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The Mercato - Right on Schedule (EDG & MID)

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.

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 16 trades (3 each in rounds 9-12, 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 three, we will cover Edge Forward (EDG) and Middle Forward (MID).

Edge Forward (EDG)

Much like the other 2-slot positions (HLF and CTR), we are going to assume that you have Angus Crichton ($710k, 27.21%) in your team. I would still argue that he’s underpriced and therefore if he’s not yet in your team, jump on.

As a Rooster, Crichton will miss rounds 14 and 19. With the injuries sustained to players like Cameron Murray, Angus is every chance of returning to the origin arena. Which at this stage, is just something you keep in your peripheral vision until teams are announced after round 12. For the sake of simplicity, we are going to assume in this piece that Crichton does not play origin.

Relevant Ownership Players: Josh Curran ($620k, 23.24%), J’Maine Hopgood ($798k, 20.93%), Kai Pearce-Paul ($671k, 13%), Haumole Olakau’atu ($766k, 8.27%), Shawn Blore ($650k, 7.01%), Morgan Smithies ($615k, 6.78%), John Bateman ($668k, 5.78%), Nat Butcher ($699k, 5.71%)

DPPs that miss rounds 14 and 19 (Morgan Smithies and Nat Butcher)

I’ve spoken about the DPPs being like goldust during the major bye period. These should be that…right? Well, they can be if you don’t hold too many other Raiders, Roosters or Dolphins which seems unlikely. With the MID position looking a little dicey for round 13, you’ll probably play both of them in your MIDs and have Angus paired with a KPP or Briton Nikora ($634k, 1.67%). Afterwards, you’d have to seriously consider moving them on to a player that’s already got two byes in the back pocket (think Tigers or Rabbitohs forwards). The only way this would change is if Angus actually plays origin, at which point you’d sell him at round 13.

Josh Curran

Byes: Rounds 15 and 19

Origin: Unlikely (NSW)

Much like the pair above, Curran is a DPP asset that you will likely play in your MIDs for round 13. With the standalone bye in round 15, Curran complements any set of EDGs in your team as he can sit in the MIDs when there’s an oversubscription risk and slide down in the trickier rounds (16 for some). Whilst I wouldn’t advocate a purchase of Curran, I’d definitely hold and re-evaluate at round 19 for Curran-t owners.

J’Maine Hopgood

Byes: 16 and 20

Origin: Strong Chance (QLD)

Last year’s mid-ranger of the season looks set to be in the Maroons squad, especially with Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Corey Horsburgh on the treatment table. If the Eels had the same bye schedule as last season where they played all three major bye rounds (13, 16 and 19), he’d be a certain sell. Whilst Parramatta play two major bye rounds (13 and 19) this season, it doesn’t make him an instant sell at round 13. Some coaches got rid on the bye assuming he’d make origin, and it remains to be seen whether that was the right call. Given how brutal round 14 could be, owners would be best to hold and hope he backs up before re-evaluating at round 16. At that point, he’s looking at missing three (16, 19, 20) of the next five rounds and you have to look at your coverage to see whether you can continue holding. Given he shares the round 20 bye with the likes of Nicho Hynes and Kayal Iro, it’s probably going to be hard to do so, given coaches will be loading up with their “new” 8 trades unlocked.


Shawn Blore

Byes: 13 and 19

Origin: Unlikely (NSW)

My official love interest for 2024 is fantasy relevant and I’m absolutely chuffed. Blore is a fantastic complementary piece for the EDG position, given we have multiple options to fill the slots in round 13. After that bye, he’ll get the job done in round 14 (Crichton) and 16 (Nikora, Pearce-Paul etc) are unavailable. The only concern is round 19, which is sorted if you had both Nikora and Pearce-Paul already. If you only have one of them, keep an eye peeled to which Tiger you’d like to buy out of Bateman, Fainu or Papali’i.


Haumole Olakau’atu

Byes: Rounds 13, 17 and 22

Origin: Strong chance (NSW)

One of my MVPs from 2023 has continued on from where he left off in 2023, which is great to see. Such strong form sees Olakau’atu in the race to play for the Blues, which on top of a 2-game suspension makes for tough sledding for owners. If you’ve held this far, I wouldn’t sell at round 13, given he could be a very useful green dot in round 14. You may as well keep holding until round 16 and re-evaluate at that point, ironically the point where I purchased him last season. If plays for the Sky Blue in game 2, I’d be very tempted to sell especially if he didn’t play 80 minutes backing up in round 14.

John Bateman

Byes: 13 and 26

Origin: English

Current owners were hoping that Bateman would continue on at lock and get the DPP. Benji has other ideas for now, having shifted him back to the edge and placing Isaiah Papali’I in the 13 jersey. For non-owners, this should be enough to stop you buying him given the only 50+ score when starting there came with a bunch of attacking stats at centre. If you already own Crichton and Blore, you’re looking at a significant oversubscription issue in round 16 unless Johnny gets the MID DPP. Until we know whether he will get it or not, best call is to hold off whilst we see how Angus goes with origin. If Angus goes to origin, dive straight in at round 14 to help your round 19 numbers.

Middle Forward (MID)

Given most of the relevant MIDs are either heading to origin or have EDG DPP, there’s too many variables to just state coverage strategies for the main protagonists. Instead, I’m going to look at certain clusters of players that may be useful acquisitions.

Max Plath ($640k, 9.79%, HLF DPP) is a useful Swiss Army Knife and gets his own paragraph. Whilst he is starting to get a bit pricy and close to the “correctly priced” category, he provides outstanding coverage across three major byes (13, 16 and 19) plus two minor byes (17 and 20). He does miss round 14 which is a major drawcard, but if you can work around that he can provide excellent HLFs insurance should Nicho Hynes go to origin as expected.

Once round 13 is done, the Titans and Rabbitohs will have just one bye left. Coaches that already have Jaimin Jolliffe ($705k, 3.24%) will be delighted to have him for rounds 14, 16, 19 and 20. Like Plath, he is probably close to being in the “correctly priced” category so it may be worth chasing value elsewhere. At the moment, it’s anyone's guess where that value will lie given the volatility in both packs and therefore worth waiting until round 14 to see where the dust settles. For those who don’t want to be patient, I really like the look of Davvy Moale ($329k, 7.11%). With the pack absolutely decimated, Moale looks set to get a proper run of good minutes. This season, he’s shown that he can run near a PPM when he gets at least 20 minutes so it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s near $500k come round 16.

Another team that comes to the fore in round 14 is the Warriors. They’ll be available up until round 19, making them useful assets for those five rounds between the first and third origin matches. Given Addin Fonua-Blake ($800k, 14.07%) and Tohu Harris ($773k, 7.32%) are RRP, best practise would be to continuing building up that team value to be in a position to replace one of your Roosters or Raiders in round 14. If you wanted to gamble on Dylan Walker ($560k, 1.11%) going at a PPM and getting 50+ minutes off the bench, be my guest. Just don’t complain if he turns into Terrell May Mk II. It’s also important to note that the Wahs don’t play in round 27, so probably don’t load up too hard on them.

When it comes to other MIDs with a decent price tag that would be near my shopping list, I probably only have three more players. Jack de Belin ($718k, 0.98%) isn’t as dynamic as he was last season, but before you get to the final 8 trades “unlocking” in round 20 he only misses round 16 during the major bye period, which is huge given how hard round 19 is looking. Much like Hopgood, he’d be hard to hold in round 20 given the Sharks are also off so you would need to bank on using two trades on him.

If you’re not in the market for round 19 numbers, Max King ($654k, 0.67%) could be a nice addition given the only other week he would miss during the period is round 15. In saying that, I’m not sure he’s got a 50+ average in him. A player that should have a 50+ average in him is Joseph Tapine. Given we’ve spoken at length about round 14, I would only look at him from round 15 if you think he can be a season-long keeper given he also misses round 19. So far, he’s only averaged 48.6 points per game, which is akin to the 51.6 he averaged up this point in 2023.

As you can see, the MID position is probably going to be the main position where you should be looking to spend trades during the major bye period. With most of the main protagonists featuring in origin, it’s a matter of cycling through the options as and when they fit the bill before getting the elite options after origin.

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. This wraps up the third and final part of Right on Schedule. Due to scheduling issues, there will be no Wacky Wednesday this week. Instead, I will be presenting another Mercato Audible of Right on Schedule, so be on the lookout for that in our podcast feed. After that, catch Brenton and I on The Fantasy Game Plan.


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