KFC SuperCoach NRL: 21 players you can profit from in 2021
When ability meets opportunity a KFC SuperCoach NRL sweet spot is created – these are 21 players you need in your 2021 watchlist.
Rob Sutherland and Wilson Smith
December 4, 2020 - 9:29AM
News Corp Australia Sports Newsroom
Some have changed clubs, others have the promise of a more meaningful role on the horizon while there are a couple here who look set to bounce back from a bit of a 2020 nightmare.
All have caught our eye as we begin to plan for the upcoming KFC SuperCoach NRL season.
Find somewhere comfy because this one is a long one …
21 PLAYERS SET TO SHINE IN KFC SUPERCOACH NRL IN 2021
This text will be hidden
1 Siosifa Talakai – Games 15, PPG: 55, MPG: 59
One of the feel good stories of 2020, Talakai was given a chance by Cronulla and took it with aplomb. The former Rabbitoh, turned garbo, turned Rob Sutherland heart-throb made his club debut off the bench in round four last season. He passed the eye test, but did not really produce the SuperCoach goods until later as – to be honest – he looked like he needed to build up a bit of match fitness. In the seven game span from Rd 13-19 (inclusive) Talakai averaged 71MPG and 75PPG. with a ninety and two triple-figures scores. He’s not a ‘base stat monster’ however, Talakai is capable of racking up big base stat games for an edge scoring 70 in base in round 18 and 59 in round 14 thanks to his Gallen-esque love of a hit up. Adding to his 2021 appeal is the fact that Talakai spent a fair portion of his time at centre – and I promise you I’ll be pushing hard for DPP eligibility. His 2020 average should see Talakai priced around the likes of Dale Finucane, Kevin Proctor and Liam Martin and while he lacks the assured minutes of these types he possesses far more attacking upside – not to mention that DPP. A tempting CTW starter for mine.
Tino Fa’asuamaleaui is a huge addition to the Gold Coast roster. Picture: Michael Klein
2 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui – Games: 19, PPG: 57, MPG: 46
Big Tino has finished up with the Storm and will play for the Titans in 2021. At Melbourne he played a mixture of bench, edge, lock and even started at prop for one game. At the Titans I expect him to cement a position as the starting number 13 and play around 55MPG though he may start at prop and average close to 50MPG. Regardless of what number is on his back, minutes in the middle are SuperCoach money for Tino. In the eight games where he played 45+ minutes in the middle, Tino averaged 77PPG. That is significantly boosted by tries but he also has a good workrate averaging 0.96BPPM. For comparison that’s a better base rate output than the likes of Addin Fonua-Blake, Jason Taumalolo and Pat Carrigan managed last year albeit averaging fewer minutes than all of those players.[/details]
3. Latrell Mitchell – Games: 14, PPG: 59, MPG: 76
What a rollercoaster 2020 was for Latrell Mitchell. At a new club, playing in a new position and without the goalkicking duties, Mitchell was always going to struggle early on – though even the most pessimistic would likely have expected better than the 17 and 23 he scored in the opening two weeks. However, Mitchell appeared to turn the corner in the month that followed scoring 51, 71, 112 and 71 in rounds 3-6. Plenty jumped on only to be bitterly disappointed when round seven saw a measly nine points scored, matching 40s in the following fortnight and then a two-week suspension for striking Josh Reynolds. On his return Mitchell went on a bit of a tear averaging 75.8 with a low of 43 and a high of 141. Sadly the click went clunk when in the fiftieth minute of round 16 Mitchell tore his hamstring and his season was over. So what to expect in 2021? Well in just 14 matches Mitchell managed 24 linebreak assists and 15 try assists. If you take out the first two rounds, which one might forgive as warm-ups for a player still finding his feet at fullback, Mitchell averaged 65.75. That’s good enough to see him ranked ninth at fullback (Charlie Staines, more of him below, and his two game stint aside). But is it good enough to pick him in 2021? Well that’s tricky. Mitchell was available at CTW/FLB last year and he won’t be in 2021. The position is loaded and Mitchell’s lack of work, and thus odd shockingly low score, compared to other stars at the position will scare many off. But the reward is certainly there too – and Latrell will come at a fair price thanks to that quiet start.
This text will be hidden
4. Charlie Staines – Games: 2, PPG: 112, MPG: 54
In 107 minutes of NRL action the Charlie ‘The Forbes Ferrari’ Staines scored six tries including a sensational bag of four on debut. Unluckily for Charlie and the Panthers, but luckily for SuperCoaches everywhere, Staines’ season was cut short just 27 minutes into his second game when he suffered a grade two hamstring tear. The departure of Josh Mansour opens up a wing spot at the Panthers and barring another injury you’d think that Staines is the clear frontrunner to fill that slot. He won’t be a bargain basement price, but nor will he be priced anywhere near his career average. Talent like his should be in your squad for sure.
5&6. Reece Robson – Games: 14, PPG: 56, MPG: 62/Reuben Cotter – Games: 10, PPG: 40, MPG: 50
Should one of these young hookers lock in an 80-minute role at the Cowboys then they would have strong claims to being the mid-range must to start 2021. Robson started 2020 behind Jake Granville, but when Granville went down with injury in round five Robson took charge at dummy half reeling off a run of five consecutive 80-minute games averaging 77.4PPG and exceeding 50 points in base each match. He played one other 80-minute game in round 12 for a lazy 88 points (57 in base). Just as things were looking good for Robson a season-ending hamstring injury cut him down. Up stepped Cotter, the rookie rake starting the final six games of the season and playing the full game in the last four averaging 61PPG largely in base. Should either appear to have the job to themselves then they are a strong buy, Robson could still be worth a look at around 60MPG thanks to his attacking nous. Neither want Jake Granville anywhere near the team lists.
7 Tesi Niu – Games: 6, PPG: 29, MPG: 57
Tagged the ‘best Broncos fullback prospect since Darren Lockyer’ Niu was always on somewhat of a hiding to nothing in 2020. He made his debut off the bench in round four and then his first start at fullback in round seven. Niu’s best two games came in round eight and nine against the Warriors (53 points) and Bulldogs (58 points). He scored a try assist in each game, but the stat I liked the most was his involvement with 17 runs against the Warriors and 18 against the Bulldogs. Round 10 against the Wests Tigers was a bit of a dud and there ended his season with a wrist injury forcing him into the rehab group. Should we get lucky and Niu snag DPP CTW/Flb status and he win the start at fullback then he will be a tempting cheapish CTW buy.
8. Hudson Young – Games: 15, PPG: 54, MPG: 58
Speaking of players poised to take advantage of the departure of an edge player, Hudson Young looks the man most likely to take John Bateman’s position on the right edge for the Raiders. In the six games he started on an edge for Canberra last season, Young played the full 80 in all of them (well 88 mins in the overtime epic against the Eels in round seven but you take my point) and averaged 48 points. That’s not super exciting but it is brought down by scores of 28 (Storm) and 32 (Roosters) against two of the toughest teams in the comp. In the other four games Young’s scores read 68 (56 base), 46 (48), 64 (57) and 50 (50) for an average of 57PPG (41.75 base). That’s pretty promising. The only fly in the ointment now is that in round 18 against the Dragons Young scored 127 points and that game alone lifted his season average, and thus 2021 starting price, a whopping 6PPG. There’s still value here if the 80 minutes on an edge looks assured, but it’s not as tempting as it might have been.[/details]
9. Braidon Burns – Games: 8, PPG: 40, MPG: 70
Hyped as a 2020 breakout candidate, Braidon Burns had a mongrel of a year starting the season in poor form, finding his spark before being selected to play from the interchange bench in round 8 – a game in which he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Fully fit I would expect Burns to force his way back into the South Sydney starting 13, on the coveted left edge too. With a good workrate, he averages in the low 30s in base, and on top of that he produces excellent tackle bust numbers and better than average offloads too. If he’s priced around his 2020 average of 40PPG Burns will be worth serious mid-range consideration.
This text will be hidden
10. Jordan Riki – Games: 5, PPG: 35, MPG: 42
David Fifita’s departure from the Broncos opens up a starting second-row slot and while there are a few options to fill it, SuperCoaches will be hoping new coach Kevin Walters selects big Jordan Riki. The hulking young Kiwi made his NRL debut from the bench in round 14 with his minutes progressing with each match played and culminating in an 80-minute effort against the Cowboys in round 20. In that game Riki scored 50 points in base (38 tackles and eight runs) threw an offload and busted a couple of tackles. We’re not talking ‘keeper country’ scores but nor should we expect those considering his age and price. What we are talking is ability and opportunity and those are valuable commodities in the game. Let’s see what whispers come out of Red Hill during the pre-season but at a minimum this is a player who should be in your watchlist.
11. Tom Flegler – Games: 13, PPG: 45, MPG: 44
Let’s stick with the ‘Big Broncos with ability for whom opportunity knocks’ theme, Flegler started nine games last year (averaging 47PPG and 47.5MPG) and played four more off the bench (averaging 41PPG and 36MPG). Importantly for SuperCoach, Flegler’s not just a worker, there’s a bit of flash to the young man which saw him average eight points a game in offloads/tackle busts. That’s the ‘ability’ section covered off; now for opportunity. Joe Ofahengaue and his 48MPG played mostly through the middle is headed to the Tigers. Matt Lodge, who missed much of 2020 but is on the comeback trail from a knee injury and averaged 57MPG in the middle in 2019, is rumoured to be leaving the Broncos too. And even if Lodge stays I expect Flegler to jump above him in the pecking order. Not a ‘cheapie’ by any means, Flegler is certainly capable of adding 10 points to his 2020 PPG and one I’ll be keeping a close pre-season eye on.
Victor ‘The Inflictor’ Radley is back training after spending much of 2020 in the rehabilitation group. Picture: Adam Yip
12. Victor Radley – Games 7, PPG: 50, MPG: 51
Victor ‘The Inflictor’ was a real rollercoaster in 2020. I was pretty keen on Radley as a high risk/high reward buy heading in to the 2020 season then lost heart after he put up a damp squib of a game in round one scoring 25 points (55 minutes). After that though we saw the Radley I’d been anticipating as he rattled off scores of 70 (69), 62 (67) and 105 (66) from rounds 2-4. Victor was on here I thought. And then the minutes dried up; in round five Radley scored 49 in 48 minutes, round six just 34 in 44. And round seven, Radley ruptured his ACL and the season was over. So what happens in 2021? Well it’s anyone’s guess. From a rugby league perspective it was clear the Roosters really missed Radley’s link play, his ability to take the pressure off the halves and spread the ball wide. When fit I expect him to get plenty of minutes. I also don’t expect that to happen from round one, rather the Roosters will look to build him up slowly. For that reason I don’t think Radley’s one to start the year with. Rather watch how his minutes progress and if it looks like he’s back to 60+ then jump on and enjoy the ride.
13. Christian Welch – Games: 16, PPG: 51, MPG: 43
Welch’s 2019 season was cut short when he ruptured his ACL in round 20. He therefore began 2020 somewhat underdone in the fitness stakes and so while he returned to the field in round three it was not until round nine that he began playing solid starter minutes. From round nine to round 20 he played 10 games (missing two due to a COVID quarantine breach) averaging 59.6PPG in 51.4MPG and in the final five games of that stretch he averaged 67.6PPG in 55.2MPG. Welch appears to be another who will be priced 10PPG below what we can reasonably expect him to produce, he won’t blow you away but he should keep pace with far pricier options while slowly building in value and sometimes that’s all you want.
14. Luke Thompson – Games: 10, PPG: 51, MPG: 54
The Englishman came to Australia mid-season. In any normal year that’s a challenge, but this was 2020 so of course he also had COVID quarantine issues to deal with as well. As a result Thompson came into the NRL somewhat underdone and I think it’s fair to place an asterisk alongside his season figures. The Bulldogs have punted veteran prop Aiden Tolman and his 61MPG in the off-season and I expect Thompson to pick up the bulk of those in a full-time shift to the front row after pinch-hitting at lock to cover for an injured Adam Elliott. Yet another forward for whom I think a 10PPG increase on 2020 output is realistic.
15. Sam Walker – Yet to play NRL
Speaking of hype this young playmaker comes with plenty. Expected to be the long-term halfback at the Roosters, Walker’s potential contributed to the Roosters’ willingness to let Kyle Flanagan leave the club. No certainty to walk into the club to start 2021 with Lachie Lam offering a bigger bodied alternative, he’ll definitely be in my team if there’s even a whisper that he may start – would be nice if we can jag dual halfback, five-eighth eligibility as rookie priced DPP halves add great flexibility to your halves.
Will you risk Tom Trbojevic in 2021? Picture: Matt King/Getty Images
16. Tom Trbojevic – Games: 7, PPG: 67, MPG: 73
Using one of your uber-valuable fullback selections on a player who has managed just 19 games in the past two years is risky, but oh the reward … Tommy Turbo at his best is a thing of SuperCoach beauty, capable of punching out triple-figure boomers with ease and possessing a floor of around 70 points. At his worst, he’s injured and you’re left watching those who took a safer less injury prone fullback pull away from you on the leaderboard. Trbojevic is cheap at a 67PPG average as 2017-19 he averaged near enough 10PPG better and the faster game under the ‘six again’ rule application is custom built for work hungry fullbacks who hang around the ruck like a kelpie looking for work.
17. Tariq Sims - games: 9, PPG: 46, MPG: 68
2020 was a bit of a horror year for Sims with injuries limiting him to just nine games and his MPG dropping 10 minutes on the 78MPG he averaged the year before. The departure of Tyson Frizell means St George need Tariq back playing the full game more than ever. He is capable, in 2020 he played the full 80 three times averaging a tick under 60PPG and in 2019 Sims played 19 games going the distance in 15 of them. An edge who can play some middle, if Sims can stay healthy he’s every chance to average 10+ PPG more than he managed in 2020 making him a stepping stone to someone better.
- editor’s note, the original list had Jacob Host at #17 because Rob Sutherland didn’t update his copy to reflect player transfers. Rob has been soundly punished…
WANT YOUR SUPERCOACH FIX NOW? SIGN UP TO PLAY BBL SUPERCOACH HERE
1 8. Christian Tuipulotu – Games: 1, PPG: 67, MPG: 80
Just one game is not much of a sample size, but it was a pretty fair game Tuipulotu played on debut scoring 67 points with 23 runs, four tackle busts, a linebreak and a try – all against the Melbourne Storm no less. That’s the workrate we want from a winger and it’s the workrate that saw Manly snap him up from the Roosters when he was let go (as a Roosters fan I wish we’d kept him but that’s another story). Tuipulotu also played one game in the NSW Cup in 2020 and in that game he had 22 receipts for 157 metres – workrate. I expect him to put serious pressure on incumbent winger Jorge Taufua at the Sea Eagles and the minute he gets selected he’s in my SuperCoach squad.
Picked up by the Sea Eagles, former Rooster Christian Tuipulotu will be pushing hard for selection. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
19/20. Jacob Liddle – Games: 6, PPG: 31, MPG: 30/Jake Simpkin – Yet to play NRL
The Harry Grant loan deal is done leaving the hooker role at the Wests Tigers up for grabs. Jacob Liddle would appear to have the front running for the job but he’s also in the running for the ‘unluckiest man in league’ award (serious shoulder and knee injuries limiting his career so far) so Simpkin will likely get a run sooner rather than later.
Since debuting with a single game off the bench in 2016, Liddle has been restricted to just 44 games due to injury and being stuck behind Robbie Farah. Of those 44 games he was selected to start just nine. And of those nine games, Liddle played 50+ minutes just five times. In those five games he has averaged 62PPG (61MPG). You can see the dilemma here, as when his body holds up Liddle is a genuine SuperCoach buy, but history suggests it won’t last.
So I expect we’ll see a bit of Simpkin in 2021. The Toowoomba product impressed through the junior ranks playing Qld under18 Origin in 2019 (41 tackles, 86 running metres and a try) before COVID-19 restricted him to just one game of NSW Cup in 2020 (45 minutes with 26 tackles made, 32 running metres and a try assist). Whichever player wins round one selection will be worth consideration as a cheapie hooker option.
21 Valentine Holmes – Games: 12, PPG: 58, MPG: 73
2020 was a rough year for the Cowboys’ star recruit, struggling in his return to rugby league after his stint in the NFL. But with a proper off-season under his belt 2021 could be the year we see Valentine Holmes back to his best … if he stays at fullback. The Cowboys played around with Holmes and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow at the back with mixed results, but for SuperCoach purposes Valentine was only really relevant when playing at the back, ending with a season average of 58 (64.5 if you take out injury affected games). With four tries, nine try assists, seven line breaks, 10 line break assists and three SuperCoach scores above 90, we certainly saw glimpses of his best, and with the goal kicking duties as well there is a lot of value to be had in Holmes, especially since he should once again find himself as a mid-range fullback (ending 2020 with a $88,200 price drop). It’s also worth noting that his normally poor base stats surged toward the end of the year as he returned from injury at fullback, with four straight games of 27+ points in base.[/details]