In the preseason we had a broad strokes look at our bye planning team by team. The reality is that we can’t know too much about the teams, their players, rotations and who will have fantasy success until we see it on the field. Now, with a few games under the belt, we can have a closer look at the specific players we should be looking to buy and sell to optimise trade usage. The first step is trying to predict Origin teams (oh great). Everyone has their own opinions, but usually we can nail teams down to a pool of about 20 guys, so the impact to fantasy should be limited if we just rule them all out. Here are our thoughts…
Starting with the reigning winners (who have won 13 of the last 17 series sorry Blues fans), the Queensland Maroons look fairly predictable from the 2 jersey all the way through to the bench, with the fullback spot the only real open jersey to start with on the assumption Ponga is not fit. If Ponga is fit, the jersey is his, don’t get it twisted.
We expect that, if Ponga isn’t ready to go, a like for like replacement in Reece Walsh will get the nod. Other options include AJ Brimson and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, or Billy pulling a fast one and shifting Munster to the back to include Dearden who was awesome in 2022. Obviously as Fantasy managers we are praying for Ponga, with Walsh and Hammer both great options for your Round 13 and 14 line ups.
The bench will be interesting, with Reuben Cotter an absolute must through the byes if he is not selected, J’Maine Hopgood a staple in most sides that can stay there until post-Origin, and some interesting discount value options floating around with Tom Gilbert and Jeremiah Nanai. We also flag David Fifita, who finishes his byes for the year in Round 16, and would be awesome for round 17 through the end of year if he misses selection.
Now for the blues-ers.
Few factors at play here, the least of which is that Freddy Fittler is UNHINGED. We cannot assume any rational coaching, but we have tried to get inside his mind. A lot of this team should pick itself, but there will always be a few curve balls. The left wing was one of them in 2022, with Tupou preferred to JAC. We expect this to be rectified. Now for the fantasy relevant stuff.
The half to partner Cleary really should be a race between Matt Burton, Nicho Hynes and Jack Wighton, so naturally we have put Jarome Luai there like last year. He hasn’t been in form, and neither have the Panthers really, but that won’t matter. Game 2 might be a different story, but Freddy is stubborn enough to leave him there. Neither Burton or Hynes is available round 13 either way, but it will impact rounds 16 and 19 if one is selected. For now, it might be safer to skip both until we get some indications.
The balance of the side is really just the two remaining bench spots, which really should be two forwards (18th man to be someone versatile on a bye as normal for Freddy), but he has been known to put a larger outside back in his bench (see Talakai/Crichton in 2022). Hopefully after getting bashed in the middle he comes to his senses, but more than likely we could see Jack Wighton in this role. We expect Keaon Koloamatagi to take the bench edge/middle role normally occupied by Angus Crichton, and in the event we do see an extra forward we like Stefano Utoikamanu to come from the clouds for Freddy off the bench.
Really we just need him to leave Robson, Hynes and Matterson out of it, which we expect he will. Assuming he avoids selection Suaali’i is an interesting DPP option from round 14 too if you are on a tight budget and looking for availability.
Now that’s out of the way, often in the case of bye planning there are two different ways to approach it, one being for the ideal side and the other being for the best side possible with the least number of trades. Looking first at the “perfect” sides for all 6 big byes… (To state the obvious, we have no idea who is going to average more than who going forward, but we have a pretty good idea who will be in and around the top.)
Now, obviously you aren’t going to be able to run the “perfect” team every week. There definitely are some layups you can take with fantasy guns. Here are the key elements:
- Reece Robson – Features in 5 of the 6 big bye rounds, only missing round 19. Round 19 is likely going to be void of hooker talent, with the options for hooker cover in that round being (at this stage) Reed Mahoney, Tanah Boyd, Peter Mamouzelous as a cash out (if he is even named) or take a punt on Wayde Egan or Api (if he misses Origin)
- Joseph Tapine – Plays 4 of the 6 big bye rounds and no chance of Origin selection.
- J’Maine Hopgood – Plays 5 of the 6 big bye rounds, and the dual will come in extremely handy with lots of great MID options in round 13, but then lots of EDG options in round 16. He affords you the flexibility to shuffle to the tougher position. The same will apply to Ryan Matterson assuming he gains dual position status.
- Any Eels half – We have listed Mitch Moses on the above, but Dylan Brown will work too as a bargain bin option. With Lane returning, we likely see a Brown bounce back, and in the mid $600k price range he represents great bye coverage to partner with the next guy. Obviously if you already have him, or can afford it, Moses is better.
- Shaun Johnson – Plays 5 of the 6 big bye rounds, meaning you can carry SJ and Brown/Moses as your halves pairing through the entire Origin period, with Cleary coming back in the games he is available. The Eels have the bye in 14 when Cleary is available, so he should cover that slot. Basically you just need a half for Round 16 and you are set. If you were to trade Cleary to Hynes in round 16 that would solve your problem in 1 trade without having to carry an inferior half like I. Katoa through Origin.
- The Jack Bird/Connoly Lemuelu centre pairing – Available as a pairing in 4 out of the 6 major byes, with Lemuelu also available in Round 20. Between these two and Joseph Manu, you can cover all the centre spots bar 1 in round 16, and having 2x non centre playing centres is always a strong option.
- Joseph Manu – He is only available in 4 of 6 major byes, but covers round 16 and 20 for the above meaning you don’t need to keep too many centres on the books, not to mention the inevitable Tedesco rest resulting in Manu in the fullback spot for a week or two. He will also be able to plug into the WFB spot in the 2 games that he is available at the same time as Bird/Lemuelu and makes an ideal 18th man for the run home with his DPP eligibility. Joseph Suaali’i will do fine here as well if you are on a budget.
- Lachie Miller and Tyson Frizell – Most of you probably have Miller already, and you should all strongly consider Frizell. Friz should open round 6 at under $650k, and has scored 53 or more in all the games he didnt get knocked out in the first 15 minutes with a HIA, including a game of 49 minutes. These two blokes play a critical role in bye cover, giving elite scoring in 4 of the 6 major bye rounds.
- Jackson Ford – An absolute bargain of an option, even for those who have missed him to date. He looks set to be an 80 minute dual position edge with a great workrate, who won’t play Origin and is available in 5 of the 6 major bye rounds. Similar to Hopgood, he covers a lot of ground.
- Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow – Let us know if you are sensing a theme here, but Hamiso is available in 5 of the 6 major byes and should already be in your team. He also provides a dual position eligibility in case of injuries, and has weekly upside and keeper potential if you decide to move Manu on after Origin instead.
With 12 spots out of 21 filled in our Overall teams, lets take a look at the state of play:
You might think “wow guys, that seems like a lot of cover for only 12 players”, but this is what we call playing smart not hard. There is no need for aggressive trading with proper planning, although the next bit is where is gets a little hairy. So lets assess what we need…
1. We need a WFB thats available in (ideally) rounds 13-17, because we can just plug them into the bench in round 17 anyway with it all full – enter Scott Drinkwater. Drinkwater returns from suspension in round 6 with a BE in the 70s, and he averaged 50.3 in his games at fullback in 2022. Oh, and the Cowboys are the ONLY team that plays all of the first 4 major bye rounds (round 15 bye so don’t get too many). Drinky presents a really interesting combination of bye cover and cash making potential as a gateway to a gun. He will also be available in Round 20 if you can find cover for round 19. Kyle Feldt can also do a job here if you are on a budget. I know it sounds weird but he has some upside coming, is rocketing towards a $300k price point while averaging 33+ in the last 4 seasons running.
2. We need a MID or EDG that is available (ideally) rounds 13-17 – enter (and stay with me on this one) Jason Taumalolo. His days as a fantasy gun are officially over, but with Reuben Cotter and maybe Jeremiah Nanai off playing for Queensland big Jase can do a job for us covering the MID position for the first 4 bye rounds before being traded to a gun Tigers or Titans forward who will be all done with byes.. Needless to say, if Nanai misses selection he is also an option. Coen Hess and Helium Luki can also do a job here if on a budget.
That does us for cover for round 13, fielding a full 13 players with guys who fit all (except Nanai/Taumalolo) fit the normal criteria for fantasy team selection. Before I do another update, I just want to touch on Cleary/Hynes. I know many of you will be scrambling to grab Hynes in Round 7, but realistically he isn’t a key piece of the bye cover puzzle, particularly given his bye in Round 13. He also costs overs $1M, not necessarily what you are looking to lock into your side this early. For everyone holding Nathan Cleary, I suggest holding onto him until Round 16 and trading to Hynes then. You would then look to re-acquire Cleary in Round 20 or after, probably for a Shaun Johnson/Eels half.
This is what that would look like when combined with the Cowboys guys…
We have finally hit the first time we have TOO MANY guys in a single position, surprisingly in Round 19 and with only 15 of our 21 available roster positions filled, at the half position with all of Hynes, Johnson and our Eels half available. Good news is we need a gun forward, so we will just trade whoever makes the most sense at the time to a gun Tigers/Titans gun forward, both of which have completed their byes as stated earlier.
Now many of you will be carrying either Payne Haas or Pat Carrigan. The good news is you don’t even need to sell them, with this strategy we really need guys available in rounds 14, 17 and 20, of which the Broncos players are available in all of them (pending rests). Ill nominate them “Broncos Forward” in the next update, and this takes us to 16 roster spots.
The we are also going to be looking for a non Origin forward from the Panthers or Roosters, as they will play rounds 14, 16, 17 and 20 for us. Zac Hosking, James Fisher-Harris, Brandon Smith, Nat Butcher and Angus Crichton all fit that bill, but you can also get cheap/creative here if you want. Lets have another look with 17 full roster spots…
We are really cooking here, with only TWO!!!! trades spent and still 4 roster spots available. Round 13 is sorted, so we want to get blokes who play 14 and 16 first, and at minimum we need a forward. If you make your Rooster/Panther a middle (Brandon Smith!!) not an edge, you can ride Jacob Preston through this period. If you are already holding Zac Hosking too, you will have one too many edges in Round 16, so you may need to sell one of them to a WFB that is available in 16/17/19 (Gutho!!) to make this work. Eliesa Katoa and Trent Loiero are also in a lot of teams and fit this same bill of round 14/16/17 availability, so you don’t need to keep them all (assume some will need to be sold anyway to buy above). That may have confused it, so going to try and clear this up with 19 roster spots now occupies.
To reduce confusion, I am going to swap Rooster/Panther to Brandon Smith, and use Zac Hosking as the forward we are keeping with Preston being sold in round 16 to Gutherson, assuming Eli Katoa is sold prior to this (round 9 bye). Obviously just treat all these players as it comes, no decisions need to be made now.
So what is left, we need a Round 14 player, ideally a centre who also plays in 16. What if I told you that you already owned him? His name is Paul Alamoti. He will be surplus to needs come round 19, so this would be a great time to cash him out to Peter Mamouzelous to free up some cash to gun up in the run home. This is roster spot #20. Last spot just needs to be occupied by any player available in Round 14, if you are looking to save a trade its a WFB who also plays in Round 19 (can be from any of 8 teams – Dolphins, Tigers, Titans, Dragons, Raiders, Warriors, Bulldogs, Sharks) – looking at you Alofiana Khan-Pereria, Charnze Nicol-Klokstaad, Te Maire Martin, Xavier Savage, Tyrell Sloan, etc. Thats your 21, you probably own them already – I am going to use Khan-Pereira to make it easy in the diagram.
There you have it, an entirely covered positional bye schedule using only 4 trades (assuming you prepared properly beforehand). Now, yes budgets are going to play into this, but you will notice there isn’t anything outlandish about our strategy. We haven’t gone for guns in every position, and there are several guys you might have owned since the start. It also balances nicely limiting the trades while fielding a pretty strong 17 every week.
Obviously, this might require some trading beforehand, and injuries etc happen, but you just need to use your noodle and you can get this done extremely efficiently. You will notice we didnt factor in emergencies, but the number of extra players you have is very limited so we didnt bother listing it. Injuries and suspensions will need trades. We also gave you positional cover in every single position to deal with 1 week outs.
So just for clarity, this is our recommended full strength roster spots, how they start at Round 13 and who they are traded to…
HOK – REECE ROBSON
MID – JOSEPH TAPINE
MID – PAYNE HAAS/PAT CARRIGAN
MID – J’MAINE HOPGOOD
EDG – TYSON FRIZELL
EDG – ZAC HOSKING (OR ELI KATOA)
HLF – NATHAN CLEARY -> NICHO HYNES (ROUND 16)
HLF – SHAUN JOHNSON
CTR – CONNOLY LEMUELU
CTR – JACK BIRD
WFB – LACHIE MILLER
WFB – HAMISO TABUAI-FIDOW
WFB – JOSEPH MANU (OR JOSEPH SUAALI’I IF ON A BUDGET)
BEN1 – MITCHELL MOSES/DYLAN BROWN -> TIGERS/TITANS GUN FORWARD (ROUND 19)
BEN 2 – BRANDON SMITH
BEN 3 – JACOB PRESTON -> CLINT GUTHERSON (ROUND 16)
BEN 4 – JASON TAUMALOLO (OR HELIUM LUKI/COEN HESS IF ON BUDGET)
EMG 1 – JACKSON FORD
EMG 2 – SCOTT DRINKWATER (OR KYLE FELDT IF ON A BUDGET)
EMG 3 – PAUL ALAMOTI -> PETER MAMOUZELOUS (ROUND 19)
EMG 4 – ALOFIANA KHAN-PEREIRA (OR OTHERS)
Now, what I can’t give you on a platter is how to generate enough cash to get to this lineup. It is very likely you may need to make some concessions on the players (Feldt over Drinkwater is an easy one given they are in your EMGs at full strength) if you want to execute this particular strategy. Obviously the other way to do this is burning through trades, but I would prefer to use my trades for obvious benefit, not just for 1 week cover.
There are some extra options here (that all are preferably avoidable because they suck) if you find yourself short on funds in addition to making some of the other concessions previously noted, here are some of them:
- If you do not presently have Reece Robson in your team, a Jeremy Marshall-King/Soni Luke strategy will work and is much cheaper, with the trade from Alamoti to Mamouzelous not being necessary. You may instead just cash Alamoti out to the Round 19 WFB, with the trade off being you would run 16 players in round 14 as you will have Hopgood, Frizell, Brailey, the Eels half and Miller on the bye.
- Spend a trade to downgrade Payne Haas to James Fisher Harris (should free up about $150k and doesn’t change your cover negatively at all).
- Instead of getting Hynes in Round 16, grab Matt Burton (yes I know that sucks as an option).
- Rather than holding the best players out of Preston/Katoa/Hosking, sell the most expensive ones and hold the cheapest one. Probably the best of some bad ideas here.
- While it will be tempting, don’t go for the Isaiah Papali’i option in the Tigers/Titans gun forwards. Pick up a Klemmer/Bateman instead.
- If Valynce Te Whare manages to find himself in the side long term, you can move on from Hamiso or Lemuelu to free up funds without costing you cover for 1 trade.
- Move on from Shaun Johnson when peaked down to Luke Metcalf (yes I know that sucks as an option) to try and generate some more cash, before moving them on to the Tigers gun forward (this means you keep your Eels half).
I know you are shaking your head, and I hope you don’t have to do any of that, but its all options if you need to generate the moolah to execute the strategy and some of it shouldn’t cost you too many points on a weekly basis in the process.
There are going to be some distractions along the way with this strategy. The stock market article is going to have names like James Tedesco, Daly Cherry-Evans and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui on it, but they are not for those executing this plan. For those that don’t mind taking a risk, a Teddy quick cash grab is on the table before Origin, but you need to be willing to sell him in Round 13 no matter his BE or form.
For what its worth, this is not the ONLY way to do these bye rounds. There is no guarantee that Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in 5 games is going to outscore James Tedesco in 3. If you are starting from a team that has (for example) Adam Reynolds, Kotoni Staggs, Izaac Thompson and Teig Wilton in it, your map to coverage will look different to this one, but just whack it all in a spreadsheet and map it out. Try to restrict yourself to specific players as little as possible, and try to be a bit creative with synergies. This is just one answer to a question that will be asked 2 months from now, and it may not be the correct answer.
There are also multiple ways to skin this cat. Do this for your own team, make your own plan and execute it. As always, look at the process, and make your own decisions. Love you guys.
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