Discount gun WFB?
Finally we have been thrown a bone by the fantasy gods with the news of Lachlan Miller released from the final year of his contract with Cronulla to join the Newcastle Knights. With Kalyn Ponga slated for a move into the halves, it has left Miller as the heir apparent to the vacant fullback jersey. Priced at $426’000 (29pts) with limited starts in the NRL, is the former Rugby 7s star the new hot thing for NRL Fantasy?
At face value and with little surprise, Miller appears to have immediate value. Miller posted a very handy 49.8 average in his four NRL starts and a 36.7 average in his 11 fullback appearances with the Newtown Jets. A 13 point gap between each sample is a large variance, so where can we realistically expect Miller to sit in these ranges? I think it is first important to note two things:
1) Miller was playing in a very good Sharks side and his four opponents faced were all bottom 8 sides, so he’s yet to be truly challenged at NRL level.
2) Miller had one outlier game in NSW Cup where he scored only 7 points in 68 minutes, his only non-80 minute appearance. Removing this pushes Miller’s reserve grade average to 39.7 which I think gives a more accurate idea of the type of player Miller is, but in a volatile position a single digit score is certainly in the range of outcomes. The best example of this is the time Bradman Best scored 6 points in round 9 of 2020 despite averaging 44.4 for the season (old scoring) and he’s never scored single digits since. The 7 point score from Miller I don’t believe is reflective of who he is but it is certainly in the range of outcomes for a single game.
With that said, Miller’s base stats of 24pts at NRL level and 21.3pts in NSW Cup are extremely encouraging. That level of base stats for a fullback is comparable with the 2022 stats of Clint Gutherson (21.6), Kalyn Ponga (21.8 in 80min games) and Reece Walsh (20.5). With Miller’s strong base it puts him in a good position to start his scoring in the low 20s and work upwards from there adding attacking plays which is his strong suit.
From what we saw last year, Miller passes the eye test with sharp speed and the ability to bust tackles. However, he may struggle for similar attacking stats due to the downgrade of going from the high flying Sharks to the struggling Knights. Miller is an attacking player and will need to find some spark to reach his fantasy potential. He averaged 28.5 in attacking stats in first grade and 25.9 in reserve grade but the most encouraging thing from that attack is Miller is not try or try assist dependent at all. Miller scored only two tries in his 11 reserve grade starts with only 5 try assists. The majority of his attacking points came from tackle busts, averaging 8 per game in NSW Cup and 9 in the NRL which is replicable for a player who will often have the ball in his hands in broken play.
Ultimately, the biggest thing in the Miller buy column is the complete lack of any other reliable WFB scorers that also present value below 500k. With the Knights playing none of last years top 7 sides through their first 6 rounds and with Miller’s potential to exploit weak defences, he seems a lock to be in the majority of fantasy sides come round 1.
INTERN AUSTIN/AMATEUR RYAN