Six in Six – The Halves

It’s time to progress through to the backline in our Six in Six positional analysis. The reduction in dual position players has potentially the biggest impact here as we no longer have the luxury of the surplus dual 5/8 and HFB options. That being said, the halves have recently produced some of the biggest scores in the game, following a change to the scoring rules a few years ago and selecting the right haf can be the difference between a top 1000 finish or not. This year we are faced with several great options above $500k, while there are definitely some bargains to be had at lower price points.

If you missed it, Trent Copeland (from the Daily Telegraph, NSW Blues cricketer and all-round nice guy) and I covered the halves in a 1 hour and 15 minute podcast. You can download it from here.

The Heavy Artillery  

Gareth Widdop ($647,900, 5/8)

The English star had a massive SuperCoach season in 2017 with an average 23 PPG higher than 2016 at 73. I unfortunately jumped on him just as he hit a mid-season slump where he averaged 60 PPG between rounds 11 and 18, compared to 77 between rounds 1-10 and 19-26. Doh! That slump was partially saved by a 131-point game in round 16.

Interestingly, in 2017 he averaged 93 PPG at home vs. 55 away and 109 points in four games at Kogarah! In 2018, five of the Dragons first eight games are at home, which is no great advantage. Their opening draw is okay with matches against the Titans, Newcastle, and Souths; however, they also face the Broncos (home), Sharks (twice) and the Roosters within the opening two months.

The Dragons have also spent big on Ben Hunt this year and he will surely take over a large portion of the playmaking responsibilities. Looking back to Widdop’s stats when playing alongside Cooper Cronk at the Storm, he averaged just 53 PPG in 2013 and this is dramatically less than what he has produced at the Dragons as the main man – noting of course that he kicked goals with the Dragons.

Note: In the most recent trial match Widdop produced 9 runs, 1 TA, 1 LBA, 1LB , 1 TB and 10 tackles for an estimated 70 SuperCoach points. 

Shaun Johnson ($641,000, HFB & 5/8)

Johnson produced his best SuperCoach season with an average of 72 in 2017 and as such, starts the season as the second most expensive half.

Similar to Widdop (but not to the same degree of variance), Johnson performs better when playing at home, averaging 77 PPG vs. 67 PPG away in 2017. This year, the Warriors start the season with five away games in the first two months, including an opening game away at Perth, which is the toughest away match for any NRL club. Whilst this alone is enough of a reason to be scared off early on, Johnson has been the most consistent half over the past three years with an average of 71, so it may not be wise to dismiss him so quickly.

Note: In the most recent trial against the Titans, Johnson produeced six runs, one TA, one LBA, two TB’s  and 26 tackles for an estimated 61 SuperCoach points. The consistency continues! 

Anthony Milford ($622,100, 5/8)

A career-best year saw Milford earn a massive contract extension with the Broncos. Across 20 games he was able to improve his consistency, scoring over 60 PPG in 70% of the time compared to under 50% in all playing years before that.

It seems to be a common theme with these elite halves that they perform better at home and Milford is no different with the gun Bronco averaging 82 PPG at Suncorp Stadium last year vs. 52 PPG away. The Broncos open the 2018 season with five of their first eight games away, including four in the first six! These away games do however include the likes of the Tigers and the Knights where has averaged 63 and 90 PPG respectively since 2010. This being said, similar to Johnson, I think that you will be able to pick up Milford at a cheaper price and from round nine he plays four games in a row at home – including one “away” game to the Sea Eagles which forms part of the double header… at Suncorp Stadium!

Note: Played limited minutes off the bench in the trial match against PNG. 

Nathan Cleary ($620,500, HFB)

The kid is a star and he has been phenomenal from a SuperCoach perspective having averaged 66 and 70 PPG since making his debut.

Breaking down his 2017 season, he averaged a whopping 80 PPG from round 11 onward, compared to just 56 from rounds 1-10. In that opening period, the Panthers played five games away from home including the Dragons (30 points), Sharks (21 points), Eels (32 points) and the Broncos (57 points). Seeing a pattern here? In 2018 the Panthers once again play five games away from home to start the season and these are once again tough with matches against the Bulldogs, Cowboys, Eels and the Sharks, where he has a combined average against these teams of just 57. I’m smelling a potential slow start for Cleary in 2018 and he also needs to back-up the 11 tries that he scored last year….

Note: In the most recent trial match, Cleary produced nine runs, one TA, one LBA, one TB and 14 tackles for an estimated 54 SuperCoach points. Not bad given how poorly the Panthers performed and this score does not include goals. 

Cameron Munster ($593,100, FLB & 5/8)

Munster made the permanent shift to the halves in 2017 and it was of little impact to his SuperCoach output finishing with a season average of 67 PPG vs. 69, 62 and 28 in the three years prior.

He was one of the first players picked initially for me given that 50% of his average was generated from base statistics in 2017, he is a DPP and the loss of Cooper Cronk should see him taking on more of the playmaking responsibility. However, there’s been plenty going on with him since that point in time with off-field indiscretions and rumours of bust ups with Origin team mates all making news. In addition to this, when compared to the above four I feel that he has a lower ceiling to his scoring when playing 5/8 given that he only scored over 60 PPG in 50% of all 2017 games vs. 67% in 2016.

Note: In the trial match against the Cowboys, Munster could manage just six runs, 1 TB and 9 tackles for a lackluster 22 SuperCoach points.

Mitchell Pearce ($548,000, HFB)

Pearce was somewhat forced out of the Roosters due to the recruitment of Cronk and now finds himself at a club that finished 14 places lower on the ladder last year. At the Knights, while he will be the main man, he has a much less talented backline at his disposal.

From a SuperCoach perspective he has actually been quite consistent recently, averaging 62 and 67 PPG across the past two seasons. However, his value as a POD is limited given that he has scored over 60 PPG in just 52% and 58% of all games played during this time. Similar to Munster, Pearce generates quite a lot of his output from base statistics with 27 PPG, placing him in the elite for a halfback and without points from goal kicking he certainly requires the workrate in order to be somewhat SuperCoach relevant.

Is Pearce the worst option? No. Is he the best? No.

Note: In his most recent trial match, Pearce produced eight runs, one TB and 10 tackles for an estimated 22 SuperCoach points.

Johnathan Thurston ($536,300, HFB)

JT missed all but seven games in 2017, resulting in him starting the season at his cheapest price in, like, forever. With past averages of 70, 77, 82 and 76, he’s seemingly very much undervalued. Given that he has now retired from Origin this should see him play more games for the Cowboys and present as less of an injury risk. That being said, he has historically been very durable (with the exception being 2017) playing no less than 21 games per year since 2013.

It’s worth noting that Ethan Lowe has been taking the goalkicks during the Cowboys’ trial matches so far, but come Round 1 JT should take those duties back judging by how poorly Lowe has kicked.

JT was my first player picked this preseason.

Note: In his testimonial game, JT produced one try, 21 runs, one TA, three TB’s and 13 tackles for a massive 100 SuperCoach. Not bad considering the conditions and the fact that he didn’t kick. 

Cody Walker ($528,400, 5/8 & FLB)

Walker’s 2017 season needs to be analysed from two separate standpoints.

  • First, his 14 games of the season where he played in the halves and averaged 66.
  • Second, his eight games at fullback where he averaged just 49 PPG.

That is a big enough sample to suggest a permanent role in the halves can only be a good thing for his SuperCoach output. Thankfully, this appears to be what we will get in 2018.

Souths play five of their first eight games at home (including an opening game in Perth), but must face the likes of the Dragons (away), Roosters (away) and the Broncos, where he has a combined career average of 56 PPG. Historically, Walker actually performs well in away games having averaged 70 PPG in nine games (in the halves) away from home last year.

Priced at a 60 PPG average and with an almost certain role in the halves, Walker should at least hold his price early on.

Note: In the Charity Shield match, Walker produced one try, six runs, 1 TB and 9 tackles for 66 SuperCoach points.

Matthew Moylan ($526,100, FLB & 5/8)

Moylan makes his way from Penrith to the Sharks in 2018.

As a past Moylan owner, 2017 was certainly frustrating with the fullback averaging 97 PPG from rounds 9 to 14 only to then go on to average 42 PPG in his final six games of the season. As a non-goal kicking fullback at Penrith, Moylan relies heavily on his evade and create statistics with these combined making up 32 of his 59 PPG average. However, he has been sharing goal kicking duties during trial matches for the Sharks and should this become a full time gig during the season then this would certainly put him into consideration for round 1.

Note: In the recent trial match, Moylan produced nine runs, one LBA, five TB’s, and nine tackles for 45 SuperCoach points.

Luke Keary ($521,400, 5/8)

2017 was a breakout year for Keary, coinciding with his first year at the Roosters, finishing with a season average of 59 PPG.

The start to the 2017 season was particularly outstanding with a 65 PPG average across the first 10 matches including scores of 126, 82 and 96 against the Titans, Souths and Eels, seeing his price surge by $100k from a starting price of $270k. However, jump 12 months forward and at $521k he is certainly no longer a cheap option and given you’d be selecting him over a genuine keeper, your decision would be based on further progression that I simply cannot see translating.

He has low ownership for a good reason, plus is still not 100% confirmed to be back for Round 1 as he races the clock to recover from his broken jaw sustained just under a month ago.

Note: Keary did not play in the most recent trial. 

Michael Morgan ($520,500, 5/8 & HFB)

Morgan was forced to shoulder the load of the Cowboys’ playmaking duties for the majority of the 2017 season in the absence of JT. This extra responsibility translated into increased SuperCoach points with Morgan averaging 67 PPG without the Cowboys captain. Fast forward to 2018 and JT is fit and ready to go for round 1, this is likely to impact Morgan’s SuperCoach output.

Note: In the most recent trial, Morgan produced ten runs, two TA’s, 1 LBA and 11 tackles for an estimated 60 SuperCoach points. 

Mid-priced Madness

Ashley Taylor ($471,500, HFB)

Taylor started the 2017 season off in great form with a 1-10 round average of 59 PPG; however, he was not able to maintain this with the Titans halfback seeing his SuperCoach average decline to 49 PPG over the remaining 14 games. In particular, his SuperCoach output really fell away from round 22, with a final five game average of just 37, coinciding with the Titans losing all five games by an average margin of 26 points.

2018 is going to be a year of transition for the Titans and with matches against the Warriors (away), Dragons, Broncos (away), Manly, Panthers (away), Cowboys (away) and the Sharks in the opening eight rounds, it’s probably fair that his ownership remains low at 2%. Throw in the fact that Michael Gordon most likely takes on the kicking duties from Taylor, and that’s all the more reason to stay away.

Note: In the trial match against the Warriors, Taylor produced one try, six runs, 1 LB, 1 TB and 15 tackles for an estimated 54 SuperCoach points.

Corey Norman ($469,500, 5/8 & HFB)

The phrase ‘rocks and diamonds’ just about perfectly sums up Norman’s 2017 season. With an opening 10 game average of 61 (including scores of 116 and 101 in the first two rounds) it was all looking peachy; however, it all fell apart from there with the Eels playmaker finishing the year with a 48 PPG average. The reduction in Norman’s SuperCoach output can be attributed to the recruitment of Mitchell Moses with Norman averaging just 46 PPG from the point that Moses joined the Eels.

With so many other options floating around this year, including his halves partner at the Eels, I can’t include him.

Note: In the most recent trial match, Norman produced eight runs, 1 TA, 1 LBA, 1 TB and seven tackles for an estimated 45 SuperCoach points.

Mitchell Moses ($454,800, 5/8 & HFB)

The start of his Eels career was not the greatest with scores of just 34, 38, 10, 50 and 45; however, from that point onwards it all turned around. Moses turned the SuperCoach world on its head over the last eight games of the 2017 season where he averaged 68 PPG.

Compared to his opening 10 games at the Tigers where he managed just the one try assist, he produced nine from round 11, coinciding with the Eels winning nine of 10 games.

Can the Eels and Moses continue this form? To start the 2018 season the Eels have unusual draw facing the Tigers, Panthers and Manly twice within an eight week period…Why? Canberra (away) and the Sharks are the other two opponents. They also play five of the first eight games at ANZ Stadium, which is where Moses and the Eels really turned it on late last year.

Priced at a 51 average, but given what he did over the final half of the season he certainly appears to represent value particularly if he retains the goal kicking duties in a good Eels side. Moses at the age of 23 could be about to live up to his much heralded potential.

Note: In his most recent trial, Moses produced one try, four runs, one LB and two tackles for an estimated 37 SuperCoach points. 

Kodi Nikorima ($435,400, HFB)

On face value there is not much to get excited from a guy who has averaged 20, 29 and 49 PPG across his three NRL seasons. However, with Hunt exiting to the Dragons, Nikorima is set to assume the starting half-back position for the Broncos this year.

In 2017, when playing 80 minutes at half-back, Nikorima averaged 61 PPG in 10 games. That is a fairly solid sample size and suggests that he starts the season off undervalued.

Outlined in the Milford analysis above, the Broncos play three of their first eight games at Suncorp Stadium and in the ten games last year where Kodi played 80 minutes at halfback, three of those were played away from home, but unlike Milford he averaged 66 PPG across those games. Tell me why he is owned by just 1.6% of all SuperCoach teams compared to Moses’ current 19.2% ownership?

Note: In his most recent trial against PNG, Nikorima produced nine runs, four TB’s and 21 tackles for an estimated 47 SuperCoach points.

Moses Mbye ($382,000, HFB & FLB)

The Moses Mbye of 2018 will be very different to the one that we have gotten to know since he joined the NRL with the Bulldogs playmaker expected to make a fulltime shift to fullback.

Priced at a 43 PPG average, there is certainly room for optimism as the fullback position generally results in better and more consistent SuperCoach output thanks to the additional base statistics. Mbye’s base was already solid for a half at 27 PPG so throw in a few more runs and we may be looking at a 55-60 PPG average player. It’s not at all entirely unbelievable given that Mbye averaged 59 PPG in 2016.

Note: Mbye did not play in the last trial match. 

Cheap as Chips

Connor Watson ($286,700, 5/8 & FLB)

At 39% ownership, Watson is one of the most popular players in the game. The masses are attracted to his looming increased game time on offer at the Knights, with the young gun playing just 42 minutes at the Roosters last year. In the seven games in 2017 where he played 80 minutes he averaged 56 PPG. If he is selected in the Knights starting side come round 1 then he should also be in your SuperCoach side.

Note: In the most recent trial, Watson produced five runs, one TA, 1 LBA and 23 tackles for 51 SuperCoach points.

Bryce Cartwright ($260,300, 2RF & 5/8)

In the future memoirs of Bryce Cartwright, 2017 will be said to have never occurred. Serious off-field issues, coupled with a rumoured falling out with coaching staff saw Cartwright’s SuperCoach output fall off a cliff from a 2016 average of 74 PPG to just 29 PPG in 2017. Whilst his minutes shrunk from 77 to 50 MPG his PPM also fell considerably to 0.59 from 0.96 in the prior year.

In 2018, Cartwright has moved north of the border to the Titans and increased playing time looks all but a formality given their lack of depth. At the price and given his pedigree, the lure of selecting Cartwright is almost impossible to ignore; however, it will be interesting to see how he fits into the line-up with his best position from a SuperCoach perspective being at 5/8 where he averaged 82 PPG in 12 games during the 2016 season. That being said, he still managed to average 73 PPG from the edge in 10 games during the same year.

You can also check out the 2016 overall champion, Catfish  (aka Wilfred Zee, aka SuperCoach genius) here in his ridiculously good second-row forward preview.

Note: In the most recent trial match despite the negative reports, Cartwright produced 17 runs and 25 tackles for an estimated 57 SuperCoach points.

Lachlan Croker ($164,600, HFB & 5/8)

The loss of Blake Green has opened up a position in the halves for Lachlan Croker and he appears to have edged out fellow cheapie, Jackson Hastings, for the position. At $165k, he must be selected should he win the starting roll and at 48% current ownership, many have received the memo.

Note: In his most recent trial match, Croker produced four runs, one TB and 10 tackles for a poor 18 SuperCoach points. 

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Wenin is one of the founding fathers of the NRLSCTalk website who's Tuesday Teams Analysis has been a feature post on the site for close to a decade. He also loves a good steak bet!

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Ryley Jacks/Elgey gents?