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The Mercato - Bye Beware! (Part 1)


Welcome back to The Mercato, a long form series for Talking League. The major bye rounds are upon us and have certainly thrown up curveballs and coaches will do well not to strike out in round 13. But with uncertainty comes opportunities to progress up the ranks, and we’ll look at what coaches could do to take advantage. This week’s edition of The Mercato will be a two-part series with the first focusing on the origin-affected players, the second providing a position-by-position breakdown of the round 13 options.


A quick update on #MercatoBall before we get into the main topic. The poor start is being arrested with an okay score of 979 seeing my slide up to 4,076. With my piecemeal bye-planning only being hindered by the absence of Jaydn Su’A and the benching of Lachie Miller, I currently stand with 11 players pre-trades with 2 vacancies at EDG or CTR of which I’ll fill at least one with J’Maine Hopgood.


But first, let’s go through the chaos that has affected bye planning, starting with Queensland-eligible players:

  • WFB gun Reece Walsh has been picked at the expense of Kalyn Ponga (who will be available for the Knights)

  • Popular DPP asset Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has been picked to play in the centres.

  • Potential value-option Thomas Flegler gets a start in the middle.

  • “Cut-price keepers” Reuben Cotter and Jai Arrow make the bench.

  • Whilst not in the window of selection, Jaydn Su’A is unavailable for the Dragons with a hamstring injury.

Looking at New South Wales, the following chaos has erupted:

  • Popular gun EDGs Tyson Frizell and Hudson Young have got the starts in the back row.

  • Apisai Koroisau is the sole number 9, leaving Damien Cook available for the Rabbitohs.

  • Nicho Hynes takes the bench utility role, with Jarome Luai remaining at 6.

  • Whilst not a likely selection, Ryan Matterson is unavailable for the Eels with a calf injury.

The above-mentioned chaos has whacked plenty of teams, some going from being 1-2 trades away from a perfectly organized starting 13 to boasting just 7-8 players before trades. This has put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons, as coaches that have a decent captaincy choice and put 11-13 eligible players on the park should see nice movement in their ranks. But with that in mind, let's have a look at our origin guns.


Plenty of coaches were planning to hold 2-3 origin players in their squads, but that figure for some may have ballooned to 4-5 with the shock inclusions. To identify the ideal candidates to keep, the following parameters are best practice:

  • Are they the best (or close to) in their position?

  • Are there many bye-friendly alternatives in their position/s?

  • Are their team’s byes compatible with origin (2 byes in either rounds 13, 16 or 19)?

  • Are their club fixtures in rounds 14, 17 and 20 conducive to backing up at least twice?

  • If you trade them out, do you see yourself being able to buy them back in round 20?

We’ll apply these criteria to several popular options:

  • Nathan Cleary may be the most expensive player in the game at present, but with the Panthers having byes in rounds 13 and 19 he will only miss one extra game by default. The Panthers play 6:15pm Sunday at Penrith in round 14, 5:30pm Saturday at Penrith in round 17 and Sunday 4:05pm Sunday at Redcliffe in round 20. All three of these are very favourable for backing up and thus he’s a solid hold.

  • Payne Haas is the best MID in the game, with the Broncos having byes in rounds 16 and 19 he will also only miss one extra game by default. The Broncos play Sunday 7:35pm in Sydney in round 14, Sunday 2pm in Brisbane (no travel required) in Round 17, Saturday 3pm in Sydney (no travel required) in round 20. Much like Cleary, he’s a solid hold with these favourable backup opportunities. Similar logic applies for Reece Walsh, albeit your WFB depth may be strong enough to trade him out.

  • Harry Grant is the best HOK in the game, with the Storm having byes in rounds 13 and 19 he will also only miss one extra game by default. The Storm play Sunday 4:05pm in Townsville in round 14, Saturday 7:35pm in Melbourne in round 17 and Saturday 7:35pm in Sydney (no travel required). Given Grant would be required to travel from Adelaide to Townsville for round 14, there is probably a higher risk that he may not back up and would be a lean towards a sell. The same logic could be employed for Cameron Munster.

  • Nicho Hynes has the highest average in 2023, with the Sharks having byes in rounds 13 and 17 means he will miss two extra games should he remain in the NSW squad. When you combine this with the fact that the Sharks have a trip to NZ to face the Warriors, Hynes could be a prime rest candidate for this fixture which is risky when rival coaches are armed with 8 more trades. For me, Hynes is a sell if you own Cleary and even beyond that is a risky hold.

  • James Tedesco hasn’t exactly set the world alight as WFB option just yet, but his Roosters have byes in rounds 13 and 19 and will only miss one extra game by default. The Roosters play Sunday 2pm in Sydney in round 14, Sunday 6:15pm in Sydney in round 17 and Saturday 7:35pm in Sydney (no travel required). With a favourable set of backup fixtures and tasty 84 fresh in his rolling average, Tedesco may be worth holding given he’s sub-$600k.

  • Hudson Young has reinforced himself as an EDG keeper and the Raiders have byes in rounds 16 and 20. When you consider the Raiders play Friday 8pm in round 14, it’s unlikely he’ll back up and thus only feature in one of the next four rounds. That makes him a sell, same with Tyson Frizell who will be on a bye in round 14.

  • Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has been a handy DPP asset to date, with his Dolphins having a bye in just round 16. This means the former Cowboy will miss two extra games, positioning him as a sell given he is not quite a keeper WFB or CTR.

  • Reuben Cotter is pushing uphill to be a keeper MID. The Cowboys have byes in rounds 15 and 19, meaning he will miss two extra round should he remain in the Queensland squad for game 2. With this in mind, he needs to be moved on.

And that wraps up Part One of The Mercato for round 13. The second piece will be available shortly, so keep your eye out for it when I go through each position and the likely protagonists in round 13.


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