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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Turner

GameDay Squad's 2023 Rugby League Position Reviews - Halves

Welcome to part two of our positional previews. Today we will be going over the projected top ten halves (HLF). 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.

Adam Reynolds, Nicho Hynes and Nathan Cleary ahead of the 2023 NRL fantasy season

Guns

Everyone in this tier should be able to average 60+ points.

Nicho Hynes – Cronulla Sharks

Projected 2023 Rank 1

Last year Hynes moved to the Sharks from the Storm and had a breakout season, averaging 70 points a game. He also transitioned into the halves from fullback and immediately became the Sharks' key playmaker. This season we should see the Sharks field a very similar line-up to what we saw for the majority of last season. This is great for Hynes as he already has the experience of playing with most of the guys around him and in the same system. With Cleary having a stranglehold on the Blue's number 7 jersey, Hynes is likely to be overlooked to start in Origin but may be in the mix for a utility spot.

This is what stood out to me from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 117 run metres, 20 tackles and 377 kick metres. That’s 42 points in base per game.

· In attack he averaged 1.2 line break assists, 0.8 try assists, 2.6 tackle breaks, 1.4 offloads and 3.3 goals per game.


The entire season is favourable for Hynes as the Sharks have one of the softest schedules. He only comes across three of the top four teams that allowed the least amount of fantasy points to halves in 2022.


Hynes is a must-start. His great base should once again be well complemented by good attacking numbers.

Nathan Cleary - Penrith Panthers

Projected 2023 Rank 2

Cleary has been the GOAT of fantasy over the past few seasons but was overshadowed by Hynes in 2022. Basically, Cleary and Hynes are 1A and 1B in my projections with not much separating them. Cleary is a very close second due to him playing in the Rugby League World Cup and the losses of Koroisau and Kikau from the Panther's starting team. With these key losses to the Panthers, they may be a little clunky to start off the season and you may see Cleary’s fantasy production dip slightly.

Here are some of the things that stood out to me after comparing the last two seasons.

· Kicking metres per game were down in 2022 by 70m per game (2 fantasy points).

· Only scored three tries, his lowest season total since 2016.

· Running metres per game were down in 2022 by 16m per game (1 fantasy point).

· Still a base stat machine. Averaged 43 points in base per game.


The Panthers have one of the more difficult draws this year but Cleary seems to be one of those players that is match-up proof. Four of their last six games are against the Sharks, Storm, Eels and Cowboys. It’s just something to keep in mind after an Origin series as there may be possible rest if the Panthers are sitting pretty at the top of the table like they were last year.

Cleary is also a must-start every week. If you have cards of him and Hynes, you’re set in the halves for the season.

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 Hynes and Cleary, 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 55+ points.

Cameron Munster – Melbourne Storm

Projected 2023 Rank 3

Munster has been one of the most consistent halves over the past few years. He doesn’t have the base like Hynes and Cleary but he has the potential to go boom at any time. He is very durable and has averaged 21 games a season since 2015. A few things that aren’t in his favour are rep duties, not a dominant half and not the preferred goal kicker.

Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Averaged 0.5 tries, 0.7 try assists, 1.5 offloads, 5.3 tackle breaks, 15.7 tackles and 2.8 missed tackles per game.

· Topped the run metres, line breaks and tackle breaks categories for all halves.

· Base of 35 points.


First up is a tough matchup against the Eels but then has four very favourable matchups against the Titans, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Warriors before their round nine bye. After that, his matchups become a lot more difficult.


Munster is a great complementary piece to join either Cleary or Hynes if you don’t have both and is a must-start if you have neither.

Daly Cherry-Evans – Manly Sea Eagles

Projected 2023 Rank 4

DCE is vastly experienced and is likely to play his 300th game in the NRL this season. He currently sits on 283 appearances. Since his debut season in 2011, he only played less than 20 games once and that was in 2016 when he played 19. The Sea Eagles weren’t that great last season but he still averaged 58 points. DCE will remain the dominant half but isn’t the favoured goal kicker. He is also likely to be selected for rep footy again.


A few things stood out to me after comparing the last two seasons.

· Averaged 10 points less per game in 2022.

· Base points remained the same which gives him a floor of 42-43 points.

· Attacking stats dropped across the board with significant decreases in try assists and offloads.


DCE is another one of those players that seems to be matchup-proof as he accumulates decent base points. His match-up schedule this season is unfavourable and only has five games all season against teams that allowed 40+ points to the halves per game.


If you have DCE, you should be able to start him with confidence this year. With Turbo back, you may see an uptick in attacking points as the opposition will then have to deal with a dual threat. If the Sea Eagles are in for a similar season as last year, DCE should still average 57-62 points.

Adam Doueihi – Wests Tigers

Projected 2023 Rank 5

After returning from his ACL injury last year, he was slowly introduced back into the starting line-up. When moved into the Five-Eighth he quickly became very fantasy relevant and averaged 60 points in this position. He is great with the ball in hand and was heavily involved in a lot of scoring plays. In the eight games he played at Five-Eighth he had four scores of 70+. If he remains fit this season, he might just have a career year behind a new and improved forward pack.


Things to consider from the 2022 season when playing at Five-Eighth.

· Very good base of 112 run metres, 22 tackles and 302 kick metres. This comes to around 43 points in base stats per game.

· High demerit count of 2.8 missed tackles and 1.8 errors per game. This comes to about -15 points per game.

· Decent attacking stats of 1.2 line break assists, 0.5 try assists, 4.1 tackle breaks and 1.7 offloads per game. This comes to 20+ points per game.


Doueihi has a couple of great matchups to begin the season against the Titans and Knights. After this, the schedule toughens up until Round 20. From Round 21 onwards he comes across seven of the bottom nine teams that allowed the most points to halves in 2022. The Wests Tigers have their last bye in round 17. So, from a roster construction point of view, having Doueihi would be one less headache to deal with down the stretch in a high-scoring position.


Doueihi may lock down a starting spot in your side, depending on the other halves you have. Just be wary that he has had the odd game in the centres and would be a hard avoid if he was to do so again. He should be in for another decent season and with age on his side, he's a great card to have.

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 50+ points and do a job for you.

Matt Burton – Canterbury Bulldogs

Projected 2023 Rank 6

Burton enters his second season as a Bulldog with a better squad around him. The Bulldogs have done well to secure Mahoney and Kikau, as well as Cameron Ciraldo as their new coach. Having played with Kikau and being coached by Ciraldo at the Panthers, this can only be a good thing for Burton. I believe the Bulldogs are in for a better season than they had in 2022 and if this were to come to fruition, it should improve Burton’s attacking numbers. From the outside looking in, it seems like the Bulldogs are building their team around Burton and giving him every chance to succeed. This can come with pressure but I believe Burton has the attributes to overcome this and be a fantasy stud for years to come.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· Dominant half and goal kicker.

· First year at a new club.

· Base points of 38 per game.

· Below average in most attacking categories compared to other dominant halves.


Over the first month, he has good matchups against the Sea Eagles, Wests Tigers and Warriors. Other than these fixtures, the draw is very tough until round 8. From round 9 until his first bye, he has some great matchups. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him leading into this four-game stretch as he may become a viable starter above some of my higher-ranked halves.


In 2022, Burton averaged 48 points per game which can be seen as not that great for a player of his calibre. Remember, this is only his second year starting in the halves. He had a great 2022 Origin campaign but if Latrell and Turbo are fit, he might struggle to get a look in. If my Bulldogs narrative is correct, I believe we may see him average 53-57 points. He also can go huge and had five scores of 70+ last season.

Adam Reynolds – Brisbane Broncos

Projected 2023 Rank 7

Reynolds is a seasoned campaigner who enters his second season at the Broncos. Even though he seems to carry a lot of niggling injuries, he still averages 23 games a season over the last four years. Durability has rarely been a concern but with him turning 33 this year, we may not see a full season from him. The Broncos haven’t made too many changes to their starting 13 in the off-season except for the addition of Reece Walsh. This shouldn’t affect Reynolds fantasy output; it may even improve it. He is likely not to be in the mix for Origin this season but the Broncos do have a couple of byes over the Origin period.


A few things stood out to me after comparing the last two seasons.

· Kicking metres increased by 120m per game (4 points) in 2022.

· Try assists were at a career-high in 2022, averaging 0.9 per game.

· Attempts on goal dropped by more than 50% in 2022. He still had an average of 3.6 goals per game in 2022 at an 84% success rate.

· Missed tackles increase in 2022 from 1.7 to 3 per game (-9 points).

· All major attacking categories were up per game in 2022 without playing besides Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell.

· Base points dropped slightly in 2022 but still averaged 40 points a game in base.

The opening two games against the Panthers and Cowboys will be very tough. From round 3 through to round 7 the matchups are extremely good for Reynolds. Over this stretch, he should be able to string some good fantasy scores together. The remainder of the season is unfavourable with 10 of the remaining 17 matches against the Rabbitohs, Eels, Strom, Panthers, Sharks, Roosters and Cowboys.


Reynolds averaged 53 points per game in 2022 and we may have seen the best of him. However, he is the dominant half and goal kicker and would still be a great fantasy asset for 2023. He should be a consideration for your team.

Mitchell Moses – Parramatta Eels

Projected 2023 Rank 8

Moses had a great 2022 season in NRL terms and was part of a very good Eels side that made the Grand Final. He is now just shy of 200 career NRL games and comes with a wealth of experience. In fantasy terms, he had an up-and-down season and ended up averaging 48 points per game. In 2023 the Eels should still be a good side with a stable spine. Reed Mahoney has moved on from the Eels in the offseason but Josh Hodgson did come across from the Raiders. I’m unsure what this does for Moses’s game, it may take a few weeks for the new spine combo to start clicking. He already has a great combo with Brown in the halves but he isn’t as dominant as other halves ranked higher than him.

A few things stood out to me after comparing the last two seasons.

· Scores well in base points and averages 43 points per game in base.

· Missed tackles increased in 2022 from 2.2 to 3.3 per game (-10 points).

· All major attacking categories were up per game in 2022 except for tackle breaks which dropped from 4.3 to 3.8 per game.

· He seems to be a match-up dependent half. Against teams that made the finals last season, he averaged five points less per game.

With four of the first five games against the Storm, Sharks, Panthers and Roosters, Moses has a brutal start to the season. From round 6 through to round 20, he only has three games against teams that finished in the top eight last season. He finishes off the season with four of the last six games against the Cowboys, Storm, Roosters and Panthers. Knowing all this, an optimal time to start or trade him may be between round 6 and round 20.

I’m expecting very similar fantasy numbers for Moses this season and he should be a worthy starter. If you don’t have any of the halves ranked above him, he should provide you with decent fantasy output.

Sam Walker – Sydney Roosters

Projected 2023 Rank 9

Walker is a very exciting prospect in fantasy, especially looking through the dynasty lens as he’s only 20 years old. If you are building a team for the future, I believe Walker is a must-have and would look at acquiring him as soon as possible. The Roosters have another strong team in 2023 with an excellent forward pack. This will provide Walker with a great platform to work behind and with the backline he has at his disposal, look out. He will be pairing in the halves with Keary again this season, which limits his ceiling to a certain extent. I don’t think Walker is too far away from Origin duties and if anything happens to DCE, he may be the first cab off the rank.


Things to consider from the 2022 season.

· It seems that Walker has been given the keys to the castle and is slowly becoming the Rooster's dominant half.

· Goal conversion rate over the first 12 rounds was 72%. This improved in the second half of the season to 87%.

· Played at Five-Eighth until round 15 and then moved to Halfback for the rest of the season. At Five-Eighth he averaged 35 points per game and at Halfback he averaged 49 points.

· Walker is small in stature and can be a prime target for forwards to run at. In 2022 he averaged 3.2 missed tackles a game, which was an improvement on his 2021 average.

· All major attacking categories were slightly down per game in 2022. The difference in points between the previous two seasons works out to around 2 points.


Walker has a dreamy start to the 2023 campaign with matches against the Dolphins and Warriors. He will then face his toughest stretch of games for the year with matches against the Rabbitohs, Eels, Storm and Sharks. The remainder of the schedule is rather favourable with only 7 of the last 18 games being against teams that made the finals in 2022.


This season I believe Walker is primed for a breakout year. He will have to limit his demerits and increase his attacking output for this to happen. With a favourable draw, we may see him average 10 more points per game on the 2022 average and become a 50+ point scorer this year.

Jackson Hastings – Newcastle Knights

Projected 2023 Rank 10

Hastings is my smokey in this tier. Last year I liked what I saw from him at the Wests Tigers. He looked like he had matured a lot as a player since last he appeared in the NRL in 2018. Hastings commanded the ball and averaged 80 touches per game when playing in the halves. This year he has joined the Knights and is rumoured to partner Ponga in the halves. If this is the case, I believe he will see a lot of the ball go his way as he will be the dominant half. When he was in the dominant half last year, he averaged 53 points a game which was 9 points above his season average. With Ponga being relatively inexperienced in the halves, Hastings may average north of the 50+ mark.


Things to consider from the 2022 season when playing in the halves.

· He was excellent as a dominant half and can kick goals.

· Carried niggling injuries in the back half of the season before his season was ended by breaking his leg.

· Didn’t take long to find his groove at a new club.

· When he was the dominant half he averaged 320 kick metres per game, 135 run metres and 15 tackles. This comes to a solid base of 38 points a game.

· Not the most attacking half in the game and his attacking stats show this.


Hastings has a great start to the season over the first six weeks before coming up against the Panthers, Cowboys and Eels. From round 11 onwards he only has 7 games against teams that were in the finals last year.


Even though Hastings is new to a team that is projected to finish in the bottom half of the competition, he might be flying a bit under the radar. His stats are a little misleading from last season due to positional changes and injuries. He comes to the Knights as the dominant half and should remain so for this season. I have him averaging 48-52 points and he could be a likely candidate for a halves spot in your team if you don’t have any of the top guys.

It’s worth keeping an eye on the below players as they are all situational and match-up dependent. Any of them may slip into my top ten from week to week.

Jamal Fogarty – Canberra Raiders

Sean O’Sullivan – Dolphins

Dylan Brown - Parramatta Eels

Jahrome Hughes - Melbourne Storm

Ben Hunt - St George Illawarra Dragons


 

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