And welcome back to The Mercato, a long form series for Talking League. It’s been a longer than planned interruption to the series, with interruptions including a bit of travel. As JWarrior alluded to last week, I headed outback to the red centre spending a week in the Northern Territory. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Yulara and Kings Canyon and would highly recommend it to anyone. The Scenic Rim walk around Kings Canyon was a personal highlight (picture below). Anyway, you didn’t come here to read a travel journal, so let’s get into the NRL Fantasy.
Firstly, a quick update on #MercatoBall. It’s been a slow start in terms of points and team value growth, but with a few players turning the corner the chains are starting to move. As I alluded to in pre-season, I wanted to wait on Hynes until round 14 when he’ll have 2 byes in the rear-view mirror. However, with the fact he looks streets above any player in NRL Fantasy, we may need to revisit that after the Sharks bye. But until then I need to focus on team value growth so I can transition well around the first major bye round. For me, over the next few weeks I’ll be looking to bring in some of the bargain buys like Jayden Brailey, Tevita Tatola, Tyson Frizell, Hame Sele, Heilum Luki and Hudson Young as I look to solidify my round 13 contingent. After 4 rounds, I sit in rank 5866 on 3355 overall points, with Fogarty’s illness leaving me with just 16 players in the round just gone as I scored a below-par 932.
The major bye rounds (13, 16 and 19) are very interesting this year. In a first for the game, only your “13 on field” can score points during these rounds. What this means is that you can only score points from:
An excessive players will not contribute towards your overall score, keeping in mind that if you had 4 MIDs you could loop two against each other to take the better scorer. Currently in my side pre-round 5 trades, I have 8 eligible players but only 7 scorers: J’Maine Hopgood (EDG/MID), Joseph Tapine (MID), Jackson Ford (MID/EDG), Shaun Johnson (HLF), Jamal Fogarty (HLF), Isaiya Katoa (HLF), Kotoni Staggs (CTR) and Lachlan Miller (WFB). Because I have 3 HLFs, only 2 of them will score in my side with Katoa the likely NPR for me. Whilst Katoa being left out probably won’t be a massive impost for me as he currently averages 22.3, overshooting the runway in other positions might be a little more costly.
Jayden Brailey being exhibit A, with a 4 in round 2 causing the Knights Hooker to drop to $614k, a discount of $81k off his starting price. Brailey looks to be a solid high 40s-low 50s scorer that could post you scores in rounds 13 and 16, making him a solid option to purchase over the next three weeks. The value on offer is music to the ears of 26.2% of coaches that own Harry Grant, as Brailey can cover at HOK for his byes in rounds 9 and 13. It’s also good news for owners of either Damien Cook or Reed Mahoney, as Brailey can cover their absences in round 13. Where it gets tricky is for the 7% that own Reece Robson. Robson plays in round 13, meaning that coaches would be trading in Brailey with the knowledge that he would not count towards their score in that round and then head for a bye in round 14. Given the value on offer, he may still be worth picking up however it makes the decision less straightforward than it is for owners of Cook, Grant or Mahoney.
Brailey is a great example of keeping one eye on your situation for round 13 and 14. However, it’s important to note that outside of the HOK position it is unlikely that you’ll have superfluous expensive players in other positions sitting outside your scoring 13. This is because other positions have multiple slots and are positions that are more likely to possess DPP players. It’s also important to note that we’re still 8 rounds away from round 13, so the focus for now should be on taking those undervalued assets to build up that value. Not to mention, you can start making 3 trades a week from round 7 and 4 trades a week from round 13 which will make it easier to make those tweaks closer to round 13.
It’s also worth keeping round 14 the back of your mind. For me, fielding 17 in this round will be more important than fielding 13 in round 13. With the Eels, Knights and Sea Eagles on a bye, coaches will also need to contend with the risk that their origin players may not back up. At this stage of the season, I would focus on my efforts on finding a pool of players that you would like to have to play for you in round 14 and work backwards from there.
Last Wednesday 22nd March marked the start of Ramadan. For those not familiar with the celebration of Ramadan, here’s a summary:
Ramadan is celebrated in ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar and is considering a month of self-reflection for Muslims.
It lasts either 29 or 30 days and is dependent on the cycle of the moon.
Healthy adult Muslims must fast (including no drinking, eating) every day of Ramadan, from dawn until dusk. Fasting is practiced to allow Muslims “to see what it is like to be hungry and thirsty so that you feel compassion and a duty to help those less fortunate”.
Now at this point you may be asking, why is Ramadan featuring in The Mercato? There must be an NRL Fantasy angle, right? Correct. As you may be aware, Broncos forward Payne Haas converted to Islam in 2019 and does not seek an Fatwa (ruling/interpretation of Islamic Law by a Mufti) to exempt himself from Ramadan. Which means that this will be the 5th Ramadan observed by the State of Origin forward.
The Broncos have been very supportive of Haas observing Ramadan, and why wouldn’t they be. Not only is Ramadan incredibly important to Haas, but he’s proven that he can perform just as well as he does outside Ramadan:
2022 – 64 in 66 mins across 4 games
2021 – 67 in 61 mins across 4 games
2020 – NRL was shutdown due to Covid
2019 – 69 in 62 mins across 3 games
Given Haas has a career average of 62.4 across 62.3 minutesin NRL regular season games, I would not expect any regression from Haas during Ramadan. Not to mention, all the Broncos games during Ramadan are in the evening and will enable him to break his fast before kick-off:
Round 5 vs Tigers (Saturday 7:35PM AEDT)
Round 6 vs Raiders (Saturday 7:35PM AEST)
Round 7 vs Titans (Saturday 7:35PM AEST)
Round 8 vs Eels (Saturday 8PM AEST)
Not only that, we saw him perform well against the Dolphins with 70 points in 56 minutes, offloading to hand 3 times and getting himself a try-save. With a “Ramadan Average” that is better than his career average, Haas owners have nothing to worry about over the next 4 rounds. On behalf of Talking League, “Ramadan Mubarak” to any of our community that observe Ramadan.
And that’s all for this edition of The Mercato. This piece is a short interruption to what will be a longer-than-expected break from the usual content from me, as I’ll look to return to regular podcast appearances and fortnightly articles from round 9. In the meantime, keep the dial tuned to Talking League as we continue to deliver five shows a week, covering all your NRL Fantasy needs.