And welcome back to The Mercato, a long form series for Talking League. This off-season edition comes right after the NRL released the 2023 season draw. In this piece, we have a look at some of the initial talking points post release.
We spoke about what we expected the 2023 NRL Fantasy game to look like in our Final podcast of the year. The main function of the expected changes revolved around the draw; which whilst it isn’t exactly as we predicted, is close. The Key details:
27 Rounds – commencing Thursday March 2 and concluding Sunday September 3.
Each team will play 24 matches (3 byes).
There are 3 major bye rounds (Rounds 13, 16 and 19) where seven teams have the bye (5 matches per round).
There are 3 “minor” bye rounds (Rounds 14, 17 and 20) where three teams have the bye (7 matches per round).
For the other 21 rounds of the season, one team has the bye.
What will excite long-term NRL Fantasy coaches is the return to a game that requires more bye-planning than recent years. A higher level of attention to detail will be required by coaches to ensure that your rank is trending upwards during rounds 13 to 20. The team at Talking League will cover this in more detail in 2023, as until the game structure is confirmed we can only speculate on what will be the best bye-planning strategies.
What we can look at with the byes is how they are structured. The easiest way to do this is to look at the season in two segments:
Origin Period (Rounds 12-21)
Non-Origin Period (Rounds 1-11, 22-27).
As you can see, the Non-Origin Period covers 17 rounds, and you guessed it; each team gets one bye in this period. The teams that have a bye in the first 6 or last 6 rounds are as follows:
First Six: Dragons, Sea Eagles, Panthers, Roosters, Titans, Sharks
Last Six: Warriors, Bulldogs, Cowboys, Broncos, Rabbitohs, Eels
The five teams that avoid the start or the end are the Tigers, Raiders, Storm, Knights and Dolphins. Whilst one would assume three of those teams may not have a lot of elite fantasy scorers, the Raiders and Storm could be very important Fantasy Teams. Coaches who start the season with Cameron Munster and/or Harry Grant could feasibly trade these players out before their bye in round 9 and then re-buy them in round 21 for the final six rounds. They would also be a solid captain option for those first eight rounds when the likes of Hynes, Cleary and Cherry-Evans will have a DNP. You could also extend this to the teams that have their Non-Origin bye in the final six rounds, making the likes of Cameron Murray, Damien Cook, Payne Haas and Ryan Matterson interesting options from the starter’s gun.
Speaking of Matterson, his Eels are the only team to play all three major bye rounds (13, 16 and 19). It does make any player unlikely to play origin a terrific option to start with in round 1 as a season-long keeper (think the halves pairing, especially Dylan Brown). It is important to note that the Eels do miss round 27. Elsewhere the Panthers, Roosters, Titans, Storm and Broncos only play one of the three major bye rounds with everyone else playing two of them.
On the other side of the equation, the Dragons miss round 1 due to their bye. One would say that they’re the perfect team given they had no-one average 50 or more in 2022. The retirement of Andrew McCullough will probably open up a good cashie slot at Hooker; but coaches will need to wait until round 2 to trade in that option or risk starting with a player carrying a big question mark. Speaking of question marks, the Dolphins play the first 10 rounds and the final six without interruption which should give coaches plenty of time to determine (if anyone) is keeper material.
And that’s it for now. Join us in 2023 when we’ll go through all the game changes as they come in, preview each team on a podcast episode before providing you some content that some would describe as biblical. Until then, continue to enjoy the break from NRL Fantasy and we’ll catch you in 2023!