The Mercato - critical captaincy!


And welcome back to The Mercato; Talking League’s long-form series where we look at the elements of strategy that you need to be across during the NRL Fantasy Season.

I mentioned last time in the series that we would likely return to discuss how you can conduct an end-of-season review on your NRL Fantasy season. That was to be the case unless we came across another topic of interest, which is what will be discussing in this edition in the form of captaincy choices.


I’ve always been a proponent of the “set-and-forget” captaincy strategy in non-bye rounds as you essentially lock in double the average of that player across the season. Sure, you can play roulette each week but one unsuccessful roll of the dice and you’re behind the eight-ball looking to chase the pack. In my team this year, I’ve captained Nathan Cleary since I brought him in for round 4 and lucked out picking Matt Burton in round 13 when he scored 73. The only other exception to this will occur in round 17, where Freddie has done us a solid and picked Nicho Hynes in jersey #19 enabling him to play against the Storm.

Come Round 18, the Captaincy or Vice-captaincy in my team will not belong to Nicho Hynes and this article will explain the mid-round flexibility that could be gained from this strategy. For what it’s worth, I always recommend the VC on a player that plays early in the round (ideally not one you’ve just traded in that round) and the C on your pick-and-stick. For the good teams this year, that will probably be Nathan Cleary and Damien Cook (who is out of reach for anyone without a team value north of $13.75m).


So why not on Hynes, the player with the best average (69.4) this year to date? Two words: loop potential. With Hynes having the HLF/WFB DPP, he’s a perfect candidate to use in your looping operations. I explained the two main types of loops for Renegades Fantasy Sports earlier this year and will write an updated version in 2023 once we know the new rules. Taking concepts from this article such as the starting slot loop, I will explain the looping possibilities open to us in round 19.


To really maximise your looping potential, a red dot is ideal. As I discussed in the previous edition of The Mercato, if you’re low on trades it may not be wise to acquire a red dot as you’ll organically obtain one down the stretch but if you do, these are the best teams to choose from:

  • Tigers (play no earlier than 5:30pm Saturday from round 17)

  • Sharks (play no earlier than 5:30pm Saturday from round 19)

  • Knights (aside from round 19, play no earlier than 5:30pm Saturday from round 18)

  • Dragons (play no earlier than 5:30pm Saturday from round 20)

  • Raiders (play no earlier than 3pm Saturday from round 17)


With the Tigers being the best, I’d be looking to pick up a DPP CTR/WFB from them that’s cheap and has little chance of playing. I present to you Junior Pauga at 226k who is a DPP CTR/WFB, who with his handy DPP and late appearance each round (see above) can really open up your looping possibilities.


In our hypothetical team, we have the following players (along with Hynes and Pauga):

  • Reed Mahoney ($666k, HOK, PAR, 44.98% top 5k ownership) – Starting Hooker

  • Isaiah Papali’i ($790k, MID/EDG, PAR, 70% top 5k ownership) – VC Forward

  • Nathan Cleary ($993k, HLF, PEN, 96.46% top 5k ownership) – Captain HLF

  • Cameron Munster ($798k, HLF, MEL, 4.72% top 5k ownership) – Starting HLF

  • Matt Burton ($809k, HLF/CTR, CBY, 83.02% top 5k ownership) – Starting CTR

  • Siosifa Talakai ($543k, EDG/CTR, CRO, 7.06% top 5k ownership) – Starting CTR

  • Mitch Barnett ($592k, MID/EDG, NEW, 7.36% top 5k ownership) - 17th best player

  • Ezra Mam ($453k, HLF, BRI, 73.8% top 5k ownership) – 18th best player

  • Tolutau Koula ($481k, CTR/WFB, MAN, 78.14% top 5k ownership) – 19th player/DPP cover, highest ranked WFB on our bench.


The fixtures are as follows in round 19:

  • Game 1 – Eels v Broncos

  • Game 2 – Dragons v Sea Eagles

  • Game 3 – Knights v Roosters

  • Game 4 – Raiders v Warriors

  • Game 5 – Panthers v Sharks

  • Game 6 – Rabbitohs v Storm

  • Game 7 – Bulldogs v Titans

  • Game 8 – Cowboys v Tigers

To start our loop up, we enter first lockout as follows: Pauga (starting WFB), Hynes bench slot #4, Mam bench slot #5, Barnett #6, Koula #7 and everyone else in the roles described above. We enter game 1 where Mam is the focus (we also hope Papali’i does well as VC). Depending on how he goes, we have a few options that we can activate before game 3 starts (Knights v Roosters). In game 2, our sole focus is on Koula. If Koula:

  • Looks like he’s going to score poorly, we need to decide on whether we want to take Mam’s score over Barnett. If we want take Mam’s score, we don’t change the bench order. If we don’t, we simply move Barnett to #4 and Hynes to #6 to take Barnett’s score. If Hynes stays on the bench above Koula, he will replace Pauga’s DNP at starting WFB as the highest ranked WFB on the bench.

  • Looks like he’s going to score well (much better than Mam), we can move Hynes into the starting HLF and Munster onto the bench. This will mean we will get Koula’s score (instead of Mam or Barnett) as he replaces the Pauga’s DNP in WFB as the highest ranked WFB on the bench.

  • If both Koula and Mam score well and we don’t think Barnett will beat either, we can do the above. However, we can wait until updates on Saturday (Sharks play game 5) to decide whether we want Mam’s score or Koula’s – how good!

Of course, you could just use Pauga as a loop on the bench by having him sit at #4, player that plays first #5 and the other later option at #6. But by engaging a starting slot loop via Hynes, you can open up more angles for looping and in some circumstances, pick between two players where you already know what they’ve scored.


Of course, it’s important to note that looping isn’t a “risk-free” strategy. There’s the chance that the player you loop out gets a massive score and you miss out. Or your worst nightmare, the player you were counting on for a DNP is somehow a last minute addition to the team and you cop their lowly score. But that’s all for now, be sure to listen to Wednesday’s Buy, Sell, Hold, Avoid where I join Andy, Kyle and Producer Josiah to talk through several players of interest!