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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Turner

GameDay Squad's 2023 Rugby League Position Reviews - Edge-Forwards

Welcome to part five of our positional previews. Today we will be going over the projected top ten Edge Forwards (EDG). 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.

Shaun Lane, Isaiah Papali’i and Haumole Olakau’atu ahead of the 2023 NRL fantasy season

Guns

Everyone in this tier should be able to average 55+ points.

Isaiah Papali’i – Wests Tigers

Projected 2023 Rank 1

Papali’i is one of the NRL’s premium edges and is one of the Wests Tigers exciting recruits. Last year he was the best edge in fantasy averaging 59 points a game and this year I believe he will once again average near 60 points. After a quiet start to his career at the Warriors, he exploded onto the fantasy scene in 2021 after joining the Eels. He is an explosive ball runner, offers plenty in attack and has great defensive game. What is there not to like about this man as a fantasy player! Papali’i is a big minute edge and averaged 75 minutes a game last year. With changing clubs in the off season, it’s unclear what sort of minutes he will be playing this year. Until we see more through the opening rounds, I’ve conservatively put him down for 70 minutes a game. While at the Eels, Papali’i played 53 games and missed only one game in his two seasons there. He is only 24 years old, and he has a bright fantasy future in front of him. If you don’t have his card already, good luck with your pack openings as trading for him may cost you a fair bit.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 140 run metres and 35 tackles a game. This comes to 49 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.4 tries, 0.5 line breaks, 0.4 line breaks assists, 3.5 tackle breaks and 1.3 offloads a game. This comes to 18 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.6 missed tackles, 0.5 errors and 0.3 penalties. This comes to 11 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 7 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals.

· Points per minute of 0.79.

The Wests Tigers start off with two home games against the Titans and Knights. These are both great match ups for Papali’i as he tends to score better against weaker opposition. To be fair, you should be starting Papali’i every week if you have his card as he is a player that isn’t to match up dependant.

Papali’i should go close again to being the number one edge in fantasy. With moving from a contending team to last year’s wooden spooners, this is a concern for his fantasy output. It’s unclear at this stage how many minutes he will have per game, so don’t be surprised if there is some regression this year. I have him averaging 55-58 points.

David Fifita – Gold Coast Titans

Projected 2023 Rank 2

Fifita had a quiet 2022 season compared to his previous two and averaged 48 points a game. He is a damaging ball runner that can tear a defence to shreds in one involvement and can peel off a 25+ point play. Tanah Boyd is likely to be given the first nod at halfback and this is great for Fifita as they already have chemistry after playing junior footy together. The Titan’s have also secured the services of Kieran Foran for 2023. With the experience he brings, I can only see this being beneficial for Fifita’s game. Fifita doesn’t offer great base points production and can be a frustrating player to watch as he does go missing in games. He is in a contract year and historically across the NRL, players tend to perform better when playing for their next contract. Last year the Titan’s coach Justin Holbrook decided to experiment with playing Fifita in centre and off the interchange across four games in the middle of the season. This was terrible from a fantasy point of view as he only averaged 31 points. If you take these four games out Fifita would have averaged 54 points. Fifita is still only 22 years old as he enters his sixth year in the NRL. He has made 84 appearances so far but has only had two seasons of 20+ games. Last year he missed out on Origin selection but with the ability he offers, he may be in the mix for selection again this year.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 112 run metres and 23 tackles a game. This comes to 34 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.4 tries, 0.6 line breaks, 4.4 tackle breaks and 1.7 offloads a game. This comes to 22 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.2 missed tackles, 0.6 errors and 0.4 penalties. This comes to 10 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 11 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals.

· Points per minute of 0.69.


Fifita has a rather favourable matchups all the way through till round 19. Over this time the Titans only have four games against teams that made the finals last season. In the last eight games of the season, they have six games against teams that made the finals in 2022.

Fifita does offer possibly the best attacking upside of any edge forward and if you have his card, you will likely start with him most weeks. I believe he is still a gun and will have a much-improved 2023 season. With Fifita being so young and the upside he provides, I would be doing what I can to acquire his card as soon as possible. Yes, you will likely have to pay a heavy price tag for him, but I believe it will be worth it long term. I have him averaging 54-57 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 Papali’i and Fifita 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 45+ points.


Angus Crichton – Sydney Roosters

Projected 2023 Rank 3

Crichton has been a consistent performer in fantasy for the last six years and is coming off an average of 46 points in 2022. He has great durability and has played 20+ games in five of the last six seasons, averaging 21 games a season since 2017. He is a powerful, tackle busting, ball runner that offers an offload and knows how to find a hole in any defence. Crichton is solid in defence and often plays the full 80 minutes. He is likely to have Origin duties once again this season.

Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 122 run metres and 30 tackles a game. This comes to 42 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.5 line breaks, 2.5 tackle breaks and 1.2 offloads a game. This comes to 10 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.2 missed tackles, 0.6 errors and 0.5 penalties. This comes to 10 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 10 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals. This average was boosted by a 101 point performance against the Wests Tigers.

· Points per minute of 0.64.

Crichton is a reliable starting option and can go boom at any time. He can also go missing in some games and had five scores under 35 points last season when playing 80 minutes. The Roosters have a great squad this season that should offer a lot of fantasy points in attack. We should see Crichton continue to form a good combination with Keary down the left edge and this may lead to an uptick in fantasy production. I have him averaging 47-50 points.

Keaon Koloamatangi – South Sydney Rabbitohs

Projected 2023 Rank 4

Koloamatangi had a career year in 2022 and averaged 47 points a game. At 24 years old, he enters his fourth season in first grade and has averaged 25 games a season since his debut in 2020. He has been a consistent performer over the last two seasons and offers a good base. Koloamatangi is an 80-minute player who is a solid line runner that can break a few tackles. He also can get a good offload away. Koloamatangi knows how to find the try line and crossed over seven times last season.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 133 run metres and 30 tackles a game. This comes to 43 points in base per game.

· Averaged 2.1 tackle breaks and 1.4 offloads a game. This comes to 9 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 1.9 missed tackles, 0.7 errors and 0.3 penalties. This comes to 10 points in demerits per game.

· Consistent performer against all opposition.

· Points per minute of 0.60.


Koloamatangi should once again be a consistent scorer and will probably be a solid starting option every week. The Bunnies don’t have a bye until round 16 and he will be great cover if you are stacked at edge. His fantasy production has been trending up every year since his debut. With youth on his side, now would be the time to try and acquire his card if you don’t already have it. I have him averaging 46-49 points a game.


Hudson Young – Canberra Raiders

Projected 2023 Rank 5

Young had a great 2022 season and made the left edge spot his own, averaging 47 points a game. He scored 14 tries which was the second most by any edge forward and was the Raiders equal top try scorer alongside Sebastian Kris. Young doesn’t offer the same base points as some of the top edges do, but his attacking numbers are up there with the best. He does have a stable enough base through running metres and tackles but needs to limit his demerits to improve his consistency. On attack, he is one of the best hole runners in the edge position. On top of his try scoring ability, he was up there with the likes of Papali’I, Crichton and Olakau'atu as one of the best line breakers in his position. At 24 years old, Young enters his fifth season in first grade and has averaged 21 games a season over the two years. He is a big minute edge that was on the field for the full 80 minutes in 21 games last season. Young is yet to play Origin, but he may be in the mix if he continues his 2022 form.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 106 run metres and 30 tackles a game. This comes to 40 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.6 tries, 0.5 line breaks, 3 tackle breaks and 1.1 offloads a game. This comes to 19 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.9 missed tackles, 0.7 errors and 0.5 penalties. This comes to 13 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 9 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals.

· Points per minute of 0.60.


The Raiders probably have the most favourable draw of any team in 2022 and this is great for Young as he is more of an attacking edge. Last season, Young only averaged 42 points against teams that made the finals. This season he played only eight games against teams that made the finals last year. Against teams that didn’t make the finals he averaged 51 points.


With age on his side, he will be an interesting card to hold. I can’t see repeating his try tally of last season but if he can improve in other areas like running metres and missed tackles, he should be a solid weekly performer. He also has a decent ceiling and had three scores of 70+ last season. To be a regular starter in fantasy, Young really needs to improve his consistency and not rely as heavily on attacking stats to give him a decent average. I have him averaging 45-48 points a game.


Haumole Olakau’atu – Manly Sea Eagles

Projected 2023 Rank 6

Olakau’atu is coming off a career year in fantasy and averaged 50 points a game. He was the tackle break king of all the forwards last year and was the only forward to average over five tackle breaks a game. He is a mountain of a man and is a handful for any defence. After making his debut in 2019 it took him a couple of seasons to secure himself a starting edge spot. He offers great durability and has averaged 21 games a season since 2021. He is a big minute forward and averaged 74 minutes a game last season. Olakau’atu has very similar stat lines to Hudson Young and is an attacking edge. He doesn’t offer the best base points and relies heavily on attacking points.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 103 run metres and 27 tackles a game. This comes to 37 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.5 tries, 0.5 line breaks, 5.3 tackle breaks and 0.5 offloads a game. This comes to 23 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.5 missed tackles, 0.8 errors and 0.3 penalties. This comes to 11 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 16 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals.

· Points per minute of 0.68.


Olakau'atu is very matchup dependent as he averaged 59 points against teams that didn’t make the finals last year compared to 43 points against teams that did make the finals. The Sea Eagles have one of the toughest draws and have 12 games against teams that made the finals in 2022.


Olakau’atu can be a risky option from week to week but if you decide to start him at the right time, you could go flying up the standings. He does offer a high ceiling and had three scores of 70+ last year but he can also go missing and score less than 20 points, which he did twice. Let’s hope he can bring a bit more consistency to his game this season. I have him averaging 45-48 points.


Shaun Lane - Parramatta Eels

Projected 2023 Rank 7

Lane had a career year in fantasy in 2022 and averaged 46 points a game. Prior to last season he may have been classified as a non fantasy relevant player. The combination that himself and Dylan Brown made down the left edge was quite something and suddenly converted Lane into a fantasy relevant player. Lane’s durability is great and has averaged 24 games a season since 2018. He also played big minutes and averaged 76 minutes per game last season. Lane offers a great base and doesn’t need to rely on attacking stats like some of the edges in this preview. In attack he is known to break a few tackles, put an offload away and produce a few try assists.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 130 run metres and 30 tackles a game. This comes to 43 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.5 try assists, 0.5 line break assists, 2.5 tackle breaks and 1.5 offloads a game. This comes to 13 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 2.3 missed tackles, 0.9 errors and 0.3 penalties. This comes to 11 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 7 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals.

· Points per minute of 0.61.


Lane isn’t to match up dependant as he has a decent base. He did however have seven scores under 30 last year and five of these scores were against teams that made the finals. Like a lot of edges, he does score better against weaker sides in attack. The Eels do have very tough opening five games with games against the Strom, Sharks, Panthers and Roosters. If I had Lane's card, I wouldn’t be playing him in the opening five games, if I had two of the other players mentioned in this preview. There isn’t any reason to be alarmed! Just with the opening schedule for the Eels being so brutal, I would want to see how he performs over the first few games before he makes it into my team.


The Eels should be a contending team once again in 2023 and for this reason, I can’t see Lane’s fantasy production changing too much. If he can drop his missed tackle count down to less than two per game and dot down for a couple more tries, this might be the best outcome we can hope for. I have him averaging 45-48 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 40+ points and do a job for you.


Teig Wilton – Cronulla Sharks

Projected 2023 Rank 8

Wilton is an up-and-coming edge forward that is still finding his feet in fantasy. He is 23 years old and debuted in 2020. Over the last two seasons he has averaged 20 games a season with 2022 being his best season fantasy wise averaging 32 points. He has decent base stats which gives him a good floor. On attack he can catch defences out with his speed and the lines he runs off Matt Moylan. On a stats per game average, it isn’t pretty reading over the entirety of 2022. However, the news coming out of the Sharks is that Wade Graham has been training in the middle and is likely to do what’s best for the team. Reading between the lines, my guess is that he may be on the interchange and his edge position could be filled by Wilton. If this is the case, this is huge for Wilton’s prospects as he can be an 80 minute forward. Last season he had 11 games starting on an edge and averaged 44 points per game at an average of 75 minutes. In seven of these games, he did play the 80 minutes. If Wilton starting on the edge comes to fruition, it might be wheels up for Wilton if he plays 70+ minutes.


Things to consider from the 2022 season when Wilton started on the edge.

· Averaged 88 run metres and 34 tackles. This comes to 42 points in base per game

· Averaged 0.4 tries, 0.5 line breaks, 2.1 tackle breaks and 0.8 offloads a game. This comes to 14 points in attacking points per game.

· Averaged 2.6 missed tackles, 0.7 errors and 0.6 penalties. This comes to 13 points in demerits per game.

· Averaged 7 points more per game against teams that didn’t make the finals.

· Points per minute of 0.58.


Wilton is only ranked here based on him having a starting edge roll. It may be worth a punt now trying to acquire him. Fitzgibbon seems to be a big fan of what Wilton brings to the game which is great from a dynasty approach as Fitzgibbon has just extended his contract until the end of 2027. If Wilton does have a big minute edge roll, I have him averaging 43-46 points.


Jack Bird - St George Illawarra Dragons

Projected 2023 Rank 9

Now this might just be my spiciest pick in the top ten. Last year Bird was jack of all trades and had starts at lock, five-eighth, centre and on the edge. Here at GDS he is listed as an edge and I believe if he plays at lock he can average 50+ points a game. To be honest, things aren’t looking to crash hot for the Red V in 2023 and Bird may have to play in multiple positions again. Bird is currently having issues of his own as he deals with a knee injury but is suspected to be back for the round 2 clash against the Titans. Bird is a naturally gifted player and plays well in any position he is put in; this can also be his downfall from a fantasy point of view. Last year he finished the season by playing six of the last eight games at lock. Over these six games he was a handful for any defence and went on to score three tries, averaging 53 points. Three of these scores were 60+ and the other three were all less than 40. Bird has had serious season ending knee injuries in the past, but he has bounced back well from them over the last couple years. He has had back-to-back years of 20+ games seasons. While playing at lock, Bird offers an alright base and has attacking stat lines that are great across most categories. However, he loses a lot of points through demerits. If he can play at lock more, I’m sure we will see a drop in demerits.


Things to consider from the 2022 season when Bird played at lock.

· Averaged 100 run metres and 28 tackles a game. This comes to 38 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.5 tries, 0.6 try assists, 0.3 line breaks, 0.8 line break assists, 6 tackle breaks and 1.6 offloads a game. This comes to 32 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 3.8 missed tackles, 1 error and 1.2 penalties. This comes to 20 points in demerits per game.

· Points per minute of 0.69.


If the Dragons want to be competitive this season, they will need to play their best players in their best positions, and I believe Bird is best suited to playing at lock. Bird could be a risky play most weeks but there is huge upside if you have his card. It may pay to give him a couple of games to see where he plays and if the Dragons continue to play him at lock. If he plays lock, I have him averaging 48-52 points.


Jeremiah Nanai – North Queensland Cowboys

Projected 2023 Rank 10

Last season was Nanai’s first full season in first grade and what a season it was, averaging 41 points a game. At only 19 years old he has already gone on to represent the Maroons and Australia; this kid is a star in the making. He has just recently re-signed with the Cowboys until the end of 2027 and with his contract now sorted, he can concentrate on his footy. He scored 17 tries which was the most by any forward in 2022 and was the equal third top try scorer in the NRL alongside Ronaldo Mulitalo and teammate Murray Taulagi. Nanai offers a decent base each week and on top of his try scoring ability he can break a few tackles and get an offload away. Nanai is a big minute edge that averaged 78 minutes a game last season. Two things really concern me about ranking him in my top 10. Firstly, the amount of tries he scored last season. I don’t believe his current try scoring strike rate can be sustained. Secondly, the demerits accumulated through missed tackles, errors and penalties is quite alarming. However, with this first year of first grade under his belt he may come back a better defensive player. Also, the Cowboys do have a ridiculously good schedule over the first eight rounds and there should be plenty of try scoring opportunities. Nanai is likely to have Origin duties once again this season


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 100 run metres and 30 tackles a game. This comes to 40 points in base per game.

· Averaged 0.7 tries, 1.7 tackle breaks and 0.8 offloads a game. This comes to 13 points in attack per game.

· Averaged 3.4 missed tackles, 1 error and 0.5 penalties. This comes to 16 points in demerits per game.

· Consistent performer against all opposition.

· Points per minute of 0.52.


Nanai did lack consistency at times last season and did have eight scores of less than 30 points. He did however have four scores of 65+ points but all of these consisted of two or more tries. He might be a risky play each week but he has the upside to take a punt on him. With him being so young, it would be a good move to try and acquire his card now before he gets too expensive. I have him averaging 40-43 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.

Beau Fermor – Gold Coast Titans

Briton Nikora – Cronulla Sharks

Viliame Kikau – Canterbury Bulldogs

Josh Curran - New Zealand Warriors

Tyson Frizell - Newcastle Knights


 

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