Positional analysis: Breaking down the second-row contenders

2019 NRL SuperCoach champion Dez Creek takes a deep dive into the 2RF position that is causing headaches for the first time in years.

Champion PODs

Nailing the 2RF position is seemingly causing a lot more headaches for Supercoaches this year than in years gone by, possibly since we have a lot more variety on offer and much more focus on chasing higher upside players.

Due to this wealth of options, 2RF shapes as a massive differentiator between the top teams for the run home.   

Courtesy of fellow SC Playbook contributor and stats wizard Adam Druissi, we have access to this spectacular table to help breakdown the position in a more critical manner.

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The last few seasons have been quite easy to set and forget three players (Matterson, Taumalolo, Crichton) in your 2RF and sleep comfortably knowing that they would outscore any of their counterparts.

Currently, of these three, only Crichton sits in the top 10 for overall 2RF points in the 2021 season with injuries and concussions plaguing Matto and Lolo.

We may aswell start at the top when analysing the top 3-4 second rowers for the run home, and the crown lies with David Fifita.

Sitting with an average of 94, Fifita has been on an absolute rampage this season with tries, tackle busts and offloads galore – I said it earlier in the season, but you must get him in at all costs.  

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If you were one of the 20% of teams that sold him a month ago, he should be the number one priority trade-in despite his huge breakeven.

Fifita averages 20 points higher than the next best 2RF which highlights the sheer amount of damage he can deliver to non-owners given his capacity to score 150+ on any given week against nearly every single team (bar Penrith and Melbourne).

Behind Fifita we have a dead heat for 2nd best 2RF between Angus Crichton and Tohu Harris who average 75.7 and 75.8 respectively.

You can also see that the ownership of these two guys in the top 100-10,000 teams is borderline identical.

Both Angus and Tohu have been able to accumulate a decent amount of attacking stats so far this season and neither looks like slowing down as both the Warriors and Roosters draws open up towards the back end of the season.

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Thus, we have our core three run-home 2RF players who will be owned by basically every team in the top 1,000 still fighting it out for overall honours.

Now we get to the fun stuff, who to pair with these three players as potential 4th and 5th 2RF options?

Another interesting topic is whether you should in fact be running just one reserve 2RF or indeed sacrifice a reserve hooker/halves spot to stack two reserves into your 2RF (this will of course be entirely matchup dependant).

Obviously, Ryan Matterson and Jason Taumalolo are the top two candidates for these spots if they can both get back to full fitness and full minutes.

Neither of these guys has been at their best this season due to some untimely injuries, but the winds can change any second when it comes to rugby league, so you must constantly have these guys on your radar in case they decide to flick the switch and start stringing some Supercoach points together.

Cameron Murray and Brandon Smith are the next best on the 2RF list for mine.

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Murray had a relatively quiet opening to the season by his standards, averaging a touch under 60 (including an injury affected game) with just one try and one linebreak.

Murray does have a decently high upside and can bang out a few 100+ scores if he gets on a roll, but you can wait until after the Origin period to bring him in as an upside POD.

Brandon Smith on the other hand has been on an absolute tear recently with six tries in his last six games and a five round average of 86.6.

Provided The Cheese stays on 60-70 minutes I do not think you can go without him due to his propensity to find the try line, however if he does drop back to sub 60 minutes (Harry Grant getting more minutes after Origin) then you might be chasing your tail by trading him in, especially at his current $650k+ price tag.

The last three players I want to throw into the mix are Luke Thompson, Luciano Leilua and Corey Harawira-Naera.

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Thompson has probably flown under the radar for a lot of teams, myself included, just due to the sheer fact that he plays for the Bulldogs – however he is one of the highest averaging 2RFs (68.7).

Thompson has been a staple of consistency for his 15% owners, with a low score of 55 and a high score of 92.

If you need consistency without much upside, i.e., in the top 100 and want to defend a position then he is an extraordinarily strong trade in.

Leilua and CHN on the other hand will be much more aggressive trade-ins, more suitable for those trying to chase ranks.

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CHN will be one of the hottest commodities for the round 17 bye and can probably be held until the end and played on matchups due to his threatening offloads and uncanny ability to poke holes in defensive lines.

Luciano Leilua will also be a fantastic hold for those who already own him. Leilua is owned by 18% of the top 100 which is a surprisingly large amount considering he does not have any scores over 100 this season and has only mustered three tries. Owners will be looking to sit him against Melbourne and Souths over the next two rounds, however, over the last eight weeks the Tigers play the Broncos, Cowboys and Bulldogs x2!

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