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The Mercato - The Long Road Ahead

And welcome back to The Mercato, a long-form series for Talking League. After getting in the air and on the road to visit Tasmania and Melbourne over the fast fortnight, it’s time to look at the current fantasy landscape and where things look as we edge closer to the major bye rounds.

Accountability Time

This where the Talking League Team currently sit in the overall ranks:

As you can see, Rowey, Rich and Sean have really hit their straps and are narrowing in on the top 1k, a fantastic spot to launch from into the major bye rounds.

Personally, my rank hasn’t been moving as quickly as I would’ve liked it to. Sitting just outside 11k, I went through quicksand in round 8 with 3 Dogs on the bye and $453k in the bank. But that’s okay, it gives me the room to move on Kyle Flanagan ($397k), Terrell May ($620k) and Tom Chester ($406k) to Reuben Garrick ($547k), Sam Walker ($557k) and Jaimin Jolliffe ($647k). With $98k left for future moves, my team is close enough to a squad value of $12m ($11.965m) to continue moving towards a squad value north of $13m before we hit major bye rounds.

The Challenging Landscape

My travails won’t be too dissimilar to a lot of fantasy coaches in the community. I’ve copped injuries to the likes of Payne Haas, Mitchell Moses, Jamal Fogarty, Kalyn Ponga, Heilum Luki, Jayden Campbell. Regular trading out unexpected red dots stalls your progress, which has made the season very challenging. And a lot of coaches are in a similar boat, having an injury list that is the same or even larger than mine. Some of these coaches are still several thousand ranks ahead of me, and I doff my cap to them.

Even for the coaches that find themselves outside the top 10k, 15k, 20k, 25k or even 30k, they haven’t necessarily made a plethora of poor decisions. The best example of this is some of the content creators that find themselves a long way behind even me. I’m not going to single those creators out, because that achieves nothing. The point is for those who find themselves out the back of the peloton is that there’s plenty of good fantasy minds near you in those ranks. The bad luck that you’ve copped with injuries will turn, and with a bit of patience you’ll find yourself back closer to where you want to be. I’ve seen plenty of comments from coaches saying that they’re tempted to give up, and I hope that they stick at it and don’t throw in the towel.

The trick to recovering ranks is to be patient and not just chase scores. I know in my own team that I’ve taken a medium to long-term approach to my trade-outs, looking for the value options that may take some time to blossom instead of paying full freight for the “proven” options. Looking at the likes of Sam Walker ($557k), Briton Nikora ($608k), Reuben Garrick ($547k), John Bateman ($642k) and Jayden Brailey ($490k) at the expense of going for those priced $700k and above will cause short term pain but help you in the long run.

Another element of recovering your rank will be the major bye rounds. Naturally, there will be a lot of head-to-head (h2h) teams in the peloton that have made a great start to the season from an overall perspective. Once the bye rounds hit, the h2h coaches will put the feet up in the major bye rounds (13, 16 and 19) and drift back out into the weeds. Which is of no concern for them, as they are just focused on making their h2h finals and having sufficient trades to attack the finals series.

New Version of the Talking League 2024 Bye Planner

Heading into round 9, it’s probably worth starting to visualise what your bye round numbers are looking like. Many tools are available our there for coaches, the offering from us of course is the Talking League 2024 Bye Planner. A new version (1.5) is available to download below and includes the latest DPPs and other minor updates. If there any bugs that you come across, be sure to let us know in the DMs.

Download XLSX • 250KB

Tools like the Talking League 2024 Bye Planner are useful as they help you visualise your bye rounds, identifying potential holes in your current squad. Like a lot of NRL Fantasy, bye planning isn’t an exact science. Whilst a lot of players will be “good for byes” for most coaches, there will be instances where a player doesn’t work for your bye planning build and vice versa. This is important to note, as on the podcast we will talk about lots of interesting options that could be useful for your bye planning, but may not fit your build as:

  • You may be already fully subscribed in that position for the next major bye.

  • You may already have a lot of players from that team, and they have an upcoming standalone bye.

  • You may already have a lot of players from their minor bye round cluster eg. Raiders/Roosters/Sharks, Rabbitohs/Sea Eagles/Titans, Sharks/Eels/Dragons.

  • Purchasing that player may not leave you sufficient cap room to pick up a more useful player for your bye planning build.

These teams have interesting bye schedules that could make them very useful in your bye planning build:

  • Tigers – only miss round 13 in the major bye round period

  • Knights – only miss round 16 in the major bye round period

  • Storm and Warriors – play every round between rounds 14 and 18

  • Dolphins – play every major bye round (13, 16, 19) as well as two minor bye rounds (17 and 20)

  • Bulldogs – play two major bye rounds (13, 16) as well as every minor bye round (14, 17, 20)

  • Sharks – play every round up until round 16, then have three rounds of availability before their final bye in round 20

  • Eels – after round 9, they are the same as the Sharks

  • Titans and Rabbitohs – from round 13, the only round they miss for the rest of the season is round 17

Now just because a team isn’t included in the list above doesn't mean that they aren’t relevant. After all, the relevance will be how the players in these teams complement the players that are already in your team from a positional coverage basis. This is also where Dual Position Players (DPPs) come to the fore, as it enables you flexibility should you want to leave the acquisition of the 13th player for a major bye round until that round. It’s certainly played a part in me buying Max Plath last week, as I see Hynes playing origin and we knew that Sam Walker would be a buy at some point. With the DPP HLF/MID, Plath can slot into either spot once we know whether Hynes will be involved in origin or not.

Before we go, apologies about the audio quality on the latest edition of The Fantasy Game Plan. The issue was from my end, rest assured it will be resolved for next round’s episode. In the meantime, be sure to climb into all the episodes on the Talking League Podcast feed and I’ll be back soon with another edition of The Mercato.


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