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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Turner

NRL Fantasy's Best Middle Forwards for 2024

Fantasy Rugby League Tiers: It's that exciting time of the year again when we delve into the realm of fantasy footy! In the fifth blog of this series, we will be looking at arguably the position with the greatest depth: the middle forwards! We'll take a deep dive into the elite players from 2023, identify potential breakout candidates, and assess the older players who might be showing signs of slowing down. Get ready as we break down the middle forward position into tiers for the upcoming 2024 Rugby League season!


You may see some acronyms in this blog that you may not have come across before. Please feel free to see what they mean under this link - GameDay Squad's 2024 Rugby League - Classic Competition Strategy. Also, you will see the terminology base stats, attacking stats and demerits used. Base stats are points that a player scores through run metres and tackles. Attacking stats are points that a player scores through tries, try assists, line breaks, line break assists, tackle breaks and offloads. Demerits are points that a player loses through missed tackles, errors, and penalties.

There is some great player depth at the middle forward position. Outside a couple of players, there isn't a lot separating the top 10 at this position. When selecting players for your starting squads the main things to consider are the points per minute (PPM) that they score, the points they score through base stats and the number of minutes the player usually plays. Player matchups against a team isn't all that important at this position but if you want to see how many PPM was allowed to this position against certain teams in 2023, check out Breaking Down GameDay Squad's 2024 Rugby League Strength of Schedule.


When I looked back at the 2023 averages at this position, I found out the following.


  • The league average was 49.1 points

  • The league average PPM was 0.74

  • The league average in base points was 50.5

  • The league average in attacking points was 9.6

  • The league average in points lost through demerits was 10.8


These averages are just another data point that may help you when it comes to selecting your starting middle forwards. All the above averages are based on middle forwards playing the 45+ minutes.


https://www.gamedaysquad.com.au/

Tier 1


Payne Haas - 2023 AVG of 66 points, Positional Rank 1st

Isaah Yeo - 2023 AVG of 60 points, Positional Rank 2nd


These players have been the top two players at middle forward for the last couple of seasons. Haas is the young bull while Yeo may be considered a veteran at the age of 29 years old. I believe both players will continue to play big minutes this season and they will likely be in my starting side most weeks.


Haas had another fantastic season in GDS, and he was one of the most sought-after cards. This was for good reason as he's only 24 years old and has been the best middle forward over the last five seasons. Haas had nine scores of 65+ points and he finished as the MID1 on eight occasions. He offered coaches an average of 47 points through base stats, 20 points through attacking stats, 3 points in demerits and 59 minutes at 1.09 PPM. Personally, the only time I'm likely not to start Haas will be around State of Origin. After Game1, he backed up against the Sharks in round 14 and scored 45 points in 56 minutes. After Game 2, he backed up against the Titans in round 17 and scored 48 points in 46 minutes. These two performances weren't terrible by any means, they were just lower than what we usually Haas produce. Depending on which middle forwards are available in the rounds backing up after Origin, Haas may still be one of the better options available for selection.


Yeo had a career year in fantasy last season, and we saw his average improve from 56 points in 2022 to 60 points in 2023. He had six scores of 65+ and he finished as the MID1 on five occasions. Yeo offered coaches an average of 55 points through base stats, 12 points through attacking stats, 7 points in demerits and 78 minutes at 0.66 PPM. Yeo plays big minutes and played 70+ minutes in all of his games last season except in his last two games leading into the finals. He is a very consistent performer due to the minutes he plays and only had two scores of less than 50 points. Like Haas, Yeo has been part of the NSW Origin squad in recent years and I'm expecting him to have a big minute role again this season for the Blues. Quite often the Panthers coach Nathan Cleary likes to rest his Origin stars and Yeo only backed up once last season. In this backup game he scored 58 points in 80 minutes against the Dragons. Even though he scored well after backing up after Game 1 last year, I personally still have my reservations about starting big minute Origin forwards when backing up for their club. Other than around Origin time, Yeo will likely be in my starting squad most weeks.


Tier 2


Addin Fonua-Blake - 2023 AVG of 55 points, Positional Rank 3rd

Patrick Carrigan - 2023 AVG of 53 points, Positional Rank 4th

J'maine Hopgood - 2023 AVG of 53 points, Positional Rank 5th

Tino Fa'asuamaleaui - 2023 AVG of 53 points, Positional Rank 7th

Cameron Murray - 2023 AVG of 52 points, Positional Rank 8th


All the players mentioned in this tier are fantasy-relevant players that can do a decent job for your team. If your squad has Haas and Yeo, then the players in this tier will be excellent cover when required. Some weeks they may even have a more favourable matchup and become your preferred starter. Everyone in this tier should be able to average 50+ points.


AFB had a career season in 2023 and we saw his average improve from 42 points in 2022 to 55 points in 2023. He had six scores of 65+ and he finished as the MID1 on five occasions. AFB offered coaches an average of 47 points through base stats, 18 points through attacking stats, 7 points in demerits and 60 minutes at 0.95 PPM. One of the reasons for the increase in his average was because he averaged 5 minutes more per game on the field. We also saw a reduction in points lost through demerits. AFB's fast feet and good hole running also gave him a boost in points scored through attacking stats. He scored 9 tries last season but his average of tries per year was only 2 tries prior to 2023. Going into the 2024 season, I think we will see some regression for AFB, and this will mainly come in attack. I don't think we will see him score 9 tries or have 9-line breaks again. It's not out of the realm of possibility but these 2023 numbers are extremely high for a middle forward. I think we will see him drop 2-4 points per game through attacking stats. I still believe AFB is a very good starting option every week, but I think we will see him average nearer 50 points than 55 points this season.


After Carrigan's 2021 and 2022 seasons were shortened due to injury, he had an injury free 2023 season and proved his worth to GDS coaches. He had three scores of 65+ and he finished as the MID1 on two occasions. Carrigan offered coaches an average of 53 points through base stats, 12 points through attacking stats, 9 points in demerits and 66 minutes at 0.81 PPM. There are many similarities between Carrigan and Yeo with the main difference being the minutes they play. In six of Carrigan's games last season, he played 70+ minutes and averaged 61 points across these matches. We saw his minutes increase from 60 minutes in 2022 to 66 minutes in 2023. Now he is another season further removed from his injury, we may see another slight increase in minutes. With Flegler and Capewell moving on at the end of 2023, there are now a couple of vacancies in the Broncos forward pack. I'm aware that Carrigan is unlikely to pick up additional minutes in the vacated positions, but I have the narrative that he may pick up additional minutes due to his leadership capabilities. If this does come to fruition, Carrigan may average 70-72 minutes. He's never played these short of minutes on a consistent basis before but if he does, I'll have him ranked in my top five MIDs.


Hopgood had a breakout year in his first season with the Eels and at the age of 24, I believe he would be a great dynasty asset for any coach. In 2023 he had a EDG position designation but for 2024 he has been given a MID position designation. When looking into his stats for 2023 and putting the MID position on him, this is how he would have fared. He had six scores of 65+ and he finished as the MID1 on four occasions. Hopgood offered coaches an average of 55 points through base stats, 14 points through attacking stats, 13 points in demerits and 67 minutes at 0.82 PPM. Last season, Hopgood often made my starting squad as a EDG but before looking into the numbers, I wasn't sure how he would hold his own against the premium MIDs in GDS. As you can see, he holds his own rather well. However, there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Eels forward pack. You have Lane, Matterson, Cartwright and Hopgood covering three positions and they can all play 80 minutes. If everyone is fit, who's minutes are going to be affected the most is the big question. At this stage we don't know, and I do have my reservations about starting Hopgood until I see what the rotation between these players is. If he continues to average 65+ minutes a game, Hopgood can be considered as a starting option each week.


Tino had a career season in 2023 and we saw his average improve from 46 points in 2022 to 53 points in 2023. He had four scores of 65+ and he finished as the MID1 on five occasions. Tino offered coaches an average of 50 points through base stats, 17 points through attacking stats, 14 points in demerits and 63 minutes at 0.84 PPM. Even though it seems that Tino has been around for ages, he is still only 24 years old, and I believe he would be a great dynasty asset for any coach. Tino was off to a slow start last season and only averaged 41 points through to round 9. From round 10 onwards he averaged 63 points with his lowest score being 50 points. The most impressive part of this fantasy production increase was that he did it in the same number of minutes he averaged over the first nine rounds. This season I think we see Tino average between 55-60 points, maybe even 60+ if he plays around an average of 65 minutes a game. Currently I have him ranked inside my top five MIDs and I think he has a very good chance of finishing as a top three MID.


Murray had a down season in 2023 and we saw his average drop from 58 points in 2022 to 52 points in 2023. This wasn't down to a reduction of minutes played as his minutes increased to 70 minutes in 2023 from 67 minutes in 2022. He just was less productive and most of his decrease in production came through his attacking stats. Murray had three scores of 65+ and he finished as the MID1 on four occasions. He offered coaches an average of 54 points through base stats, 12 points through attacking stats, 14 points in demerits and 70 minutes at 0.77 PPM. I think that there is every chance that Murray can bounce back to the form he showed in 2022 and can average closer to 60 points. To do this, he will likely need to touch the ball around 29-30 times a game like he did in 2022 and hopefully we see an uptick in attacking stats.

Tier 3


All the players mentioned in this tier are fantasy-relevant players that can do a decent job for your team. In tier 3 we have players that are more boom or bust starting options. They all have the upside of finishing as a MID1 in any given week, but they also have a higher chance than the tier 1 and 2 players of scoring outside the top five middle forwards. Everyone in this tier should be able to average 45+ points.


Jack De Belin - 2023 AVG of 53 points, Positional Rank 6th

Tohu Harris - 2023 AVG of 51 points, Positional Rank 10th

Cameron McInnes - 2023 AVG of 50 points, Positional Rank 12th


JDB wound back the clock last season and produced the sort of fantasy form some old school fantasy coaches may recall from 2016 and 2017. He had four scores of 65+ and he finished as the MID1 on four occasions. JDB offered coaches an average of 56 points through base stats, 8 points through attacking stats, 9 points in demerits and 72 minutes at 0.77 PPM. Considering that he doesn't offer much in the way of attacking stats compared to other players in this blog, having him ranked in this tier just shows how good he is at scoring points through base stats. With JDB turning 33 years old in a few weeks' time, I think we will start to see some regression from him this season. Not just because of this age but also because of the additions the Dragons have made to their forward pack. I'm expecting JDB's minutes to drop to around 65 minutes a game and this will likely mean that we see less points scored from him. I'm happy to be proven wrong but I would like to see how the Dragons new forward rotation is going to work before I start him.


Harris had a strong 2023 season, but his body let him down on occasions. In three of his matches, he came off early after picking up an injury and this affected his average. Excluding these three games, he would have averaged 55 points. Harris had two scores of 65+ and he finished as the MID1 on three occasions. He offered coaches an average of 57 points through base stats, 9 points through attacking stats, 11 points in demerits and 68 minutes at 0.75 PPM. On paper, the Warriors seem to have a stronger forward pack than they did in 2023. Harris played the full 80 minutes in eight games last season, and I don't think he will regularly be an 80-minute player this season. I'm expecting him to average closer to 65 minutes per game and at the age 32, this might be the last season we see him being fantasy relevant. I hope he has an injury free 2024 season and continues playing around 70 minutes, but I just can't see it happening.


McInnes is the sort of player that can play a blinder out of nowhere and rocket you up the leader board. Last season when Dale Finucane wasn't playing, McInnes was a very good starting option in those weeks. McInnes averaged 59 minutes for an average of 55 points in these games. In the games they both played, McInnes averaged 44 minutes for an average of 44 points. Over all games last season, McInnes had four scores of 65+ and he finished as the MID1 on six occasions. He offered coaches an average of 57 points through base stats, 8 points through attacking stats, 9 points in demerits and 52 minutes at 0.97 PPM. McInnes and Finucane have been named as the Sharks co-captains for this season and I'm expecting them both to be in the 17-man squad each week if they are fit. I won't be starting McInnes when they are both in the 17-man squad but if Finucane is to miss anytime, McInnes offers a very high ceiling and can be a great POD option.


It’s worth keeping an eye on the below players as they are all situational and match-up dependent.

Corey Horsburgh - 2023 AVG of 51 points, Positional Rank 9th

Joseph Tapine - 2023 AVG of 50 points, Positional Rank 11th

Reuben Cotter - 2023 AVG of 40 points, Positional Rank 26th

Moeaki Fotuaika - 2023 AVG of 46 points, Positional Rank 13th

Blake Lawrie - 2023 AVG of 46 points, Positional Rank 14th

Jake Trbojevic - 2023 AVG of 41 points, Positional Rank 24th

James Fisher-Harris - 2023 AVG of 41 points, Positional Rank 25th

Stefano Utoikamanu - 2023 AVG of 39 points, Positional Rank 27th

Adam Elliott - 2023 AVG of 37 points, Positional Rank 35th

Thomas Flegler - 2023 AVG of 36 points, Positional Rank 39th


 

https://www.gamedaysquad.com.au/


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