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The Mercato - Byes, Looping and the Deer Keeper

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

And welcome back to The Mercato, a long-form series for Talking League. In this edition, we are going to have a look at the byes and how they may impact your initial team selections and looping options.

“The number of failed head injury assessments will be reduced from three (3) to two (2) to trigger the activation of the 18th player. This will allow greater flexibility for Clubs which lose multiple players to head injuries in a match.“

From a sporting perspective, this is an adjustment that makes sense. From a NRL Fantasy perspective, it does create a bit of an issue if you happen to own a player that ends up as 18th man for their team. It is now more likely that they will be injected later in the game during garbage time, posting a low score which tanks their price rises and commencing a streak of price declines. Or worse, they could ruin a loop that you’ve already executed without the ability to reverse out.

This is where having a player on a bye may in fact be useful. As we’ve seen in the previous seasons, bye round players do not ‘lock’ until the final lockout. This means that you can move any player on a bye up until the final game locks out, which up until origin will be:

  • Rounds 1-4 (Sunday 8:15PM NZDT/6:15PM AEDT/5:15PM AEST)

  • Round 5 (Sunday 8:15PM NZST/6:15PM AEST)

  • Round 6 (Monday 6PM NZST/4PM AEST)

  • Round 7 (Sunday 6:05PM NZST/4:05PM AEST)

  • Round 8 (Tuesday 9PM NZST/7PM AEST)

  • Rounds 9, 11, 12 (Monday 6:05PM NZST/4:05PM AEST)

  • Round 10 (Sunday 8:25PM NZST/6:25PM AEST)

Most active coaches will have a loop DNP at their disposal, with the following players having 10% ownership or higher at the time of writing (updated 13/02/2023):

  • Dragons (Round 1) – Tyrell Sloan (22.18%)

  • Sea Eagles (Round 2) – Josh Schuster (23.91%), Ben Trbojevic (12.13%)

  • Panthers (Round 3) – Nathan Cleary (38.56%), Luke Garner (21.26%), Soni Luke (15.34%), Mitch Kenny (10.54%), Spencer Leniu (10.35%)

  • Roosters (Round 4) – Brandon Smith (47.22%), James Tedesco (25.40%), Joseph Manu (17.92%), Joseph Suaali’I (16.12%)

  • Titans (Round 5) – Tanah Boyd (14.93%), Klese Haas (13.38%), Alofiana Khan-Pereira (12.86%)

  • Sharks (Round 6) – Nicho Hynes (25.38%)

  • Tigers (Round 7) – Tommy Talau (19.67%), Shawn Blore (11.85%)

  • Raiders (Round 8) – Joseph Tapine (11.93%)

  • Storm (Round 9) – Jack Howarth (17.37%), Harry Grant (16.11%), Eliesa Katoa (15.15%)

  • Knights (Round 10) – Lachlan Miller* (23.45%) Adam Elliott (13.95%)

  • Dolphins (Round 11) – Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (36.98%), Ray Stone (28.28%), Valynce Te Whare (27.48%), Isaiya Katoa (21.26%), Kodi Nikorima (13.29%), Tom Gilbert (10.46%)

  • Warriors (Round 12) – Te Maire Martin (20.24%), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (13.15%)

Of course, this list can’t be taken as complete gospel as:

  • A decent portion of these players are priced at base (230/250k), indicating that these players may be placeholders for the cheapies that do get a favourable role on the first TLT.

  • There are several relevant players that are approaching 10% ownership, namely Tom Gilbert (9.83%), Justin Matamua (9.36%), Stefano Utoikamanu (9.31%), Cameron Munster (8.47%),Jackson Hastings (7.63%), Mitchell Barnett (7.03%).

  • Plenty of player ownership percentages will fluctuate vastly after the trials, as well as any injuries or suspensions that may impact player availability.

  • Cash cow and mid-rangers may peak as early as rounds 5-6 and be traded out for a player with a different bye schedule.

But what it does show is that plenty of coaches will be running with at least one organic DNP almost every round up until origin. And with that in mind, you should not be too concerned if you have no more than 2 players from the team that has the bye in that early round.

In fact, the concern about having an expensive and/or multiple players on a bye should lessen the later that we get into the season. This due to several factors, including:

  • Your team value will expand past $10m from round 2 onwards.

  • You may potentially trade out players, lessening your coverage from a certain team.

  • You may trade in players that offer better positional coverage (especially DPP players) in the week these players are unavailable.

  • You may trade in players after they’ve had their first bye.

  • You may trade in cash cows or other undervalued assets after round 1, making your team value higher than its “actual” value at the time these players have their bye.

The expansion of your team value is the most pertinent of these matters. This is because in most instances, your team value including cash in the bank (ITB) will increase every week leading up to round 13. Even if a player scores well below their BE due to a poor performance or early concussion, you should expect your team value to increase off the back of all the undervalued players soaring above their BEs. In a regular NRL Fantasy season, most active coaches will have their team value reach:

  • $10.3-10.5m in round 2

  • $10.4-10.6m in round 3

  • $10.6-10.9m in round 4

  • $11-11.25m by round 6

  • $11.5m by round 8

  • $12m by round 10

  • $13m by round 13

The best example to contextualise this is by having a look at the most expensive player in the game, Nicho Hynes. For the record, I’ve nailed my colours to the mast of Cameron Murray as my captain choice and most expensive player in my starting squad. I’ve articulated my reasons for doing so in his Player in Focus Video and on our introductory pod (from 26:00), with the bye schedule a major factor in this decision.

In saying that, I wouldn’t steer anyone away from picking Hynes. I would certainly take him over Cleary; as he’s unlikely to feature in origin and had a better rest over the off-season than the Kangaroos halfback. Hynes comes in at $984k or 9.84% of your starting salary cap, which is a significant portion. At first glance, the Sharks bye in round 6 would see you have almost 10% of your team value not scoring you points (assuming that you have no other Sharks players). However, your salary cap is likely to be more than $11m at this point. So if Hynes was worth $1m coming into Round 6, you’d still have 91% or $10m of your team value available to score you points. And if your team team value is higher than $11m, the percentage that is occupied by Hynes' value will be even smaller.

Granted, at least $690k of your team value in Round 6 will be in the 3 other NPRs. This is more likely to be $800-900k, given your cash cows should have made some increases above base price. This isn’t too dissimilar to your round 1 team, where you’ll have a minimum of $920k stored in your four NPRs. Even with Tyrell Sloan having such high ownership in the teams of active coaches posing as a loop candidate in round 1; it’s offset by the fact that Hynes owners will be able to loop with him in round 6. Hynes owners will also have a 5-round sample size to assess who will deputise as Captain for Round 6, further adding to the safety of selecting him over Cleary. All in all, Hynes is as good as gold to be your captain from Round 1. I'll personally be looking to get in Hynes after his bye, team value allowing.

This edition of The Mercato only briefly touches on looping, but I have covered looping and the three main looping methods in detail in the Talking League Textbook. The Textbook is your ultimate strategy guide to the 2023 NRL Fantasy season and is now available to purchase here. You can also try before you buy, by accessing a free 20-page sample here. 20% of all proceeds will be donated to Bowel Cancer Australia, honouring the legacy of the late Steve Nicholls, who inspired the Textbook with the Renegades Fantasy Prospectus in 2016 and 2017. For more information about Bowel Cancer including the symptoms to look out for, visit in Australia and in New Zealand.

During the NRL season, you can expect an edition of The Mercato in front of your eyes at least once a fortnight until round 23. Each edition will focus on the key topics and trends that are currently on the market, such as cash cows, captaincy choices, byes and everything in between. There will be plenty more on offer from across the writer’s room, with Sean coming on board to bolster the content provided by Jake, Riley and Rich. Plus, TK may also poke his head into the Writer’s Room occasionally to give us his thoughts in The Playbook!

There’s plenty happening at Talking League and we look forward to bringing you even more content in 2023. Be sure to join us this Wednesday (9:30PM NZDT/7:30PM AEDT/6:30PM AEST) for Talking League Live, as Andy and Kyle join me to answer your questions. You can also catch me on Around the Traps every Saturday in the pre-season, as TK and SuperCoach Whisperer join me to discuss all the major topics from the week that was. But until then, enjoy making use of the unlimited trades in your NRL Fantasy team before you need to put them on three dates.


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