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  • Praneet Namakal

Cleary or bust? - NRL Fantasy 2022 Guide: Top 5 Halves

Halves are arguably the most important position in fantasy and the differentiators tend to be Try Assists, Line Breaks, Line Break Assists and Kick Metres. Here is my take on the Top 5 Fantasy Halves.

Is Cleary the top target for the halves position in the 2022 NRL fantasy season

Nathan Cleary

Cleary is by far the most dominant player statistically currently in the NRL. What makes him remarkable is his ability to score across multiple scoring categories. He dominates the kicking responsibilities in the Penrith Panthers line-up, and it is reflected with him having the highest kicking metres in the competition despite missing 9 rounds. Furthermore, he kicks goals, sets up tries consistently, averages over 100m a game and busts tackles. This broad spectrum of scoring opportunities and a dominant Panthers line-up means that Cleary will be the most sought-after player in the 2022 NRL season.

Daly Cherry Evans

Despite being featured at number 2 on our Top 5 Fantasy players list, his start to the 2022 season was rough for DCE and this cannot solely be attributed to the lack of his star fullback. In the first 12 rounds of the season, DCE failed to create a single try assist in 9 of those games. However, his form after the first state of origin game was a stark contrast. In his next 10 appearances, DCE generated 18 try assists and at least one try assist in 9 of those games. This second half of the season also saw a significant reduction in missed tackles, and an increase in metres gained. This alongside his ability to back up from origin duties cements his place in the number two spot.

Jahrome Hughes

2021 was a breakout year for Jahrome Hughes and one in which he was able to reach new heights. He averaged almost 1 try assist and 1 try line break a game. He also averaged 247 kick metres a game and 105 metres gained, up from 176 and 75 respectively in 2020. The real concern for Jahrome Hughes is whether his output is tied to the Storms record-breaking season in 20221 with 19 wins straight, equalling the greatest effort of all time. However, one point to counter this is that it is only his second full season as a halfback and there is potential to progress further. Hughes also has the advantage over other players on the list due to the fact he represents New Zealand and won’t be burdened with Origin duties.

Ben Hunt

The most volatile person on this list, Ben Hunt had an extremely varied 2021 and his opposition didn’t seem to affect his scoring. This can be most clearly shown through his two outings against the Tigers. The Tigers were clearly not one of the better sides in 2021, yet his first outing in Round 8 saw him miss 11 tackles and produce no attacking stats apart from 1 tackle bust and 1 offload. His next outing against the Tigers in Round 12 saw him produce 1 Try, 1 Try Assist, 1 Line break, 4 tackle busts and 2 offloads while only missing 2 tackles. Yet averaging out the whole season, Ben Hunt was near the top of the charts, consistently having a hand in many of the Dragons opportunities. If you are okay holding a player with high volatility and comfortable with the extreme lows and highs, Ben Hunt should be picked.

Matt Burton

Placed number 1 on our Top 5 Centres list, Matt Burton played the majority of 2021 in the centre position for the Panthers and yet was able to maintain impressive numbers through Tries, Try Assists, and Line breaks. His transition to the Bulldogs sees him adopt the Five-Eighth position permanently and will allow him to regularly get kicking metres whilst also giving him much more of a create opportunities in attack in the form of try assists and line breaks. However, the risk with Burton is whether the attacking stats will continue to flow regularly in his transition from a premiership favourite in the Panthers to the Bulldogs. With the significant upside, expect him to be a lock-in for most Fantasy teams.

Smokey: Sam Walker

Young Sam Walker had a strong start to 2021 before fading away. He averaged 0.9 try assists a game and 1.1-line break assists a game in a decimated Roosters outfit. Another preseason under his belt has allowed him to put on almost 6 kilos according to teammate Luke Keary. This alongside another preseason at the top grade plus a much more complete Roosters team with acquisitions such as Connor Watson and injury returns should allow Walker to raise his level and provide a more complete performance in 2022.

Trap: Toby Sexton

Toby Sexton had some of the most impressive Fantasy stats for a rookie in the first four games he played. He seemed to be able to produce strong numbers from a variety of different scoring categories in a similar way that Cleary does. The issue is that he has only played 4 games so far and three of them were against some of the weakest sides in the 2021 NRL season in the Dragons, Bulldogs and Cowboys. It remains to be seen what kind of numbers he can consistently produce against the better sides in the NRL. But my recommendation is to wait and watch for a couple of rounds before making a decision.


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