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The Mercato - Right on Schedule (CTR & WFB)

Updated: May 8

Welcome back to The Mercato, a long form series for Talking League. As we approach closer to the Major Bye Period, the more specific we can look to get with the players that we target that may be “good for byes”. In the last few editions as well as on The Fantasy Game Plan, I’ve spoken about how a player may be good for your bye planning build, but not for others. In this three-part series, I will cover each position with the lynchpin players owned by the majority and the players that can help with coverage and avoiding oversubscription.

Before we get into that, another reminder that the Talking League 2024 Bye Planner is now available to download. It’s a simple, free-to-use tool that can help visualise how your current collection of players stacks up for the bye rounds. I recommend using the bye planner in collaboration with this three-part series. The latest version (v1.5) is available to download below.

Download XLSX • 250KB

The aim behind this three-part series is to look at players owned by the majority of fantasy coaches. The reason that this is important is:

  • We only have a maximum of 13 trades (3 each in rounds 10-12, 4 in round 13) that we could potentially use before round 13 kicks off.

  • As per the data collected by the fantastic stats website that is YAFSS, coaches on average have 19 trades left. That is, they’ve spent 17 trades or almost a third of all trades available during the season.

  • Where possible, we want to avoid oversubscription as this leads to positional, points and trade wastage.

  • Where possible, we want to hold onto these players to save trades.

As discussed in previous editions, we want to avoid oversubscribing where possible in the major bye rounds (13, 16 and 19) as this is points gone wanting. However, it may be unavoidable if there are good quality cash cows or cut-price keepers that emerge before or during the major bye round period. What we want to do is avoid oversubscribing on expensive players, an example would be having all three of Jahrome Hughes, Shaun Johnson and Sam Walker in round 16 when you can only play three of them. Granted, Sam Walker is currently looming as a cut-price keeper but by the time you get to round 16, all three of these players should be $700k+.

In part two, we will cover Centre (CTR) and Wing/Fullbacks (WFB).

Centre (CTR)

Much like the HLF position (in edition one), I will base the structure around the fact that all active coaches should own Kayal Iro ($472k, 47.26%). If you are one of the 42.74%, please buy him as he is still incredible value at just above $400k.

Relevant Ownership Players: Ethan Strange ($444k, 49.54%), Joseph Manu ($775k, 19.66%), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ($553k, 17.85%), Reuben Garrick ($588k, 9.56%), Euan Aitken ($690k, 4.64%), Jacob Kiraz ($591k, 4.48%), Bronson Xerri ($484k, 4.25%)

Iro’s Sharks have byes in 16 and 20, meaning that for every other round between 13 and 19 you have one CTR slot locked in. With all the relevant ownership players having DPP (besides Xerri), it should in theory be an easy time. However, as you will probably need to rely on the DPPs to help fill your WFB contingent at times there probably will be a need to make some trades.

Ethan Strange

Byes: 14 and 19

Origin: Very unlikely (NSW)

Strange’s involvement in the Raiders’ 40-0 loss to the Sharks certainly has piqued the interest of NRL Fantasy Coaches looking to move the magnets. Having made nearly $200k on his starting price, Strange comes into an interesting moment with two byes in five weeks (rounds 10 and 14). Should coaches elect to keep Strange until round 17, he would provide a CTR score in major bye rounds 13 and 16. Whether he is worth holding that long comes down to whether his involvement compared to Weekes lifts. Personally, I’m open to holding until round 14 however the emergence of David Armstrong ($302k), Daniel Atkinson ($264k) as well as the prospect of picking up the likes of Will Penisini ($517k) or Taylan May ($517k) for knockdown prices may see me move him earlier. Even with round 16 potentially being tough for outside backs, there’s enough DPP options available to make him disposable. Should Jack Wighton continue on at 6, a round 14 trade could be on the cards as Wighton will be available for both rounds 16 and 19.

Joseph Manu

Byes: 14, 19 and 23

Origin: Kiwi

Usually Manu is decent value heading into the major bye round period. But not this year; he’s packed on $120k on top of his starting price, thanks to just one score below 46 this season. As a result, it’s probably not best to pay full freight for a player when we are looking to build our squad value. But current owners will be prioritising him in their round 14 red dots, the other main drawback for non-owners besides the price. Whilst owners could pair him up with Iro in round 13, it’s more likely that they’ll slot him in WFB. With Iro unavailable in round 16, there may be a need to play him in the CTRs that week. But like all DPP outside backs, you can make that decision later once you know who else you have at your disposal.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Byes: 13, 19 and 27

Origin: Kiwi

There’s been a bit of chat around RTS being a trade because he’s “bad for byes”, which I’ve found interesting. Yes, he misses he only plays major bye round in 16, but that is arguably the most difficult round to cover with the some of the favourites like Dane Gagai, Kayal Iro, Izack Tago, Taylan May, Will Penisini all unavailable in this round. Round 13 should be simple to cover given it’s the first bye round and in round 19 there will be players like Jack Wighton, Euan Aitken and Herbie Farnworth who will have completed their byes. Not to mention the lynchpin Kayal Iro is available in both those rounds. Whilst I am not an RTS owner nor do I plan to buy him, it would be a sound move for owners to hold RTS and incorporate him into their bye planning until at least round 18 before re-assessing ahead of the round 19 bye.

Reuben Garrick

Byes: Rounds 13, 17 and 22

Origin: Unlikely (NSW)

Much like last season, an early exit vs the Panthers sees Garrick drop to a below-market rate. When you consider he comes with the DPP, Garrick should be an excellent purchase for another week or so. As mentioned before with RTS, Garrick covers what could be a tricky round 16 in either position plus is available in round 19. The round 17 bye shared with the Titans and Rabbitohs should be easy to navigate given the small amount of fantasy-relevant players from those teams. Whilst his final bye is in round 22, an organic DPP red dot in that round might be nice for looping. Avoid Garrick at your peril.

Euan Aitken

Byes: Rounds 14 and 18

Origin: Unlikely (NSW)

Every coach that’s been around the traps knows that when Aitken gets to be an OOP at EDG, he can be fantasy gold. And he’s shown that this season with scores of 45, 53, 48, 49, 53 and 69. So why haven’t more coaches jumped on? Well, there’s the factors of many cheap CTRs available, the uncertainty around Aitken’s job security and that he’ll be a red dot in round 14 to contend with. If coaches are unable to cut down the rest of their Roosters and Raiders, he may only be feasible from round 15, at which point there’s only a manageable standalone bye in round 18 to contend with. Until then, we need to monitor where Lemuelu fits into the puzzle.

Jacob Kiraz/Bronson Xerri

Byes: 15 and 19

Origin: Unlikely (NSW)

The Bulldogs pair will be quite useful for coaches across the major bye round period as they are available for rounds 13, 14, 16, 17, 18 and 20. Like Aitken, the standalone bye should be quite manageable in round 15 as coaches would’ve dealt their Bulldogs cashies on bye then. Round 19 might be a battle, but like RTS there is always the chance to move onto a Wighton, Farnworth or Aitken after round 17. Kiraz and Garrick owners will probably need to use at least one of these at WFB in round 16, which is worth factoring in when you consider what round 16 players you currently and/or plan to have.

Overall, the CTR position shouldn’t be too difficult to cover in the major bye round period due to the need to only fill two slots each round.

Wing/Fullback (WFB)

Along with MID, I feel like WFB will be the hardest position to fill each round during the major bye round period. This probably down to the fact that these two positions are the only two that require three players each round.

Like the CTR position, I was going to base the structure around the fact that coaches own Ryan Papenhuyzen ($573k, 44.8%). However, Ryan unfortunately got injured in round 9 so most coaches will look to move him on.

Relevant Ownership Players: Kaeo Weekes ($339k, 26.99%), Chevy Stewart ($264k, 19.94%), David Armstrong ($302k, 25.04%), Joseph Manu ($775k, 19.66%), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ($553k, 17.85%), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad ($642k, 12.52%), Reuben Garrick ($588k, 9.56%), Scott Drinkwater ($706k, 7.23%)

With no lynchpin with Papenhuyzen on the treatment table, a different approach is required given the variation between teams. Instead, we’ll look at tranches of players that have similar bye patterns and the teams that may complement them.

The Round 14 Trio (Roosters/Raiders/Dolphins)

Plenty of these options are list above, but we can also throw James Tedesco ($576k, 6.08%) and Trai Fuller ($562k, 5.12%) in the mix. The round 14 will be quite difficult, however there will be 14 teams available to choose from.

As Brenton and I have spoken about on The Fantasy Game Plan, round 19 is going to be very complicated for fantasy coaches. Fortunately for owners of Fuller, the Dolphins do play in round 19 which works well if he’s still viable. The other teams that play in round 19 are: Rabbitohs, Sharks, Tigers, Titans, Eels, Broncos, Dragons, Sea Eagles and Knights.

When you remove the origin players, it does lead to slim pickings. Which is why Reuben Garrick and David Armstrong are key buys over the next week or so, given they’re still excellent prices. AJ Brimson ($579k, 2.83%) is another player that’s going to be underpriced for another week or so, although his viability given his history of injuries. A player who’s going the other direction is Latrell Mitchell ($712k, 10.72%) who returns from a 3-game suspension this week. Much like Wighton, there’s no rush to purchase Rabbitohs players given the state of the team however come round 14 they will just have one bye left instead of two (Raiders/Dolphins) or three (Roosters). Whilst Clint Gutherson is currently hurt, he could become a good option upon return although beware he doesn’t score as well when playing along Mitchell Moses

The Round 13 and 19 duo (Warriors and Storm)

Although it’s now only two players of concern in RTS and CNK, they do warrant a mention. Round 13 should be pretty simple given it’s the first major bye round, however as stated above round 19 will be a battle. As a result, coaches aiming to hold onto these two should look to scoop up Garrick and Armstrong if they haven’t already, and then work out the rest closer to round 19.

Play 13 but miss 19 (Panthers, Bulldogs and Cowboys)

The Bulldogs hold the extra ace given they have a standalone bye in round 15 and feature in round 16 unlike the Panthers and Cowboys. For coaches that plan to get Garrick and Armstrong as suggested, it’s important to note Armstrong will miss round 16. This is where Brimson comes into the fore, given his last bye is round 17 means you can lean on him for rounds 16 and 19. The Round 14 Trio (Roosters/Raiders/Dolphins) are all available in round 16, so take that into consideration should you look to move on your Raiders this week, or any of the trio in round 14.

Overall, it’s important to consider that a lot of your CTR-eligible players may be DPP and required in that other position, especially WFB. Conventional wisdom is to plan your back five almost like it is one position, and then ensure that you have at least 4 players that can play CTR and/or WFB before round 13 and evaluate as each major bye round comes up.

As we’ve seen already this season, carnage including injuries and suspensions can occur rapidly, so it remains crucial that you remain agile and flexible with your major bye round period planning. In the third part, we’ll cover the coverage strategies for the relevant assets in the MID, and EDG positions. Until then, catch Brenton and I on The Fantasy Game Plan.




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