The battle of the Preseason - Wests Tigers
Updated: Jan 31
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.
Wests Tigers: Middle Rotation
With the inclusion of multiple representative forwards, the Tigers seem poised to make a finals push in the 2023 season. These new signings solidify the Tigers starting 13 with just two positions seemingly up for grabs. A four-way battle to partner Brent Naden in the centres with AJ Kepaoa, Ken Maumalo, Tommy Talau and Starford To’a all contenders, but besides the exception of Tommy Talau (250k) there does not appear to be any value in this positional battle. Rather, it would be worth keeping an eye on who starts in the front row alongside David Klemmer and how Tim Sheens looks to rotate his middle forwards.
The battle to partner David Klemmer and Joe Ofahengaue in the middle of the park will be between Fonua Pole, Stefano Utoikamanu and Alex Twal. All five have held some of fantasy relevance in the past three years either as guns, Klemmer, Ofahengaue and Twal, or a cash cows, Utoikamanu and Pole, and how Sheens looks to utilise these players could provide early value for coaches or place these players in trap city.
Twal and Klemmer find themselves in very similar situations. Both capable of playing big minutes they have taken a step back over the past year whether it be age or injury and now find themselves as safe fantasy assets who will play around 50-60 and average around 1 point per minute. Priced at 797k after averaging 55.8 in 2022 Klemmer may struggle to replicate these numbers in 2023. Injury struggles for Newcastle saw Klemmer play 65-plus minutes seven times in 2022, more than double his total in 2020 and 2021, with an increase in minutes bumping up his fantasy scores. Twal has given fantasy owners much joy in the past with his ability to play 80 minutes with great base stats, but has proven to be an enigma, often playing 40 minutes just as often as he would play 80, and frustrating fantasy players either due to unfortunate injuries or the decisions of NRL coaches. With averages of 52.9 and 52.1 in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, respectively, Twal has shown to have fantasy pedigree and priced at 651k has some money to make if he is able to replicate those numbers.
With the improvement in the Tigers forward pack, both players are likely to see a reduction in their minutes and coupling that with rookie fantasy coaches propensity to select players on name value these two players are traps if given less than 55 minutes per game. When playing between 30 and 60 minutes Twal has an average of 44.9, which would provide minimal value to fantasy coaches. With Klemmer under the same filter he has an average of 44.2 and would see nearly 200k in price drops. With better options in the middle at a similar price, both Twal and Klemmer would be hoping for 60 minutes consistently before being considered fantasy relevant.
The final in the Tigers gun middles is Joe Ofahengaue. An unexpected, but welcome surprise in 2022, the move to lock in 2022, saw him play 14.1 minutes per game more compared to 2021, but also saw a boost in his points per minute, going from 0.73 to 0.85. Ofahengaue was a standout in a poor Tigers team and the increase in quality around him may result in a reduction in his minutes and workrate, with other high motor players around him. In the 2020 and 2021, Ofahengaue had an average of 31.1 and 36 when playing around 50 minutes per game. Fantasy coaches would hope that his points per minute can continue to build to a 1 point per minute range if his minutes were to drop or he may just prove to be a flash in the pan.
The last forward to consider in the Tigers fantasy loglam is Stefano Utoikamanu. A relative rookie in the NRL, he can provide value to fantasy coaches if given the opportunity to play 40-plus minutes. A popular 2021 cash cow, a combination of injury and form saw him muster just two games in 2022. Priced at 396k, the potential of him starting and getting consistent minutes in the NRL will provide instant value. An average of 47.3 when playing over 40 minutes, Utoikamanu, would see nearly 150k in price rices if given the ability to play extended minutes and doing so with a respectable 0.93 points per minutes. The last forward worth touching on is Fonua Pole. Priced at 504k he appears to be overpriced for his expected minutes in the Tiger rotation and would drop price at the start of the season.
With a new pack and a new coach it will be interesting to see how Tim Sheens looks to rotate his forwards in 2023. During the trials it will be worth monitoring the minutes of Utoikamanu and Pole to see how Sheens rates their prospects and then applying the three date rule to the premium middles in the Tigers team to see the consistency in their middle rotation and lastly, monitor the movement of Bateman and Papali’i to the middle to potentially steal more minutes. With so few cheap middles, fantasy coaches should be hoping for Utoikamano to take a spot in the starting 13.
If you haven't yet check out the Tigers NRL Fantasy preview. TK & Gus rip into the fortunes of Isaiah Papali’i, Adam Doueihi, Brent Naden, Ken Maumalo, Shawn Blore, Tommy Talau, Charlie Staines, Justin Matamua, Stefano Utoikamanu, Luke Brooks and John Bateman.