The third part to our Six in Six series is the second row forwards; otherwise known as ‘the Real Gun Show’ this season. As duly pointed out by Wenin in his front row forward breakdown, the lack of dual position players has had an immediate impact on SuperCoach this year given the imbalance between the FRF and 2RF positions. This conundrum is probably most easily explained by pointing out that Sam Burgess, out of all the players available at FRF this year, has the 3rd highest average at (only) 64.5 PPG in 2017. That average would see him ranked only tenth in the 2RF stocks (excluding Tony Williams who only played the one game last year). In other words, Sam Burgess isn’t even considered a proper gun in the 2RF! Mind. Blown.
If you do want to revisit some previous discussion on the below, check out Ep3 of the SC Report podcast, featuring everyone’s favourite @nick1085 and yours truly going over the forwards generally.
The Heavy Artillery
Paul Gallen – $674,900
Do I really have to talk about him? He is undisputedly SuperCoach immortality, he boasts season averages of 75 PPG and over for the 2009 to 2017 seasons, peaking 2012 and 2014 with ridiculous season averages of 94.3 and 90.6 respectively. Those days are long gone though, and Gal is now in the twilight of his career. His numbers have come back down to earth, but he still finished as the highest overall points scorer in 2017 while he was narrowly pipped at the post for highest average as well.
“Gal’s old”, “he’ll break down again in the first few weeks”, “his minutes are going to get reduced even more” – all valid points. Very little separates Gallen’s 2016 and 2017 seasons – he averaged 75.4 PPG in 2016 compared to 76.0 PPG in 2017; he averaged 64.4 MPG in 2016 compared to 64.1 MPG in 2017. The key difference was that Gal managed to play all 24 club games in the regular season last year, six games more than 2016 and a far cry from just nine games and 14 games previously.
I’m not going to dive into the stats – you know exactly what you get from Gal and that is a workhorse performance (averaged 60 PPG in pure base in 2017, up from 58 PPG in 2016) with a sprinkling of offloads, tackle busts and some ballplaying that nets him the odd try assist and/or linebreak assist. The biggest questions are simple – “will Gallen stay healthy?”, and “will his minutes stay steady?”. From a minutes perspective, it’s hard to see Gal playing significantly less minutes than the 64 MPG he seems to get these days. The Sharks have lost a few experienced heads from their prop rotation (namely, Tagataese, Heighington and even Latimore) which means Gallen is most likely going to keep churning out the same minutes as Flanagan eases the likely rookie replacements into the season.
Note: Gal did not play in the most recent round of trial games.
Jason Taumalolo – $668,400
He is just an absolute weapon, but to me he is definitely overpriced due to a number of reasons which I’ve already spelled out in a lot of detail right here. Basically if you’re starting with him from Round 1, you’re banking on Lolo getting plenty more attacking stats to replace the likelihood of lower base stats due to playing lower minutes this season (barring mass injuries again). He’ll still score well, could still be in the top 5 2RFs come end of season, but I would be extremely surprised if he was able to finish with a similar season average to last year’s 75.3 PPG.
Note: in the JT/Smith testimonial match, Lolo scored an estimated 42 SuperCoach points, consisting of 12 runs, 22 tackles (3 missed tackles), ZERO tackle busts and one error. Having said that, it was a trial played in horrendous conditions so maybe don’t read too much into it.
Simon Mannering – $660,400
So this is where things are starting to get a bit scary. Since Manners shifted to lock in 2015, he has been one of the most bankable sources of ‘safe points’ in the 2RF, scoring 60, 59 and 62 PPG in pure base stats from 2015 to 2017 respectively. Typically though, there wasn’t much topping to go with the solid base, returning averages of 69.1 and 67.4 PPG in 2015 and 2016. However, 2017 saw in increase of average to 74.4 PPG, a result of an increase in Manners’ ballplaying involvement, seeing him notch more try assists and linebreak assists than his previous two seasons, as well as the slight bump in his pure base involvement.
So that all sounds great, BUT for the fact that the Warriors lost both of their starting edge backrowers from last year. Despite the acquisition of Tohu Harris, the other edge backrower position remains vacant. Concerning news for Mannering owners, as in the latest trial game he played on the left edge (beside new five eighth, Blake Green). It’s hard to gauge with any great accuracy the true impact of the shift from the middle to the edge, but in 2016 Manners started four games on the edge, averaging just 49 PPG from 79 MPG in those four games. Yuck.
The other concern – even if Manners stays at lock – is whether his minutes are under threat. There were rumours in the 2017 preseason that Kearney didn’t want Manners playing 80 all the time, and in the first six games of the year, he played just the single 80 minute game. Soon enough he realised that he needed Manners on the field as much as possible, but who knows what could happen this year…
Note: in the most recent trial, Manners only scored an estimated 17 SuperCoach points playing on the left edge, before coming off the field with a suspected shoulder injury.
Jake Trbojevic – $651,000
It was only for a brief moment of time, but the ghost of SuperCoach god Corey Parker was spotted around Lottoland, overseeing JTurbo putting in extras after training. Thousands of SuperCoaches got unexpectedly and uncomfortably excited as rumours of Jake taking over the goalkicking for the Sea Eagles, after having kicked at 90% during training. This dream was shortlived however as the next trial saw DCE step up to the kicking tee, but JTurbo stopped many a SuperCoach from automatically trading him back out with an exciting 70 or so minute hitout that featured a try assist and two linebreak assists. Say what you want about the second highest overall points scoring, but JTurbo cemented his position as a bonafide SuperCoach gun. Strong work rate, ability to ballplay, offload and of course, the now-famous ‘sixth sense’ that he has with his brother often seeing the two link up for a try. It’s worth noting that if you pick him, you’re backing him to either keep up his tryscoring rate (nine tries last year compared to only four tries in 2016) or develop his ballplaying more (he registered zero try assists last year, after having three try assists the year before). So while Jake doesn’t quite have the same pure base reliability as the other names mentioned so far in this list (his 2017 base average was 57 PPG), he is definitely the most potent of them in attack given his varied skillset.
Now, the cons: the word seems to be that either the Sea Eagles carry a four forward bench (which would be SuperCoach gold for Koroisau, but disaster for plenty of others, effectively putting a dent into the SuperCoach opportunities of JTurbo, Taupau, Fonua-Blake or any other middle forward) or they may carry the impressive young hooker Manase Fainu on the bench, who has been one of their standouts all preseason and in the trials too.
Note: Jake’s score from the last trial was estimated at 81, based off the try assist and two linebreak assists, as well as 15 runs and 27 tackles (with two missed tackles and two errors).
Angus Crichton – $609,100
He of the nine-and-a-half fingers, the mighty Angus, is a tough one. Statistically, he looks better than Gal in his 17 big minute (80 or close to 80) games – an average of 77.6 PPG from 76.5 MPG. These numbers exclude the first four games where he came off the bench, and the one game where he had an absolute shocker and Maguire hooked him before the end of the first half. I can’t see Seibold being so… bold… (sorry, couldn’t help myself) to bench the future Blues backrower. Breaking the numbers down some more (again, just looking at the 17 games), Crichton averaged 50.11 PPG in pure base stats which is elite level for an edge player. Throw in his tackle busts and offloads (because he churns them out) and that’s another average of 14.82 PPG – a total base + base attack average of 64.93 PPG. Meanwhile, here he is, priced at a 68.6 average, and with the ridiculous attacking upside that saw him score seven tries and assist two other tries in his 17 games. I’m sure I don’t need to remind us all of his 166 score as well – scores that are usually left to the backs.
Having said all that, there are some cons here. He’s signed with his current club’s main rivals from next year for starters. He’s had a disrupted offseason, having his finger surgery and also suffering from achilles soreness. He’s fighting for minutes in what is a rather convoluted forward pack – even though he’s expected to get 80 minutes each week.
Note: Crichton came off the bench in the Charity Shield, and managed to score an estimated 61 SuperCoach points courtesy of a try, 12 runs, 21 tackles (four missed tackles though), two tackle busts and an error.
Sio Siua Taukeiaho – $423,000
So this guy burnt me last year, in a misguided attempt at bye planning; but new year, new SuperCoach team, right? Unless you’re @nick1085 who seems to hold grudges against certain players for a long time! But hey, we have a guy who some have labelled the next Taumalolo (you can see some similarities) that appears set to increase his minutes this year (IF you believe the preseason hype) and appears finally set to make the goalkicking his own – that’s the appeal. SST or TKO (whatever letters you identify with) averaged 47.7 PPG from 43.9 MPG last year. PPM of 1.09, which is above average. Take out his one 80 minute game playing on the edge (all his other games were in the middle) and he averaged 47.6 PPG from 41.3 MPG, bumping his PPM up to a healthy 1.13. From that score, he only benefit from an extra 10 points in goalkicking (three goals from four attempts only).
So, IF… and only IF he gets an uptick in minutes from that 41.3 MPG to somewhere closer to 45 or ideally 50 MPG, it’s hard to say no, especially if he’s going to possibly get an extra 6 or so PPG from goalkicks during his time on the field. BIG watch list for my team, and potentially he may slot straight in pending TLT!
Note: in the recent trial, he scored an estimate of 40 SuperCoach points based on making 8 runs, a tackle bust, 23 tackles (1 missed) and kicked goals while he and Latrell were on the field. Latrell kicked when Taukeiaho was off the field.
Cam Murray – $394,000
Plenty has already been said about Cam Murray, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Supposedly taking over the lock position from Surgess. Supposedly playing 80 minutes. Supposedly the fittest guy in the team. Four game sample at the back end of last year where he averaged 66.8 PPG from 74.5 MPG (two 80 minute games, two games of 69 minutes… nice).
The big downside is apparently he has missed at least five weeks of the preseason with a hamstring injury and also missed all the trials. Apparently he just needs to train for the next week and should make Round 1… but is he benched to start with, or plays less minutes from the outset… therein lies the risk.
Chris McQueen – $329,700 2RF/CTW dual / Brad Takairangi – $314,000 2RF/CTW dual
No. Don’t do it. Just don’t.
(OK maybe yes if Takairangi somehow is named as starting on the edge, and there’s no other edge backrower on the bench… unlikely as it sounds)
Note: Takairangi scored an estimated 28 SuperCoach points from five (!) runs, and 18 tackles (zero misses). McQueen played very little, making 1 run, five tackles and missing 2.
Raymond Faitala-Mariner – $310,600
So the word is that RFM is in the mix to start on the left edge – which should be next to Foran – given Klemmer’s shift back to the front row (with his best friend Sharon) and Elliott’s shuffle across to lock. RFM is definitely an attacking force, moreso than Elliott and plenty of other Bulldogs players. His defence is suspect though, which is why Elliott was often preferred over him.
Now in the seven games where RFM played 35 or more minutes, he averaged 47.4 PPG from 49.4 MPG. Most importantly, that only includes one try, three linebreaks. Most of his SuperCoach points came from getting stuck into the work and throwing a few cheeky offloads (16 in fact, which is over two per game in those 7 games – an impressive number of offloads considering he played limited minutes too). If only we got to see him in the most recent trial… but the fact that he wasn’t named in what was effectively the Bulldogs’ reserve grade side is a good sign for Round 1.
Jai Arrow – $308,800
Preseason favourite who has quickly fallen out of favour – through absolutely no fault of his own. Poor Jai. Then he also had to pick up a rib injury and missed the most recent trial. I’m only really including him to say that in no way should you start with him in your 25, not with Carty performing “okay” at lock and most likely having locked that spot up in a big minute capacity.
Please also refer to a few other DPP options that Wenin covered in great detail already.
Cheap as Chips
Bryce Cartwright – $260,300 2RF/5/8 dual
Okay so Carty isn’t really “cheap as chips” but look at that pic, that offloading technique. It’s a small reminder of how good he was just two years ago. For that points potential, he’s as cheap as chips for his starting price. He also played 70 minutes (apparently, according to the guru Tommy Sangster himself) during the trial against the Warriors, and scored a respectable (estimated) 57 SuperCoach points from 17 runs, 26 tackles (only 1 missed!) and two errors. Not sure if offload stats were counted so that could have seen a few more points too.
I’d be shocked if anybody seriously playing SuperCoach didn’t already have him in their team, so let’s move on.
Will Matthews – $229,000 2RF/CTW dual
So he was at the Dragons for ages, was released to go pursue an opportunity in the English Super League before coming back to Australia on compassionate grounds. Grabs a train-and-trial contract with the Titans and impressed the coach enough to get a spot in the top 30 roster. Now apparently he’s a chance to play in the middle, rather than just as an edge backrower or centre like he has always been in the past. So much of his past stats are not very helpful. He’s at an awkward price though, if he ends up named on the Titans’ bench for Round 1. Plus, you have to be wary of Jarrod Wallace being missing from the first two rounds, in case he ends up dropping out. But that dual position…
Note: in the trial against the Warriors he scored a measly 20 points, from five runs, 11 tackles (zero missed) and an error. I can’t find anything on how many minutes he played for those numbers though…
Sione Katoa – $192,800 2RF/HOK dual
Wrong Sione Katoa, take this guy out of your team and find the Sione Katoa who is available in CTW only!
Nat Butcher – $192,800
Butcher has some big wraps on him, but has only had two opportunities to showcase his ability – both times playing very limited minutes. He’s in the mix, yet again, but he’s definitely an outside chance. Even if picked, I’d be wary of whether he will end up getting the time to be able to appreciate in value. A trait of Trent Robinson here – he doesn’t like to give big minutes to rookie bench forwards.
Note: estimated score of 29 from the trial, four runs (averaged over 10m per carry too) and 19 tackles with zero misses. Also managed to bust a tackle too.
Luciano Leilua – $177,300
We’ve all heard his name mentioned all preseason, but he started in the Charity Shield again and only played half the game. He definitely was not as good this week, and one major concern was that he let Cook blow right past him for the Crichton try. Beggars can’t be choosers though and we may have to consider grabbing him come Round 1.
Note: scored an estimated 30 SuperCoach points from 7 runs, 18 tackles (1 missed) and 1 error.
Billy Magoulias – $164,600
Gal’s likely replacement at lock tells you all you need to know about this guy. Gallen himself says he plays like… a young Gallen. As someone who plans to start with Gal, I’d love to have this guy named on the bench as it would mean a trade saved if (when) Gal gets injured and Magoulias gets bigger minutes as a result. Workhorse in the making.
Note: estimated score of only 12 from the trial, but minutes are an unknown. Made 4 runs, and four tackles (no misses or errors).