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The Schedule - Bye Strategy, Team Structure and Squad Planning for Round 1

Welcome to the final preseason edition of ‘The Schedule’.

‘Team List Tuesday’ is finally here. With Thursday night’s rolling lockout now looming, there are a number of important factors and pieces of fantasy relevant news that coaches must consider before finalising their teams. In this article, I will utilise my team (at the time of writing) to analyse player value, the season’s bye schedule and the need to have a balanced squad. Currently, I have 84K in the bank.

Nicholas Hynes was not named by the Sharks today. Currently, there is a lack of information surrounding the severity of his calf injury and the amount of games he will miss. With Hynes being a clear captaincy option for round 1, this presents a conundrum for fantasy coaches.

By straight swapping Hynes for Cleary, you save 27K and the balance of your team is not impacted.

If swapping Hynes for Murray, you save 80K and add a gun MID to your squad. This may result in your squad including three gun MIDs but not including a top tier keeper HLF or HOK. Jason from the Talking League crew has detailed this Murray approach in his latest edition of ‘The Mercato’. If swapping Hynes for Murray, coaches may look to select two of Burton, Munster and Doueihi (options owned by more than 5% of coaches at the time of writing) and start Brandon Smith at HOK.

The other option fantasy coaches have is to keep Hynes and place him in your emergencies. This means you are forced into playing someone who may only accumulate 20 – 30 fantasy PPG. Each week, you will miss out on approximately 34 – 46 points (Talking League Textbook projected Hynes to average 64 – 66 PPG), plus the scoring difference of your new captain. Without a firm return date and a bye in round 6, Hynes may miss multiple games before round 12. This means the race for total points accumulated up until round 12 may be down to a two-horse race between Cleary and Murray.

A lack of job security in popular WFB and CTR options is another issue confronting fantasy coaches. Miller and Warbrick appear to have high upside and secured a regular starting position in their respective teams. Other options named to start including Alamoti, Tabuai-Fidow, Talau and Thompson are owned by more than 15% of coaches (at the time of writing) but may be challenged to hold their spots week to week.

TK and J Warrior have identified that each year coaches play centre roulette due to players’ volatility and lack of job security. This has prompted them to start with a gun CTR. Key factors in this selection include looking for a player with a late bye, attacking upside and who may be underpriced.

Although on the Rabbitohs’ less favoured right edge, Graham (averaged 43.6 PPG in 2022) possesses a high floor. Holmes (averaged 43.4 PPG in 2022) is a strong ball runner who goal kicks and is in a team with a soft draw to start the season. Staggs (averaged 37 PPG in 2022) is an explosive tackle buster who may benefit from receiving more early ball playing outside Reynolds and Walsh and is second year post ACL injury.

As I am not starting with a gun centre and will want to pick up Manu during the Origin period, Tago and Bird are keeper options I will be tracking in the early rounds. Both players have attacking upside and get a bye out of the way in the early rounds. In addition to this, Bird has increased base stats when playing at lock for the Dragons.

My selections in the HOK, MID and EDG positions are based around where the value lies and point scoring reliability. Grant, Carrigan, Haas and Tapine are all elite options that are fully fit, play big minutes, have known roles and performed strongly in the trials. As a bonus, Tapine is not eligible to play Origin and looks to potentially be a season long keeper. Smith provides HOK/MID cover on your bench but has an increased role at the Roosters, with his previous sample at hooker when playing for the Storm indicating he has approximately 10 points in value and the potential to be a season long Kiwi keeper. The fact Smith is owned by 47% of coaches (at the time of writing) means he is close to a must have, with non-owners at risk of quickly falling behind the point scoring and cash generation pack early if he starts 2023 strongly. Multiple EDG options look to potentially have approximately 10 points of value, job security and high upside. This has resulted in me starting without an EDG gun and number of underpriced options.

The value of DPP players in 2023 is even greater due to the major, minor and individual bye rounds. Nat Butcher, Bird, Brandon Smith, Boyd, Koula, Hopgood, Tabuai-Fidow, Ford, Martin and Talau all present value and help give your squad cover.

That’s a wrap for ‘The Schedule’ in round 1. Future articles will focus on specific teams and individual players that may be trade targets in the upcoming rounds for fantasy coaches due to their price, position and strength of and bye schedule.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has bought the Talking League Textbook. Your contribution towards support of the podcast and raising much needed funds for Bowel Cancer Australia is appreciated.

Be sure to check out Talking League’s weekly podcasts as well as other published articles. Remember, analysis and strategy is key to setting up your fantasy team and starting strong. Until next time, enjoy finalising your teams and get pumped for kick off on Thursday night.


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