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The Mercato - Keys of Dichotomy

Welcome back to The Mercato, a long-form series for Talking League. The Major Bye Round period is finally on our doorstep and the game 1 origin teams have been announced. Now, coaches can look to make some moves to break away from the peloton and surge up the hill to their desired final place. With some key origin selections breaking for or against coaches, we’ll explore the dichotomy of some these decisions.

Accountability Time

But first, accountability time. My season of mediocrity continues, as the decision to hold off trading in most players that factored into my major bye round period planning didn’t pay off. I scored 789, which isn’t a terrible score in isolation but saw me slide back to 8,766 from 8,254. However, I only spent one trade, so with 12 trades and $538k in the bank I am confident that I will be able to make some moves. Below you can see the performances from the rest of the team. At this stage, all the boys are confident of fielding 13 players this week.


The Key Events

Over the weekend, we got our last round of matches before the origin teams were selected, with some key events taking place:

  • Nicho Hynes was selected for NSW despite failing to finish the match after passing a HIA in the Sharks 42-0 loss to the Panthers.

  • Angus Crichton was selected for NSW as a starting back rower.

  • David Fifita was not selected for Queensland.

  • Dylan Edwards was selected for NSW at fullback instead of incumbent captain James Tedesco.

Each of these events has a ripple effect on the NRL Fantasy landscape as it includes the most expensive player in the game, the two most expensive EDGs in the game, the most expensive WFB in the game and a traditional WFB gun that hasn’t been a factor during this period due to being an origin certainty.

With expensive players comes the ability to generate significant cap room by dealing one or two of these players out the door. But the question most coaches are asking, is to who? Of the twenty players priced $750k or more, just three (Dylan Brown, Joseph Manu, Euan Aitken) are available to play this week. Even if we drop the threshold down to $700k, we only pick up another four (Mitchell Moses, Jack de Belin, Nat Butcher, Reed Mahoney). So seven above $700k.

Now of course, coaches can build a warchest for round 14 as we enter the first round where there will be some teams that have played two byes, namely:

  • Rabbitohs and Titans (Final Bye Round 17)

  • Storm (Final Bye Round 19)

  • Tigers (Final Bye Round 26)

With some really interesting assets in these teams, having the capacity to buy the likes of David Fifita, Latrell Mitchell, Keaon Koloamatangi (if he lands DPP), Stefano Utoikamanu and Eliesa Katoa in a single trade could be crucial in a season where most coaches have burned trades on injury replacement.

The Wishlist

The other part that we need to consider is that with limited trades, we are going to be hamstrung when it comes to building our final side. You probably have a wishlist of elite guns that you would like to add to your existing side. For me, I would like to add:

  • Nathan Cleary

  • Isaah Yeo

  • David Fifita

  • Payne Haas

  • J’Maine Hopgood

The Economic Landscape

I imagine the list of players will be similar for a lot of coaches, minus one or two that you may already have. Realistically, I think I will be able to get these players in from a team value perspective. I have a team value of $13.193m (including cash ITB) which is probably slightly behind the eight-ball, with par looking like somewhere between $13.25-$13.3m. When you factor in that:

  • Most coaches would own Kaeo Weekes ($499k) and David Armstrong ($444k), and

  • Some would have shares in the likes of Tolutau Koula ($474k), Daniel Atkinson ($399k), Tyran Wishart ($423k), and

  • We may have a new cashie on the block in the form of Brendan Hands ($230k).

It appears that the likelihood of soaring into a team value of $13.75m+ shouldn’t be an issue this season, which seemed a far-fetched prospect in the first few rounds. The issue in terms of building your final roster is going to be trades. As compiled by YAFSS, the top 1k teams have on average 21 trades left for the season. That is, 13 until the remaining 8 get unlocked in round 20.

If we return to my hitlist above of five players, it will probably cost the average coach about 7-8 trades to acquire those players. This is because not only do you need to spend a trade to acquire the player, but you also need to create cap-room by cashing down the likes of Weekes, Armstrong, Wishart and co as they peak.

If we take the average trades remaining for the season left from above, you’re left at 13-14 trades left. Which doesn’t seem so bad, until you consider that we need to negotiate 15 more rounds of which 8 are in the major bye period. Not only that, but coaches also now have the ability to spend up to four trades a round. Which when the temptation is there, many will fall for it and chew through their trades quicker than planned. Before we look at these potential sells individually, it’s important to factor into your decision whether you will have enough trades left to re-acquire the player.

The Key Players

Nicho Hynes

Price: $1.004m

BE: 110

Bye Rounds Remaining: 16 and 20

Potential Origin Backups: @ Broncos Sat 8/6 (Round 14), @ Bulldogs Fri 28/6 (Round 17)

It seems wild to be considering selling the best player in NRL Fantasy, yet here we are. An early exit against the Panthers shed $60k off his price and has him looking at potentially two games of a BE north of 100. Now Hynes has proven that he can ton up in 2024, but the bigger risk is that we get a repeat of the Panthers game where Sharks fall behind to the Broncos or Dolphins, Hynes feels his calf and the Sharks withdraw him. Which they have the luxury of doing, after all they are 9-2 with 2 byes to come. If that were to occur, there’s a strong chance that you’d be able to re-purchase him with an 8 at the front of his price. And if an injury setback occurs, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place deciding whether to sell when the player is at his lowest price.

The argument for holding Hynes would be around trade conservation, alluding to the fact that we should have enough cash to build our final team. Given the fact that we are going to be able to buy Nathan Cleary in the $800s, one could argue that taking the discount on him might offset any losses in value on Hynes. There’s also the matter of the standalone bye rounds in 15 and 18 to consider, where Hynes should loom as the best captaincy option due to being the best player in the game.

Personally, I will be holding Hynes in round 13 as I don’t require many trades to field a 13 nor need to free up cap room. If he doesn’t back up in round 14, I will likely be selling him as I load up on expensive players that feature in rounds 16 and 19. I would then be hoping that he drops some coin before an eventual pickup later in the season.

Angus Crichton

Price: $866k

BE: 65

Bye Rounds Remaining: 14, 19 and 23

Potential Origin Backups: vs Tigers Sun 30/6 (Round 17), @ Storm Sat 20/7 (Round 20)

The prevailing wisdom amongst the fantasy community has been to sell Crichton at round 13 or 14, given he misses both rounds due to origin and a Roosters Bye. Which from an economical point makes sense, given most coaches have scored themselves at least $400k in potential profit. That profit can be moved on to players that feature more regularly during the bye period, with Crichton locked in to miss 13, 14, 16 and 19 should he stay in Sky Blue.

Whilst it appears Crichton may be overpriced compared to his season average, it’s important to remember that his first two appearances consisted of 51 minutes in total. As a starting back rower, he has averaged 66.3 which is only surpassed by Nicho Hynes’ average. Granted, this sample size has an 80% try-scoring rate which you imagine would regress over the rest of the season. Even a decent drop still sees him as a prospect that can average 60+ across the rest of the season.

Personally, I will be holding Crichton in round 13 as I don’t require many trades to field a 13 nor need to free up cap room. The decision to hold or sell will probably come down to how many minutes he plays in origin with two back rowers on the bench, whether I hold Hynes and whether Keaon Koloamatangi gets DPP in round 14.

David Fifita

Price: $919k

BE: 71

Bye Rounds Remaining: 13 and 17

It was a surprise to most NRL Fantasy coaches that David Fifita wasn’t selected for the Maroons in game one. But that opens it up for coaches to snap him up in round 14, with the Titan getting two free rounds before he could potentially be called up for game two. There is of course the risk that he does get picked for games two and three, meaning he would miss 16, 17 and 19 in a four-game span. But even in that, he would get a free run at round 18.

Personally, he’s getting traded straight into my team when lockout lifts after round 13. Only Nicho averages more than him, making him as close to a “must-have” as can be, given how attainable he is when we have team values over $13m. Even if he gets a recall to origin, I have plans in place to cover the EDG slots for rounds 16 and 19. He’s also a viable “trade-in captain” option for round 14 given the 24-hour cut-off for their match is before the first game of the round.

Dylan Edwards

Price: $823k

BE: 51

Bye Rounds Remaining: 16 and 19

Potential Origin Backups: vs Sea Eagles Sun 9/6 (Round 14), vs Cowboys Sun 30/6 (Round 17), vs Dolphins Sun 21/7 (Round 20)

Edwards owners like SeaBalls must be absolutely chuffed so far, with the fullback packing on $163k from his starting price. It’s just unfortunate that he’s played that well that he’s got a well-deserved shot at State of Origin. The Panthers have a perfect bye schedule for origin players given they miss two of the major bye rounds and have three home Sunday games for their players to back up. You’d expect him to probably backup two out of three, which is passable for a guy who could well be a season-long keeper. Given the plethora of cash around, it may be wise to hold into round 14 and see if he backs up. Otherwise, leaning into the fact that’ll he lose the goal-kicking when Cleary returns means it’s probably worth selling at the top of the market.

James Tedesco

Price: $679k

BE: 27

Bye Rounds Remaining: 14, 19 and 23

Having picked up The German three weeks ago, I’m content with a $103k discount on his current price and scores of 60, 46 and 69. You’d think after losing the Sky Blue captaincy and his spot in the team, Tedesco will be keen for big one against the Cowboys. I’ve got the big C on him, and any current owners should be looking to do the same. A word of caution for purchasers this week, the Roosters play the last game so if he were to be a late-out for any reason, you won’t be able to reverse. Assuming you can make the round 14 red dots work, he’s a great purchase this week given it is unlikely he will return to origin.

It’s important to note that my perspectives on each player are shaped by my current squad and planned moves during the major bye round period. To establish which moves may be best for your squad, it’s always recommended that you visualise your bye round coverage. We offer a bye planner, which you can download for free below.

Download XLSX • 250KB

But that wraps up this edition of The Mercato. Be sure to check out the rest of our content on the podcast feed, but until next time up the Blues!



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