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The Mercato - Bye-er Beware

Welcome back to The Mercato, a long form series for Talking League. In this edition, we’re going to look at the lessons learned from round 4 and how we can apply that to our decision making going forward.

Accountability Time

But first, an update on #MercatoBall is in order. At our last check in a fortnight ago, I was ranked 50,789. I have subsequently halved my rank in round 3, only for it to slide out to 26,905 after a dismal 662 in round 4. That performance wasn’t helped by only having 16 green dots, including the illustrious 8 from Samuel Hughes. With Nathan Cleary, Brendan Piakura, Siua Wong, Nick Cotric, Keano Kini, Harry Grant and Ryan Papenhuyzen all unavailable before trades, I was up the creek without a paddle.

Sure, injuries and other carnage is unpredictable. However as I outlined in The Portfolio II, the two major risk areas with my side were:

  • Cheap outside backs with low job security (think Cotric, Kini etc)

  • Taking two Storm players (Grant, Papenhuyzen) that took up a decent portion of my salary cap.

In the end, this created a perfect storm (pun intended) where I was unable to use more than two trades (we can use three from round 7) to cover the carnage, playing short with $2.907m in red dots plus $615k in the bank. Essentially, a third of my squad value unavailable. Now the large cash in the bank was the result of cashing down off Haas, holding Cleary and being unsure about a lot of the more expensive players. This week, I’ll spend $468k of that surplus bringing in Kalyn Ponga ($705k) and Jayden Campbell ($453k) for Sitili Tupouniua ($416k) and Keano Kini ($274k), leaving me with $147k for future moves. It’s probably a week or two early on Campbell, but given the red dot crisis we’ve faced thus far it may be my only opportunity to take him.

Bin the Chin or Picko the Nicho?

The red dot crisis doesn’t get any easier this week, with Nathan Cleary returning after the Panthers round 6 bye and Lachlan Galvin sitting out for two weeks after a hip drop tackle. For most coaches, they will probably hold Cleary and Galvin is a must-hold with that BE. There is some scope to #BinTheChin as I spoke about on The Fantasy Game Plan, is something I’ll consider should I have no more red dots after round 5 (unlikely). At this stage, I will most likely hold and be prepared to sell in round 13 as it is unlikely that he backs up more than once after origin.

Going down the #PickoTheNicho route will be popular in round 6 and rightly so. Nicho Hynes ($938k) may have shed $62k on his $1m starting price by averaging 63.3 so far, but that average only includes 1 Try Assist, 1 Line Break and incredibly no tries. I see that average improving as more direct attacking stats emerge. Assuming he doesn’t make origin, Hynes will be available in round 13 which makes him quite essential at some point. Technically priced at 68 currently, there is scope to wait but his round 13 availability poses questions for coaches in the market for a gun HLF this week.

The decision - Jamal Fogarty v Dylan Brown

A common conundrum for coaches this week is to pick between Jamal Fogarty ($741k) or Dylan Brown ($665k). Full disclosure, I purchased Jamal Fogarty for $650k in round 2. As Brenton and I spoke about on round 3 of The Fantasy Game Plan, attacking the garage sale and collecting distressed assets is crucial in a year where there are few explosive cash cows. And for me, this decision point is a great example of that.

Before the Moses injury, Brown hadn’t really set the world on fire from a fantasy perspective. Which is par for the course for the Kiwi international, who in 2023 only had once score above 50 in his first eight matches, losing $111k in the process. From a similar starting price in 2024, Brown has lost $94k and is only $1k less than the $666k I paid for him before Magic Round after he had just bottomed out. We know without Moses he averages near 60, a score he eclipsed on the weekend without a statistically remarkable performance. And with Moses last season, he averaged 54.2. At a price point below 50, that’s sensational value for a Kiwi that can’t play origin.

Whilst Fogarty still has value to make, he’s much closer to peaking than Brown is. Not to mention, the Raiders have their second bye in round 14. Which may not seem like much given 14 teams are available that week, but one of those teams missing is the Roosters who have a stack of relevant fantasy assets. With origin players needing to back up, fielding 17 will be hard and Dylan Brown will be available that week. Given he’s $76k cheaper, he is the logical choice for coaches picking between the two that don’t have a large amount of Parramatta assets.

Now could coaches who already have Fogarty go out and buy Brown this week? Of course, that would be an excellent HLFs pairing consisting of two players not in the origin frame. But you do need to consider round 13, as we can only play a starting 13 that includes just two halves. Which means you could only play two of out Hynes, Fogarty and Brown unless you want to suffer oversubscription (not recommended). Despite advocating for Brown, I am unlikely to purchase him as I want to manage my Eels contingent carefully. Which leads us nicely into the upcoming bye rounds.

Upcoming Bye Rounds

With the red dots coming thick and fast, let’s have a look at the upcoming byes and how they may impact our trade choices.

Sharks (Round 5)

The Sharks fantasy relevance mainly revolves around Nicho Hynes ($938k, 22.27%) and Cameron McInnes ($710k, 2.99%). Despite Galvin being a red dot, you must hold among other red dots, you probably want to hold onto these two given their round 13 availability.

Panthers (Round 6)

There’s a fair bit of relevance in the undisputed premiers. Even outside of Nathan Cleary ($940k, 31.03%) and Isaah Yeo (16.56%), you’ve got the likes of Taylan May ($592k, 4.47%) and Liam Henry ($421k, 3.51%) who still pose some value post-bye. Hopefully you don’t have too many other red dots outside of Galvin, as this round could get ugly for those who own multiple Panthers.

Rabbitohs (Round 7)

Despite insipid performances so far, my club actually have four relevant assets in Cameron Murray ($803k, 16.81%), Latrell Mitchell ($757k, 16.23%), Damien Cook ($753k, 7.99%) and Keaon Koloamatangi ($690k, 4.82%). Most sane coaches probably only have one of these assets; with the weekly trade limit lifting to three, Galvin returning as well as a new DPP update, this round should be smooth sailing for coaches.

Bulldogs (Round 8)

Given the “value” offered from round 1, there is a lot of fantasy relevant players at the kennel. Samuel Hughes ($278k, 38.51%), Jaemon Salmon ($361k, 37.64%), Josh Curran ($586k, 24.36%), Drew Hutchison ($450k, 8.39%), Jacob Kiraz ($588k, 5.03%), Reed Mahoney ($663k, 4.17%) all have relevance. However, I’m not sure there’s too many you’d want to hold outside of Kiraz, Curran and dare I say it….Cardboard Shoulders. With three trades at our disposal, coaches should have no issue sending enough Doggies to the pound before their bye.

Eels (Round 9)

It says something when it’s probably easier just to name the players in the Eels’ starting 13 that are either sells or avoids. The only one in the back seven that I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole is Will Penisini ($556k, 4.76%) who is suffering from no Mitchell Moses. With so much potential value on offer in this side, coaches need to be strategic about who they acquire so they don’t leave themselves too short and needing to burn trades. Personally, I already own Blaize Talagi ($301k, 17.11%) and am looking to scoop up Bailey Simonsson ($428k, 0.5%) in the coming weeks. I’m planning to leave it at that for Eels, as someone who has max-traded so far, I see this as a week where I could bank some trades.

Raiders (Round 10)

The Raiders are very similar to their round 5 opponent in that they have a stack of fantasy-relevant players. Although unlike the Eels, we probably already own most of the relevant ones. With a second bye in round 14, we probably don’t want to carry anyone that isn’t Jamal Fogarty ($741k, 18.92%), Jordan Rapana ($558k, 3.88%), Joseph Tapine ($691k, 3.82%), Sebastian Kris ($386k, 1.76%) into or past round 10. Personally, I’ll be looking to move on Ethan Strange ($326k, 52.23%) and Danny Levi ($359k, 12.7%) well before their bye as I recycle into new cash cows.

Dragons (Round 11)

I look down at the list on the NRL Fantasy website and it’s very inspiring. Owners of Tom Eisenhuth ($549k, 2.32%) and Kyle Flanagan (19.92%) should have disposed of these players when they peak, otherwise the only think stopping coaches landing 21 green dots should be injury, suspension or selection.

Knights (Round 12)

With the Knights only missing round 16 in terms of the Major (13, 16, 19) and Minor (14, 17, 20) bye rounds, you probably want a couple of them. Kalyn Ponga ($705k, 23.59%) and Kai Pearce-Paul ($585k, 6.56%) are the two main standouts, both are still great value. Outside of these two, the only other players of current significance are Adam Elliott ($669k, 3.48%) and Dane Gagai ($754k, 2.09%) unless a cash cow comes along. I only plan to have KP and KPP leading into this round, which I’m sure will be a common approach in the fantasy community.

Bye Planner en route

Round 13 will be the first major bye round, and I’m sure a bye planner will come in handy in the lead-up to this round. Have no fear, the second edition of the Talking League Bye Planner will be available with the next edition of The Mercato, which will likely be next week.

As I’ll be at the Adelaide Oval watching AFL instead of NRL this weekend, I won’t be on this round of The Fantasy Game Plan. But Jake will be stepping alongside Brenton to give you all the key thoughts and insights from round 5. Be sure to tuck into all the content on Talking League this week to help aid your decision making, but until the next edition of The Mercato, it’s bye for now.


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