Welcome to the Writer’s Room, a series where all the writers from the Talking League team get together to bring you analysis, reviews and other content of interest. The first iteration in this series sees the team review the 2022 season and we answer some questions about our fantasy seasons. For those who may not be aware, the Writer’s Room currently consists of the following members of the Talking League team:
What is your team name and how did your 2022 season go?
TK: Spice it up - Talking League, Rank 428. Peak – round 18 rank 189, Worst rd 1 – rank 24,292.
JO: Jake’s Juggernauts, Rank 1992. Overall, it was a pretty underwhelming season for myself, having my worst overall rank since the last season of Dream Team back in 2013. Silver lining was that it could have been much worse though. I dropped down to a rank of 5,536 in round 16 after having a rank of 743 back in round 6. A strong run home, and a little bit of luck on the injury front saw my rank improve significantly by round 25.
JR: RNGD Ruck Like Fabbits, Rank 2554. Another disappointing season by my standards, the second in a row outside the top 1k. A slow start and some poor trades made early in the season meant I sat outside the top 10k until round 7 and fell away once everyone got four trades in round 20. Captain Cameron Murray scoring 1 after failing a HIA in Round 25 was a metaphor of my NRL Fantasy season.
JW: RNGD JWARRIOR Final Rank – 1707, Peak-1661 (Round 24), Low- 27,754 (Round 1)
RC: Vossy for PM, Rank 1160. Largely thanks to becoming a more serious player, this season I have achieved my best overall ranking. After starting the season in a strong position at a rank of 2011 in Round 4, one poor trade meant I slipped to a rank of 9195 in Round 8. From here onwards, bye round planning, luck in avoiding major injuries and suspensions and viewing and reading fantasy content more seriously helped my overall rank significantly improve by Round 25.
What was your best trade of the season?
TK: Payne Haas to Reuben Cotter (Round 6). Haas was $904k at the time but the red flags were emerging. That’s why you need a mix of qualitative (identifying trends, behaviours, non numbers) and quantitative analysis (stats & numbers). For Haas he got suspended for the Kelly incident, had contract issues and had a minor shoulder injury. Those three stats were major for his form drop and his value not being $904k. Latrell Mitchell in round 17 is the reverse. He started the season injured and was misfiring. However the qualitative analysis with him doing his rehab in the USA and his importance for a Rabbitohs run made his $557k price an easy decision, particularly with WFB being so shallow.
JO: Siosifa Talakai to Jacob Kiraz (Round 12). This trade I feel was by far my best for the season, for two reasons in particular. The first being the team value I saved post round 12 due to this trade; Talakai losing approximately 200k, and Kiraz making approximately 300k. Secondly, in the same week the trade provided me with the cash to upgrade an absolute dud in Blake Taaffe to Nat Butcher, who also went on to be a pretty handy cash cow.
JR: Brodie Jones to Adam Elliott (Round 9). This trade was quite common amongst coaches so it probably sums up my season! Elliott went on to be a season-long keeper and he came in for Jones, netting me $49k.
JW: Jack Bird Rd 15 I bought him in as a bit of dual coverage and at 442k. Although he had 2 scores in the 20’s, I only played him in one of those but in games I played him which was 9 of last 10 games. He averaged 58. When he got a start at lock he looked good and scored well.
RC: Josh Jackson to Adam Doueihi in Round 19. In Rounds 15 and 18, Jackson lost his 80-minute role at lock and moved to the second row. With his bye played, a decreased net tackle count and additional minutes for RFM, Jackson was no longer a cut price keeper. With a three game sample size (two games coming off the bench) and a 2021 average of 61.4 fantasy points when starting at five-eighth, Doueihi had proven pedigree. As a 100k cheaper option compared to Latrell and playing out of position to gain greater base stats, trading Jackson to Doueihi meant I banked 138k and had three keeper wing/fullbacks.
Which player do you wish you had in your 2022 team that you never owned?
TK: Euan Aitken. Given round 13 and performance I was a dumb kent and chose Bird, delete app.
JO: Cameron Murray – Muz was a player that I just couldn’t seem to find the spare cash to be able to afford this season. With an average of 66, he was my far the best MID option this season, and even though I had some good MIDs in the likes of Haas, Ofa, Yeo, and Crichton, I just lacked that extra 10+ points per round in that position.
JR: Isaiah Papali’i was someone I discounted purely because of the uncertainty around his final season at Parramatta. He started on fire, sailed north of $900k and ended up finishing the season in familiar form. He also managed to play all 24 games, so he’s as reliable as they get.
JW: Damien Cook, a tried and true fantasy gun, I decided I could get value out of Mahoney and it kept me from being in the top echelon. The only thing worse than getting Mahoney was selling him and buying him a 2nd time. All the while Cook was killing it.
RC: Without doubt, Damien Cook. In hindsight, Cook was the smarter and cheaper option, with Mahoney returning in 2022 from off-season shoulder surgery. Compared to Cook, Mahoney’s net tackle count separated me from the top ranked teams early on and I was forever trying to catch-up overall points. Origin duties, his price and my team salary meant I could not afford Cook, as Grant was a cheaper keeper option who allowed me to trade in DCE, Teddy and Murray. Cookie will definitely be a player I am starting with in 2023.
First player in your team next season, and why?
TK: This will be determined by the world cup squads and how much footy is played overseas. Guys like Cleary and Doueihi didn’t have full preseasons so their performances this season was outstanding. Cleary with the 1 he scored in the second off game likely means his current average of 62 will price him 8-10 points below his actual potential. It will be hard to go against Hynes. Going into a second year of the new Fitz system where I expect the team to show their true potential, Hynes might add more points to his average. The Sharks have incredibly high error rate and low competition rate so if the ball is in play more in attack and they are getting to more kicks then I expect Hynes to thrive. Given he only played one game at full back I do expect him to lose the WFB tag; which is an issue as with tackle breaks worth less this year this made the value and depth of the position very shallow. This will only get worse with the expected loss of both Hynes and Doueihi.
JO: Fairly straight forward for me, pending fitness, Tom Trbojevic will be straight into my WFB next season. He looks set to be priced at around the 37 point average and has proven pedigree to average 50+.
JR: If we exclude the discounted Nathan Cleary from the equation, I’m going to roll with Eliesa Katoa who has finished the season with an average just above 30. With a move to the Melbourne Storm in the off-season, I think he’ll feature in everyone’s teams with 15+ points of value.
JW: There are players that would be non-negotiable Nathan Cleary at 833k is under valued. Luke Metcalfe should get the 6 for warriors and will make money. Jack Howarth I suspect may get a start, if not whoever starts in 2nd row for Melbourne will be a cash cow could be Katoa.
RC: Josh Schuster will be close to basement price and should have first crack at the five-eighth role in 2023. Through five games in the halves across his career, Schuster averages 42.8 fantasy points. Opting out of the World Cup this year allows Schuster to have a full and uninterrupted preseason, allowing his body to be in peak shape heading into Round 1. Schuster’s should obtain a reliable 30/40-point base through net tackles and run and kick metres, with attacking upside through tackle busts because of his large frame as a running five-eighth. Turbo’s return from injury will help take the spotlight off him when attacking left, improving his scoring output.
Favourite moment on the podcast?
TK: Recruiting a team to move Talking League forward. We have a crew of 11 fantasy lovers all with different personalities and skills, it's been great to see the development of every one in both presenting audio, live shows and the articles have made the podcast a complete package.
JO: Hosting the Thursday night Q&A for the first time would be my favourite moment of the year. Can’t wait to rip into answering more listener’s questions heading into next season!
JR: When TK called Leo Thompson “Eeyore”, it was a moment that had me in absolute stitches; I was laughing so hard I nearly had to pull the car over to compose myself. Personally, becoming part of the Buy, Sell, Hold and Avoid crew was great fun.
JW: Joining the boys in Q&A was fun, but really excited to see how us Kiwis can provide some entertainment to the Sunday Wrap show. Listening to TK trying pump up Will Kennedy’s tires all season was pretty funny too.
RC: Becoming a writer and joining TK, Jake and J Warrior on the Thursday Live Q&A was my favourite moment of 2022. I thoroughly enjoyed answering listener questions and delving more into the analytical side of being a fantasy coach. This helped me to greater identify qualitative and quantitative statistical trends that should inform the decision-making of coaches when trading in and trading out players. I would always get a laugh out of listening to the team’s Tuesday show. Hearing the catch phrases, banter and narratives of TK, Corbs and Andy always provided a humorous but relatable and informative insight to my decision-making as a fantasy coach.
What piece of advice would you give to a rookie NRL Fantasy Coach to help them in 2023?
TK: A strong round 1 start is crucial. Don’t get too cute going away from the pack to far early on. This year I spent too much early trades correcting errors like Tago and Critta early on when they were obvious trades and those 2 extra trades would be handy towards the back end of the season. Getting it early right means you can go hard at the large bye rounds (not sure what this looks like next year) and can move your team into a very good rank. Strong quality dual players will also be crucial. I do expect guns like Hynes, Doueihi, Papali’i, Burton, Crichton and Cotter to lose this status so be sure to track all the changes going into next year.
JO: Fantasy is all about value. Look for under-priced players who have changed their role in their team from last season, players that have had their averages affected by injuries, and basement priced rookies who look likely to make money.
JR: Whilst we love to talk about #PODPotential at Talking League, the best picks in your round 1 team are the most obvious picks. Even if everyone owns them, they’re owned for a reason and not taking an undervalued player because they’re too highly owned is a risk you don’t need to take. Take it from someone who started round 1 without Izack Tago and Jeremiah Nanai and was always on the back foot, you don’t want to miss these types of players.
JW: Save Trades, Save Trades and Save Trades. If you trade or pick someone in your team, try not to burn them after one bad game. Try to remember bounce back baby.
RC: Through joining Talking League, I have become a more serious NRL Fantasy coach. Although we do encourage coaches to send it, I become a better fantasy coach this year through looking in greater detail at players’ stats and roles. In giving NRL players three fantasy dates, I was able to identify trends that insightfully informed my trading decisions. Even though there was no proven pedigree, I immediately traded Kobe Hetherington in when he got the starting lock role, assuming his PPM would remain proportional to the projected increased minutes. This was not the case and was my worst trade decision of 2022. Based on his scoring output, the Cowboys bench and Payton’s media reports, trading Cotter in in Round 9 as a proven mid-range option and DPP helped me jump 3008 ranks across four rounds. Selling Cotter in Round 13 then due to the projection of him only playing two out of the Cowboys next six games allowed me to straight swap to Angus Crichton as a gun playing in that bye round.
So that wraps up the 2022 NRL Fantasy season for the writers here at Talking League. We hope you’ve enjoyed the content throughout the season and we look forward to providing you with even more content in 2023 when we hit the pre-season. Don’t forget to take stock of your own NRL Fantasy season by reviewing your season via the final edition of The Mercato and let us know how you went in 2023. Otherwise, enjoy the off season and we’ll catch in 2023!