, is slowly turning into the new Black Widow of fantasy. Similar to Mitch Aubusson before him, he always has great fantasy value in theory but finds himself positioned awkwardly in his NRL team. Priced at 604k and with CTR/EDG DPP coaches could look to select Bird come round 1 as an automatic centre selection until Round 27 if playing in the right position for Dragons.That position however is not five eighth. Bird has averaged 41.5 when playing five eighth in his fantasy career but this is heavily dependent on tries, as he has only scored above 40 points without a try in 4 of 26 games at six. The true value of Bird and solid justification for having him in your fantasy team would be at lock. In his six games there at the end of 2022 Bird played 80 minutes four times there and had an average of 54.7. This scoring would give coaches nearly 100k in value over his starting price and ensure coaches have one less headache during the fantasy season.
The final player that Anthony Griffin may consider is an underwhelming one in Moses Mbye. Mbye has found himself in every spine position over his NRL career and this versatility makes him a solid number 14. From a fantasy perspective he has never shown any true promise and even though there are contributing factors that would make him intriguing to coaches (300k price tag, CTR/WFB DPP) he should remain an avoid. Mbye would provide consistent scoring for coaches but would never expect to vary from his 32.5 average very often. Mbye would also be the first person to move back to the bench if Sullivan is a late starter to the season or if the team is having more success with Bird in a primary playmaker position. Though the prospect of a starting half being CTR eligible in fantasy is intriguing, Mbye is still a trap and with better options at slightly more expensive (Izaac Thompson) and potential cash cows the money can be better utilised elsewhere.
It will be worth monitoring who Anthony Griffin looks to partner with Ben Hunt in the halves, with Jayden Sullivan’s injury causing some uncertainty around the spot. The Charity Shield should provide a good opportunity to see what Anthony Griffin is thinking with his spine, with the inclusion of Jack Bird at lock being ideal for his fantasy prospects. It will also be worth monitoring Jayden Sullivans rehab over this time period and any hint of inclusion in that game could make for an interesting fantasy prospect come Round 2. If you haven't yet check out the Dragons NRL Fantasy preview. TK & Corby rip into the fortunes of TK & Corby rip into the fortunes of Jack Bird, Jacob Liddle, Jack de Belin, Max Feagai, Tyrell Sloan, Jayden Sulliva, Tyrell Fuimaono, Ben Murdoch Masila, Ben Hunt.