The second part to our Six in Six series are the front-row forwards. With the lack of dual positioned options this year it seems that the while the second-row forward position remained strong, the front-row forwards have weakened. This is proving to be one of the more difficult positions to select from and many, like me, are opting to fill this position with value players.
The Heavy Artillery
Paul Vaughan – $602,000
An increase of 7 MPG to 47, coupled with a monstrous PPM of 1.44 (up from 1.27 in 2017) saw Vaughan break out in 2017 and average 67 SuperCoach PPG. He also managed to produce 51 PPG from base stats and scored over 60 PPG 65% of the time. All in all it was one hell of a season for the Dragons recruit. The big question is, can he do it again? With just 7% ownership, the general consensus seems to suggest no.
While the acquisition of James Graham will soak up minutes, Vaughan should see a similar amount of time on field given he played less than 50 MPG in 2017. However, can he sustain the level of attacking statistics from last year? He scored eight tries in 2017, which equaled the total amount of tries that he had scored across the two prior years. We’ve see this movie before, right? We only have to look back as far as last year when Ryan James was unable to back-up his brilliant 2016 season where he scored a massive 11 tries. James managed just three tries in 2017 and consequentially saw his average tumble from 73 to 60 PPG despite an increase in minutes. I’m staying away from Vaughan for this very reason and he has also loss his dual position flexibility.
Note: In his most recent trial against Souths, Vaughan produced 12 runs (134 RM), 4 tackle-breaks and 23 tackles for an estimated 55 SuperCoach points.
Martin Taupau – $576,900
Taupau’s offload numbers more than doubled in 2017 with 69 versus 31 in 2016. This resulted in him being able to improve his SuperCoach average from 61 to 65 PPG despite a reduction of 8 MPG to just 52.
Looking in detail at this season, he actually fell away badly last year with an average of just 57 PPG from Round 19 compared to 70 PPG across the 18 games prior to that. A big part of this decline was due to a reduction in 6 MPG, which seemed to coincide with the return of Darcy Lussick.
If you are confident that he can regain both his early 2017 minutes and form then perhaps he is a value pick this year. He also has the potential upside of attacking statistics, given that he scored just the one try last year compared to a total of seven in the two years prior.
Note: In his most recent trial against the Roosters, Taupau produced 11 runs (104 RM), 1 tackle-break and 24 tackles for an estimated 46 SuperCoach points.
Sam Burgess – $572,600, SRF
Burgess is one of the few gun FRF’s with dual position status, putting him immediately into consideration and with a current ownership of 35%, he certainly hasn’t been missed.
It’s very harsh to say that a player with a 65 PPG average had a disappointing year, but given that his average dropped by 10 PPG, resulting in his lowest season average in five seasons then I think it’s warranted. While Burgess’s base production remained high at 52 PPG it was still a reduction of five PPG from his 2016 level and he scored over 60 PPG at a rate of just 57% compared to a whopping 74% in 2016 and 87% in 2014.
Based off his past season averages of 75, 89 and 75, I can certainly see the attraction in Burgess and he has been in and out of my side all preseason, but are all those hits starting to take their toll on the 30 year old?
Note: In his most recent trial against the Dragons, Burgess produced 13 runs (95 RM) and 23 tackles for 48 SuperCoach points from lock.
Andrew Fifita – $570,000
It’s a commonly known fact that Andrew Fifita is a slow starter, but did you know that he is actually a poor finisher as well? In 2017 alone he averaged 62 PPG between rounds 1-10 and 19-26 compared to 75 PPG from rounds 11-18. The middle part of the season has generally been when he has performed best and perhaps it has coincided with the loss of Paul Gallen to Origin and rest. With Gallen not playing Origin last year, the uplift in his output was not as severe as in prior years.
2017 saw Fifita’s PPM take a nose dive, finishing the season at 1.15 PPM compared to 1.31 and 1.35 PPM in 2016 and 2015 respectively. All of his important stats were down from the prior year, including a reduction in runs per game from 18 to 15 (thanks Gal!), while his attacking stats were also down with just one try scored last year compared to 10 across the two prior years. A base PPG of just 48 is not something we have come to expect from the prop so, like Burgess, he will be looking for a bounce back year in 2018.
Can he do it? With averages of 80, 77, 73, 72 in the four year prior, he certainly has the pedigree to be the highest averaging FRF this season and at the age of 28, he is also well and truly entering his prime. However, Gallen is still around and unless he is not in the Sharks side, I can’t touch Fifita.
Note: In his most recent trial against the Tigers, Fifita produced 16 runs (164 RM), 6 tackle-breaks and 30 tackles for an estimated 72 SuperCoach points!
Aaron Woods – $557,100
The former Tigers’ skipper has made the move to the Bulldogs and just how that will impact his SuperCoach output at this stage remains largely unknown.
‘Irrelevant’ may be the wrong word, but he’s certainly not been one of the must have FRF’s from a SuperCoach perspective over the past few years, with an average hovering around 60 PPG coupled with a busy representative schedule. However, he proved to be one of the better POD’s towards the back-end of the 2017 season with an average of 73 PPG from Round 19, although this did include three matches were he played in excess of 70 minutes (refer below). He was able to capitalise on the extra minutes and double his offload numbers from 2016, adding an additional 67 points across the season or 3 PPG.
As can be seen from the above, the middle part of his season was almost equally as strong with an average of 67 PPG; however, he did play reduced games over this period due to byes and Origin commitments. It was a first 10 game average of just 51 that really hurt and prevented Woods from potentially being the highest priced FRF in 2018.
Note: Woods did not partake in the most recent trial game as the Bulldogs produced an extremely junior squad against the Panthers.
Ryan James – $530,100
James’ SuperCoach average came crashing down last year as he was unable to repeat the ridiculously high number of tries scored in 2016 (11) with just three in 2017 and he could only produce three line-breaks compared 11, which is probably symptomatic of his low try numbers. However, his base statistics remained at a high 53 PPG, so if he is able to produce some more of these attacking statistics, whilst also increasing his MPG from 63, then he could be one of the better bargains going around. He is the lone skipper at the Titans this year and big minutes on the edge looks likely. With that being said, he would certainly appeal far more as a DPP.
Note: In the most recent trial match against the Warriors, James produced 11 runs (168 RM), 1 line-break, four tackle-breaks and 16 tackles for an estimated 55 SuperCoach points.
Ben Matulino – $459,800
Matulino is another player to find a new home in 2018 and he is effectively a direct replacement for the outgoing Woods at the Tigers. 2017 was not a happy year for the former Warrior, playing just the 16 games compared to 23 and 21 in the two previous seasons. To borrow term from podcast regular, Perso, he has been effectively a SuperCoach bum in all but one year (2015), where he averaged 62 PPG at 1.07 PPM thanks in part to 2.5 offloads per game. He managed just 0.75 offloads per game in 2017.
If he can play more minutes, whilst regaining his offload then he would certainly start the season under priced.
Note: In his most recent trial against the Eels, Matulino produced 12 runs (129 RM) and 23 tackles for an estimated 45 SuperCoach points.
Joseph Tapine – $421,600
Tapine has never been SuperCoach relevant, with a career best average of just 48 PPG that was produced last year. Despite an increase of 15 MPG he was unable to transfer it into a meaningful improvement in SuperCoach output with his PPM being impacted by the increased time on field. He needs well over 60 MPG to be in our plans.
Note: The Raiders did not take part in the trials this weekend.
Jesse Bromwich – $413,600
What exactly happened to Bromwich in 2017?
The gun FRF fell from season averages of 65, 62 and 70 to a pathetic 47. Yes his minutes took a tumble, falling by almost 10 MPG on 2016, but his workrate really fell off a cliff producing just 0.93 PPM, the worst of his career. The damage was well and truly done in rounds 1-10 where he averaged just 37, a fall of almost 40 points from the same rounds in 2016! However, this did all coincide with some off-field issues and a broken thumb, so can we just forgive and forget?
He joins the likes of Burgess and Fifita as fightback contenders, but starts at a drastically more affordable price. Lock him into your side.
Note: Bromwich missed the Storm’s trial match against the Cowboys due to a virus.
Daniel Alvaro – $406,300
With MPG of just 37 and a great PPM across the past two seasons there is certainly scope for improvement in Alvaro’s SuperCoach output should he become a more prominent figure in the Eels’ forward pack. The 2017 champ, Sam Rohlf, thinks there’s a chance and he wrote a great piece about him here.
Note: In the trial against the Knights, Alvaro produced 15 runs (117 RM), 1 tackle-break and 21 tackles for an estimated 53 SuperCoach points.
Tariq Sims – $403,800
Sims has hardly been the big recruit the Knights and the Dragons thought he would be, averaging just 52 and 61 MPG for SuperCoach averages of 46 and 50 across the past two seasons. He had previously averaged as high as 55 PPG with far better minutes. With a historically poor PPM, Sims needs plenty of time on ground to be relevant, so why are we discussing him? Well, with Joel Thompson leaving the Dragons there is a starting back-row spot on offer for someone to take…
Note: In the trial game against Souths he made 6 runs (53 RM) and 15 tackles for an estimated 27 SuperCoach points. Boo.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona $358,500
You could make a case that Asofa-Solomona (NAS) might be one of the elite SuperCoach FRF’s by now had he not been paying at the Storm. Starting behind the likes of McLean and Bromwich, NAS has struggled to get the minutes required with just 23, 30 and 34 MPG across the past three years. However, with McLean moving to the Cowboys, a starting role in the front-row opens up for him and with a great PPM of over 1.2 in each of his past three seasons he could be one of the big movers this year. Paul Vaughan anyone?
Note: Against the Storm on Friday night he produced 11 runs (96 RM), three tackle-breaks and 18 tackles for 46 SuperCoach points.
Matthew Scott – $344,300
Scott played just the two games due to injury in 2017 and thus starts the 2018 season with a nice discount in his opening price. Whilst never quite being at an elite SuperCoach level (with exception to 2014 where he averaged 65 PPG), he has averaged around 50 throughout his career and given that he starts the season priced at around 40 PPG, he is under priced this year.
Note: In the weekend’s trial against the Storm, Scott made 12 runs (114 RM), three tackle-breaks 20 tackles for an estimated 49 SuperCoach points.
Cheap as Chips
Leilani Latu – $271,500
Latu has stormed into SuperCoach calculations following a starting role in each of the two Titans’ trial games. He was a bench rotation player at the Panthers with just 36 MPG last year, so there is certainly room for optimism should he lock down a starting role at the Titans. However, he will need to improve his work-rate given that he could manage just 0.85 PPM compared to 1 PPM in 2016, despite playing less minutes.
Note: In the trial against the Warriors he made 8 runs (81 RM), 4 tackle-breaks and 17 tackles for an estimated 41 SuperCoach points.
Robbie Rochow – $242,600, 2RF
Rochow’s SuperCoach output fell off a cliff last year as he found himself no more than a rotation player at Souths, playing just nine games and averaging a pathetic 27 PPG in 33 MPG. However, with a starting role in each of the Tigers’ trial games to date and past averages of 51, 56, 50 and 55 he is certainly worth some thought this year.
With a career high PPM of 0.9 he has burnt people in the past, but if he is able to lock down 50-60 MPG at Tigers this year then he could prove to be a very handy cash cow early on. The fact that he is a DPP is also an obvious positive.
Note: In the trial against the Sharks he made 12 runs (91 RM) and 33 tackles for an estimated 45 SuperCoach points (I’ve been quite negative on his RM’s here).
Kane Evans – $240,800
Similar to Rochow, Evans has burnt plenty of SuperCoaches in the past with a career best average of just 38 PPG. He now finds himself at the Eels and is priced at a 27 PPG average, which is a discount on past years. Unlike Rochow, Evans has a great PPM and doesn’t require anywhere near the amount of minutes to produce SuperCoach points, so if he can secure even just 30 MPG this year then he will earn you money.
Note: In the trial game against the Knights he made 10 runs (114 RM) and 12 tackles for an estimated 32 SuperCoach points.
Matthew Lodge – 208,900
We can disagree with it all we want, the fact is that Lodge will play NRL this year and he will start at prop for the Broncos. At just $209k that makes him almost a must have.
Note: In the trial game against the PNG Hunters he made 15 runs (149 RM), 4 tackle-breaks and 21 tackles for an estimated 59 SuperCoach points.
Viliame Kikau – $192,800, SRF
Kikau played nine games in 2017, but averaged just 22 MPG at 1 PPM making his SuperCoach output effectively non-existent. Fast forward to 2018 and Kikau has been named in the back-row in each of the Panthers trial matches with the loss of Bryce Cartwright and the absence of Corey Harawira-Naera, who is returning from injury. Team list Tuesday (TLT) will be critical, but at this stage Kikau is in my side.
Note: In the most recent trial game against the Bulldogs he made 12 runs (97 RM), 17 tackles and 3 tackle breaks or an estimated 47 SuperCoach points.
Keegan Hipgrave – $192,800
Hipgrave played just the one game in 2017 for a pretty abysmal 26 points in 52 minutes. However, he has been featuring heavily in the trials and earned the praise of a few for his most recent performance against the Warriors. He is another TLT wait-list player.
Note: In the trial against the Warriors he made 9 runs (94 RM), 1 tackle-break and 17 tackles for an estimated SuperCoach score of 38.
Mark Nicholls – $192,800, 2RF
Nicholls has joined the Rabbitohs from the Storm and will be looking to improve on the restricted game time that he received in Melbourne, playing just 19, 28 and 29 MPG across his past three seasons. Similar to the above mentioned players, Nicholls has started at prop in each of the two trial games played so far. With a PPM around 1, should he receive additional minutes this year then he will earn you some cash, and he is also a DPP.
Note: In the Charity Shield match he made 5 runs (30 RM) and 17 tackles for an estimated 23 SuperCoach points, which is not really what we want to be seeing.
Sam McKendry – $192,800
Now we are really turning back the clock. The Panthers stalwart missed the entire 2017 season due to an ACL injury and thus starts this season at a very nice price. With past averages of 36, 40 and 36 at around 1 PPM, McKendry has never been SuperCoach relevant until now. Should he secure a starting role in the Panthers front-row then consider him as a bench option.
Note: In the trial against the Bulldogs, McKendry produced 2 runs (20 RM) and 22 tackles for an estimated 26 SuperCoach points.
Braden Uele – $177,300
Uele has only just come into calculations following an impressive trial performance off the bench against the Tigers.
Note: In the trial game against Tigers, Uele produced 12 runs (107 RM), 1 tackle-break, 22 tackles and 1 error for an estimated 47 points. Hmmmm.