With superstar players like Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis commanding huge contracts of upwards of $800k per season, it’s any wonder how the coaches of the NRL have any money left to afford quality players for the remaining positions. Effectively, coaches have to play real-life fantasy football every season, spending massive amounts for those ‘Premiership’ players, while making astute purchases for the rest of the squad.
So what type of qualities do coaches look for in a ‘good-value’ player? Well if I knew the secrets of coaching NRL, I’d be coaching, not sitting here in my undies writing you this fine piece of toilet reading. But my guess is they look for things like consistency, work ethic, a utility value, low injury rates, and a modest price tag. With these qualities in mind, I’ve come up with five players who are the perfect example of ‘good value’ for their respective coaches and teams.
More consistent than a post-coffee bowel movement every morning, Aiden Tolman has been one of the NRL’s premier props for the past few seasons. Despite his ridiculous work rate and “Home and Away” blonde locks, a sky blue jersey still eludes him.
What Des Will Get
- At least 60 quality minutes (Up to 80 minutes if needed i.e. If Sam Kasiano or James Graham need a break to eat people, and people’s ears respectively)
- A 15/30 split of hit-ups/tackles – a prop’s golden ratio
- A full season – Tolman rarely injures and Blues selectors don’t like Hollywood good looks in their front row (e.g Trent Merrin, Paul Gallen, Tim Grant et al) meaning Tolman can still ply his trade during the depleted Origin weeks.
- At least 751 explanations of the (admittedly hilarious) BUPA nickname by commentators
Coming off contract at the end of the season, all Tolman will need to do to secure a 2014 gig is exactly what he has done the past 4 years – work his ass off and have blonde hair. With the rise of promising young props like David Klemmer and Martin Taupau, and what should deservedly be a hefty price tag, Tolman could possibly be looking for another club for 2014. Don’t expect anything different from Tolman for 2013, which for Bulldogs fans is not a bad thing at all.
He’s as underrated as cereal for dinner, but Liam Fulton is starting to get the raps he deserves from the people that matter, scoring a rep jersey the last two seasons for City. Fulton is a mainstay in many fantasy football teams due to his staggering work rate, but also regularly out plays his more higher-profile back row team mates in real life, where people have tans, jobs, and girlfriends.
What Mick Potter Will Get
- A constant reminder of what he would look like bald
- A high work rate for 80 minutes if required
- Great utility value – Fulton played lock, second-row, hooker, five-eight, ruckman, striker, and quarterback last season for the Tigers.
- A full season (barring injury of course) as he doesn’t look like cracking into the Blues back row anytime soon (latest mail is that he is behind promising young back rowers Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis for a bench spot).
- Someone to play Voldemort in the legendary themed training sessions Potter has become famous for.
Although the Tigers have recently locked him up until 2016, don’t expect Fulton to rest on his laurels. A noted funny man at the club, Fulton still bleeds tiger urine and will give his all for his club. Even with the Tigers’ extensive back row stock of Adam Blair, Braith Anasta, Rupert-Murdoch-Masila, boom rookie Matt Utai, and the follicly challenged man himself, expect Fulton to still command a big chunk of minutes.
Possessing one of the most delightfully punny nicknames in the NRL – Shaun Defensom has a blue-collar work ethic, silky white-collar ball skills, and none of the popped-collar wankery of several of the NRL’s more higher profile players. Fensom captained the Raiders’ NYC side to the first premiership in the competition’s inaugural year and is seen by many as the future leader of the Green Machine, with some going as far as suggesting captaining the Blues in the future is not out of the question.
What Furner Will Get
- Monstrous work rate week in, week out for 80 minutes (Fensom holds the NRL record for most tackles in a match – a lazy 75).
- A full season – that is if Fensom continues to be overlooked for representative duties.
- A reminder that with Josh Papalli’s pending career suicide in 2014, Furner will still have his best back rower at his disposal.
- A try scoring machine – Fensom blazed over the chalk for a Barba-esque 3 tries for both the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
With the arrival of hard hitting back-rower and noted red nut Joel Edwards, Fensom may not be required for the full 80 minutes every game. Look for Furner to cut his minutes down to 79 in order to share the load between Fensom, Thompson, Edwards, and Papalli. On the representative side of things, with legendary ex-Raider and rhinoplasty candidate Laurie Daley at the helm of the Blues squad for at least one game, expect Fensom’s chances of finding himself in the side to increase dramatically. Mail is that Daley’s Raiders bias is so strong that he is looking at a trimmed down Tom Leahroyd-Lahrs for either the left or right wing for the Blues.
The man they call “Flo” is arguably the most rock-solid winger in the NRL (and the only back to feature in this article). A mainstay on the right wing for the Dragons, Nightingale is equally adept at fullback, with his support play second to… well…probably a few, but surely no more than 10 or so. Word on the street in the Gong is that Nightingale consulted with Jeremy Renner in the lead up to filming of The Hurt Locker, with the receeding hair-lined winger’s legendary bomb diffusing skills mystifying the film’s Hollywood hot-shot director Manu Vatuvei.
What Price Will Get
- A bigger sook then Jamie Soward – Nightingale can frequently be seen spitting the dummy over bad refereeing calls.
- The most consistent outside back in the NRL – Nightingale’s good form is Metamucil-like in its regularity.
- Black boots – just when you thought he couldn’t look any more ordinary.
- A full season – As a Kiwi, Nightingale doesn’t qualify for Origin, or a southern cross tattoo on his shoulder.
- Utility value – Nightingale played the back half of the 2012 season at fullback for the dragons and will take over the role again when Gerard Beale is working his second job as a stunt double for magician David Blaine.
It’s hard to gauge how well a winger will play before a given season as much of their success can be credited to how well the 3 or 4 players inside them go (This explains David ‘Wolfman’ Williams in an Australian jersey circa 2008). Given the Dragons’ attack looks about as electrifying as a soccer match, I can’t see Flo racking up too many trips across the line. What Dragons fans can be sure of though is that Nightingale will continue to be rock solid in wherever he pops up in the back 3.
No player encapsulates value for money like Luke Douglas. The man literally never misses a game. That’s right, since his first grade debut in round 2, 2006, Douglas has not missed a single game. Keep in mind this mutant of a man plays in the front row – arguably the toughest position in any sport. On top of getting an almost guaranteed full season due to his Wolverine like healing abilities, Douglas is also no slacker on the field, constantly topping hit up and tackle counts throughout the season.
What Cartwright Will Get
- A massive work rate – Douglas gets through a mountain of work on the field
- A full season – for some reason Douglas is continually ignored for origin duties. This combined with his freakish recovery abilities ensures he will be available every round for the Titans.
- Utility value – Douglas can play anywhere in the forward pack bar number 9. Mail is he’s had a strong off-season training at full back so don’t be surprised to see him used running a sneaky second man or inside ball off 300 game veteran Albert Kelly.
- Insurance – Cartwright has no shortage of awesome front rowers available to him. Having Douglas waiting for a run on spot will benefit when Luke Bailey finally dons the socks and thongs and books himself a villa at Tall Trees rest home in Robina. The latest word is that construction is finishing on Bailey’s villa and he could be hitting the XXXX Gold on a golf course sooner rather than later.
So there you have it, a look at some of the best ‘real-life fantasy players’ in the NRL. Honourable mentions go to Ryan Hinchcliffe, Simon Mannering, Gavin Cooper, Alex Glenn, and Alberto Del Piero. Have I missed anyone or got some sketchy mail? Hit the comments if so…