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.
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)
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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
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:
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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?
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