Fixture analysis: Every club’s early season draw ranked

The SC Spy ranks every NRL club's early season fixtures based on SuperCoach points scored/conceded last year with comment.

Pre-season

G’day everyone,

As part of the SC Playbook’s pre-season analysis, I am going to dive head first into the opening fixtures so we can determine which teams (and relevant SC players) have the best opening run and which teams/players have the toughest.

This will be based purely on SuperCoach points conceded across the board and I will also note some key players who may be impacted by teams who conceded the most points/least to specific positions in 2020.

All of this data is courtesy of the great crew at nrlsupercoachstats.com and there is plenty more available if you want to go and have a look. It’s SuperCoach gold!!

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As an extra point of interest there is always the question of whether or not defences are stronger to begin the season.

So I will take a look at a the top and bottom three defensive sides across a two year period to see how their numbers tracked in the opening five weeks v the middle five weeks when things have settled and combinations developed.

 This will tell us how much importance to place on making selections based on the schedule.

I have based the below rankings purely on total SuperCoach points conceded during 2020. The table is most points conceded down to least points conceded.

There’s no prizes for guessing that this is Melbourne who just shaded Penrith who had a huge year as we know.

SuperCoach Points Conceded per player (2020)

  1. Canterbury Bulldogs – 52.76PPG
  2. North Queensland Cowboys – 52.41PPG
  3. Brisbane Broncos – 52.06PPG
  4. Manly Sea Eagles – 50.00PPG
  5. NZ Warriors – 49.12PPG
  6. St George Dragons – 48.59PPG
  7. Wests Tigers – 48.59PPG
  8. Cronulla Sharks – 48.41PPG
  9. Newcastle Knights – 47.65PPG
  10. Gold Coast Titans – 46.53PPG
  11. Parramatta Eels – 46.35PPG
  12. Canberra Raiders – 45.65PPG
  13. South Sydney Rabbitohs – 45.59PPG
  14. Sydney Roosters – 44.41PPG
  15. Penrith Panthers – 42.00PPG
  16. Melbourne Storm – 41.18PPG

There are probably no major surprises there.

What we can do to help break this down with regard to the opening weeks is give a rating of 5 to the worst three offenders and the stand out defensive battlers of 2020.

A rating of 4 from Manly down to Cronulla. A rating of 3 for Newcastle through to Parramatta, a rating of 2 for Canberra through to Souths and finally a rating of 1 to the best 3 defensive sides.

I am making a judgement call and including the Roosters with Melbourne and Penrith as they averaged 43PPG up until the last round last year when Souths (and Cody Walker!) dismantled a tired outfit.

I think the early exit will refuel them, but to be fair you could easily have them in the category of Canberra and Souths also.

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I would also add in that Manly always have the ability to come good defensively, especially when they have a full squad, so despite their lower ranking defensively be aware that they may not necessarily be easy beats to begin 2021.

From here we can apply the rating to the opening rounds and see who has the best and worst early season runs for easy reference as we nail down our Round 1 SuperCoach teams.

Obviously things can change in a new season so you need to tread carefully, but it may be useful in making 50-50 decisions and targeting a few early PODs (or anti-pods!).

I have ranked the schedule below from best schedule to worst (most rankings points is the best) and included some key notes relevant to specific players, positions or other key points I think are important.

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Schedule Rank

Newcastle – Bulldogs, Warriors (A), Tigers, St George, Titans (A) – 20 ranking points

An absolute dream draw. Kalyn Ponga appears almost certain to be missing early, but if he is named he would have to be seriously considered despite the risk of coming back from injury.

Connor Watson just became even more enticing if named to start or potentially even if he plays the bench role where he has scored well in the past.

Titans – Warriors (A), Broncos, Cowboys (A), Raiders, Knights – 19 ranking points

Bloody juicy for the likes of Fifita, Brimson, big Tino and possibly POD Brian Kelly. Enough said!

St George Dragons – Sharks, Cowboys (A), Sea Eagles, Knights (A), Eels (A) – 19 ranking points

I’m not sure there is a heap of attacking relevance here, but the draw is pretty damn good. Lomax springs to mind or Dufty as a POD if named in the 1 jersey.

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Roosters – Sea Eagles, Tigers (A), Rabbitohs (A), Warriors, Sharks – 18 rankings points.

It’s a nice draw for Teddy that’s for sure, and any other Chooks attacking player as well. I will be starting with Teddy and this helps that decision.

There could be plenty of goals on offer also if SST kicks, whilst I am huge on Angus Crichton if he is playing 80 minutes. Probably my first forward picked.

Parramatta Eels – Brisbane (A), Storm, Sharks, Tigers (A), Dragons – 18 ranking points

A great Round 1 matchup at Suncorp before a tougher Round 2, the Eels have a pretty friendly overall first five weeks.

Personally I’m not picking Mitch Moses again until he starts taking the line on with more consistency, but Matterson looks fantastic.

My only concern on him is head knocks, but that’s not enough to put me off him. With plenty of options in the Eels backline it’s generally a good five weeks for attackers (outside of round 2).

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Penrith Panthers – Cowboys, Bulldogs (A), Storm, Sea Eagles (A), Canberra – 17 Ranking Points

It’s a really interesting schedule here. Cleary shouldn’t be overly affected and in fact I feel like the better the team maybe the more involved he gets, but for someone like Luia or other outside backs the first two weeks look pretty magic before two tougher games in three weeks.

I would be inclined to start with a few Panthers guys to try and get away to a flyer, before reassessing and possibly moving one or two on before the Storm clash if you think they are not looking as dynamic as expected, or you can just hold if they are playing really good footy!

Brian To’o on the left edge looks a hot pick up and Charlie Staines based on last year could do anything in those opening weeks.

They are both in my side as it stands, with To’o the only real consideration pending cash balance.

Just a note that Rounds 6-9 are pretty bloody good for Penrith and they play the first bye with a good run into that also.

North Qld Cowboys – Penrith (A), St George Dragons, Titans, Sharks (A), Tigers (A) – 16 Ranking Points (Caveat on Valentine Holmes below)

This looks pretty decent on paper for Holmes with the exception of Round 1, which is frustrating because we all want a hot start in the opener!

If he could jag an attacking stat against Penrith then he will be nicely set for the weeks after. That being said with the North Qld boys taking on the Titans in Round 3 who conceded the 3rd least points to fullbacks in 2020 and Penrith who conceded the least is that opening three weeks a concern?

Available at centre, Valentine is a huge option but is that enough to put you off him early and maybe reassess after three rounds of footy? Taumalolo shouldn’t be too phased by matchups, if you want him just put him in.

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South Sydney Rabbitohs – Melbourne (A), Sea Eagles (A), Roosters, Bulldogs (A), Brisbane (H) – 16 Ranking Points

The Bunnies face two of the best defensive sides in the first three weeks before the draw could open up.

This Certainly impact Cody Walker, although he put 199 on the Chooks last regular season match.

Surely he can’t do it again? Orrrrrr could he….

Cook I wouldn’t think would be badly impacted as his workrate should give him a solid base. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Bunnies leading into the Dogs-Brisbane double from Round 4.

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Canberra Raiders – Tigers, Sharks (A), Warriors, Titans (A), Penrith (A) – 16 Ranking Points

The Raiders have a decent run. The first three rounds I quite like if they name a cheap winger before a tougher period in Round 4-5.

It’s a pretty decent schedule for Hodgson early if you fancy him, while the forwards have an opportunity but that is far more about minutes than the schedule. Stay tuned for the Round 1 lineup!

Melbourne Storm – Souths, Eels (A), Penrith (A), Broncos, Bulldogs (A) – 16 Ranking Points

I like the run outside of Penrith. South are quality but at AAMI Park and in Round 1 Melbourne will likely be on.

I’m happy enough with this run for Papenhuyzen and Munster, especially once you hit weeks 4 and 5!

Although as a possible Papi owner I am a little concerned at the first three weeks given Parramatta defended fullbacks quite well in 2020.

The positive is that it’s at Bankwest which is a good scoring ground if it’s dry. I don’t think it matters for Harry Grant as he is just a gun.

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Cronulla Sharks – Dragons (A), Raiders, Eels (A), Cowboys, Roosters (A) – 15 ranking points

Moylan looks to be the main point of interest here with his cheaper price and (apparent) killer pre-season.

I also have a huge watch on Talakai if he happens to nab a starting spot as he is available in the centre for SC, although he’s in doubt for the first few rounds with injury.

On Moylan, it’s not a bad early schedule, especially three of the first four rounds, but be aware that both Canberra and the Chooks can be tough for halves to score against.

As a cheapie, if I owned I’d look to play him in Round 1, 3 and 4, but I’m not sure I trust him anyway?

Wait and see for Round 3 before possible price rises is my early take.

NZ Warriors – Titans, Knights, Raiders (A), Roosters (A), Sea Eagles (NZ) – 14 Ranking Points

Look, it’s not great. Some pretty tough SuperCoach matchups lurk early so I would be a little wary, especially for the backline.

RTS will work hard, but I feel there are still better options and he may be a buy post Roosters match if he looks good.

In saying that, Canberra didn’t defend fullbacks super well last year so there is a chance there if you are looking for an early POD.

Harris-Tavita is someone I have been high on early at his price and probably has the games to be decent early if you are thinking of a POD.

Outside of Canberra and the Chooks, the other sides are only okay against halves. But can he get through okay in the back-to-back match up against the studs? That worries me.

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Brisbane Broncos – Eels, Titans (A), Bulldogs, Storm (A), Rabbitohs (A) – 14 ranking points

Another pretty tough run here and only two games at Suncorp early which is traditionally a great place to score SC points.

But in saying that, only Melbourne fall into the category of elite defence based on the 2020 season.

I’m pretty happy to play Tesi Niu in my 17 for Round 1 and 3 if I do end up going with him.

Tigers – Raiders (A), Roosters, Knights (A), Eels, Cowboys – 14 ranking points

It’s a tough first couple of rounds for the Tiger lads and then weeks 3 and 4 are a bit of an unknown depending on how their opponents start the year.

Essentially it looks to me as if it’s a pretty tricky run for attacking players, and with no Tigers players jumping out I would only really be looking to start with Daine Laurie if he is named to start in the 1 jersey.

The worry here is that the Roosters, Knights and Eels had the best defence against FBs specifically.

On the positive side, Canberra actually conceded the 6th most points to FBs in the competition in 2020.

I’m still starting with him, but it’s just something to note and maybe you don’t play him for some of these games if you have another cheapie with a good matchup. Tricky call!

David Nofoaluma tends to score a heap through work rate if you want him, but how many tries will he score with Grant and Benji gone?

Will he be the one that gets away again and fall back slightly before picking him up on the cheap?

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Canterbury Bulldogs – Knights (A), Penrith, Brisbane (A), Souths, Melbourne – 12 rankings points

It’s a tough run to open outside of Brisbane and to a degree Newcastle. At least those two games are within the first three rounds, so if you start an attacking Dogs backline player you can get a bit of a look before the Souths/Melbourne back-to-back clashes.

Manly Sea Eagles – Roosters (A), Souths, Dragons (A), Penrith, Warriors (A) – 12 Ranking Points

A pretty rough schedule on paper. With Turbo a lock for many does this makes you reassess?

Combined with injury risk, and Little Papi from Melbourne likely kicking goals, I quite like the Teddy/Papi combo while we see how Turbo looks through a tough early draw and only two games at Brookvale Oval, both of which are against quality opposition.

Even the Dragons and Warriors were 10th and 8th respectively against FBs in 2020, so they weren’t overly horrible.

He is absolutely a good option don’t get me wrong, and Turbo doesn’t necessarily worry about who he is playing, but it adds interest to his possible selection and I’m tentative when combined with other factors. 

The same goes for Cherry-Evans who is still an option of course, but whose owners would have liked a better early run.

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Specific Positions

If you are curious on a particular player and how their specific position shapes up against upcoming opponents you can follow the below link and to see exactly how well each team defended each position (in SuperCoach points) in 2020.

It’s perfect to get info on someone like Valentine Holmes whose schedule may be slightly tougher then it appears if he plays FB. Basically, the whole site is SuperCoach stats gold! Well done troops.

https://www.nrlsupercoachstats.com/2020posnvsteam.php

The Byes

Let’s also take a quick look at who plays the first and second bye rounds. While it’s not super important given there is plenty of time to build for these, I like to think that if you are 50-50 on two guns then perhaps choose the one who plays the first bye round as a tie breaker.

It means that all going well you won’ t have to use a trade to chase extra numbers as they will already be in your team.

Just remember that Origin players won’t be available! I’m interested in everyone’s thoughts on how many bye players you can start with?

Teams playing Round 13 – Dragons, Broncos, West Tigers, Penrith, Storm, Titans, Knights, Eels

Teams playing Round 17 – Sea Eagles, Canberra, Rabbitohs, Cowboys, Bulldogs, Roosters, Warriors, Sharks

I won’t dive too deeply into the bye period, but as mentioned you can use this as a guide if you are finding it hard to split players.

One thing I’ll mention that stands out for me is Penrith who have blokes like Luia, To’o and Staines who are all great options and also have a killer opening two weeks to hopefully get you off to a hot start.

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Combine this with a pretty nice overall run from Round 6 up until the bye and it makes me feel good about starting a few of these guys if they can build on last season’s success. 

The other guy I’ll mention is Brian Kelly who plays the first bye (pending Origin after he blitzes it early) and has an absolute gold opening schedule!  He’s one of my favourite players and I hope he is in for a top shelf season.

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