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The Mercato - Bye Planner is Here!

And welcome back to The Mercato, a long-form series for Talking League. With five rounds in the book, distressed assets everywhere and assets that are making us distressed, the bye rounds are beginning to sneak up on the horizon. In this edition, we’ll talk about being in the “awareness” stage of the major and minor byes rounds and how it may affect our trade strategy.

Accountability Time

It was another tough slog for my side, posting a meek 727. It didn’t help that I decided to last-minute swap Blaize Talagi for Ethan Strange in my scoring 17, costing me 29 points but that’s how the cookie crumbles some times. Otherwise, I was happy with my two WFB trade-ins of Ponga (67) and Campbell (60) who helped me somehow gain ranks. Not too much though, 26,905 to 25,797 isn’t exactly knee-slide material. But that’s okay, it was always going to be a long grind whilst holding onto Cleary, Piakura and Galvin. This week, I’ll brought look to tuck into the luxury of not max-trading and just bring in Angus Crichton ($442k) should Tupouniua be cut from the bench. With $147k ITB, there’s plenty of methods to make that a reality but I will probably deal Ben Trbojevic ($362k) who probably doesn’t have a stack of cash left in him. Kayal Iro ($268k) is also a very tempting purchase that I may make should Crichton not stack up. At this stage, I will give Chevy Stewart ($230k) a week to see how he plays.

We Go Again

It's the second season that we’ve had to contend with major (13, 16, 19) and minor (14, 17, 20) bye rounds since Covid-ball, and the first provided plenty of lessons for fantasy coaches. I covered a lot of these in the Chronicles at season’s end, but the following were focused around the byes:

  • Don’t rush the bye planning – building slowly into the first major bye round and leaving yourself with 2-3 players to complete your 13 is best practise. Injuries and suspensions (like Jayden Brailey) will happen.

  • Beware the standalone byes – these rounds can punish coaches that have too many players from one team. Round 11 was a very poor round for me due to 3 Dolphins players on the bye.

  • Quality, not quantity – as we saw in round 13, you can post a very competitive score with 10-11 quality players that will match even those with a full 13.

  • Be care of oversubscription in the major byes (13, 16, 19) – you can only field a starting 13 so avoid having excess players in position where possible.

  • Respect the minor byes (14, 17, 20) – you need to field 17 players in these rounds, so avoid trading into red dots when these rounds are on the horizon. Plenty of coaches got caught out in round 17 by acquiring too many Sharks/Tigers/Dogs, playing short and/or burning valuable trades before the round 20 ‘boost’.

The first point is probably the most pertinent, especially when you consider it in combination with the second. At this stage of the season, we don’t want to be just looking at the teams that play the round 13 bye round and shovelling as many of them in over the coming weeks. We need to consider that a good portion of these teams still have a bye to come before round 13:

  • Bulldogs (Round 8)

  • Eels (Round 9)

  • Raiders (Round 10)

  • Dragons (Round 11)

  • Knights (Round 12)

As we spoke about last time, coaches need to be careful and the manage the amount of players from these teams in advance of these rounds. As we’ve seen already this season, the red dots amount up quickly and the last thing you want to do is erode some of the potential gains in round 13. The stretch between rounds 8 and 10 will pose a big challenge for coaches, especially given the number of fantasy relevant players held in our squads. Thankfully, coaches will have the ability to use up to three trades from round 7.

Overall, you want to be moving towards a decent number (think 9+) for round 13 by about round 10-11. That way, you can budget for the inevitable chaos of suspensions, injuries, concussions, and origin selections that we’ll have to endure on round 13 TLT. But at least from round 13, you can make up to four trades to bolster your numbers. By gently phasing in your bye planning, you can ensure you have plenty of quality fantasy assets supported by some cheaper options to aid your climb up the rankings.

Oversubscription Risk

Whilst it’s good to build up towards a strong contingent of players for round 13, oversubscription is looming as a hazard for fantasy coaches. To explain the concept of oversubscription, it’s best to go to 8.1 of the Classic Guidelines:

For the purposes of NRL Fantasy the rounds where seven (7) clubs have a bye will be known as ‘The Bye Rounds’ or ‘Big Bye Rounds’.
During the Bye Rounds’ your Fantasy team will have a reduction in the amount of players contributing to your team’s total score. During the Bye Rounds only the individual scores of 13 players (on the field) will make up your total score for the round. Any player on your Reserves Bench will score points if they play (and their price will move at the end of the round) and only contribute to your round score if an auto-substitution is applicable.

The key takeaway is that the 13 “on the field positions” (plus applicable AEs) will land you points. That is 1 HOK, 3 MID, 2 EDG, 2 HLF, 2 CTR and 3 WFBs. Anything above that in any position will not count towards your round 13, 16 or 19 score; also known as oversubscription. Now oversubscription doesn’t exactly equal bad bye planning; it could just be that there’s an asset or two that is such great value that you buy them despite tipping into oversubscription territory.

The Roosters are a great example of this. Having started off the bench in rounds 3 and 4, Angus Crichton ($442k) has already shed $59k off his starting price. And with the starting role now his, he could easily pack on $200k+ in a similar vein to what Kalyn Ponga and Scott Drinkwater did. However, a lot of coaches may already have or plan to buy Kai Pearce-Paul ($613k) and be eyeing off Briton Nikora ($652k), who also play round 13. There’s also a stack of EDG options already owned by coaches, such as the DPPs in J’Maine Hopgood ($850k), Jaemon Salmon ($378k), Josh Curran ($596k), Morgan Smithies ($582k) and Nat Butcher ($682k) who all have relevant ownership levels as it stands.

Sam Walker ($534k) has already dropped $151k and is set to lose more after an early exit vs the Bulldogs. We know that when goalkicking and finishing matches, he’s good for a 45+ average. Given he’ll return in round 7 with a BE facing close to 70, there will be probably 2-3 weeks where you could buy him between $500k-$550k, which is less than a 40 average in pre-season price parlance. He does play round 13, but as do Nicho Hynes ($938k), Jamal Fogarty ($748k) and Dylan Brown ($661k) meaning it could become uncomfortable oversubscription territory for coaches.

The other factor with Crichton and Walker is that they both play for the Roosters, who have a bye in round 14 along with the Dolphins and Raiders. Given the Roosters and Raiders have given us plenty of relevant assets in the early season, there is a risk that we could find ourselves short as we would be reliant on any origin players held to back up. Although with the way this season has panned out thus far; I can’t see many origin players being held. With Nathan Cleary and Payne Haas already hampered by injury, probably the only player I keep will be Harry Grant ($770k) given he has a friendly bye schedule (13 and 19) for an origin player.

But leaning back into round 14, this is really going to be a crucial round for coaches. Failing to play 17 in this round could see a loss of some of the ranks climbed in round 13. We know the Dolphins play all three major bye rounds and already have one out of the way, but there’s probably no need to exacerbate a looming issue of too many red dots in round 14. Like any expensive Raider assets that you don’t yet own like Joseph Tapine ($689k), it’s probably best to wait until round 15 to make the purchase when they have two byes in the rear view mirror.

In terms of what this means for our upcoming trades is that it’s not an issue if you trade in someone that doesn’t play round 13, as it means that they play round 14 which is just as important. And four of the teams that miss round 13 (Tigers, Rabbitohs, Titans, Sea Eagles) play the two remaining major bye rounds. Although it’s important to note that, that comes at the expense of missing round 17 for three of these teams (Rabbitohs, Titans, Sea Eagles).

This makes the Tigers one of the golden darlings during the origin bye rounds, as they’ll be available all the way up until their final bye in round 26. John Bateman ($630k) should be on everyone's watchlist as he continues to tumble in cash. The other team that will be very useful during the major bye round period is the Knights. As we spoke about last time, the Knights take a pit stop in round 12 to freshen up and play all bar round 16 during this period. The Storm are also quite useful, given their non-origin players will be available for five straight weeks between round 14 and 18.

But you can of course have too much of a good thing, and that’s why balance is key. That’s why tools like our 2024 Talking League Bye Planner could be of great assistance when deciding the trades to make for your team. Of course, please don’t hesitate to continue to ask questions to our podcast or any content creator that you enjoy consuming, but keep in mind that we don’t usually have the full context around your squad when answering your questions.

The 2024 Talking League Bye Planner is relatively simply to use. All you need to do is fill in your players in cells A3:A23 and also indicate whether they are playing origin in column D but putting in “Yes” if they are. In terms of selecting players, there is a drop down menu for each cell and depending on your version of Microsoft Office, you should be able to search by typing the players name. Note that it is currently at version 1.0, and subject to be changed closer to round 13. You can download it below, and any feedback can be sent to our DMs.

Download XLSX • 270KB

But that wraps up this edition of The Mercato. I’ll be back on The Fantasy Game Plan this week with Brenton, before taking a bye round like South Sydney for round 7. Good luck navigating this round and remember; at this stage, we only need to have awareness of the Major Bye Rounds.





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