In the next part of our positional previews series, I’ll be taking a closer look at the front-row forwards.
This is proving to be one of the more difficult positions to select from for me. There seems to be a limited amount of true guns, a variety of mid-ranged guys who could potentially breakout or just as easily bust, and a veritable wasteland of cash cows. I keep looking back to 12 months ago when we had a bunch of sub-$350k guys like Herman Ese’Ese, TPJ, Fonua-Blake, Fisher-Harris, Isaiah Papalii, Matt Lodge and Viliame Kikau, and most of us were clamouring over Robbie Rochow, Kane Evans, Leilani Latu or George Burgess. It really goes to show how spoilt we were, and I don’t think I appreciated what I had available to me.
But you’re not here to daydream about the past. As the season draws closer, we need some names for this year. Below, I’ve picked out who I think are three of the best options from each of the series categories.
If you don’t see someone here that you were hoping to, drop us a line in the comments or check out some of our other articles. I’m sure we’ll be able to help you out.
Anyway – let’s go and see what’s over the FRF horizon.
Price: $634,300 – Position: FRF – 2018 Average: 67.8 – PPM: 1.19 – BPPM: 0.83
The absolute premier front-rower in the SuperCoach game is a man who is undoubtedly a front-row only player. And by that I mean, it used to be that the DPP guys actually playing in the backrow were our top dogs. But Fifita is a different beast.
Remember the days when we would talk about Fifi being a notoriously slow starter? Put them to bed. He came out all guns blazing in 2018 to average 66.6 PPG in the first five weeks, and 72 PPG over the opening 10 weeks.
And the best news is that he managed to punch out another near 70
“He’s a very passionate bloke. He’s got a lot of pride in his performance” Aaron Woods explains Andrew Fifita’s post try blow up aimed at the @Cronulla_Sharks coaching staff @aaronwoods11 #bigsportsbrekkyhttps://t.co/BwuW7V10sH pic.twitter.com/fjrP1eImxh— Big Sports Breakfast (@BigSportsBrekky) August 22, 2018
This fine example of “who is Andrew Fifita” came after one of his only three tries last year. So again, his high average wasn’t on the back of try scoring prowess. It was all Base+Power stats, the big man’s bread and butter. His Base+Power PPM rate last year was an extraordinary 1.14.
The Sharks forward pack in 2019 is fairly similar to last year but will be missing some key pieces. Luke Lewis has finally hung up the boots after 17 seasons, Wade Graham suffered a torn ACL in the Sharks prelim final loss so he won’t be seen until midway through the year, plus Paul Gallen is on the downward slide of his career. Cronulla will be blooding some of the younger guys in early 2019 and will likely be relying on Fifita even more than they already do. If he can grab a couple of extra minutes, he’ll be near unstoppable in SuperCoach (he played 63.6 MPG in his first 12 games last year for 71.7 PPG with zero tries scored).
And he’s already looking dangerous, having pummelled Newcastle last weekend in their final trial before a rematch in round 1. With no Origin on the horizon due to committing to Tongan Rugby League, Fifita will be incredibly hard to pass up to start the season.
Price: $605,100 – Position: FRF/2RF – 2018 Average: 64.7 – PPM: 1.27 – BPPM: 0.96
Marty Taupau has elevated his game to elite levels over the last two seasons. Already having averaged close to 60 PPG in the 2015-16 seasons, Taupau’s minutes dropped from 65 per
In a team that boasts the Trbojevic brothers and DCE, the Kiwi international is arguably Manly’s most dangerous player. Taupau had seven scores last year of over 75 points, plus another of 74 points. That’s up there in the Captain range, and he did it without scoring a single try all season. Not one. The year before, he averaged 65 PPG as well, with just one try. So, he’s racking up these massive scores without relying on many attacking stats.
His PPM and BPPM rates are honestly off the charts and as good as you’re likely to see from anyone, and he was second only to Fifita with 71 offloads last year. But where he excels is Base+Power stats. For the uninitiated, that includes tackle breaks and offloads as well as tackles and hitups. Taupau averaged an amazing 65.5 B+P PPG in 2018. So essentially, that’s his floor across a season and he will consistently produce solid scoring games without too much flair. But, if he manages to jag a try here and there, you’re looking at a monster score.
Price: $508,000 – Position: FRF/2RF – 2018 Average: 54.3 – PPM: 1.01 – BPPM: 0.73
Shaun Lane just sneaks into the ‘gun’ category with his $508k price tag, but he is every chance of being one of the highest scorers in the position this coming season. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I really opened my eyes to his potential and he now sits comfortably in my side.
Lane started the year on the bench for Manly in 2018. He produced a cracker in round 1, scoring 73 points in 33 minutes but things went south for him after that. From round 2-7, Lane played 33.7 MPG in either the #14 or #15 jersey and scored a very unimpressive 28.8 PPG. Round 8 brought about another big game, and an injury to then starter Jack Gosiewski. Lane was promoted to the starting role in round 9 and never looked back.
From that game on, Lane almost doubled his minutes to 62.7 per game and his scores followed suit to 61.7 PPG. But that wasn’t even the best of it. After the round 17 bye, he knocked up a huge 75 PPG from 65.8 MPG to close out the season, including two triple figure scores, and put himself squarely in the sights of SuperCoaches as he makes the move to the Eels.
Parramatta desperately needed some help in the forwards, but questions arose over what the rotation would be with renowned big minute players in Nathan Brown and Manu Ma’u already occupying back-row spots. Well, Brown is capable of being a backup hooker option, and Ma’u is out until Round 6-8 with an MCL injury he picked up in the last trial. This is huge positive news for Lane, and after an extremely impressive final hitout for the Eels, he all but locked himself into my side.
@NRL_SC_Addicts Lane (64 mins): Tackles: 23, Hitups > 8m: 4, Offloads: 3, Try: 1, Try Contribution: 1, LB: 1, Error: 1. Total SC score: 72— Tyler (@tjstyles1) March 2, 2019
Ferguson (40 mins): Tackles: 2, TB: 4, Hitups >8m: 10, Hitups < 8m: 7, Penalties Conceded: 1. Total SC score: 35
Lane’s dual-position status, relatively low price and incredible finish to last year, makes him a prime breakout contender. He has every chance of competing with the men above here for the mantle of best front-row option in the game.
It would be rude of me not to mention…..
Sam Burgess (Price: $560,000 – Position: FRF/2RF – 2018 Average: 59.9 – PPM: 0.86 – BPPM: 0.7) is listed in the Mega Guide as an ‘A’, as he was coming off his worst SuperCoach season and still averaged 60 PPG. But I think that designation could almost pass onto Cameron Murray after last weekend’s Charity Shield. Burgess played out wide in a sign of things to come this year and has said that it will be a case of “less work; more quality” from him this year. The addition of Ethan Lowe could have been the nail in Sam’s coffin but he seems to have been largely unaffected by it so far (through one game). He still looked dangerous and will be towards the pointy end of the FRF stocks again this year.
It’s probably best to avoid…….
Ryan James (Price: $585,800 – Position: FRF/2RF – 2018 Average: 62.6 – PPM: 0.85 – BPPM: 0.7)came back to some semblance of form in 2018, largely in the second half of the season. His year was a funny one. He was shifted from the middle of the field to a wider role and then there were so many injuries at the Titans on a weekly basis that RJ ended up having to play a lot more minutes throughout the year, going from an average of 61 MPG in 2016-17 to 74 MPG in 2018. However, he only increased his scoring average by about 3 points from the year before. As his MPG raised, his BPPM dropped significantly (a huge 0.17 BPPM loss).
He doesn’t get through the same work on the edge as he would inside, and it affects his scoring. The role is supposedly continuing this year after the recruitment of ex-Raider Shannon Boyd and emergence of superstar Jai Arrow as middle players. And he’ll even potentially be competing for minutes and/or ball from renowned ball-hog Tyrone Peachey and a suddenly resurgent Bryce Cartwright. I mean, WTF? Add in the knee injury RJ has been carrying for most of the preseason (ruled him out of the All Stars match), and he’s a huge no-go to start 2019.
Tevita Pangai Junior
Price: $495,000 – Position: FRF/2RF – 2018 Average: 52.9 – PPM: 1.06 – BPPM: 0.71
TPJ was also listed as an ‘A’ in the Mega Guide before his recent setback. Before that, he was just about a lock in everyone’s front row to start the season and now, with the news that his hammy is ok for round one, I think it’s worth taking another look at him.
Entering his third NRL season, TPJ had a big breakout. He had averaged 25 MPG in his first two seasons but doubled that to 50 MPG last year and a season average of 53 PPG while playing every forward role for the Broncos (prop, back-row, lock and bench). He showcased his supreme talent with some big scores, the best of them being an 85-point game from 32 minutes of game time (2.66 PPM) in round 19 against Penrith. TPJ had all but sewn up the starting lock position for the upcoming season after the loss of McGuire to Queensland rivals, the Cowboys.
But there are a couple of issues that need addressing with the kid and I wouldn’t be doing my job to just gloss over them. The first and biggest is the one we all know about: his hammies. Those big ol’ pegs caused no end of trouble to SuperCoaches (and TPJ too, I guess) and resulted in a number of missed or unfinished games, like that Panthers game I just mentioned. The second issue is the return of Matt Gillett. It’s great news that this guy can get back on the park following what he went through, but there are some rumours floating around of Gillett being used through the middle as he returns. This would either push TPJ out wide, or worse yet, put the two guys in a timeshare as Siebold looks to manage their minutes in an attempt to keep both healthy. And finally, TPJ, if playing well, is right in the frame for an Origin call up. It won’t affect us until mid-year, but it does mean he misses an extra game than he would have.
The plus side is that with Josh McGuire, Sam Thaiday, Korbin Sims (who were playing at least 40 MPG each) all gone, there’s a lot of extra minutes up for grabs. If TPJ is fully healthy, a good lot of those will go to him. He should see himself playing closer to 60 MPG and with a strong PPM rate of 1.06, that would see him joining that 60:60 club.
For a more in-depth (and lovesick) look into TPJ, check out Wilfred’sPOI on him.
After starting the pre-season as one of the most sought after SuperCoach forwards in the game, ‘TPJ’s’ stocks have taken a hit following a hamstring injury inside the first 20 minutes of a Broncos trial game. There is no doubt TPJ has a lot to offer in SuperCoach, but with his horror record of hamstring injuries it wouldn’t shock anyone to see him miss some football this season. SuperCoaches have taken note and are getting cold feet on the young powerhouse, with his ownership dropping from 45% to 33%. There are also question marks over what his better position is in SuperCoach, with Seibold tipping him to play lock, which could hinder his attacking output. Seibold could also be tempted to hold his minutes back given his injury history. At the moment there are just too many unknowns for a player with such an awkward price tag.
Price: $493,000 – Position: FRF – 2018 Average: 52.7 – PPM: 1.1 – BPPM: 0.93
It’s hard to believe that a guy who averaged almost 53 PPG and a rate of 1.1 PPM had a down year, but that’s exactly what happened to Paul Vaughan after 2017 saw him escalate himself into the conversation of the game’s best props. He kept a consistent minute’s average but his workload and, more importantly, tries took a big hit in 2018.
Vaughan exploded in his first season as a Dragon, finding the promised land eight times. And he look destined to repeat that last year after bagging two in St George’s opening six games. Unfortunately, that was the last time he troubled the scorers for the season. He played another 13 games for the year including an injury affected 10 points in 11 minutes that lowered his average and therefore 2019 starting price. It also means that his increase in minutes average wasn’t as large as it was going to be. Vaughan was starting to play bigger minute games and with the JDB suspension, he’s a chance to continue that trend this season.
The early talk was that Vaughan had started the year hungry, impressing in his early trials, even bagging a try vs my Knights. So I was eager to keep a close watch on him during the Charity Shield. However, a very early failed HIA ended that dream before it even began. If he can pick his PPM up to where it was in previous seasons, and grab some of JDB’s minutes, Vaughan shapes as a huge bounce-back contender.
Price: $364,900 – Position: FRF – 2018 Average: 39.0 – PPM: 0.91 – BPPM: 0.85
You just knew I had to fit a Knight in here somewhere, right? I originally had Aiden Tolman as my last mid-pricer but with the news of Napa’s non-suspension, Tolman’s appeal takes a hit. He could still be a decent option though.
Glasby has never been a high motor guy, having a career high of 42 MPG, which he achieved in each of the last two seasons. He does have an elite career PPM of 1.14 over all six of his seasons, but that dropped to “just” 0.93 last year, leading to a modest average of 39 PPG. Fortunately, he appears to have landed the #13 jersey at Newcastle to kick off the season and last year’s average has kept his price to just over our “cheapie” cut off.
Looking back at the 2018 season, four different guys started games at lock for the Knights (Mitch Barnett, Aiden Guerra, Ese’ese and Daniel Saifiti) and Nathan Brown played these guys an average of 59.5 MPG. If we dig a bit deeper, the latter two of those guys are more prop type players, and even they played 51.7 MPG in their appearances at the position. So, there’s every chance Glasby increases his minutes by up to 10-15 minutes a week. And with his (hopefully) over 1 PPM rate, an increase of 10-15 points.
Wilfred wouldn’t speak to me again if I didn’t mention…..
Jo Ofahengaue (Price: $481,300 – Position: FRF/2RF – 2018 Average: 51.4 – PPM: 1.03 – BPPM: 0.93) is another one of the baby Broncos who is set to step up in 2019. Jo O no longer has to deal with McGuire, Thaiday or Sims battling for minutes ahead of him, and any extra minutes per game he can pick up (he played around 50 MPG last year) will mean just as many extra points he will score thanks to his immovable PPM rate. You can check out his POI piece here.
It’s probably best to avoid……
Luke Bateman(Price: $339,000 – Position: FRF/2RF – 2018 Average: 36.2 – PPM: 0.88 – BPPM: 0.89) –If you’re picking a forward from Canberra by the name of Bateman, it’s John you want; not Luke. You wouldn’t want to pick the wrong guy from the same team now, would you Surgebuster?
Price: $288,100 – Position: FRF – 2018 Average: 30.8 – PPM: 0.73 – BPPM: 0.72
Listen, we’re all adults here. Let’s try to keep the conversation civilised and professional, shall we?
With that out of the way, as well as his suspension fears, we can now take a good hard look at the tape on Dylan Napa. Having played his entire career to date with the Sydney Roosters, Napa will now be doing it
Napa is looking like he’ll be our best “cash cow” in the FRF position, which isn’t saying much from a man that averaged 42 MPG and 31 PPG across 19 games in 2018. It was a largely disappointing season for the Queensland representative and he was starting to become the forgotten man in a very strong NRL side. So, what better way to get people talking about you once again than making a fresh start at a new club, am I right?
Fact is, Napa will slip right into the opening that Klemmer has left behind and become a starting prop at the Kennel. He had a shocker of a year, but the three previous years saw him averaging 51.6 MPG and 46.6 PPG. If he can get to similar levels, he’s got an approximate $100-$150k rise in him which would be exactly what you want leading into the bye period. If not, he’s a relatively easy round 3 downgrade option if someone presents themselves……. Big Papi!
Price: $257,000 – Position: FRF – 2018 Average: 27.5 – PPM: 0.89 – BPPM: 0.84
Hetherington debuted last season and ended up putting together a pretty decent run for a rookie prop. He wasn’t a player that anyone would have been looking at in any capacity until the first trial; 2nd set injury to Billy Kickers basically gifted him a look in. Hetherington started in the #11 jersey for the Panthers in last weekend’s trial against Parramatta and looks likely to start the year in the backrow.
He’s priced at a premium for what’s he has previously produced but that could be a blessing in disguise. If Hetherington can jag a couple of early attacking stats in that potent Penrith lineup, whilst Kikau is out, he will at the worst hold steady or get a nice bump in price. No one is expecting him to replace Billy but even half the output would be an improvement on Hetherington’s previous scores.
Kikau is currently out four roughly four weeks of the NRL season, although it’s said that he’s pushing for a week 4 return. Hetherington could ultimately become a trap; or he could be the guy you cut for Payne Haas upon his return for a tidy profit.
Price: $196,900 – Position: FRF/2RF – 2018 Average: 17.2 – PPM: 0.96 – BPPM: 0.98
Tui Kamikamica played just the five games last year (17 PPG) and two in 2017 (9 PPG). He’s only managed to snag 15 MPG on average and while he had the likes of Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse Bromwich, Albert Vete and Christian Welch all hanging around, it seemed unlikely that any relevant increase would be happening.
That is until the trials started.
Here’s an extract from JT’s Week 3 Trial Roundup this week:
Tui Kamikamica had been one of the Storm’s best forwards over their two trial games and had seemingly sewn his spot up in the 17 for Round 1. He was again busy when he subbed on here. With plenty of minutes up for grabs in the Storm’s prop rotation, keep everything crossed that he pulls up okay.
He’s of course referring to a late knee injury the youngster picked up, but Coach Bellamy doesn’t believe it’s all that bad. Hopefully he’s right.
Keep a look out for team lists.
Encore! Encore! Encore! – Ok, one more just for you……
Jacob Host (Price: $196,900 – Position: FRF/2RF – 2018 Average: 13.6 – PPM: 0.54 – BPPM: 0.56) appears to have won the first look into the vacated JDB second row spot, at least in the meantime, after being named to start in the Charity Shield. He went on to play around 55 minutes in the game, a huge increase from the approx. 20 MPG he got in 2018. This would normally be great news. A rookie priced, front-row eligible guy who will be playing a lot more minutes in the second-row. Lock it in, right? Well, there is the little question of what happens in a couple of weeks once Korbin Sims returns from suspension.
It’s probably best to avoid……
Payne Haas (Price: $181,100 – Position: FRF – 2018 Average: 14.7 – PPM: 1.23 – BPPM: 1.14) is another Bronco forward who had been given an ‘A’ in the MG but that won’t be the case on next update after he found himself in trouble for “failing to comply with the NRL Integrity Unit”. Part of the punishment sees him suspended by the club for the opening four games of the season and all but rules him out of contention as a starter for us. The problem is that there really isn’t a lot going for us in terms of rookies, so Haas is going to be one to wait-and-watch. Once he gets his shot though, he’ll quickly become the most traded-in player of that round.
Well, that’s a wrap fellas.
From next week you will catch me providing weekly advice on who to pick as your captain. So until then, Abaft! (that’s Pirate for “back to the boat” apparently.)