Welcome to the second season of GameDay Squad NRL Fantasy. Leading up to the start of the 2023 season I’ll be previewing each position and breaking them into three tiers, Guns, Mr Reliable and Dark Horse. Roughly the top 10 players in each position will be analysed in these tiers. The projected ranks provided for these players will be based on projected fantasy points per game. We will start this season by previewing the Wing and Fullback positions (WFB) with other positions to follow soon.
Latrell Mitchell – South Sydney Rabbitohs
Projected 2023 Rank 1
Last year Mitchell had an excellent season and ended with the best average of any WFB. His total fantasy points were slightly down in the 2021 season, but I put that down to the injury he picked up early on. If he gets a full preseason behind him and stays injury free, he’s bound to push his average over 60 points.
A few things stood out to me after comparing the last two seasons.
· Running metres per game were down in 2022 by 40m per game (4 fantasy points). Most of these missing metres came from kick returns, where he was down by 30m per game.
· Receipts per game dropped by 20% in 2022.
· Averaged one try assist per game in 2022. This was his best strike rate per game ever in this stat line.
· Took over the goal kicking in 2022 which increased his fantasy points per game by 10 points.
The things that may have contributed to change between the two recent seasons could have been his hamstring injury, a change of coach and the departure of Adam Reynolds.
The start to the season for Mitchell isn’t favourable at all. He comes up against three of the top four teams that allowed the least amount of fantasy points to fullbacks in 2022. The matchups ease up from Round 6 where he comes across the Bulldogs who allowed the most fantasy points per game to fullbacks in 2022.
Latrell Mitchell is a must-start. The upside that he provides in fantasy is huge with his attacking prowess and goal-kicking. Even with the tough draw to open the season.
James Tedesco – Sydney Roosters
Projected 2023 Rank 2
The tackle break king will be entering his sixth season a Rooster and it may be just one of his best yet. Over the last eight seasons, Teddy has averaged 55+ fantasy points per game which makes him one of the elite players in his position over the last decade. The Roosters have made a good move by bringing across Brandon Smith from the Storm. I believe this signing will only assist Teddy's fantasy output around the ruck area and will improve his chances to increase his line break and try tallys from 2022.
There weren’t too many things that changed for Teddy from 2021 to 2022. There was a downtick in try assists, he went from one per game in 2021 to 0.5 per game in 2022. I put this down to Luke Keary being fit for most of the 2022 season. The run metres increased in 2022 by 30m per game and he crossed over for four more tries.
Teddy has great base stats for a WFB in the form of running metres. When you combine running metres with an average of seven tackle busts a game, it gives you 40 fantasy points per game. Don’t get me wrong, tackle busts aren't really counted as base points but when Teddy has averaged seven tackle busts per game over his career, I believe it’s pretty safe to assume that he will be around this number in 2023.
Teddy has a favourable start over the first nine rounds with games against the Warriors, Eels, Sharks and Dragons. All these teams allowed 40+ points per game to fullbacks. The only unfavourable matchup comes against the Storm, who only allowed 35 points per game to opposition fullbacks.
Teddy is a must-start. He should have a good base and has the upside to go huge at any stage.
Ryan Papenhuyzen – Melbourne Storm
Projected 2023 Rank 3
Over the past two seasons, Papenhuyzen has significantly been hampered by injuries and has only played a total of 27 games in this time. There is currently no specific timeline on his return to action but I don’t think it will be for round one. Even for his first couple of games back, I would be checking out how he performs before putting him in your starting line-up.
When he’s fit, he’s a gun. Last season he averaged 1.2 tries, 1.1 linebreaks and 0.75 try assists per game. His speed often catches defences by surprise. He can rack up huge fantasy-relevant plays just from one touch of the ball. However, you wouldn’t be getting many fantasy points from his defensive game. Last season he averaged only 3.9 tackles and 1.3 missed tackles per game, this would equal zero fantasy points.
With no return date in sight, I’m a little nervous about listing him as a gun. When he is fit, he is almost an automatic starter every week. Luckily in GDS, you can have him sitting outside your playing squad until he returns to action.
All the players mentioned in this tier are fantasy-relevant players that can do a decent job for your team. If your team is stacked with ‘Guns’, then these players will be excellent cover when required. Some weeks they may even have a more favourable match and become your preferred starter.
Scott Drinkwater – North Queensland Cowboys
Projected 2023 Rank 4
Over the past two seasons, Drinkwater has played in two positions, half and fullback. At fullback in 2022 he averaged just under 50 points and I believe he can improve on this in 2023. If there was to be an injury in the halves, you may see him slot back in there. This wouldn’t be the end of the world in a fantasy sense as he should still average around 45 points. He has also gone through the last two seasons without missing a game to injury.
This is what stood out to me from the 2022 season.
· Decent stats lines across all fantasy-relevant attacking categories.
· An average of around 25 points in base stats.
The start of the season for Drinkwater is one of the most favourable for fullbacks. Every match-up from rounds 2-8 is against five of the bottom six teams that allowed the most points to fullbacks in 2022. He only has nine matchups this season against teams that allowed under 40 points per game to fullbacks in 2022.
The Cowboys were outstanding in 2022. They will be going into this season with a very similar team and the same spine. This is bound to be a huge positive for Drinkwater and with a soft schedule to boot, it may just carry him to the next level for fantasy.
Dylan Edwards – Penrith Panthers
Projected 2023 Rank 5
Last year Edwards had his best season in fantasy to date. He is the sort of player that puts in the hard yards, this is backed up by his stats. He does stay relatively injury-free and averages 20 games a season over the last four years. Over the three games in the 2022 finals series, he averaged 65+ points and deservedly scooped the Clive Churchill Medal in the Grand Final.
This is what stood out to me from the 2022 season.
· Top performer across the league in most carries, run metres, kick return metres and player in support categories.
· Bettered his personal tally from any other season in tries scored, try assists, linebreaks, tackles made, tackle efficiency and running metres.
· Averaged 50+ points from round 12 onwards.
The start to the season for Edwards is favourable. Before round 14, he only comes up against one of the top four teams that allowed the least points to fullbacks in 2022. From rounds 15-18 he has some unfavourable matchups; this may be mitigated if the Panthers decide to rest some players over the Origin period.
If the 2022 season is anything to go by, Edwards should be able to average around 50 again. I would be more than comfortable starting him most weeks if I had him in my side.
Tom Trbojevic – Manly Sea Eagles
Projected 2023 Rank 6
Turbo is one of the most gifted fullbacks in the NRL but has been injury-plagued over the last four seasons. Over this time, he has only played 44 games. He has the ability to easily fall into the ‘Gun’ tier going by his 80-point average in 2021 but I’ve placed him in this tier until I see how he performs in the early rounds. Before he got ruled out for the season in 2022, he didn’t look the same player as he did in 2021. Other than that phenomenal season, he has only averaged around the mid 40’s since 2016.
The start to the season for Turbo is favourable with matchups against the Bulldogs, Eels and Knights. Things become a lot tougher when he comes across the Panthers and Storm. By the time he gets to the Panthers, we should have a good grasp on what sort of Turbo we have in 2023.
At this stage, I’m predicting that he will average somewhere between 45-55 points. The numbers he hit in 2021 probably won’t be reached this season but he should still be a decent option for your team.
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.
Kayln Ponga – Newcastle Knights
Projected 2023 Rank 7
In 2022 Ponga didn’t have a great season due to injuries and concussions. He has only played 29 games over the past two seasons, so durability is a concern. It has been rumoured that he has moved into the halves over the off-season. In 2019 he had an experimental run in the halves for three games and only averaged in the low 30s.
Who knows what to expect from Ponga this season and because of this I have him ranked in this tier. If he does transition to the halves let’s hope the transition this time around is more successful. To be honest, with the injury and concussion concerns he has had over the last couple of seasons, a move to the halves may not be the worst thing for him or fantasy.
As he is listed in GDS as a WFB but is likely to start the season as a HLF, he may become a cheat code in the WFB position as the HLF position generally has a higher points average. Ponga has X-Factor in fantasy as he can make something out of nothing and easily peel off 30+ point plays. If you have him in your side, you’re likely to start him. Just tread cautiously for the first month of the season. Whether Ponga is at WFB or HLF, he should still average around 45-50 points.
Reece Walsh – Brisbane Broncos
Projected 2023 Rank 8
Walsh is one of the most promising youngsters in the NRL and he might become the poster boy for the Broncos in the near future. He made his NRL debut at the age of 18 for the Warriors and had a promising first season averaging 50 points a game. Last season was tough for him and he only averaged 39 points a game. Now he is at the Broncos, he has a better forward pack to play behind and an established half in the form of Adam Reynolds to run the show. His prospects for 2023 look a lot brighter and I believe he will get close to the 2021 form.
A few things stood out to me last season compared to the 2021 season.
· Stat lines were down per game for tries, kicking metres, try assists, linebreaks and tackle efficiency.
· Base points increased per game after the goal-kicking stats were taken out as he won’t be kicking this season unless there are injuries.
· Demerits increased per game from -7 to -10 points.
The start of the season for Walsh is one of the most unfavourable for fullbacks. Before round 7 he comes up against four of the top six teams that allowed the fewest points to fullbacks in 2022. He only has nine matchups this season against teams that allowed 40+ points per game to fullbacks in 2022.
This season I’m optimistic that he may be closer to his 2021 form. Even with a tough draw, I have him averaging 44-48 points as he is such a quality player and is in a better setup than the 2022 season. As the season goes on, you may see him start to creep up my rankings as I can see the possibility of him even averaging 50+ points.
Clinton Gutherson – Parramatta Eels
Projected 2023 Rank 9
Last year Gutherson averaged 40 points a game which was down on the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He didn’t drop away in many of the fantasy-relevant stat categories. However, his demerits did increase by -3 points and his running metres did decrease by two points a game. If he reduces the errors and picks a few more running metres he should hit a mid-40s average. Over the last four seasons, he has played a whopping 101 NRL games, probably the most by any player over this time. This is a big plus in my book as he is in a top-four side, the captain and likely to be overlooked for Origin.
The start of the season for Gutho is one of the most unfavourable for fullbacks. From rounds 1-6 he comes up against four of the top six teams that allowed the fewest points to fullbacks in 2022. From round 7-10 he has some excellent matchups against teams that all allowed 43+ points to fullbacks in 2022.
This season I’m optimistic that he may be closer to his 2021 form. Even with a tough draw, I have him averaging 43-47 points. Depending on who your available WFBs are, you should be able to confidently start him most weeks.
Lachlan Miller - Newcastle Knights
Projected 2023 Rank 10
It sounds like Miller will be joining the Knights for the 2023 season. He comes from Rugby Union and represented the Australian Sevens side at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before making his NRL debut in 2022 for the Sharks. In the four games he played at fullback, he was rather impressive and averaged 50 points. Across attacking stat lines, he averaged 0.5 tries, 0.8 linebreaks, 9 tackle busts and 0.5 offloads.
Even though this is a very small sample size and the Knights not being a top team like the Sharks. The 2023 season looks bright if he does join the Knights and lock down the fullback position. Miller can become a decent fantasy asset this season and should average around 40-45 points.
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.
Reuben Garrick- Manly Sea Eagles
Nick Meaney - Melbourne Storm
Brian To’o - Penrith Panthers
Greg Marzhew - Newcastle Knights
Alex Johnson - South Sydney Rabbitohs
Ronaldo Mulitalo - Cronulla Sharks
Daine Laurie – Wests Tigers
Xander Savage - Canberra Raiders
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad - New Zealand Warriors