2021 KFC SuperCoach NRL: Cheapie Bible
Zac Saddler (Sea Eagles) FRF, 2RF - Rookie
When Zac Saddler finally cracks into the NRL you should do two things. Firstly, prepare yourselves for inevitable 'he's the tallest man in rugby league' commentary, and secondly, snap him up as he looks a quality cheapie. Saddler, a 201 centimetre tall prop/second-row, almost quit the game after an unhappy stint with the Bulldogs, but Des Hasler and Noel Cleal talked him into joining the Sea Eagles instead. In his one game for the Blacktown Workers in 2020 Saddler ran for 105 metres, and made 15 tackles, two tackle breaks and an offload in 33 minutes at prop. More enticing was his performance for the Indigenous All-Stars where Saddler played 60 minutes mostly on an edge running for 83 metres, with 34 tackles (none missed), two offloads and two tackle busts. The Sea Eagles have a good stock of middle forwards, but not much in the way of edges with Jack Gosiewski and new recruit Andrew Davey seemingly competing to fill the shoes of Joel Thompson. I expect we'll see a fair bit of Saddler in first grade in 2021.
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Jayden Sullivan (Dragons) HFB - Games: 1, PPG: 58, MPG: 80
The diminutive St George half was thrown in against the Storm for his first grade debut in round 20 last year. Sullivan made an impressive start to his NRL career with 26 tackles (no misses), a try assist, a last touch, a forced drop out and eight runs. A local junior, Sullivan led the 2019 SG Ball team to victory, played five games Jersey Flegg that year and was a key part of the South Coast Black Cockatoos team that won the 2019 Koori Knockout competition. Sullivan has high-priced halves Ben Hunt and Corey Norman ahead of him in the pecking order, but Hunt is arguably as useful at hooker as he is at half and Norman was far from impressive at times in 2020.
Charlie Staines (Panthers) CTW, FLB - Games: 2, PPG: 112, MPG: 54
In 107 minutes of NRL action the Charlie 'The Forbes Ferrari' Staines scored six tries including 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 Panthers have told star left winger Josh Mansour he is free to go to another club and Staines is the clear frontrunner to fill that slot - should it open up. Staines will get a steep discount on his 2020 average but will need one to fit into the cheapie category. Let's wait and see what the SC boffins do with his price, may need to be moved to the mid-range bible if we're unlucky.
Christian Tuipulotu (Sea Eagles) CTW - 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 in his NRL 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.
Ben Condon (Cowboys) 2RF - Games: 1, PPG: 14, MPG: 17
Big Ben Condon made his NRL debut in round 19 last year making 10 tackles and four runs in 17 minutes. A Queensland under-20 Origin representative, Condon has the frame to play middle - he's 196cm tall and weighs in at 110kg - and the mobility to play on an edge. The Cowboys have a good crop of forwards, but they did lose Gavin Cooper (retirement) and John Asiata (Broncos) in the off-season so there's minutes to be had.
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Paul Turner (Warriors) HFB - Games: 1, PPG: 48, MPG: 80
A fast stepping star of the future, Turner crossed the line twice on debut only to be denied by the video referee each time. His agility is a nightmare for defenders with Turner busting eight tackles in his debut game from just seven runs. Warriors scout Peter O'Sullivan expects Turner to play plenty more games in 2021. "He can do things in the game that nobody else in our club can do," O'Sullivan said. "He is our go to if Kodi Nikorima gets injured but we'd also like to take a look at him in the centres at some stage as well."
Tom Ale (Warriors) FRF - Games: 1, PPG: 18, MPG: 12
Ale made his NRL debut in round 19 against Canberra as a development player but has been upgraded into the top 30 for 2021. He spent most of his junior years coming through the rugby system in New Zealand and was even part of the Chiefs' under-18s side. Likened to Cowboys powerhouse Jason Taumalolo for his hard running and tackle-breaking, Ale must improve his fitness to increase his chances of becoming a regular first-grader. "He has lovely feet and legs at the line," O'Sullivan said. "He has an offload in his game and can beat people. But he's still got some improvements to find to help get him a better motor." The departure of Adam Blair, Lachlan Burr and Agnatius Paasi does create opportunity in the middle at the Warriors though the club did add stars Ben Murdoch-Masila and Addin Fonua-Blake along with Kane Evans in the off-season so there's plenty of big names between Ale and more NRL game time.
Josh Schuster (Sea Eagles) 5/8 - Games: 1, PPG: 31, MPG: 65
With Danny Levi gone there is a spine spot up for grabs at Manly in 2021, and Josh Schuster could be in line for a starting gig if Des Hasler decides to move Kieran Foran to dummy-half. Schuster looked very impressive in his debut last year (which Benji Marshall called the "the best I've seen in my time ever") before going down injured. But in 65 minutes he still scored 31 points, including 19 points in base, a forced dropout, two offloads and a try contribution. Not amazing numbers, but pretty good considering he didn't play the whole game. He may be competing with Foran, Lachlan Croker and Cade Cust, but if he can get the starting spot and keep it he would be a near must cheapie for KFC SuperCoaches.
Max Feagai (Dragons) CTW - Games: 2, PPG: 20, MPG: 51
The first of the twin Feagai brothers to play first grade, Max appeared in the Dragons' final two matches of the season with a cameo off the bench in round 19 followed by an 80 minute stint on the wing in round 20. Euan Aitken has left the club and that frees up a starting role at left centre. Brayden Wiliame may have his nose in front in the race to nab that spot but Feagai is sure to be in new coach Anthony Griffin's thoughts come selection time and I expect to see more of him in 2021. Feagai will be competing with
Sam Walker (Roosters) HFB - Rookie
The axing of Kyle Flanagan means the Roosters need a new halfback and Walker, who only turned 18 in June, is the man many see as the Roosters' long-term halfback. "He's a competitor but he always backs himself," said Tony Adam, who coached Walker in the Australian Schoolboys in 2019. "What I saw throughout the juniors was his instinctiveness: he'd see a chance and he'd go for it. I think the rule changes will suit him. He's got good acceleration, that bit of footwork, the passing game on both sides. Once he gets confident with organising the side, which comes with experience and exposure to that higher level." Walker's not a walk up start to the job though with Lachlan Lam and Drew Hutchison already at the club and Adam Keighran joining from the Warriors.
Franklin Pele (Sharks) FRF - Rookie
Brazilian Pele has the dancing feat, Cronulla's Pele likes to eat - or maybe he's just big boned. Either way Pele of the Franklin variety is a big man standing 190cm tall and weighing in at, a rather spectacular, 132kg. An Australian Schoolboys representative in 2018, Pele earned raps from coach Josh Morris. "Frankie did a whole pre-season with us this year, performed well in our two NRL trials, scored a try in one of them," said Morris. "He is a big powerful player who runs hard and seems to be getting bigger by the year." The Cronulla middle rotation was already a tough nut to crack with the likes of Aaron Woods, Andrew Fifita, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Toby Rudolf demanding minutes. And, it only got tougher with the addition Aiden Tolman during the off-season. Pele may have to wait a little longer to see first grade yet and his opponents will hope he doesn't spend that time growing.
Stefano Utoikamanu (Wests Tigers) FRF - Games: 3, PPG: 14, MPG: 8
He's one of the most highly rated young props in the game which is why the Wests Tigers spent big to lure Utoikamanu away from the Eels. Born in New Zealand, Utoikamanu played his junior football for Cabramatta and his NRL debut for Parramatta in 2020. His game time was heavily restricted by the Eels, but you can't fault his PPM of 1.79. In the NSW Cup the big unit was a post-contact metre making machine averaging close to 100 metres per game (35 of them post-contact) with a couple of tackle busts and a little over 25 tackles. The ability is immense. He's not the only Wests Tigers middle forward recruit for 2021 though with James Tamou and Joe Ofahengaue joining the club in the off-season. Regular starting prop Josh Aloiai has departed but that still leaves Utoikamanu competing with Alex Twal, Thomas Mikaele, Zane Musgrove, Russell Packer, Tamou and Ofahengaue for minutes in the middle.
Jake Simpkin (Wests Tigers) HOK - Rookie
Staying with the Wests Tigers, Simpkin is a player I'm confident we will see in the NRL in 2021. The Wests Tigers need a new hooker now that the Harry Grant loan deal is over and while Jacob Liddle may have an edge in experience, Simpkin prospects to be the more exciting. The Toowoomba product impressed through the junior ranks playing Qld under-18 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). There's a strong chance that we see both Liddle and Simpkin in round one and if so then it will be tempting to grab Simpkin at bottom dollar as he has the type of attacking game that can see him score well even in restricted minutes.
Jock Madden (Wests Tigers) HFB - Rookie
Let's go for a Tiger trifecta shall we? A former Australian Schoolboys star, Madden has been elevated into the top squad as Luke Brook's understudy. Joined the club in 2019 on a development contract. A traditional No. 7, Madden is not expected to play five-eighth with Adam Doueihi apparently the leading contender to partner Brooks. A prodigious kicker, Madden is also good with the ball in hand averaging just over 65 run metres per game playing NSW Cup in 2019/20.
Greg Marzhew (formerly Leleisiuao) (Titans) CTW- Rookie
Stop me if you've heard this before but … Greg Marzhew (who was formerly known as Greg Leleisiuao) has the potential to be a SuperCoach stud. If he can get on the field. And therein lies the rub. This is the third year I have written up Marzhew as a potential cheapie star. When 2019 was going to be his year some bloke called Miko Sivo popped out of nowhere and made the left wing at the Eels his own. Then heading into 2020, Marzhew (now back at the Titans) was superb in the Nines and was set to deliver on his immense attacking prowess. He played in the opening game of the 2020 QCup running for 150+ metres and making an incredible 14 tackle busts. And yet, no NRL debut. Maybe this will be the year for Marzhew, I hope so.
Ben Trbojevic (Sea Eagles) CTW, 2RF- Rookie
After a year of teasing SuperCoaches while on Manly's development squad, 2021 could finally be the year for 'Burbo', after being upgraded to the Top 30 squad. Despite not featuring in 2020, Ben Trbojevic still ended the year as one of the most owned players at 20.9% ownership, and if he can get on the field and play anywhere near as good as his brothers, that number could be even higher by seasons end. At 193cm and 105kg, Trbojevic can play in the centres or in the backrow, but given their backline depth, the Sea Eagles are more likely to use the 19-year-old at centre (or possibly off the bench) if he does get a run in 2021.
Lindsay Smith (Panthers) FRF - Rookie
The loss of James Tamou and Jack Hetherington creates some space in the middle at the Panthers and SuperCoaches will be hoping local junior Lindsay Smith is able to capitalise on that opportunity. An Australian Schoolboy in 2017 and Jersey Flegg star in 2019, Smith was impressive in the only NSW Cup game of 2020 playing 53 minutes at prop running for 146 metres, making 33 tackles, two tackle busts and an offload. The Panthers did add middle forward Matt Eisenhuth in the off-season but may yet lose Zane Tetevano to the Super League and his departure would open up more opportunity for Smith.
Jirah Momoisea (Knights) 2RF - Rookie
Momoisea grew up playing rugby union but after switching to rugby league in his final year of high school (at St Paul's where Starford Toa was a teammate) he landed a contract with the Melbourne Storm. After a year with Melbourne, Momoisea left the Storm and reunited with Toa at the Knights. Elevated to the top-30 squad early in 2020, the former prop turned second-row prospect will be pushing to make his NRL debut in 2021. Momoisea was impressive in the one game of NSW Cup we saw last year playing 80 minutes on an edge making 41 tackles, running for 149 metres and throwing an offload. The Knights are blessed with two 80-minute second rowers in Lachlan Fitzgibbon and new recruit Tyson Frizell, but should injury strike (as is its want) then Momoisea is ready to step in.
Kyle Paterson (Sharks) HOK - Rookie
A former Queensland under-19s representative, Paterson joined Cronulla from Canberra last year. The talented rake played a crucial role in steering Canberra to the 2019 Jersey Flegg grand final, scoring 13 tries and accumulating 17 try assists in 21 matches. Quick off the mark and sharp around the ruck, Patterson will operate as a back-up for Blayke Brailey.
Matt Moylan (Sharks) FLB, 5/8 - Games: 8, PPG: 29, MPG: 68
Stop your laughing I'm serious! Matt Moylan had a nightmare 2020, with injuries limiting him to just eight games with his longest burst of uninterrupted availability being three games on the trot. Moylan faired barely better in 2019 either injuries again limiting him to just the 11 games. So why should you take a risk on him for 2021 I hear you ask; in short because while there's plenty of risk there's reward here too. The Sharks will be without chief playmaker Shaun Johnson (Achilles injury) for the opening 8-10 rounds of the regular season and that opens the door for Moylan to take charge of the team. If, and it's an all caps IF, Moylan can find his 2016-2018 form then you're getting a player capable of averaging double his asking price and that's some reward.
THE RAIDERS CONTENDERS
With Nick Cotric gone, Curtis Scott's mixed form and Jarrod Croker set to miss the start of the season through injury there are backline spots up for grabs at the Raiders. Let's run through the contenders:
Matt Timoko (Raiders) CTW - Games: 2, PPG: 28, MPG: 57
Canberra's depth in the outside backs was tested to the limit in 2020 but the knock-on effect could be the rise of the likes of Timoko. The young Kiwi played two first-grade games in 2020, debuting off the bench in round 16 and then playing the full game at centre in round 20. In that final game of the regular season, Timoko made 10 runs and 15 tackles (34 in base) along with four tackle busts and an offload for 41 points all up. The race to replace Croker while he recuperates would appear to be between Timoko and the Smith-Shields.
Harley Smith-Shields (Raiders) CTW - Games: 2, PPG: 33, MPG: 55
Another player to play two first-grade games in 2020 with a debut off the bench in round 11 followed by a start at centre in round 20 when Ricky rolled out his kids. Smith-Shields scored a try (with linebreak) in round 20 and finished with 55 SuperCoach points. Looking through their respective 2019 stats Timoko gets through slightly more work in defence, HSS more work with the ball. Their SuperCoach value will be largely tied to how Jarrod Croker's recovery progresses and thus whether they will play enough games to make much profit.
Bailey Simonsson (Raiders) CTW, FLB - Games: 7, PPG: 23, MPG: 59
A shoulder injury ended Simonsson's season midway through 2020 but he is expected to be back for the opening round of 2021. His stats are a little misleading as he played two cameo appearances off the bench and hiss last game of the year was a shocker being sent to the sin bin for a professional foul. In the four 80-minute games that Simonsson played last year he averaged 35.5PPG which accords with the 38PPG he averaged across 18 games in 2019. If he's fit, you would think Simonsson is the front runner to replace Cotric and he will be a tempting buy priced around his 23PPG average of 2020.
Semi Valemei (Raiders) CTW - Games: 7, PPG: 33, MPG: 68
While I rate Simonsson the frontrunner it was Valemei who is the incumbent having started on the wing for the final four games of the regular season. A powerful winger, Valemei busted plenty of tackles and scored four tries in his seven games. I still have him behind Simonsson but keep an eye and ear out for pre-season talk.
Albert Hopoate (Raiders) FLB, CTW - Games: 5, PPG: 24, MPG: 67
After spending the last two years labelled as one of the most promising backs in the cheapie bible, Albert Hopoate has left the Sea Eagles to join the Raiders in pursuit of a starting spot in 2021. After playing five games in 2020, the youngest Hoppa won't be a bottom-dollar cheapie, but he is one worth considering if he can get a start … but there is plenty of competition.
Originally published as 2021 KFC SuperCoach NRL: Cheapie Bible