NRL FANTASY GAME THEORY

One part of NRL fantasy that is something which is “known” by experienced players, but is something that is a steep learning curve for beginners, is the theory behind the game. In this article, I am going to discuss some “common” wisdom around the theory of NRL Fantasy, which may be a good reminder for some old players as well as for newbies.

THEORY 1: RULE NUMBER 1

For years, the well known rule number 1 of NRL Fantasy was simple – buy Cameron Smith, Captain Cameron Smith. Why was this the rule though? In short, Smith provided a unique combination of floor (low end scoring) and ceiling (high end scoring), and had a wide variety of avenues to score points ensuring that no matter the scoreline, his score was ticking over. There were times where a player matched his average for a year, but never on a consistent basis. Upon his retirement, it seemed as though rule number 1 was dead, enter Nathan Cleary who, like his predecessor, has a wide array of points scoring options, and frankly puts Smith to shame. Like Smith, Cleary had challengers (Tom Turbo) but ultimately could not be matched for that unique blend of consistently high scoring.

Cleary finds himself in 47.3% of teams, but it should be 100%. Cleary projects to score 5-10 points per game more than Tom Trbojevic (assuming Turbo holds his likely unsustainable level of play), and 15+ points clear of the next best scorers in DCE, Haas, etc. With Captaincy factored in, for the extra $50k on top of Turbo’s price point, you get a 10-20 point head start. For DCE/Haas, it is 30-40 points per week for $250K.

With the current price per point at around $12,500, you are making a huge profit on that $50k spend for 10 extra points, as it is actually only costing you $5k per point, and thats on the low end. Add to that, Trbojevic displayed a scoring pattern that is far less sustainable, and we could absolutely see him drop to a 60 average in 2022 which would be a disaster for Fantasy managers who purchase him instead of coughing up $50k for Cleary.

THEORY 2: THERE IS A SUCH THING AS TOO MANY POD OPTIONS

One of the big mistakes that new (and some experienced) players make is trying to get TOO creative with their teams. For the most part, you are looking to make the right selections for your team, while protecting your downside (like the share market).

Lets use a player like Stephen Crichton (35% ownership) as an example. Essentially, what you are looking at here is a player who ticks all the boxes of value. Most of the seasoned players who are likely to be at the top of the ladder come the business end have him. As a result, there are four possible outcomes:

HE SUCCEEDSHE FAILS
YOU BUYGOOD (1)FINE (2)
YOU DON’T FINE/BAD (3)GOOD/FINE (4)
  1. You decide to buy Crichton and he performs as expected and succeeds in gaining value, that is good. Yes, everyone else has him, but who cares.
  2. You decide to buy Crichton, but he underperforms and you aren’t able to get the value for him. No matter, everyone else had the same problem.
  3. You decide to avoid Crichton and he succeeds, so at best you have an equally good option, and at worst you have a dud “POD” instead of making the right choice.
  4. You decide to skip Crichton and are right, he fails. Now, did you manage to identify a better option who succeeds? If not, you are in the same position, which is fine.

As you can see, in the “buy line”, there is a 50% chance of it being good you got him, or a 50% chance it being fine because at least everyone else is having the same problem.

Whereas, in the “don’t buy line”, there is a 25% chance you get it right, a 50% chance its fine (same as before) but a big 25% chunk that is bad, which is your unprotected downside. Hey look, I think I just talked myself into starting with Xavier Coates.

THEORY 3: DUAL POSITION ELIGIBILITY OR A GUARANTEED JOB IS KING

In the age of the smaller squad size, and with a likely impacted season due to the global health situation, what you are looking for above all is a nice blend of players with high job security and ideally as many dual position eligible options as possible. This may seem obvious, but it needs to be stated.

Firstly with the Dual Position status, this will allow you to cover gaps in your team without spending trades unnecessarily. Being able to plug a cheapie from your emergencies into your CTR or WFB spot for a 20 point score instead of spending a trade or taking a 0 is a great advantage come the business end when everyone is out of trades.

As for the high job security players, can I tell you that there is nothing better at 4.05pm on a Tuesday than casually perusing the team lists because you know all of your players are going to be named in the same role as normal with no surprises (other than injury). Many of these players are likely to be at or around value due to their reliable nature, but occasionally through injury affected games or team mates leaving they can gain some minutes or value (see Christian Welch/Ryan Papenhuyzen).

It is the case this year, as with most other years, that many of our cheapies are in battles for their job with very worthy competitors – Izack Tago (Taylan May/Jaemon Salmon), Will Penisini (Tom Opacic/Waqa Blake), Shawn Blore (Luke Garner), Joseph Suaalii (Kevin Naiquama), Billy Smith (Paul Momirovski/Adam Keighran), Xavier Savage (Matt Timoko), Josh King (Tepai Moeroa/Jordan Grant, Tom Eisenhuth/Trent Loiero) and Jeremiah Nanai (Helium Luki/Tom Gilbert) are all on the Amateurs radar along with many others for 2022, but are facing stiff competition for a meaningful round 1 role, and will be under pressure all year to perform to keep the jersey. For the most part, if these guys get the job you will need to select them, which is why you need to balance your squad out with safe options and dual position eligible players.

THEORY 4: SAVE THE TRADES, BUT NOT ALL OF THEM

One of the most important elements of NRL Fantasy is saving trades where possible when others are spending them to give you the inevitable late season advantage. Mathematically speaking, the best time to use a trade (but only a good trade) is early in the season, because you have more weeks to benefit from the decision you made. Jumping onto a cash cow you missed after one week might seem sideways or a waste, but if you ask all of us who decided not to bother with the cash cow Nicho Hynes last year, we will tell you that we wish we had spent that trade. The trick is identifying the Nicho Hynes from the Tom Starling, and the truth is there is a fair bit of luck involved.

If you work backwards from the end result, you can see the value of a trade.

Ideally, in your “final team” you want to have 18 guns, with a solid 19 backup and two cheap “plug ins”. I wouldn’t worry too much about red dots for doing the loophole, because chances are one of your top 19 is going to be injured anyway.

The top 18 players price wise at the moment range from $1.05M to $720k, with all but 3 at $800K or less. So lets say by the end of the year you want 13x $750k average players, the 3 elite guys averaging about $900k, and two centres plus your 19th man at $650k. Two cheap guys at $400k. That adds up to about $15M and is really the best case scenario, but lets shoot for the stars and then worst case scenario we land on the moon.

Your starting team is worth $9.4M, so lets say you need to gain about $5.5M in value across the year. You get 36 trades, but you need to save a third of those (minimum) for injuries. This means, with your remaining 24 trades and 21 players in your squad, you need to make a profit of $230k for every trade you spend. Now you might be thinking “but Amateurs, hardly any players have $230k value, thats like almost 20 point increase on their BE” – and you would be correct.

Luckily for you, the starting players that you bring into your team do not require a trade.

Unluckily for you, like the 1/3 injury rule, we have to expect that 1/3 of the guys you start with are going to flop and underperform or get injured. Also keep in mind, thanks to rule #1, you are starting with Cleary so you actually only have 20 roster spots. Also, because you are diligent studiers of the Fantasy Amateurs website you are also going to start with Ryan Papenhuyzen and Harry Grant, which means you have 18 spots to make money with.

Now you have to ask yourself: are there any other players I can start with that will save me a trade and give me the above mentioned players I need (a high 50s/60+ average player or a 50ish average centre/19th man) without me paying full price? Of course these “keeper” players exist, but you will need to work out who they are. It is my belief that you should be able to locate at least 3 of these players making about $100k per player in addition to Grant and Papenhuyzen, plus Captain Cleary holding value, meaning you can save 6 trades and fill spots in your final team with 15 spots remaining, $5M to make and a full compliment of 24 trades to get there, bringing you down to $208K per roster spot.

With your 15 starting players and 24 trades to spend, thats a total of 39 players you can use to generate that $5M, so the actual value required per trade/player is $128K, or about 10 points of value. This is why you hear experienced players talking about looking for either 10 points of value, or less value but still an under priced in a “keeper” player.

I really actually cannot stress this enough, as I have heard many experienced fantasy managers, even on expert analysis podcasts, discussing taking reduced value (only 5 or so points) players like Kobe Hetherington because of tough positions. I think we actually did it on our own podcast at one point too. Just don’t do it. If they don’t have 10 points value, they need to be a potential keeper (50+ average) our an out and out gun with some value. If you can’t find value in the position, then you need to make your 3-4 “potential guns” players in that position. End of story.

THEORY 5: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Lets see what we have learned:

  • Start with Nathan Cleary and captain him
  • Start with Harry Grant, Ryan Papenhuyzen and 3-4 other “under priced” potential guns
  • Ensure the 14-15 other players you select have 10 points of value or more
  • Fill your team with as many popular, secure players as possible
  • Ideally, get players with dual position eligibility.

Seems easy doesn’t it, don’t overthink it.

BONUS THEORY: PRACTICE PERFECT

There is a reason why elite teams still play their star players even when they don’t need to. It is the reason the Panthers risked Nathan Cleary in round 25 with no shoulder in a meaningless regular season game. The best of the best practice perfect, which means that they treat “meaningless” games with the same attitude as any other match.

In our context, what I mean is Davvy Moale being in almost 30% of teams, when we know damn well he isn’t playing in week 1. Do not give me “he is just a place holder”. Do your damn research and put guys in your team who are a strong chance of playing. If you can’t find any, it means you should not be building teams based on having a specific number of cheapies that will not exist come TLT.

In the magical time when there is an unexpected additional cheapie or two, you can always cash someone down and upgrade elsewhere, but you should be planning for the (conceivable) worst case scenario, which is typically a maximum of 3x 240k or less players.

Let me say that again. If you have more than 3x 240k or less players in your team, fix that.

We will be publishing specific content closer to the season on exactly who those cheapies might be, but the answers are already contained within our content.

Published by Fantasy Amateurs

Just guys providing Fantasy Football Content. Maybe we know what we are talking about, maybe we don't. You will need to work out if the name is ironic.

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