Nathan Cleary (HLF): PENRITH PANTHERS

Rule #1 rises again?

After a few years at the top, Nicho Hynes rose like a Phoenix to the top of Fantasy scoring, aided by a Nathan Cleary brain explosion send off in the 17th minute of round 20 where he only registered one point. So where to for the fantasy goat?

Excluding suspension and delayed return from injury, Cleary played all but 4 minutes of every appearance in 2022. In all but his 17 minute game he averaged 69.9 fantasy points, made even more impressive by the fact that he only scored 3 tries all year. It was the consistently high floor for Cleary that carried his average, not scoring under 44 points and only registering 2 performances below 50 while registering 85+ points in 25% of games.

Really, the question with Cleary is whether he, Hynes or Murray is your round 1 captain. Let us explore this by score distribution and averages…

CLEARYHYNESMURRAY
<50 POINTS12.5%13%5.3%
50-59 POINTS18.8%13%15.9%
60-69 POINTS18.8%30.5%36.8%
70-79 POINTS18.8%13%21%
80+ POINTS31.2%30.5%21%
AVERAGE IN NORMAL ROLE69.97169.1
DISTRIBUTION44-9343-13245-94
2022 ONLY, HALVES 75+ MINS INCL. FINALS, MURRAY 60+ AT LOCK INCL. FINALS

Based on this, it would seem that the optimum strategy may be to start with Murray, who doesn’t have a bye until Round 16 (but will miss 13 with Origin) then trade in Hynes in round 14 who will have 2/3 bye rounds out of the way by then. You then sell Murray to a gun from the Tigers (Papali’i/Bateman?) in round 18-19 and gain two additional games of elite scoring and captaincy options. Between Murray and Hynes they will be available to captain every round of the season except Round 13 barring rests and injuries, and net you an all but guaranteed 50, with a 75%+ chance of a 60+ score.

So where does this leave Cleary?

Well, pound for pound he is the best captaincy option in the H2H format, particularly when you weight in the price vs scoring, the Hynes hybrid fullback/halfback game last year and the patterns of the coaches in terms of restings etc. We are probably due some positive regression from the Panthers halfback in 2023 in terms of tries, but also the Panthers themselves will need to slow down soon (we think) and Cleary is taking down 9.5 points per week in goals, compared to Hynes who is only bringing in 6.7 points from goals.

If Cleary added a few extra tries to bring him up to Hynes 2022 levels (about 25%), he would see his average pop into the low 70s, with the scoring distribution looking more like Hynes with some of the 50-59s turning into 60-69s or higher.

Honestly, I am having a hard time talking anyone out of starting with Cleary. All three of these options are great captaincy options, and both Cleary and Hynes have the potential to rip off a 80+ score on any given week independent of matchup. Murray is the clear worst in terms of consistent top end scoring, but has the highest theoretical floor and can post monster scores himself, putting up a tryless 94 in round 21.

At 36.6% owned, you would be forgiven for thinking that Cleary was the obvious best choice here, but it feels more like a “gut feel” play as to which of these 3 to take. I suppose from a game theory perspective it would make more sense to apply the “when is a POD a potential bad thing” theory, and run with the crowd to protect your downside.

AMATEUR MARK

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