Squad analysis + starting 17: North Queensland

A new-look Cowboys outfit presents a host of SuperCoach opportunity for a side brimming with point-scoring potential. We predict their Round 1 starting team and analyse every player in the 17.


We’re closing in on the NRL season opener, and more importantly for SuperCoaches, the all-important first edition of team list Tuesday.

Leading into the season we’ll take a look at every club’s predicted 17 to start the year, providing SuperCoach analysis on every single player as well as a rating for their Round 1 buy credentials.

Here’s how we think North Queensland will line up and whether or not it’s worth investing in their squad to kick-off the season.

Click on the player to reveal their analysis and round 1 buy rating.

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

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  1. Ben Hampton || $237,000 || CTW-FLB || Rd 1 rating: 1/10

Outside of a few rare glimpses, Hampton has never been overly relevant, mainly due to his utility value keeping him at 14. If he nabs a starting role at centre over Opacic he will come into contention as a cheapie, but it looks fairly unlikely.

  1. John Asiata || $354,300 || 2RF-HFB || Rd 1 rating: 0/10

Asiata managed a career high average of 61MPG last season, largely due to the fact he spent 12 games as a starting five-eighth/halfback. Despite the opportunity, his work rate naturally dipped and he was only able to manage an average of 38PPG. He’s a pass unless he somehow slots into a starting edge back-row role.

  1. Francis Molo || $298,600 || FRF || Rd 1 rating: 3/10

If Molo ever gets a starting gig he’ll race into SuperCoach discussions. Across 24 games last season he averaged 24MPG for an average score of 32PPG. That’s a PPM of a ridiculous 1.35! If his game time increases there’s cash to be made, so let’s monitor and hope he gets his opportunity. 

  1. Coen Hess || $354,000 || 2RF || Rd 1 rating: 3/10

If Coen Hess can pull out a big pre-season he’ll be a serious SuperCoach buy prospect. The former Queensland back-rower averaged just 38PPG in 61MPG in 2019, a year in which he began the season as an 80-minute back-rower. The two seasons prior he averaged 58PPG, if he could emulate this it’d equate to a price rise of around $200k. There’s starting back-row roles available at the Cowboys, and Hess clearly has the talent to step up, hopefully he earns a recall in which case he’d be a major contender for Round 1 teams.

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

Reece Robson

$363,200 || HOK || Rd 1 rating: 7/10 

The hooking role is up for grabs in Round 1 with Robson believed to have the edge over veteran Jake Granville. Robson is an intriguing prospect at an awkward price of $363k having played 7 games at an average of 48MPG in 2019. He showed his ability to play 80-minutes when going the distance in the final round of 2019, producing 55 points entirely in base stats.

Robson scored at .9PPM, meaning he’ll be a serious hooking option to start the year if he plays an 80-minute role. This would likely see him churn out some serious numbers before being upgraded once peaking in price. Keep a close eye on the rookie rake throughout the pre-season.

Jordan McLean

$492,100 || FRF || Rd 1 rating: 2/10

McLean’s bounce back from an ACL injury in 2019 was fairly impressive from a SuperCoach perspective, averaging 53PPG in 52MPG. Unfortunately he lacks many key attributes such as work rate and attacking upside to figure at a fairly hefty price.

Josh McGuire

$497,500 || 2RF-FRF || Rd 1 rating: 3/10

McGuire continues to produce some fairly respectable SuperCoach numbers in big minutes, but a lack of attacking upside has kept him out of the elite category his entire career. McGuire averaged 54PPG in 60MPG last season, so it’s hard to see him improving significantly in 2020, pass.

Gavin Cooper

$464,700 || 2RF || Rd 1 rating

Cooper hasn’t averaged less than 77MPG in the past five seasons, but unfortunately for a try-scoring forward his work rate hinders his ability to enter serious SuperCoach discussions.

 

Shane Wright

$443,400 || 2RF || Rd 1 rating: 4/10

Wright came from the clouds to land an 80-minute edge role last season from Round 15 onwards. In ten 80-minute games he averaged a respectable 55.9PPG, including an outlier of 22 against Cronulla. A similar average would see his price rise approximately $80k, so there is some upside to the purchase if he maintains his role. However he looks about $50-100k too expensive to be considered as a genuine mid-ranger.

Jason Taumalolo

$723,400 || 2RF || Rd 1 rating: 9/10

To start with JT or not? The answer, likely, is yes, but it’ll cost you top dollar following his career high average of 78PPG. Taumalolo has averaged 64, 64 and 63MPG his past three seasons, so similar numbers will likely continue.

The only potential concern for prospective owners would be whether he starts the season with reduced minutes, but on a staggered 2019 season opening there shouldn’t be too much worry. JT played 62 minutes in the season opener (for 99 points), then was injured in Round 2 where he sat out the next five weeks. He returned from injury to minutes of 58, 63, 80, 69, 80 and 80.

With Origin not a concern, I think the upside to the rampaging lock is too hard to ignore. Star backs are far more likely to struggle to accumulate attacking stats early in the year as cohesion builds, but JT will run, and run, and run. Across 18 games last season he went beyond 90 points on seven occasions, including a 138 point monster.

Michael Morgan

$471,600 || 5/8-HFB || Rd 1 rating: 4/10

Morgan was a boom Round 1 POD last season when taking the reins from Thurston, but he failed to deliver on the faith of many coaches. Morgan averaged 59PPG every season from 2015-2017, so the upside is there, but he looked off-pace in a struggling Cowboys outfit throughout 2019.

Dual-position status and an affordable starting price based on an average of 51PPG is likely to tempt some, but let’s see how he clicks with the likes of Holmes, Marsters, Drinkwater and Robson before jumping on prematurely.

 

Scott Drinkwater

$360,600 || FLB-5/8 || Rd 1 rating: 5/10

It’s tough to see how Drinkwater’s expected halves shift will impact his SuperCoach scoring. He played halfback for the Junior Kangaroos with Nathan Cleary at five-eighth, so the move shouldn’t be a difficult transition.

Drinkwater is certainly a tempting prospect with attacking upside at a decent price, but an average of 39PPG last season is hard to come by. George Williams looks a more enticing buy at a discount, but Drinkwater could flourish in his new role with a Cowboys outfit boasting plenty more strike out wide in 2020.

Esan Marsters

$482,900 || CTW || Rd 1 rating: 5/10

Like Holmes and Feldt, Marsters will only immediately become relevant if he wins the goal-kicking duties. It now appears, according to the man himself in a recent interview, that Holmes and Feldt will be the first-choice kicking options.

If he doesn’t, there’s no reason why he can’t come into calculations later in the season, but you’d want to firstly see how he gels with his new side and if the Cowboys can find greater attacking spark early on.

In 2018 he set SuperCoach alight primarily due to his whopping base stats of 33BPG that helped achieve a CTW keeper’s average of 61PPG. In 2019, his base dropped to 27BPG, while his goal-kicking percentage dropped 10% – eventually leading to him being replaced as kicker. It’s advised not to start with him, but keep him firmly on the radar for a Round 3 purchase before price rises occur if he’s ticking the key boxes (goal-kicking).

Tom Opacic

$433,400 || CTW || Rd 1 rating: 2/10

Big Tom lacks the attacking spark to really force consideration into sides. With a fairly robust body type perhaps he can up his base stats and tackle busts in 2020? Pass…

 

Kyle Feldt

$481,500 || CTW || Rd 1 rating: 2/10*

Feldt will become SuperCoach relevant if, and only if, he can win the goal-kicking duties. Even then, at a high price tag in a side that struggled for attacking cohesion last season you’d be taking a gamble. He averaged 52 and 49PG in his last two seasons. If given the kicking duties on the end of what appears a more superior backline to 2018, Feldt has the potential to increase his average to 55-60PPG.

UPDATE: Feldt is believed to be vying for the kicking duties with Valentine Holmes.

 

Murray Taulagi

$276,00 || CTW || Rd 1 rating: 7/10

Unfortunately six games to finish last season cruelled Taulagi’s rock bottom starting price, but he’ll remain a popular cheapie nonetheless. It’s a small sample size, but across his six games he averaged 33PPG crossing the line twice in the process.

Promisingly he had 12.7 runs per game and 11 tackle breaks. While they’re not numbers to get hairs standing on end, he’ll likely feature in most Round 1 squads unless a plethora of cheapies emerge for the season opener. But he’s probably one cheapie to avoid playing in starting 17s as best possible.

Valentine Holmes

$563,700 || FLB || Rd 1 rating: 5/10

Val’s SuperCoach relevance rests directly on whether or not he wins the goal-kicking duties upon his highly anticipated return from his NFL venture. His main competition now appears to be Kyle Feldt. Holmes has a career success rate of 73.91%, and upped that to 75.68% in his last season. On numbers alone, he’s likely to take up the duties thus bringing him into contention for Round 1

With an absolutely stacked fullback category it’s hard to make an immediate case for Holmes. However, once making the permanent mid-season move to fullback in 2018 he went on to average 88.4PPG across 11 games. He’s been priced based on an average of a tick over 60 points, which is a bit harsh considering he had a year out of the game. While he’s certainly one for POD hunters, there’s safer options to kick-off the season.

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