Owning a Tiger in 2021 was about as dangerous as being married to Carole Baskin but their was another tiger king that flew under a lot of people’s radars in the back half of the NRL season. Stefano Utoikamanu was a very popular cash cow at the beginning of last year and he didn’t disappoint making about 200k over the first 2 months before becoming another victim of Michael Maguire’s team list roulette, finding himself out of the 17 and out of every coach’s fantasy team.
The rampaging big man really came into his own after the State of Origin period when he nailed down a starting middle role in round 18 and never looked back averaging 56pts (54.5pts under new scoring) in 56mins over the final 8 games. Big Stef comes into 2022 priced at 557k and a break even of 45 with many considering him a potential cut price keeper for the upcoming season but let’s take a look and see if the numbers hold true.
There’s no doubt Stef had a higher than normal try scoring rate (TSR) for a Prop of 40% with 6 tries on the season and 3 in that final 8 game stretch. Typically the TSR for a middle player like Stef is around 10 to 20% so we can likely expect some regression here and potentially a linebreak or two less but his 4 in 2021 is not an unrealistic yearly target.
Let’s take a look at our projection as compared to his 13 40+ min appearances in 2021:
Based on our projection we’ve got an expected range of outcome of 48 to 54 points in an estimated 50 to 55mins. With a round 1 break even of 45 it seems apparent that there is likely at least 5 points of value here with an upside to tickle the underbelly of those in keeper territory should he push for a 55 to 60min role. I believe it’s also important to note that last season was Stef’s first full season in first grade so it is not unrealistic to think we’ll see some improvement with a full season under his belt, another year of growth and now fully confident knowing what to expect at first grade level. He also proved in the back half of the season he’s capable of playing big minutes when required with 3 games of 60+ mins over that final 8 game stretch.
It seems unlikely that his ppm will dip out of the expected range outcomes but there is certainly an element of risk attached as with every player. If he’s not provided with the role we’ve projected and he’s only seeing the field for 45mins per game then he’s likely going to go slightly backwards on his starting price. There’s also the ‘Madge factor’ to contend with as Maguire has shown little loyalty to players and is usually quick to change players roles as well as starting 13s on a whim.
It doesn’t appear Stefano is a necessity for your fantasy side if some better value or solid middle cash cows arise and there will be some gambling on his minutes if you choose to start with him. I believe he’s still a solid buy as a stepping stone to a keeper with keeper upside should things break his way in a position that thus far appears devoid of value. I think he fits the prototypical build of a keeper middle with a stack of potential for a break out season, whether Madge provides him the opportunity is the question as his ppm holds up amongst the best.