Club-by-club guide to top SuperCoach targets
These are the 33 questions KFC SuperCoaches need answered before the 2021 season start.
If you have an answer, you likely have a great buy.
* Where do Jordan Riki and Tesi Niu fit in? Both are cheapies, both are set for starting spots and both are in the top 30 most popular players. Riki is hoping to take David Fifita's back row spot. Niu has been called Brisbane's "best fullback prospect since Darren Lockyer", but has been training mainly in the right centre spot vacated by Kotoni Staggs (ACL).
* Is Anthony Milford fit and firing? The former KFC SuperCoach stud starts at his cheapest ever price following a horror year where he averaged just 34 - half the output of his best ever season in 2017. Clearly there is massive upside in Milford if he can recapture the form of four years ago - or even match his 2019 average of 52. But it's a big IF and KFC SuperCoaches eagerly await updates on how he's training, fitness levels, commitment and the impact of Kevin 'The Milf Whisperer' Walters.
* Where does Tevita Pangai Jnr play? A decision on Pangai's role will set off a domino effect in the Brisbane pack. Walters has indicated he'd prefer to play him at lock, but where does that leave captain and reigning player of the year Patrick Carrigan? Likewise, if TPJ switches to an edge, Riki likely drops out of cheapie calculations. And on top of all that, TPJ is a potential KFC SuperCoach superstar himself, regardless of whether he plays middle or edge, but has struggled to produce consistently.
* Does Jake Averillo score the five-eighth spot? Trent Barrett seemed to suggest so, in a roundabout way, in his Q&A with The Daily Telegraph. Put simply, if Averillo starts, he's near-must. He spent huge chunks of 2020 on the bench for a season average of 37.38 and is priced accordingly. However, a clearer indication of his KFC SuperCoach talent is the fact he averaged 65.4 in 80-minute games. A potential keeper at a mid-range price with dual position flexibility to boot.
* Who is Tui Katoa? Trent Barrett talked up this uncapped and unknown New Zealander as a backline candidate alongside Will Hopoate, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Nick Cotric, Corey Allan and Nick Meaney. That's some decent company, suggesting Katoa is not too far down the backline pecking order and will likely debut at some stage.
* Does Tom Gilbert retain a starting back row spot? Gilbert played the final month of 2020 as a starting second rower and averaged 60 minutes and 52.5 points (with 51 of that in base). Yet he starts cheap for 2021 after playing mostly from the bench last season. Gavin Cooper and John Asiata are no longer at the club, meaning back row spots open. But a new coach means new ideas and potentially a different role for Gilbert.
* Does Valentine Holmes play fullback? And kick goals? The answer to both questions is likely "yes". Add to that dual position flexibility and a reduced price due to games on the wing, and you've got a very tempting buy.
* What position does Cameron McInnes play? Coach Anthony Griffin has indicated the best base stat player in KFC SuperCoach last year will start at hooker rather than lock. As Rob Sutherland points out, his position may not make too much difference given he averaged 73 from eight starts at lock and 79.3 from 10 starts at hooker. However, these stats are totally unreliable because McInnes switched so much between the two positions within matches. Anecdotally, I'd much prefer he play back row given he makes more runs, but he's a safe buy either way.
* Who scores the starting spot of Tyson Frizell? An 80 minute role on the fringe is up for grabs with Jackson Ford the frontrunner, closely followed by Tyrell Fuimaono. Either way, KFC SuperCoaches have a bargain buy. Ford averaged 47 minutes and Fuimaono 41 last year, but both can expect a significant increase if named to start.
* Who wins the fullback spot? Griffin says it's a two-horse race between Matt Dufty and Cody Ramsey. Dufty is out of KFC SuperCoach range at $575,800. But Ramsey is great value at $354,300 after receiving a significant discount due to playing just three games last season.
* Who wins Euan Aitken's centre spot? No matter which way the coach goes it seems almost certain a cheapie will get the spot, with Brayden Wiliame and the Feagai twins top contenders.
* Who takes the spot of provisionally suspended Michael Jennings? A centre role is up for grabs and most of the contenders are underpriced for KFC SuperCoach, including Michael Oldfield (only averaged 43 minutes last year), Tom Opacic (discounted due to playing just five games) and Haze Dunster (base price).
* When does Kalyn Ponga return from shoulder surgery? Even coach Adam O'Brien doesn't know, but the star fullback appears near-certain to miss round one. KFC SuperCoaches need an time frame fast, not only because Ponga is such a good SC player, but also because of the domino effect his availability creates in the backline. O'Brien recently stated that Tex Hoy, a cheapie, has his nose in front as Ponga's replacement over the opening rounds.
* Just how good is Bailey Hodgson? Damn good, apparently. The nephew of Canberra's superstar dummy half Josh, this young Englishman is so talented he could eventually force Ponga into the halves just to get both of them in the Knights' starting side. That's some rap.
* Who is the most popular player in KFC SuperCoach? Penrith young gun Charlie Staines, currently owned by more than half of KFC SuperCoaches. In 107 minutes of NRL action last year Charlie 'The Forbes Ferrari' Staines scored six tries, including four on debut, and he is assured a round one wing spot following Josh Mansour's defection to the Rabbitohs.
* Will Cody Walker continue to play a sweeping role on both sides? Walker was set loose last season when Latrell Mitchell went down with a serious hamstring injury - and he duly delivered for KFC SuperCoach. As Rob Sutherland points out, he averaged 92.3 from rounds 12-20 including a KFC SuperCoach record 203 in round 20 against the Roosters. But with Latrell confirmed for round one, will Walker's roaming licence be renewed in 2021?
* Who replaces John Bateman in the back row? Coach Ricky Stuart says it's a two-way battle between Hudson Young and Corey Harawira-Naera. And thankfully for KFC SuperCoach, both are underpriced. Young averaged 58 minutes last year but could up that to 80 as a starter. However, CHN is the best value of the pair after averaging just 33 minutes following a mid-season switch from the Bulldogs.
* What does Canberra's backline look like for round one? The Raiders are without Nick Cotric (Bulldogs) and potentially Jarrod Croker (shoulder), which opens huge opportunities for cheapies. Bailey Simonsson is already the 14th most popular player in KFC SuperCoach and appears locked-in for a wing role, while Harley Smith-Shields, Matt Timoko and Albert Hopoate are all in contention and all very cheap.
* Are Sam Walker and Joseph Suaalii realistic chances for round one? No, according to our predicted round one teams. Yet Walker (7th) and Suaalii (11th) sit extremely high on the most-owned list. Lachlan Lam is favourite for the halfback spot, likely leaving Walker in reserves, while Suaalii isn't even eligible to play under the NRL's age rules. KFC SuperCoaches should start thinking of contingency plans.
* Who takes Boyd Cordner's spot? Reports suggest Cornder could miss as much as half the season due to concussion, with Sitili Tupouniua the likely starter and therefore a KFC SuperCoach winner.
* Who takes the back row spot of Joel Thompson? 80 minutes are up for grabs and KFC SuperCoaches will likely be presented with a bargain buy no matter who coach Des Hasler goes with. Andrew Davey and Jack Gosiewski are the frontrunners and both can expect significant increases on their game time from last year (40 and 47 minutes respectively). And underneath those two are young guns Haumole Olakau'atu and Zac Saddler, both in cheapie range.
* Will Tom Trbojevic stay fit? Fingers crossed the rubber bands that hold Tommy Turbo together don't snap given he's the fifth most popular player in KFC SuperCoach. He starts at his lowest price in half a decade following an injury-marred year.
* Who replaces Shaun Johnson at five-eighth? Johnson isn't back until round eight due to an Achilles injury and thankfully for KFC SuperCoaches he's almost certain to be replaced by a bargain buy. All four contenders identified by coach John Morris fall into cheapie range - Matt Moylan, Connor Tracey, Braydon Trindall and Luke Metcalf.
* Who is Teig Wilton? A round one starting contender! In an exclusive Q&A with The Daily Telegraph, coach Morris said Wilton will challenge Briton Nikora for and edge back row spot, in which case he becomes a KFC SuperCoach must-have. Wilton starts in cheapie range after playing just five games last year.
* Who is Franklin Pele? In the abovementioned Q&A, Morris said this young prop "could be anything". One for the watchlist.
* Who scores Suliasi Vunivalu's wing spot? Craig Bellamy has narrowed it down to three - Reimis Smith, Isaac Lumelume and Brenko Lee. Smith and Lumelume are both KFC SuperCoach bargains so keep them high on the watchlist.
* Does Harry Grant play 80 minutes? Grant is currently the 10th most popular player in KFC SuperCoach and for good reason given his incredible debut season. However, there's one big shadow hanging over him - Smith. But not of the Cameron variety. Rather, Brandon Smith is also an accomplished No. 9 and could spell Grant at stages.
* Who kicks goals now Cameron Smith is (probably) gone? Cameron Munster is already popular (9th) but would become a KFC SuperCoach must-have if he kicks. Ditto for Ryan Papenhuyzen.
* Who is Dean Ieremia? Bellamy recently talked up the young back, saying "I think he has first grade in him at some stage". Straight on the watch list.
* How many minutes does Tino Fa'asuamaleaui play? Whether the star Gold Coast recruit plays edge or middle, KFC SuperCoaches can realistically expect an improvement on his average of 46 minutes at the Storm last year. Big Tino is therefore the second most popular player in KFC SuperCoach and it's hard to talk people out of it.
* What role does Ben Murdoch-Masila play? The former Tiger and Panther starts ridiculously cheap after a highly-successful stint in the Super League. While UK stats don't translate well to NRL, it's fair to say BMM is a far better player than when he left and he likely walks into a starting prop role at the Warriors.
* Does Shawn Blore start? Fantasy Land is abuzz with rumours Blore will score and edge back row role at the Tigers and he's therefore the 16th most popular player. Fingers crossed.
* Who wins the starting hooker role? With Harry Grant heading back to Melbourne, the No. 9 jersey is between Jacob Liddle and Jake Simpkin. Both present serious money-making opportunities, but Simpkin is slightly cheaper and therefore the preferred option for KFC SuperCoaches.
Originally published as Club-by-club guide to top SuperCoach targets