We have four great matchups in week one of the NRL finals series, including the blockbuster Storm v Sea Eagles clash to kick things off on Friday night. Will Tom Trbojevic be able to take Manly to the Grand Final like Jarrod Hayne & Ben Barba did with their teams in 2009 & 2012? Can the Titans’ tackle busting & try scoring beast David Fifita lead them to week two of the finals? These are just a couple of the exciting storylines to look forward to, and that’s leaving out whether the Panthers can go one better in 2021 and win the Grand Final or Brad Arthur’s Eels who have struggled in the finals over the last couple of years.
Draftstars have increased their prize pools for the finals series, with at least $65,000 on offer over the weekend. If you’re thinking of entering in to any of the contests this round, make sure you check out our ‘NRL Draftstars Stat Bible‘ to help you fit in your favourite players!
Sunday 12th September 4.05PM
Eels v Knights
Hopefully the Knights can show the same fight as the Titans who were heroic in almost knocking off the Roosters yesterday! The Knights have a full strength spine including Ponga, Pearce, Clifford & Brailey who have been in great form. The Eels have been struggling in the second half of the season but had a great win against the Storm two rounds ago. They are still missing Mahoney, Sivo & Matterson and have Campbell-Gillard returning from injury so it should be a closer game than the +7.5 line suggests. It’s also the biggest contest of the weekend on Draftstars and the only game to have a ‘High Roller’ contest.
Ray Stone had 54 tackles and ran for 100 metres last week in 80 minutes. He may not play all 80 minutes this week at hooker but he’s shown the ability to wrack up impressive stats so even if he falls short of the 48 points we have projected him to score, he’ll be a great pick up at $9,200.
Nathan Brown’s form has been down in recent weeks, at least statistically speaking, however he’ll play a key role for the Eels today and is great value priced at $10,800. His average ownership % in 2021 is only 24 so you may also be picking someone who isn’t highly owned.
If you do choose to pick cheaper, better value players at 2RF then you’ll have more cash to spend on high ceiling backs. Clint Gutherson stands out here at $10,640. He has the highest ceiling range of any of the backs at 77 & the highest value rating (6) of any WFB or CTR. Especially for a 4.05pm game on a Sunday, lock him in to your team!
Mitchell Pearce & Mitchell Moses are both priced just under $15k. Although they have relatively similar projected scores, value ratings & ceiling ranges – Moses comes out on top in all those categories. Therefore, we are suggesting Mitchell Pearce as our fade option. Pearce also has more support around him with Clifford, Ponga & Brailey whereas Moses knows he’ll have to step up with an inexperienced dummy half (Stone) and the hopes of the Parramatta faithful on his and Gutherson’s backs.
Friday 10th September 7.50PM
Storm v Sea Eagles
Tom Trbojevic v Ryan Papenhuyzen. Munster & Hughes v Foran & Cherry-Evans. That’s leaving out players like Jake Trbojevic, Harry Grant & Brandon Smith. However you think about this game, it’s a blockbuster, and potentially the best game of the 2021 season. It’s going to be a cracking DFS contest too, with a page full of players on our NRL Draftstars Stat Bible showing up as 7/10 or better in our value ratings & no one with an average ownership % of less than 10 in 2021.
We talked up Dylan Walker as a great value play last week and he certainly delivered. With scores of 49, 51 & 50 in his last three games, he offers consistency and value for his $9,730 price tag. Given that it’s a crucial finals game against the Storm, our model has him projected to score closer to 40 points but he’s still a great pick at WFB or HALF so you can afford to pick one of the high priced guns.
It’s not often we would say that a played priced at $12,000 is great value but we have Ryan Papenhuyzen rated as 9/10 in our value ratings. He has the third highest ceiling range in this contest (99), is coming off a ton in the last round of the regular season and if you go with Tom Trbojevic to partner him in the WFB position and Dylan Walker at HALF, you may just be able to build a reasonable side around them!
Brandon Smith. He has a value rating of 6/10 & a freakishly high try scoring rate in 2021. If you have the courage to back against him scoring a try in what should be a tight, old school finals game then he’s the perfect option to fade at an average 2021 ownership % of 58.
If you do go without him, Lachlan Croker at $9,970 & a value rating of 8/10 could be a great option to choose instead. You’ll need to save money in the HOK position if you’re planning to choose two out of Papenhuyzen, Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic.
Edit: Lachlan Croker has been ruled out and Karl Lawton is now Manly’s starting hooker. He’s priced at $7k, should crack 40 points and is available at HOK & 2RF which makes him close to a must have.
And in the 2RF position, Dale Finucane could be a great value alternative to Brandon Smith given his value rating of 8/10 and average ownership of 27% in 2021. We have him projected to score 41 points but you know Craig Bellamy would love to have him on the field late in this game so he could definitely get closer to 50 if the game is on the line late!
Saturday 11th September 5.40PM
Roosters v Titans
The Roosters are 12 point favourites in this one and most fans are probably thinking that they should be good enough to get the job done with Victor Radley & Jared Waerea-Hargreaves returning and James Tedesco in sublime form. However, as a DFS contest this game comes down to one key decision. Will you pick David Fifita?
We thought David Fifita was a good value pick last week and he certainly delivered, scoring two tries and 56 points. We had him projected to score 58 points, so more ‘traditional’ fantasy NRL players might think the fact that it took two tries for him to get there isn’t a good sign. However, tackle breaks & tries have become close to a ‘base’ stat for David Fifita in 2021.
He’s showing up as a 4/10 value pick in this contest and usually, we wouldn’t want to recommend selecting someone who is poor value. But he has the highest ceiling range in this contest (104) and aside from Sitili Tupouniua who is great value in this contest, no other 2RFs stand out as great picks.
With the Roosters forward pack returning to full strength, Isaac Liu returns to the bench. He’s been a great servant for the Roosters and will be joining the Titans in 2022. His numbers have been really impressive over the last few months as he’s had to play big minutes as the other forwards have gone through injuries, suspensions & Origin commitments. However, we have him projected to score around 40 points which isn’t great value for his $12,650 price tag. If you are looking for a mid priced FRF option, Mo Fotuaika at $11,720 is projected to score 52 points and has the highest ceiling range (78) of any forward in this contest aside from David Fifita.
Saturday 11th September 7.50PM
Panthers v Rabbitohs
All the media reports this week have been about Nathan Cleary’s bombs which had Latrell Mitchell & Josh Mansour in trouble all night as the Panthers won 25-12. Mitchell & Mansour both aren’t playing this time around & the Panthers are full strength aside from losing Dylan Edwards, which is a key reason why the Panthers are 12 point favourites. The Rabbitohs’ final decision on whether to play Blake Taaffe at fullback or not will be define this DFS contest, so watch out for the late mail!
Nathan Cleary has been consistently dominant in most aspects of his game in 2021 his DFS scoring has reflected that. We have him projected to score 81 points, which is still OK value for $19,230 but it’s his 124 ceiling range which makes him such a great pick. Most of you will want him in your team, which means you need to see where you can save some money in your salary cap!
Kurt Capewell is priced at $8,240 and projected to score 41 points. He’s been down on form in recent weeks, partially as the Panthers have rotated their back rowers to prepare them for the finals and he’s had to fill in at centre which has impacted his scores. But given the importance of this game, he’s likely to get around 70 minutes in the backrow which will make him a great value selection who you can play at CTR in your side!
With Nathan Cleary & Brian To’o likely to be popular picks in this contest, it’s unlikely that players such as Damian Cook & Cameron Murray will be highly owned as players struggle with their salary cap. So we’ve picked Alex Johnston as our main option to fade in this contest.
Johnston is priced at $11,510 and projected to score 37 points. Firstly, that’s a value rating of 2/10. There is a chance he spends some time at fullback, which would take him away from the left wing where he’s been so successful in 2021 further reducing his likelihood of hitting his ceiling. On top of that, with the Panthers 12 point favourites and not having conceded 20 points with Nathan Cleary in the team, it’s just difficult to see how Johnston can score 40+ points which he would need to, to justify his price tag.