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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Turner

GameDay Squad's 2023 Rugby League Position Reviews - Centres

Welcome to part six of our positional previews. Today we will be going over the projected top ten Centres (CTR). Each position will be broken down into three tiers, Guns, Mr Reliable and Dark Horse. The projected ranks provided for these players will be based on projected fantasy points per game.


Campbell Graham, Joseph Manu and Zac Lomax ahead of the NRL 2023 Season


Centres are probably the most difficult position to do projections for as they are generally the lowest scoring position and accumulates the least number of base points. They are heavily reliant on attacking stats and some centres can be very matchup dependent. There isn’t too much separating a lot of the centres in this preview but when it comes down to it, you really want centres from good teams to be starting for your team. There is the odd exception but generally, my rule of thumb is, start a good centre from a good team if you can.

Guns

Everyone in this tier should be able to average 45+ points.

Joseph Manu - Sydney Roosters

Projected 2023 Rank 1

Manu had a career year in 2022 and averaged 49 points a game. He is a very versatile player that can also play at fullback or in the halves. He plays in one of the better NRL teams and there should be plenty of opportunities to rack up some good attacking stats. Last season Manu played three games out of position at five-eighth and fullback averaging a whopping 92 points across these games. When he plays in the halves, he is given the licence to roam, and this is great for fantasy. If there is to be an injury in the halves or at fullback, Manu would likely step up and fill either of these positions. This gives him a very high ceiling for fantasy. Even if he plays the entire season at centre, he should still be the best centre in the game. Last year he averaged 43 points a game at centre. Manu enters his eighth season in the NRL and has made 137 appearances. He has great durability and has played 20+ games a season over the last five seasons. Manu won’t have any rep duties this season.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 140 run metres and 14 tackles a game. This comes to 28 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.5 tries, 0.5 try assists, 0.6 line breaks, 0.7 line breaks assists, 6.3 tackle breaks and 1.7 offloads a game. This comes to 33 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.7 missed tackles, 1.1 errors and 0.3 penalties. This comes to 13 points in demerits per game.

· Consistent performer against all opposition.

Manu for me will be a must start most weeks. Especially around Origin as he may get the odd game at fullback. He is racing the clock to be fit for round one as he is currently dealing with a facial injury. I have him averaging 47-50 points.

Valentine Holmes - North Queensland Cowboys

Projected 2023 Rank 2

Holmes had a career year in 2022 and averaged 45 points a game, this includes his time at the Sharks when he played at fullback. The Cowboys were the surprise package for most last season and they scored an average of 26 points a game. When they came up against teams that didn’t make the finals, they averaged 31 points a game. The reason I bring this up is because Holmes is the goal kicker and the Cowboys come up against seven teams that didn’t make the finals last season over the first eight rounds. I believe the Cowboys will get off to a flier in 2023 and may go through unbeaten over the first eight rounds. If they are to score 30+ points a game to start the season, I believe this will give Holmes 4-5 goals a game which comes to 12-15 points. If you don’t have his card, I would be doing what I could to acquire him before the season starts. Holmes offers a great base due to his goal kicking and is solid enough in most attacking categories. He is known to lose a few points through demerits, but they are less than Joseph Manu and this surprised me. He is likely to have Origin duties once again this season


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 146 run metres, 7 tackles and 4.6 goals a game. This comes to 34 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.4 tries, 0.2 try assists, 0.5 line breaks, 0.5 line breaks assists, 3.8 tackle breaks and 1.2 offloads a game. This comes to 22 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.1 missed tackles, 1 error and 0.4 penalties. This comes to 12 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 8 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals.


Holmes is a must start for the start of the season. He may average 50+ points through the first eight rounds. If you aren’t getting these points at centre, you may be playing catch up in the overall standings for the rest of the season. After round eight he may be a match up dependent centre. I have him averaging 45-48 points.

Mr Reliable

All the players mentioned in this tier are fantasy relevant players that can do a decent job for your team. If your team has Manu and Holmes then these players will be excellent cover when required. Some weeks they may even have a more favourable match and become your preferred starter. Everyone in this tier should be able to average 40+ points.


Campbell Graham - South Sydney Rabbitohs

Projected 2023 Rank 3

Graham had a career year in 2022 and averaged 39 points a game. He only scored five tries last season which was his lowest tally since his debut season. He offers decent base stats every week and has one of the best tackle efficiency rates for a centre. The problem for Graham is that the Bunnies love to attack down the left edge and why wouldn’t they when they have Cody Walker and Alex Johnston out there. If the Bunnies decide to attack down the right edge more this season, we may see Graham have a great season. At 23 years old, Graham enters his seventh season in first grade. He has great durability and has played 20+ games a season since 2019.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 143 run metres and 18 tackles a game. This comes to 32 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.3 tries, 0.4 try assists, 0.4 line breaks, 0.6 line breaks assists, 3.4 tackle breaks and 1.2 offloads a game. This comes to 20 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.6 missed tackles, 1.2 errors and 0.3 penalties. This comes to 13 points in demerits per game.

· Consistent performer against all opposition.

Graham isn’t one to of the most attacking centres in the NRL but with his consistent base stats he will be a steady contributor to your team. Still being relatively young, he would be a great card to have for this season and from a dynasty approach. I have him averaging 42-46 points.

Zac Lomax - St George Illawarra Dragons

Projected 2023 Rank 4

Lomaz had a decent season last year and averaged 38 points a game. He is one of the few centres that offers goal kicking upside and that’s why I have him ranked in this tier. However, the Dragons may struggle to score points this season and he may slip down my rankings if this is the case. He offers a good base of 30+ points a game, this is up there with some of the better centres. In attack he is a great tackle breaker but doesn’t have the try scoring strike rate we like to see. He is talented enough to increase his fantasy production in attack but I honestly can’t see it this year with how the Dragons are shaping up. What really lets Lomax down in fantasy are his demerits and these cancel out most of the points he scored in attack last season. In 2022 he played 24 games which was a career high and over the last four seasons he averaged 17 games a season. At the age of 23, durability isn’t a massive concern, he did however have the odd niggling injury in 2021. If he has a great season through to Origin, he may be in the mix, but I can’t really see that happening this year.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 118 run metres, 14 tackles and 3 goals a game. This comes to 34 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.3 tries, 0.3 try assists, 0.3 line breaks, 0.3 line breaks assists, 3.3 tackle breaks and 0.8 offloads a game. This comes to 17 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.3 missed tackles, 1.8 errors and 0.5 penalties. This comes to 16 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 14 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals.


Lomax should be a consideration each week for your team. Against teams that didn’t make the finals last season, he really excelled and averaged 46 points in these matchups. In 2022 he had seven scores of less than thirty and six of these games were against teams that made the finals. Knowing this, I would be more than comfortable to start him in match ups that aren’t against teams that look destined to make the finals this year. I have him averaging 41-45 points.

Herbie Farnworth – Brisbane Broncos

Projected 2023 Rank 5

Farnworth was having a good season in 2022 and was averaging 39 points a game before a serious bicep injury ended his season in round 14. He returned for England in the World Cup and had a great tournament. In fantasy terms he would have scored around 48-49 points. The Broncos have one of the more difficult schedules this season, 14 games are against teams that made the finals last season. Going by the numbers, Farnworth is one of the better attacking centres in the game and averaged 46 points against teams that didn’t make the finals last season. Farnworth can be very inconsistent which is a concern. He had four scores of less than twenty and seven scores of more than forty in 2022. He was either rocks or diamonds! Even though Farnworth is 23 years old, durability may be a concern. He’s dealt with injuries over the last three seasons and has yet to complete a full season of NRL. Farnworth won’t have any rep duties this season.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 135 run metres and 10 tackles a game. This comes to 23 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.8 tries, 0.2 try assists, 0.4 line breaks, 0.3 line breaks assists, 3.6 tackle breaks and 0.5 offloads a game. This comes to 23 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 1.4 missed tackles, 0.8 errors and 0.5 penalties. This comes to 9 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 14 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals.


If Farnworth can increase his base production, he might just be in for a breakout season. He offers a great ceiling, but his low floor can really cost you. With the Panthers and Cowboys first up, it may pay to wait and see how he performs before starting him. After that he has favourable matchups through to round 7 and could be a decent option through this stretch. After these matchups, we should have a decent idea what to expect from Farnworth for the remainder of the season. I have him averaging 40-44 points.


Dark Horse

All the players mentioned in this tier are fantasy relevant players that can do a decent job for your team. If your team isn’t stacked with ‘Gun’ or ‘Mr Reliable’ players, then these players should be able to average 35+ points and do a job for you.


Katoni Staggs – Brisbane Broncos

Projected 2023 Rank 6

Staggs didn’t have the best of seasons in 2022 and averaged only 31 points a game. I put a lot of this down to him coming back from two serious knee injuries in 2020 and 2021. Another reason may be because the Broncos finished the season so poorly and he only managed to average 22 points over the last five games. Staggs is an explosive player that has the strength to shrug over most defenders and rack up the tackle breaks. He was very inconsistent in 2022, having nine scores less than twenty and only five north of fifty. He struggled to score tries last season and had his lowest ever try strike rate since he debuted in 2018. The Broncos are also spoilt for choice at goal kicker with Reynolds, Staggs, and Walsh. If Reynolds was to miss anytime, I believe that Staggs would be given first crack as his back up and this gives him sneaky upside. He made his Origin debut last season and may be in the mix for selection again this season.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 97 run metres and 17 tackles a game. This comes to 27 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.2 tries, 0.2 try assists, 0.4 line breaks, 0.3 line breaks assists, 4.2 tackle breaks and 0.8 offloads a game. This comes to 19 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 3.5 missed tackles, 1.5 errors and 0.4 penalties. This comes to 18 points in demerits per game.

· Consistent performer against all opposition.


Staggs is a very talented footballer, and he has the ability to become a fantasy stud. For this to happen, he will really need to tidy up his demerits and increase his attacking stats. He has a solid enough base which is a great start. I hope we see him bounce back to what we know he is capable of. The Broncos would have done a lot of soul searching in the off season, and I believe they will hit the ground running this season. If this occurs, we should see a better season out of Staggs. I have him averaging 38-42 points a game.

Siosifa Talakai – Cronulla Sharks

Projected 2023 Rank 7

Talakai had a breakout year and averaged 44 points a game in the centres. It looks like Craig Fitzgibbon was able to get the best out of Talakai at centre and it is likely that’s where he will continue to play. Talakai still offers the versatility of being able to play in the middle or on the edge but probably only required in those positions if there are injuries. If this was to happen, it shouldn’t hurt his fantasy production as he still scores well when playing in the forwards. Talakai doesn’t offer the highest base but in attack he can be a wrecking ball. You may recall the game last season when he terrorised Morgan Harper and the Sea Eagles left edge, clocking up nearly 100 points in one half of footy. On attack he is a tackle breaking machine and can suck in multiple defenders. Due to this he offers plenty of try and line breaks assists. He is also one of the better centres on the demerit front which is another thing that works in his favour. Due to his 2022 form, he earned himself a call up for Origin and he may be in the mix again this year.


Things to consider from the 2022 season when Talakai played at centre.

· Averaged 186 run metres and 8 tackles a game. This comes to 26 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.3 tries, 0.5 try assists, 0.4 line breaks, 0.7 line breaks assists, 5.2 tackle breaks and 0.7 offloads a game. This comes to 25 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 1.5 missed tackles, 0.9 errors and 0.4 penalties. This comes to 10 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 4 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals


Talakai is a solid option to start at centre, but he does lack consistency from week to week. His ceiling is ridiculously good, but he did only have five scores north of fifty in 2022. He averaged slightly more points against teams that didn’t make the finals last season. The Sharks have a few difficult match ups through to round 9 but from rounds 10-21 they only have one game against a team that made the finals last year. Talakai may be a very good option over this stretch and hold a starting spot in your team, if he’s not selected for Origin. I’m honestly not overly high on Talakai this year as I believe that one game against the Sea Eagles makes his stats slightly misleading. Without that game he would have averaged 40 points. He should still have a steady year overall and I have him averaging 38-42 points.


Stephen Crichton – Penrith Panthers

Projected 2023 Rank 8

Crichton had a career year in 2022 and averaged 39 points a game. At only 22 years old, Crichton has had a great career to date and played in three Grand Finals, represented NSW in Origin, and played in the Rugby League Cup Final for Samoa. The talented youngster enters his fifth year in first grade and has 76 appearances to his name already. Durability hasn’t been an issue for Crichton as he’s had three seasons in a row of 20+ games. He has a steady base for fantasy and offers decent attacking upside due to being part of the best team in the NRL over the last few years. Crichton has one of the best try scoring strikes for a centre and offers a very good ceiling because of this. He played all three games in Origin last year and may be in the mix again this year even with the likes of Turbo and Mitchell back from injury.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 133 run metres and 14 tackles a game. This comes to 27 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.6 tries, 0.3 try assists, 0.5 line breaks, 0.4 line breaks assists, 2.6 tackle breaks and 0.5 offloads a game. This comes to 19 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.2 missed tackles and 1 error. This comes to 10 points in demerits per game.

· Consistent performer against all opposition.


Crichton may be a safe play most weeks as he only had four scores of less than 25 in 2022. The Panthers prefer to attack down the left which does limit some of his upside. However, with the departure of Kikau and season ending injury to May, Crichton may see more ball go his way this year. If Cleary is to miss anytime, Crichton will more than likely take up the goal kicking in Cleary’s absence. Crichton is only one of a few centres that isn’t to match up dependant. I have him averaging 36-40 points.


Jesse Ramien - Cronulla Sharks

Projected 2023 Rank 9

After a cracking 2021 season, Ramien came back down to earth in fantasy terms and only averaged 35 points a game. He has the ability to work his way back towards his 2021 form, especially in the team that the Sharks have at the moment. Like Talakai, Ramien is an explosive ball carrier and can chalk up the tackle breaks. Last season, he had his worst try scoring strike rate in his career, but this coincided with the increase in try assists to his winger. Ramien’s demerits were rather high last season, it’s something he will need to improve on to make him a consistent fantasy scorer. Compared to the elite centres in the game, he can have his struggles with overall consistency from week to week. Ramien hasn’t played Origin before, and I don’t think he will be in the mix with the depth NSW have at centre.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 124 run metres and 12 tackles a game. This comes to 24 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.4 tries, 0.4 try assists, 0.5 line breaks, 0.4 line breaks assists, 4 tackle breaks and 1.7 offloads a game. This comes to 24 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.7 missed tackles, 1.1 errors and 0.7 penalties. This comes to 15 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 5 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals


Ramien’s preseason assessment for me is very comparable to Talakai, with them both being a similar sort of player and in the same team. If you have no other cards of anyone else in this preview, he will likely be your top centre. If you have the option of a few of the above centres, he will probably be a match up dependant centre. Ramien does offer a great ceiling of 75+ points but he can also burn you with scores in the single digits. I have him averaging 36 -40 points.

Will Penisini – Parramatta Eels

Projected 2023 Rank 10

Penisini had a breakout year last season and averaged 35 points a game. He is a solid defensive centre that offers try scoring upside being in a good team. Penisini is a strong ball carrier that can break a few tackles. He is still very young and inexperienced but if his form in 2022 was anything to go by, he should be a decent fantasy option for years to come. He doesn’t offer the base that a lot of other centres in this preview do but with experience, this should improve. On attack, he may improve, and we should see an uptick in most attacking categories. However, with the departure of Isaiah Papali’I, it will be interesting to see how Penisini copes on attack. Papaali’i commanded a lot of attention when the Eels were on attack and that helped Penisini’s game. Like a lot of centres, Penisini has been known to lay the occasional egg. He did produce 11 scores less than 30 points last season, with two of them being in the single digits.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 105 run metres and 17 tackles a game. This comes to 27 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.4 tries, 0.2 try assists, 0.3 line breaks, 0.1 line breaks assists, 2.9 tackle breaks and 1.3 offloads a game. This comes to 17 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 1.8 missed tackles, 0.8 error and 0.2 penalties. This comes to 9 points in demerits per game.

· Consistent performer against all opposition.


There are far better options than Penisini but if you don't have great depth at centre, he should be able to do a solid job for you. I have him averaging 35-38 points.


It’s worth keeping an eye on the below players as they all were very close to making the Dark Horse tier. Any of them may slip into my top ten from week to week.


Izack Tago – Penrith Panthers

Isaiah Tass – South Sydney Rabbitohs

Dane Gagai – Newcastle Knights

Matt Timoko – Canberra Raiders

Bradman Best – Newcastle Knights

Jake Averillo - Canterbury Bulldogs

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