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The Mercato - Headache of Haas

Welcome back to The Mercato, a long form series for Talking League. When I opened my twitter earlier and saw that Payne Haas is heading to the operating theatre, my first thought was “what the actual” (with perhaps a few extra adjectives added). Having copped a groin injury scare to Mitchell Moses in round 1 and deciding to flick him to Fogarty, I was faced with the second of my core four (Cleary, Haas, Moses, Grant) looking like a trade out. Fun times, as I’ve managed to curse another player by writing about them in pre-season in a favourable light.

But this is what NRL Fantasy is about, reacting to the chaos and the fun part is the challenge of working through it with strategy and tactics. Enter, the second edition of The Mercato for this week. In this edition, I’ll explore all the different options available to the 63% of coaches that own the star Bronco when it comes to moving him on.

On Wednesday Evening, the Broncos released the following statement:

Broncos Head Of Performance Dave Ballard said: “Payne met with a specialist today and it was decided the best course of action was for him to have an arthroscopy next week.
"We always put the long-term health of the player first and even though Payne will miss some games now, we will get a much better result once he returns with the bulk of the season still to play.
"This kind of surgery has a recovery of up to six weeks, but we know that Payne is always very dedicated to his rehab and we expect no different this time around."

With a potential of six weeks on the sidelines, Haas is a trade. Even if he was unavailable for the lower end of the recovery timeline in four weeks, he is a trade when he takes up at least 7.5% of your salary cap and you have at least 42 trades left this season. The timing is unfortunate, with the likes of Siu Wong (EDG, $475k), Heilum Luki (EDG, $492k), Sebastian Kris (CTR/WFB, $397k) among the list of unavailable players that we are looking to sell or cop the red dot on. I’m staring down the barrel of all three plus Haas being red dots for me this week, although fortunately I have $107k ITB to play with. With that in mind, let’s go through the potential options.

Picko the Nicho

For those that have cap room like myself or can create some through the acquisition of Lachlan Galvin (HLF, $261k), the temptation to pick the best averaging player from 2023 is huge. Nicho Hynes (HLF, $968k) has dropped $32k from his starting price of $1m but in doing so has averaged 63.5 with minimal attacking stats. No tries, TAs or unsustainable kick metres as he heads into battle against the checks notes Tigers. The former Storm player could score anything against a team that looked all at sea against Ricky’s Raiders. Looks superb on paper, but what’s the catch?

The Sharks have a bye in round 5, which isn’t that far away. If you started with him, it probably wouldn’t be as much of an issue as you would’ve staggered the byes across your expensive players. Given most Haas owners probably have more red dots than trades this week, it means for three rounds in a row you’ve played with a hand tied behind your back. Especially when you consider the Storm have the bye next week in round 4, and most coaches would have at least two Storm players out of Harry Grant (HOK, $768k), Ryan Papenhuyzen (WFB, $520k) and Joe Chan (EDG, $295k). That’s a big burden to bare given the chaos will probably continue next week with even more red dots to resolve.

For me, I would only take the Hynes route if you satisfy the following:

  • You already have Terrell May (MID, $572k) or don’t think he will sustain a 50+ average.

  • You don’t have Cameron McInnes or don’t play to hold on the bye.

  • You don’t have players like Keano Kini (WFB, $277k) that are on borrowed time and need to be traded soon.

  • You’re committed to captaining Hynes this week. Usually I don’t condone captaining a traded-in player, but Haas would lock first game so you wouldn’t be able to reverse anyway.

I currently don’t have Terrell May and I do have Keano Kini. As a result, Hynes will not be an option, but I certainly see the credibility of breaking the mould and securing the player everyone will be going crazy for come round 6 when Cleary is on the bye.

Like for Like

You could go from one NSW Middle Forward to another in a literal straight swap. Isaah Yeo (MID, $897k) is the exact same price as Haas, although is averaging 5 points a game more than Haas (just including that to throw shade at Rich for picking Haas over Yeo in our Talking League Draft). For me, I’m not a massive fan of this approach for active coaches, as nearly all would have Nathan Cleary (HLF, $948k) which would mean close to $1.9m sitting on the pine in round 6. If you already have Hynes, then feel free to pull the trigger on one of the most consistent players in NRL Fantasy

Can the Postman Deliver?

Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his $764k price? I’ll leave the singing to SeaBalls and JWarrior, because it is not my forte. Pat Carrigan (MID, $764k) suffered in round 1 with Brendan Piakura (EDG, $359k) having an early exit. Carrigan does boast an average of almost 60 in an 8-game sample of games without Haas, although it’s important to not that only two of these games were in 2022 or 2023. At a price point of 55 there is probably some value there for a player with a high ceiling, but I’d personally rather not lean into a player that I probably have to trade back out in round 13.

Lose the Battle, Win the War

When I saw the news that Haas would be sidelined for multiple weeks, it gave me flashbacks of round 14 when Nathan Cleary clutched at his hamstring. Only not as bad as he didn’t drop a stack of cash nor did I captain Haas when it happened. And what I take from that experience last year is that it can pay off to be patient.

As I outlined in the Chronicles of Mercato, deciding not to trade Cleary in round 15 was painful as it cost me 1,500 ranks. However, it meant I didn’t get the coinflip of whether Hynes or Moses would be picked for game II of origin and thus not be available in round 16. By holding off, I didn’t have to burn a trade on moving Moses back out (who had a bye in round 18 as well) as I got Hynes at his lowest price for the season. That decision was one of the key ones that helped me resurrect a very poor start to ending up cruising into the top 1,000 come season’s end.

Now whilst not buying Hynes may not do that for me, it may help me be not too far behind the eight-ball when it comes to cash generation. With Moses going backwards (like all my expensive POD HLFs that I start with) and no Terrell May in my team yet, I need to be conscious of keeping with the pack with my squad value. As a result, I will be adding May and Galvin to my squad this week so I can continue the appreciation in my squad value. For coaches that already have one or both of these players, they could also look to scoop up Joey Lussick (HOK, $514k), Kurt Mann (MID, $497k) or Josh Curran (MID/EDG, $547k) as players with low BEs and Fantasy relevant games.

Another way to improve your squad value is by acquiring distressed assets. Distressed assets are players that have started slowly for one reason or another. This could be crucial this season, as we may not get many explosive cash cows like last season. In this category we have:

  • Mitchell Moses (HLF, $734k) who has already shed over $50k due to a groin scare and playing the reigning premiers.

  • Kalyn Ponga (WFB, $705k) who has been on the end of two defeats and underperforming backline, shedding $50k already.

  • Jack Cogger (HLF, $571k) who has come off the bench twice, shedding $49k before getting the 7 jersey for this week. Cogger averaged 55.4 at halfback last year albeit he did kick some goals in a strong Panthers team. As his price bottoms out, he could be value as a round 13-eligible HLF.

  • Briton Nikora (EDG, $652k) who has had a dearth of attacking stats and a sinbin. Having already lost $70k, Nikora could be bargain buy for coaches that see the Sharks threatening the top four.

  • Sam Walker (HLF, $634k) who hasn’t really clicked, much like the Roosters last week and has already lost $51k. With no bye until round 14, he could be a nice punt should he slide into the high $500k range. I know TK is keen, I don’t even need to ask him.

Not only have we got these distressed assets to look at, but we may have some other cash cows or mid-rangers with serious value to acquire soon. I spoke about Kulikefu Finefeuiaki (EDG, $293k) earlier in the week, who does loom as a great option. The main player on our minds is Jayden Campbell (WFB, $459k) who averages around 44 as a starting fullback. He isn’t base price, so you may need some cap room to scoop up the mercurial talent once he is back on the pitch.

With setbacks comes opportunities, and that is how Haas owners should interpret this news. Be grateful that he exited $17k above his starting price and didn’t blowout during a match with a low score. Take a leaf out of Andy’s book and Pivot to the next best options. Have fun making your decision, and be sure to join me to reflect on the outcomes on the next episode of The Fantasy Game Plan.


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