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.
The Dolphins: Centre
The NRL’s new franchise, the Dolphins have assembled a team with a combination of experience and youth. Wayne Bennett has brought in solid representative players to solidify his forward pack, with a lot of these players being mid range players who hold little value to fantasy coaches either in expected points or price rises. The main battle for fantasy coaches to monitor over the pre-season should be the one for the two starting centre positions, with a slew of contenders looking to take the spots.
One centre position should be expected to be filled by the loser of the Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow/Tesi Nui fullback battle. Both of these players are genuine traps if positioned in the centre however. Nui, priced at 533k, has an average of 32.4 when playing in the centres, though has shown to be a strong ball runner when playing there, but would not warrant the price attached to him. Tabuai-Fidow does appear to be slightly more intriguing to fantasy coaches, given he is a cheaper price (372k), and offers WFB/CTR DPP, but would be significantly more valuable if given the fullback jersey. In his time playing centre Tabuai-Fidow has shown that, like most in the position, he requires attacking returns to be a quality fantasy asset. When playing in the centres he holds an average of 32.4 but when not scoring a try his average drops to 21.0, which has happened in five of the eleven games he has played there. In an objectively weak Dolphins team Tabuai-Fidow may struggle to get the attacking returns needed to see considerable price rises.
The other centre position should be taken up by the quartet of Euan Aitken, Brenko Lee, Oliver Gildart or Valynce Te Whare. An intriguing long term storyline for fantasy coaches would be Aitken being named in the centres for round 1, getting CTR DPP and moving into the backrow if injuries or form permit. But at a starting price of 679k and an average of 40.8 in the centres, Aitken would be 100k overpriced at this point.
The next two options are the awkward price and underwhelming duo of Brenko Lee and Oliver Gildart. Unless a change in form is on the cards, the prospects of Lee and Gildart would be an avoid for fantasy coaches if starting in Round 1. Another seemingly disappointing Englishman in the NRL, Gildart (334k) was only able to muster a 28.7 average in his 7 games at centre in 2022, before form and injury saw a mid-season move to the Roosters. Lee is slightly more expensive at 416k and with that comes a slightly higher average of 32.7 in 2022. Slightly below his career average of 34.8 at centre he could potentially see a price rise of 50k if he is able to replicate his tackle breaking and offloading ability.
The final option in the centre battle is a player already on fantasy coaches' radar and a potential cash cow in Valynce Te Whare. During his time for the Redcliffe Dolphins in the QLD Cup, Te Whare showed his ability to break tackles and find the try line, with 85 tackle breaks and 12 tries in 14 games. Though unlikely to replicate these numbers in the NRL, even half of this production would see an additional 10 points per week on top of an average 24.7 points in base stats. How he holds up defensively in the NRL remains to be seen and may be susceptible to demerits early in his career. With Bennett’s hesitance to play rookies it may be some time before we see the hulking centre in the NRL, but a strong pre-season may force Bennett’s hand.
With a new team comes uncertainty in a starting 13, but having the experience of Wayne Bennett will ensure that the Dolphins consistently put their best foot forward and the starting point will be strong performances in the trials. With so much versatility in their backline it will be worth monitoring how Bennett looks to use his 1-5, and see what players land in the centres, with high hopes for strong performances from Te Whare to give fantasy coaches an early cash cow.
If you haven't yet check out the Dragons NRL Fantasy preview. TK & Jake rip into the fortunes of Sean O'Sullivan, Anthony Miflord, The Bromwich brothers, Felise Kaufusi, Ray Stone, Mark Nicholls, Valyn Te Whare, Hamison Tabai-Fidow, Euan Aitken and Tom Gilbert.