Underdog’s Analysis: NRL’s Favourite Hookers for 2017

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Updated: February 27, 2017

With the NRL season just around the corner it’s time to start finalising your fantasy team for the 2017 season. One of the biggest issues for me and many others is who to pick as your hooker. Do you go premium and set and forget? Do you opt for a mid ranger and get a gun somewhere else in your team? Or do you take a punt on two cheapies and presumably close your eyes for the first half of the season?

Below I have listed reason for and against the 10 most popular options this year as well as a few Points of Difference (POD’s) worth considering. Prices are based on Supercoach, but roughly translate to most fantasy platforms.

  1. Cameron Smith – Price: $523,700 – Ownership: 34.7%

Why you would- Alike much of the NSW population I have an unfair disdain for the Melbourne Captain. He is the best hooker in the world but also manages to get unicorn points awarded to him by the fantasy god’s week in week out. I had him all last year and could not fault him. His stats speak for themselves with a 15 point difference between his average and the next best thing.  He kicks goals at a high percentage of success, plays 80 minutes and doesn’t get injured. If you don’t get him in from the start or by round 5-6 at the latest then you’re unlikely to get him until he finishes his State of Origin obligations.

Why you wouldn’t –  Given his ridiculous scoring at the back end of last year he is about 50k over priced and also misses at least 4 games during the origin period. Pending cheapies on Team list Tuesday (TLT) its completely reasonable to see that the value saved by opting for a cheaper alternative means that you can spend the 500k saved throughout the rest of your team. His current ownership percentage stands at 34.7% in Supercoach, the most for any Hooker. This alone makes me start looking for a POD. At least this way I don’t have to cheer him on for another season.

  1. Jayden Brailey – Price: $122,600 – Ownership: 31.7%

Why you would– Brailey is one of the most promising juniors to come out of the Sharks since Curtis Scott. He is bottom dollar price and Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has all but confirmed he will start at number 9 edging out Daniel Mortimer and Mania Cherrington. Pick him as your starting hooker at your own peril but as a bench warmer for your team there isn’t many cheapies with better prospects.

Why you wouldn’t – He had a trial by fire recently in the WCC game against Wigan and it will take him a season or two to get in to the swing of first grade. He should get at least a 30-40 point average based on tackles etc but I don’t think we will see his running game as much in his first season and there might not be much in the way of attacking stats. I also expect him to be blooded slowly, it is likely that he will be sharing the 80minutes with the other guys mentioned above and will get rested intermittently to build his confidence up in the lower grades.

  1. Dylan Phythian – Price: $156,400 – Ownership: 18.6%

Why you would- Close to bottom dollar and all but confirmed to start the season as the first choice fullback at the Newcastle Knights. Has impressed at Trials. Handy Dual position and also available at Fullback.

Why you wouldn’t- Plays for the Newcastle ‘zero attacking stats’ Knights. Potential to be the Jaelen Feeney of 2017. Worse job security than Brailey and a touch more expensive. Huge potential to get dropped before any price rises if it doesn’t work out, with the more experience Peter Mata’utia waiting in the wings. At the moment, I have him in my reserve fullback position with Brailey my bench hooker but am still not sold.

  1. Josh Hodgson – Price: $417,300 – Ownership: 13.6%

Why you would – If you are looking to save $100k and want the next best thing to Cam Smith – Josh Hodgson is your man. Is likely to play 80 minutes with Kurt Baptiste sidelined for the majority of 2017. Even if Adam Clydesdale gets a utility spot on the bench he likely shifts to a roaming lock or 2FR and see’s out the game. Made the most runs out of any hooker last year and was super consistent. Is a fair price and should hold his value. Doesn’t play origin and plays the first big bye in round 12.

Why you wouldn’t – Cameron Smith is only $100k more. Raiders have a really tough run to start the season with the Cowboys (away), Brisbane (away) and the Sharks at home in their first 4 games. This could affect his attacking stats. He also misses the big bye rounds in round’s 15 and 18.

  1. Matt Ballin – Price: $143,600 – Ownership 8.5%

Why you would – Close to rookie price due to a horrible run of injuries. Should get at least 60 mins game time when fit and make minimum 40-50 points in base stats alone, and thus get a few price rises.

Why you wouldn’t – Touch more expensive than Brailey, King or the Python and so would be pricier bench option. Is yet to engage in full contact training and no certainty of when he will be playing. We are yet to see the plans Coach Jason Taylor has for his hooker rotation so minutes are anyone’s guess. History shows he is a 86.2% chance of injuring his ACL at some point this year.

  1. Robbie Farah: Price $346,900 – Ownership 7.8%-

Why you would – Fantasy gun of yesteryear ‘Wobbie’ starts afresh this year at a new club and, thanks to his strange relationship with Jason Taylor last year, starts heavily discounted. Before he fell out of favour he averaged 76 points and 73 points a year respectively for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.  His style of play suits fantasy to a tee and he should come out of the blocks firing. A lot depends on minutes, but if Damien Cook starts in the vacant half spot left by Aaron Reynolds for the first few rounds then you would be crazy to leave him out.

Why you wouldn’t’ – For some reason he will again play origin this year for NSW. The Bunnies bye schedule is not favourable for origin players and you would need to trade him out before round 12. Minutes are the main issue, with Damien Cook the favoured number 9 coming out of pre season. If he is not playing 80 minutes then he is not worth the risk.

  1. Jake Granville: Price $298,700 – Ownership 6.3%

Why you would – Paul Green loves to rotate a hooker.  Due to his rotation for the starting gig at the Cowboys with Rory Kostjasyn last year Granville is slightly undervalued. I had him as a reserve hooker last year and he was a serious rollercoaster. He was very inconsistent but if he gets his running game back and gets the minutes, there is value to be had. Cowboys have a good start to the NRL draw and play 4 out of 5 games in QLD.

Why you wouldn’t – Paul Green loves to rotate a hooker. Ben Hampton has joined in on the party and we are yet to see what role he will play off the bench. Even when Granville did play big minutes last year he could score 20 or 80 depending on how he was feeling. I thought about it, but there are too many questions and he is a wait and see at the very least. At a similar price Elijah Taylor is a much safer option.

  1. Elijah Taylor: Price $307,100 – Ownership 6.2%

Why you would – If you are looking for a cut price option ET is probably your safest bet. His price is at a discount thanks to a mid season switch from the Panthers to the Tigers mid 2016. He has handy dual position and can also slot into your second row. He should make 40 points in tackles alone and is value for money. With the other Tiger’s hooking options looking shaky for the opening rounds he should get decent minutes rotating between lock and hooker. For mine he is a serious option and one I’m seriously considering. My main reason for this is because there is such uncertainty with a number of the other options in this position. If you went with ET you are close to certain not to lose money and once things are settled and we know who is getting the minutes at other clubs you could trade out for a profit or slot into your second row as a decent reserve.

Why you wouldn’t – Jason Taylor has made it clear that he basically wants his hooker to shovel it out quickly so that his playmakers have early ball. Same goes for his lock or first receiver. For this reason it is possible that ET only see’s base stats and will often play behind the line. Doesn’t have the attacking upside as others for this reason.

 

 

  1. Cameron King: Price $132,000 – Ownership 5.9%

Why you would – For arguments sake let’s consider King and competitor Kaysa Pritchard ($153’300) together. As we know, the Parramatta Eels have been busy in the off season, buying up anyone over 90 kilos with even a little first grade experience. This means they have forwards in spades and Coach Brad Arthur has outlined his desire to run a 4 forward bench and an 80 minutes hooker. King and Pritchard are both in the running for this spot, are dirt cheap and have a good bye schedule. For mine I will be on Pritchard hard if he earn the spot as he likes making runs and has a sideways fending style similar to SKD/Fifita that gets tackle bust points for fun.

Why you wouldn’t – Isaac De Gois, everyone’s favourite journeyman. Somehow he continues to get a run. Defensively sound he offers absolutely nothing in attack or fantasy wise. DO NOT PICK HIM. He is rumoured to get the nod ahead of the other two (why tho?) named above.  With this still yet to be decided a week away from the start of the competition I will most likely steer clear of the Eel’s hookers until bye time. It is highly likely that each gets a run early in the season to see how they go and we need to remember that in Supercoach player’s need to play at least three rounds before they see any price rises.

  1. Issac Luke: Price $424,100 – Ownership 4.6 %

Why you would – Showed real positive signs at the Warriors especially towards the back end of the 2016 season. With a full pre season under his belt, a fitter Luke could come out of the gates flying. Plays the Knights round 1. Doesn’t play Origin and has an okay bye schedule. Is priced right on the money and should average low 60’s throughout the year. Low ownership so could set you apart.

Why you wouldn’t – SJ seems to have got the goal kicking back in the pre season trials. Luke isn’t going to make you any money for that price. Yet to see whether new Coach Stephen Kearney plays a bench utility which could impact his minutes. New year new spine for the Warriors, there is only so many fantasy points a team can get and with Foran, RTS and SJ in the spine, can Luke still score well?

My pick of the POD’s – Cameron McInnes: Price $369,400 – Ownership 3.3 %

Why you would – This is the guy I am currently fielding for my team. In 2016 in the 6 games that McInnes played 80mins in he averaged over 70 points second only to Cameron Smith. Yet, he comes at a discount due to him sharing the duties with Damien Cook at the Rabbitohs last year. If the Dragons name a 4 forward bench and McInnis looks to get 80 minutes, then he is a value option with plenty of upside.

Why you wouldn’t – Is playing for the Dragons who could be serious contenders for the worst attacking side in 2017. Jai Field could be named on the bench with Josh McCrone in the halves, not sure how or why but this could potentially impact game time for McInnes. He looked solid but not fantastic in the Charity Shield and doesn’t have the kicking game of others on this list.

Other options not worth considering..

Kodi Nikorima: Price $195,900 – Ownership  4.7 % – Bench Utility = Terrible fantasy points wise. Always an injury risk and looks to be starting the year in reserve grade with Alex Glen favoured for the #14.

Jake Friend: Price $ 420,600 – Ownership  4.4 % – I can see why people are tempted but he is overvalued in my opinion. Makes a shitload of tackles but his attacking stats dried up when Mitchell Pearce returned last year. With Connor Watson a certainty for the bench, I predict he will be $350k by round 8.

Michael Lichaa: $352,400 – Ownership 0.7% – Don’t get sucked in by this relatively cheap 80 minute option. He lacks the upside of others and will just as easily get you a score of 20 as he does a 50. A wait and see at the very least. He could be turfed for Zac Woolford if he doesn’t perform.

Andrew McCullough: Price $321,900 Ownership 2.7%– McCullough is your meat and potatoes type of hooker. Will earn you 40 points a week in tackles but that’s about it.

Apisai Koroisau: Price $349,800 – Ownership 1.4 % – I was seriously considering Api for a little bit until I looked a bit closer. Contrary to popular belief he played 80 minutes quite a few times last year and his scores were all over the place with quite a few sub 30’s. Add in that you have a new spine, Lewis Brown and Jackson Hastings to consider and you will find that there is far less riskier options that provide better value.

Peter Wallace –  Price $297,700 – Ownership 2.9 % – Wallace’s price is a fair value and he has a decent early draw BUT the Panthers have a team of SC guns and there is simply not enough points for Wallace to sneak off the likes of Carty, Moylan and Nathan Cleary. Similar vein to Andrew McCullough. Also have high injury risk and Mitch Rein floating around.

Dani Levi & Tyler Randall – Both priced around $200k I think many will fall for the trap here. With Kostjasyn sidelined for the first month or two there appears to value here but look closer and you will see that both got the minutes last year as well and were terrible. If you don’t believe me use the free Supercoach Gold trial to look at ‘Past Stats’. Levi looks to have won the starting role but will make you $50k max and is not worth the trades.

Nathan Peats – Was a possible option but is injured and will miss 4 – 6 weeks minimum. Tyrone Roberts should take the number 9 spot but is not available in the Hooker position for Supercoach.

Josh McCrone – Just don’t do it, not even for a second, ever.

 

Written by Kyle Robson –  Instagram: underdog_fantasy

 

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Image Sources:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-29/cameron-smith-and-cooper-cronk-grab-michael-ennis/7890274

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/rugby-league/canberra-raiders/nrl-hodgson-stars-but-austin-injury-a-worry-for-surging-raiders-20160806-gqmkh6.html

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/elijah-taylor-leads-list-of-nrl-players-making-most-of-midseason-moves/news-story/2f44a104bad2dd5cb6474efdfcca7b11

http://forums.biante.com.au/archive/index.php/t-17703.html

http://www.nrl.com/warriors-confirm-issac-luke-signing/tabid/10874/newsid/86056/default.aspx

http://www.nrl.com/mccrone-ready-for-every-dragons-opportunity/tabid/10874/newsid/94011/default.aspx

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