Part one: Players of Intrigue in 2020

2019 SuperCoach runner-up Walson Carlos assesses the 2020 Players of Intrigue from the bottom eight clubs.

Expert Analysis Pre Season Uncategorized

Okay, we’ve all heard of POD’s but what about POI’s?

I know it doesn’t really roll off the tongue quite as well. Nonetheless these Players of Intrigue (POI’s) might just make the difference for this SuperCoach season.

Maybe they’ve moved to a new club, swapped positions, have a new coach or playing role. These are among a plethora of factors that can affect a player’s output from year-to-year and in turn affect their SuperCoach points output.

Below I’m going to work my way through the clubs and touch on the SuperCoach players that intrigue me leading into season 2020.

Here’s my take on the bottom eight clubs from last year.

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Gold Coast Titans

Look, I’m going to be brutally honest as the likely Titans line-up at this stage for 2020 doesn’t have a hell of a lot players that peak my interest.

Realistically Jai Arrow (2RF – $575,000) and Ryan James are the only two players I am considering for my Supercoach team from the Titans at this stage.

*Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a key on all SuperCoach relevant abbreviations.

****Ryan James – FRF/2RF – $354,700 ACL, SEASON

A lot of the intrigue around James comes from his low price which is obviously evidence that he had an injury riddled down season by his standards in 2019.

Maybe his glory days of 2016 where he finished third top SuperCoach scorer behind only Cameron Smith and Bryce Cartwright are well behind him.

But maybe they’re not? James is only 28-years-old which is not old for a front-row forward and it is not beyond the realms of possibility to see him storm back into his form of 2016 where he averaged 73PPG.

I think James will be very popular at the very least because his value is going to increase from his starting price.

How much money he will make and whether he will turn into a keeper is the key question left to be answered. 

St George -Illawarra Dragons

Zac Lomax – CTW/FLB – $324,600

Signed to a massive six-year deal and pencilled in to be the Dragons’ goal-kicking fullback for 2020.

The fact the club has invested so heavily in Lomax makes me believe he will get a fair crack at the fullback position.

Given the tightening of the dual position players in Supercoach 2020 and the fact that Lomax is so cheap it makes him an enticing proposition.

The intrigue surrounds whether he will keep a starting position with Matt Dufty and some talented juniors breathing down his neck.

Trent Merrin – FRF/2RF – $408,000

Look, Trent Merrin will certainly attract some interest from seasoned SuperCoach players who remember his halcyon days of 2014, 2015 and 2016 where he averaged a highly respectable 68PPG over that period.

However, stats don’t lie and they would seem to outline that even before Merrin headed overseas he was on the decline as a SuperCoach force with his averages in 2017 and 2018 dropping to 58 and 49 respectively.

Maybe for some but with the possible return of Jack de Belin and some good back-row talent coming through I can’t have him.

NQ Cowboys

Esan Marsters – CTW – $482,900

This is a particularly astute buy from the Cowboys that has slipped through fairly quietly because of all the fanfare around Valentine Holmes’ return from the NFL.

Don’t get me wrong, Holmes is one of the most significant signings in the history of the Cowboys, but the acquisition of Marsters cannot be undervalued.

Centre is a position the Cowboys seem to have been light on in for years.

Sure they’ve had some decent centres over the years like Paul Bowman and Brent Tate, but I can’t name too many that I would class as genuine strike weapons.

The intrigue surrounding Marsters is two-fold for me. First, will he, Kyle Feldt or Valentine Holmes kick goals? Currently, it looks as though it’ll be either of the latter two men.

Secondly, will Paul Green give him free rein to use his prolific offloading game? Remembering the Cowboys are a team that over the last few years have regularly offloaded the least out of all teams in the NRL.

If the answer to both the above questions is yes and you believe the Cowboys are going to be a genuine top 8 contender as many do then a potentially goal-kicking (although unlikely), offloading Masters is a must for SuperCoaches.

Val Holmes – FLB – $563,700

Okay, this is an obvious one but to be fair the way Valentine Holmes returns from the NFL could make or break many SuperCoach seasons.

I get the impression from what I have seen that Holmes is going to be highly owned by SuperCoaches in the stacked fullback position.

There was some early mail coming out of Cowboys camp that he looks set to take on the goal-kicking duties too.

That along with the fact that Holmes is around $150k cheaper than Tommy Turbo and around $220k cheaper than Tedesco.

Some will be put off by Jarryd Hayne’s return from the NFL where it was obvious he was never the same player as before he left the NRL and that was reflected in his SuperCoach scores. However, SuperCoaches will fondly remember the 2018 version of Valentine Holmes (see video above).

From Rounds 9-25 of season 2018 Holmes played fullback and was goal-kicking and averaged 85.15 points where he showed amazing point scoring consistency.

Only once did he score under 64 points with a score of 40 in Round 10 and Holmes cracked the century three times in that span with 100 (rd-9), 131 (rd-24) and 127 (rd-25).

Reece Robson – HOK – $363,200

Robson has been a player I have been keeping a close eye on since he made his NRL debut in 2018.

It intrigues me to see how Cowboys coach Paul Green intends to use Robson in 2020.

Jake Granville is signed until the end of 2021 and has been a mainstay of the Cowboys for some years now and followed Green to North Queensland after they shared a coach-player relationship for Wynnum Manly Seagulls in the Intrust Super Cup.

Reece Robson and young gun Reuben Cotter are sure to put some serious pressure on Granville though to keep his starting position.

For that reason I will keep my powder dry on Robson but I do believe if he has been pencilled in for a lightweight lock forward role similar to that of Cameron Murray, Victor Radley and even Brandon Smith, he could be very effective.

Of course the Cowboys have arguably the best 13 in the game in Jason Tamaulolo so that’s not going to happen unless Lolo is injured. Maybe not a starting selection but certainly Robson is a player to watch in 2020.

NZ Warriors

Chanel Harris-Tavita – HFB/ 5/8 – $384,600

If you believe the Warriors are going to have a good season in 2020 Harris-Tavita would be an astute purchase.

It’ll be intriguing to see how the Warriors spine lines up in 2020. RTS will be fullback and I think it’s safe to assume Blake Green will fill one of the halves spots.

Kodi Nikorima has played good footy at both half and hooker but hasn’t really made either position his own. Should CHT get a start you can expect his price to rise rapidly.

Isaiah Papali’i – 2RF – $468,300

I had this bloke in my 2019 team all the way up to the week before the season started and he got dropped for a DUI offence.

I felt like it sort of derailed what I thought would have been a breakout season for Papali’i. Like CHT if you think the Warriors are in for a decent season then maybe Papali’i is a mid-ranger that can make the step up into the top 10 2RF club that average over 60PPG.

Canterbury Bulldogs

Brandon Wakeham – HFB – $277,600

Lachlan Lewis will likely play five-eighth with Keiran Foran out injured probably for the majority of the year with the halfback spot up for grabs.

Jack Cogger played 17 matches last year so he might be the front-runner, however Brandon Wakeham looked really good in his three starts in 2019.

In both starts that he played 80 minutes he scored 50+ and at his price that means he’s severely undervalued. He could be a serious money-maker if he can earn Dean Pay’s favour.

Newcastle Knights

Connor Watson – 5/8-HOK – $506,700

The Knights have purchased Jayden Brailey as a solid long-term hooker option. There is talk coming out of Knights camp that Watson is training in the lock role.

Players like Victor Radley and Cameron Murray are part of the evolution of the lock and it sounds like the rookie Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien wants his own. It makes sense to me as Watson has struggled to find a position that suits him his whole career.

To be honest I thought Watson as a hooker was a shining light for the Knights in their woeful finish to 2019. The more I think about it the more I like the idea of Watson playing as a lightweight lock.

Watson played seven games at 9 for the Knights in the back half of the year scoring 91, 70, 55, 75, 82, 117, 24. That’s an average of 73.4PPG which is elite. If he plays an 80-minute lock role I could see Watson at least matching that average.

Even with a 60-minute lock role I honestly believe he could be a 60-70 point SuperCoach player. My advice would be watch the situation at the Knights very closely. I will be.

Penrith Panthers

Api Koroisau – HKR – $338,800

Koroisau has an average PPM over the last three years of 0.82. The only thing that has changed has been his minutes.

I’ve got to believe that Api has been purchased to play an 80-minute role at the Panthers.

Let’s say he does play his 80-minutes at Panthers and maintains his 0.82 PPM, that equals an average score just over 65PPG.

Whilst it’s not quite in the realms of what Cook (75.9) and Smith (73.7) averaged in 2019 it is just below the third best hooking option from 2019 in Cam McInnes (68.1).

From there you see a big gap to Jazz Tevaga, Jake Friend and Josh Hodgson who all averaged around 55-57PPG.

I have a theory that the Panthers and Broncos (to a lesser extent) have not reached their potential in recent years mainly due to their lack of penetration from the dummy-half position.

I’m very keen on Api as a value proposition that at best might mature into a gun and at worst will make you $150-250k.

James Fisher-Harris – 2RF/FRF – $615,700

I was about to write that James Fisher-Harris is on the precipice of taking the next step to the elite category. I think upon reflection he might already be there.

Averaging 77 minutes in 2019 brought a SuperCoach points average of 66.3. Fisher-Harris is a player I feel has SuperCoach upside. He will benefit from having a genuine dummy-half threat in Koroisau and he is only 24-years-old.

He’ll cost you a pretty penny but I’m intrigued to see just how good Fisher-Harris can be. Plus he’s dual position so even though some might argue he was only the fifth highest averaging 2RF in 2019 he was actually the third highest averaging FRF, as well as being the top-scorer.

West Tigers

Luciano Leilua – 2RF – $434,300

1.13PPM in 2019! If he gets minutes Luciano Leilua is very relevant in SuperCoach. So let’s look at the likelihood of him getting a starting spot at Wests Tigers.

Veteran Chris Lawrence, Michael Chee-Kam and Luke Garner will be Leilua’s competition for a starting spot.

I like his chances and if he starts and gets 60+ minutes he should score right up there with the best in the 2RF position.

Again, what I like is Leilua is only 23-years-old and he is trending upwards in his career and SuperCoach output.

A gruelling off-season with Michael Maguire will do him no harm at all in his quest for a starting spot. If he starts for the Tigers in Round 1 I will find it very difficult to not have him in my side.

Thomas Mikaele – FRF – $309,100

Only 22 years of age Mikaele has massive upside. It was clear the Tigers were taking a slow approach to blooding Mikaele into the NRL (as opposed to the Seibold approach with Payne Haas).

He has a 1.1PPM in his short career. Like Leilua, I truly believe a Maguire-led pre-season could be the making of the explosive Mikaele. Could his minutes get up to 50 in 2019?

He is very likely to push for a starting spot with no Matulino and Packer not in the mix. Keep an eye on him.

SUPERCOACH TERMINOLOGY KEY

MPG = Minutes per game

PPG = Points per game

PPM = Points per minute

BPG = Base per game (point accrued in tackles + runs + missed tackles)

POD = Point of difference

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