Players of Interest – Tim Lafai

Before I begin, I would like to preface this article by mentioning that in the season 2018, I took Tim Lafai (CTW, $420K) in my SuperCoach draft league in the third round having high hopes of him becoming the no.1 CTW at years end. I proceeded to double down on this decision and pay $575 400 to squeeze him into my SuperCoach Classic team too (as you do). Needless to say, both my teams failed miserably as a result, with my draft league declaring that this third-round pick of Tim Lafai was the FLOP OF THE YEAR.

Recent Statistics:

2017: Games played (24), average (65), tries (7), line breaks (14), offloads (62), tackle busts (75), runs (323)

2018: Games played (24), average (45), tries (5), line breaks (8), offloads (23), tackle busts (63), runs (276)

Check out our other pre-season content below:

2019 Players of Interest: Read all of these here

2019 SuperCoach Club Previews: Read all of these here

So, What Went Wrong?

Looking at the above stats, unless Paul McGregor gave him specific orders to take fewer runs and stop throwing offloads, it’s hard to comprehend such a considerable drop off in involvement in all major attacking categories.  Two main factors I believe contributed to this:

1. The contract year

YearGames PlayedAverage
2013 (Bulldogs)1550
2014 (Bulldogs)2161
2015 (Bulldogs)1838
2016 (Dragons)1842
2017 (Dragons)2465
2018 (Dragons)2445

Looking at the above table, last years average does not seem like such an anomaly. The two seasons where he has performed at elite fantasy levels was in 2014 with the Bulldogs and in 2017 with the Dragons. Interestingly these two years also coincided with the signing of major contract extensions for Lafai. You can make of that what you will, but it Is only human nature that when your livelihood is on the line you’re more willing to bust your ass off for that next paycheck

2. The Ben Hunt factor

In 2017, with Josh McCrone operating on the right side, almost all of the Dragon’s attack operated down the left side of the field with Widdop and Lafai. The arrival of Hunt in 2018 certainly played a part in the regression of Lafai’s output last year, with the attack more spread evenly across both sides.

Below is what we wrote about Lafai in this year’s Mega Guide to provide you with a flavour of the content included: 

Buy your copy here.

The Upside

The pedigree is there, and he has proven twice to be a keeper in the thin CTW position. He starts at a bargain price of $419,500 and he won’t get much cheaper than this throughout the season. Similarly, he would be on many coaches “never to be drafted again list” after last year’s performance, so might well be worth a late-round gamble.

In 2017, across a 10 game sample of when Josh “Glue Hands” Dugan was not the Dragons fullback, Lafai averaged an incredible 79.9! Unfortunately, he was replaced last year by Matt “run sideways” Dufty, who similarly butchered many backline movements. With the likelihood of a genuine ball player in Gareth Widdop moving to fullback, Lafai will potentially benefit from more early ball, maximising the opportunities created by the backline sweeps.

Lafai does not come off contract until the end of 2020 so be sure to pick him next year! However, with the state of contracts these days with players seemingly asking for releases whenever they have a tiff with their coach, or players signing for other clubs more than a year in advance, this could be the year where he decides to match it with the NRL’s top centres. He certainly has the ability to do so, or am I clutching at straws on this one? What are your thoughts?

Check out the rest of our Players of Interest articles below: 

Greg Inglis

Jahrome Hughes

Clint Gutherson

Brett Morris

Kurt Mann

Michael Morgan

Matt Moylan

Esan Marsters

Josh Mansour

Daniel Alvaro

Alex Twal

Tevita Pangai Junior

Kalyn Ponga 

Mitchell Moses

Joseph Manu 

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A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Since Ravalawa is unlikely to get a wing spot, I’m liking Lafai more and more by the day. Mary telling him to put away the offload last season is my biggest concern of all, and one that’ll ultimately stop me from picking him. But I can’t ignore the fact that the Dragons will have the best playmaking trio in the comp (they’ll be playing off the back of one of the best packs too), and you’d like to think their outside backs will receive greater opportunities than almost any other backline. Can’t believe he was given a D rating in… Read more »

POD Hunter
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” the Dragons will have the best playmaking trio in the comp ”
Thats a big hot take. Several i rate higher.

Cant argue with their pack though

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Hunt, Norman, and Widdop all have their flaws, but they have the best collective playmaking ability out of all the teams. At the very least, it can be argued that they do.

There isn’t a trio who’s conclusively, without a doubt, better.

Time For Plan B
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Time For Plan B

I like the Sharks (Moylan/Johnson/Townsend), Knights (Watson/Ponga/Pearce), Panthers (Edwards/Maloney/Cleary) and Roosters (Tedesco/Keary/Cronk) all up there as well. IMO Roosters have the best, followed by Knights, Sharks, Dragons and Panthers.

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Sharks are definitely up there near the top (they most certainly have an argument), but all the other teams you mentioned, not all those players can kick/pass, run an attack, and play 1st and 2nd receiver, fluidly – Hunt, Norman and Widdop can do all those things.

In terms of overall ability, I don’t think they’re best, but when it comes to playmaking, they’re at the top, IMO.

POD Hunter
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I don’t really see the point in trying to distinguish their skills in terms of passing / running an attack, os slotting into first and second receiver, if their overall ability isnt great, including their vision, composure, and influence on their team mates.

Their overall ability as a “playmaking trio” is especially questionable when they have not even played together yet, and one of them will go to full back where they have not been based for a while.

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

The point is, I was trying to illustrate the opportunities that the Dragons backline will get this season. If you have three players in those receiver positions that can kick, pass, and identify how to attack the opposition on both sides of the field, like Hunt, Norman and Widdop can, it’s only going to be beneficial to their backs. If you don’t agree with them being the best, fine, but I don’t see the sense in calling it a hot take and acting like it’s unreasonable. Widdop had 17 try assists and 14 line-break assists last season Hunt had 17… Read more »

POD Hunter
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There were certainly implications in the way your initial statement was worded that suggested the Dragons had the best playmakers, whether you intended it that way or not.

And calling something a hot take isnt necessarily saying it is an unreasonable opinion. I was interested in your reasoning which you came back with.

Catfish
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They also have one of the worst coaches in the NRL… he currently wants to rotate them so he can play Dufty off the bench too, and put Hunt in at 9 and McInnes to lock for short bursts, etc.

Bethany_B
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Bethany_B

Widdop at fullback will do great, he was really good when he played there for England

WeninRome
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I support the D rating and I didn’t write it. It’s a trap!

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

He’s only priced at 420k (basically the same as Manu) playing in one of the better teams in the comp, having the likes of Hunt, Norman and Widdop giving him easy attacking opportunities and early ball (he’s in a great situation, it’s not like he’s playing for the Eels).

I don’t know about you but that’s not a D rating to me – D ratings should be reserved for overpriced players in bad situations.

I really don’t see how Manu’s a B, yet Lafai’s a D, all things considered.

WeninRome
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I do. Lafai was only relevant when he was offloading at will. He causes too many turnovers for his side when this happens and therefore I highly doubt that the coach allows him the freedom to return to these ways.

I still support the ranking.

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

The offloads most certainly drop his value/upside, but I don’t get how a lack of an offload makes him irrelevant and yet Manu’s relevant and he hardly ever offloads (he only had 9 offloads last season, to Lafai’s 21 – that’s less than half). Their respective team situations and prices are similar, so one being rated a D because he doesn’t offload at will, yet the other is rated a B and he offloads to a considerably lesser degree, doesn’t make sense to me. I understand you didn’t do those rankings, but Lafai has just as much upside as Manu… Read more »

Catfish
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Manu is trending upwards, Lafai has multiple seasons of irrelevance and 38-45 averages apart from contract years and/or years when he was allowed to offload at will.

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

A seven-game sample size from last season where every Roosters backline member had a gargantuan bump in their averages doesn’t prove he’s trending upwards. Should I expect Mitchell to average in the 80s this season? Should I expect Teddy to average in the 90s this season? After all, if we’re using the logic of Manu trending upwards, we must apply the same to the other players in the backline.

The problem with your take is, you’re framing the best possible case for Manu, yet looking at the worse case for Lafai.

Catfish
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I’m talking about Manu’s base stats from Round 14 to 25, and also his base stats in the finals + his performances in the games for NZ

You’re the one who keeps harping on about that 7-game sample that I haven’t even looked at in any detail

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

You keep “harping” on about base stats, yet you’re not bothering to digest the context of how he got those base stats, nor are you taking into account his attacking stats during that period.

Let’s compare their respective base stats over that period:

Lafai – 27 points in base per game
Manu – 28 points in base per game

They averaged the same amount of base stats over that period, yet you seem to think Lafai’s a bum and Manu is the Second Coming.

Catfish
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Mate, you’re clearly not understanding anything that I’m saying and just nitpicking random points to respond to. I’m not comparing Lafai and Manu, I’m comparing Manu with Manu and what I’m actually seeing on the field in his football, and Lafai is essentially a known quantity since we have plenty of data on him being a very similar player across different years and different teams.

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

You specifically pointed out a period (R14-R25) of Manu’s base stats, and as evidence for why he was trending upwards and a far greater prospect than Lafai, yet they averaged the same amount of base stats over that period.

How are you not comparing Lafai and Manu when you just responded to my comment and literally compared them?

You’re throwing all these talking points at the wall and hoping one sticks — but none of them are.

Catfish
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I responded to your query about why Lafai is a D and Manu is a B. The individual ratings for them are based off Lafai and Manu as separate players and is not a comparison of them in terms of their stats. I pointed specifically to those rounds because we only have limited amount of data on Manu – I can only compare with so much – but you can see with your own eyes the difference he makes on the field as he gets more involved. I’m not really throwing much out there at all – I’m pretty sure… Read more »

Simon
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Simon

I think one of the keys to his offloading, was that he was just not given enough early ball to go one on one with his opposing centres. The offloads he has reigned in are the coach killer ones in his own half bringing the ball out from trouble and I expect this to continue. He has averaged over 60 in two seasons now; how many actual centre/wingers (not fullback eligible ctws) have done that? probably about 5?

Catfish
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Lafai is a bum, he’s had multiple seasons of mediocre workrate except that one or two contract years where he killed it, and then the offload went away as well as the work rate and he’s back to his 45ish average again. Can’t see him being relevant, especially not at that price.

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Lafai’s a bum, yet you were falling over yourself to defend Manu…….

Catfish
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Manu’s base stats are improving, and Lafai’s are trending downwards? That’s all it is

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Lafai’s base stats from R1-R13 – 26 per game
Lafai’s base stats from R14-R26 – 27 per game

Care to explain how you came to the conclusion Lafai’s are trending downwards? Care to explain why you believe Manu’s base stats are going to improve from what he averaged from R14-onwards (28 per game), to the point where it makes him relevant and not a bum like Lafai and his 27 per game?

Catfish
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Lafai 2015 31.1 base + base attack
Lafai 2016 36.3 base + base attack
Lafai 2017 45.7 base + base attack
Lafai 2018 36.5 base + base attack

Manu 2018 Rds 1-13 (excl injury game) base + base attack 25.5
Manu 2018 Rds 14-25 base + base attack = 37

Again my point is that Lafai is a known quantity, and we’re yet to see the full extent of Manu’s talent in the NRL IMO – 2019 could very well be that year hence the excitement.

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

You just keep proving my point – Manu’s and Lafai’s respective base are basically identical, yet you seem to think Manu was trending towards a tick during those games that in comparison made Lafai look a bum, when they were the same….. how does that make sense to you? While Lafai is a known quantity, you can’t automatically assume that Manu is going to increase on where he left off from R14-R25. Like I said above, you’re not even bothering to contextualize how he achieved those base stats. You seem to think that not only is he going to have… Read more »

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Since Manu’s base stats are trending upwards from the back end of last season, what should we expect this season? 35? 40? He’s going to need to hit that high if he doesn’t want to be a bum like Lafai and his measly 27 base stat-average.

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

I’ll be expecting a 10-15+ points average differential between Lafai and Manu this season.

Catfish
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Where are these arbitrary numbers coming from?

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Well considering Manu has a B ranking, and is trending upwards, and Lafai has a D ranking, and is a bum, yet they’re both priced the same and have similar team conditions, I expect a 10-15+ points average differential.

Catfish
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The rankings have nothing to do with point average, they’re based on value as a pick for Round 1 teams. Manu has greater potential to be undervalued given his career is taking off and he keeps growing with confidence, whereas Lafai is priced higher than his season averages in 4 of his last 7 seasons and is already losing some of his pace that he had in earlier years. Their team conditions aren’t all that similar anyway. Lafai has to contend with a new left side half, a new wing partner and a new ballplaying fullback to potentially see him… Read more »

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

If they’re based on value, and both players are basically the same price, how isn’t it about the projection of point averages?

Their respective team conditions are most definitely similar. I feel like you have a hidden agenda here.

Catfish
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HAHA now I have a hidden agenda.
I’m out, there’s no point discussing SC with you.

Qldian
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Qldian

Seriously Flock you need to take a chill pill. Its like you have to defend yourself against anyone else’s opinion and that your always right. You are pretty forceful in backing your points up which can be a good thing but your disregarding so many other people thoughts on matters with no respect. We all got what Catfish was saying without comparing base stats. Lafai was a nuff last season, Manu improved out of sight in his last 7 games, scored a try in the 1st semi vs the Sharks, set Fergo up for a great try in the 2nd… Read more »

OnTheBus
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Amen

Back2Back
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Back2Back

You can see why so many discussions went back and forth last year. Make your point and move on without beating it to death

Themoose77
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Themoose77

This is supposed to be a fun game, bit of escape from the anger and negativity of life. Bit of banter is cool but seriously – calm the farm dude, we haven’t even started the season yet

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Great point bringing up the Dufty/Dugan factor too, @48385. Widdop is a master at feeding his outside options.

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Whoever the Guest is following me around downvoting all my comments – why not sign in and participate in the discussion instead of abusing the thumbs down icon for no other purpose but to annoy me?

WhoDatBoy
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WhoDatBoy

Imagine caring about upvotes and downvotes on an internet forum relating to supercoach

BT
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BT

If I recall correctly he was instructed to reign in the offloads and stop making so many errors that put his team under pressure. Assuming that will stay the same?

TurkeySnow
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The only issue I see with Widdop at the back and Lafai, is that when I brought him in in 2017 Widdop would throw cut out passes past him, as if trying to miss him in the play? I never understood this, maybe was due to the high turnover rate and not wanting him to stuff it up!

OnTheBus
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I would love to know how broncos fans feel about hunt and norman being labelled in a top tier spine hahahaha
Fair Dinkum , actually eels supporters can chip in here too

TurkeySnow
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I dunno there, I can see them clicking quiet easily, hunt and Norman have played a lot of jr footy together and hunt and Widdop gelled well last year. I think if anything Widdop going to the back is what they needed a flb who can pass and also kick in play. I can see him scoring quiet well, but feel maybe his wings and Lomax score better off him, then Lafai, he for some reason chooses to pass past him!

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Exactly.

How many teams can say that their HB, 5/8th and FB all can pass, kick, and play both receiver positions?

OnTheBus
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mbye brooks farah reynolds benji all can , it doesnt mean squat

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

You just can’t help yourself, @15296.

OnTheBus
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You said they are the best spine in the comp lol , i agree with a top pack but roosters broncs knights bunnies ahead in that department imo .

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

I said they were the best “playmaking trio” (all three can kick and pass), nowhere did I mention “the best spine”. Stop taking what I post out of context, nobody needs to keep reading this back-and-forth nonsense that you keep initiating.

TurkeySnow
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Can’t say Niko and Boyd are ahead of Widdop and Hunt, we struggled last year without hunt, Milf maybe better then Norman but needs his confidence and a solid pack to play behind. Knights you have Watson who has been shuffled all over the park, Ponga who could be a world class flb if he was allowed to stay there and Pearce who everyone believes chokes in the grand arena. Bunnies – aren’t set on a flb, and then if it is GI old, doens’t have that spark he had, AJ not a ball player, allen Untested in fg. Walker… Read more »

WoolyScore
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WoolyScore

I was definitely planning to jump on Lafai last year but glad I didn’t. If I was going to take a punt in this price range I’d go James Roberts or possibly Vunivalu – some definite upside there. Already got Manu and Bateman in my team.

Chuck
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Chuck

@2 Article content not loading on mobile (galaxy s8+).

Shanky
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Shanky

Manu sure is passing the eye test in the wcc!! wink lol

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

This is what happens when you go off a small sample size from last season – it doesn’t automatically translate over to the next.

WoolyScore
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WoolyScore

Didn’t see the game. What happened?

A Flock Of Sea Eagles
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A Flock Of Sea Eagles

Was MIA for most of the game, and didn’t do anything with the opportunities that he did get, had a few rookie errors too (only had around 30 SC points). He looked like the same player he did for the majority of last season.