When picking your initial 25-man NRL Fantasy squad you should keep an eye out for players who fall into one of these categories in order to get the most out of your $6.8 million salary cap.
Big improvers – Did a player have an unusually poor season in 2015? Were they battling injuries? Will they play in a more dominant position in 2016? Have they joined a better team? All these factors could lead to improved NRL Fantasy scores for that player in 2016, meaning that they will not just be good value at their starting price (which is based on their 2015 performances) but are also likely to increase in value during the year, boosting your spending power later in the season. Examples could be Greg Inglis after his unusually quiet 2015 campaign, or tackle-breaking Panthers winger Josh Mansour after an injury-affected season.
New faces – Both rookies and new arrivals from the Super League are often bargain buys in NRL Fantasy, with rookie players starting at the minimum price tag and players who didn't play in the NRL last year getting price discounts due to their time out of the league. Rookie of the Year Jack Bird was a great Fantasy buy in 2015, as was Raiders recruit and former Super League star Sia Soliola. Canberra have a new Super League signing in Elliott Whitehead this season, while Sam Burgess could be value following his stint in rugby union.
Reliable captain – While picking an NRL Fantasy squad at the start of the season is all about finding value for money, one area where you should be happy to splurge the cash is on a rock solid captain. The likes of Cameron Smith, Corey Parker, Simon Mannering and Johnathan Thurston could all be relied upon to post big scores week in, week out last year and that's the kind of player you want to give the 'C' to in your side, with double points on offer for your Fantasy team's captain.
Key factors by position
When picking players for your NRL Fantasy team, picking "good" players isn't enough. You need players who will make the most out of the NRL Fantasy scoring system. Do they make a lot of tackles, notch a lot of run metres or bust through the defensive line on a regular basis? Here's a rundown on which kinds of players thrive in Fantasy in each position.
Key stats: Tries (8 points); Tackle breaks (3 points); Run metres (1 point per 10 metres); Kicks defused (1 point)
These players don't get the chance to do much work in defence so they need to be real weapons in attack to be good buys in NRL Fantasy. That means plenty of run metres, tackle breaks and tries. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck easily topped the run metre charts last season and James Tedesco was the league's top tackle-breaker, so it was no surprise that those two were the best scorers in this position in NRL Fantasy. The likes of Josh Dugan, Greg Inglis and Semi Radradra have also excelled in recent seasons. Know a fullback who is safe as houses under the high ball and a good defender, but quiet in attack? Applaud them on the weekend, but don't pick them in your Fantasy team.
Key stats: Tries (8 points); Try assists (5 points); Tackle breaks (3 points); Tackles (1 point)
Possibly the trickiest position in NRL Fantasy and a good place to save some money. You want good attacking players who will get their share of tackle breaks, tries and assists but also players who won't shirk the defensive work. Safe options include goal-kickers Jamie Lyon and Jarrod Croker while attacking threats like Konrad Hurrell and Dane Gagai can also post massive scores on their day.
Key stats: Try assists (5 points); Kick metres (1 point per 20 metres); Tries (8 points); Tackles (1 point); Missed tackles (-2 points)
It's all about kick metres and creating try-scoring opportunities here. The key is to pick dominant playmakers – that is, those who are the go-to man for their team. Guys like Johnathan Thurston, Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt not only do most of the kicking for their side but also create a lot of try-scoring opportunities for teammates – and score the odd try themselves. Someone like Kieran Foran meanwhile is a top quality player but hasn't done much general play kicking in the past so hasn't been much of a factor in NRL Fantasy (although that could change in his new role at the Eels).
Key stats: Tackles (1 point); Run metres (1 point per 10 metres); Missed tackles (-2 points); Tackle breaks (3 points)
Tackles are the main ingredient for these players, although having an impact with the ball in hand doesn't hurt either. Someone like Corey Parker does a bit of everything – run metres, offloads, tackles – and is a Fantasy legend because of it, but even players like Simon Mannering, Shaun Fensom and Elijah Taylor who have limited impact in attack can still be great Fantasy buys if they make 50+ tackles most weeks. Then there are the tackle-busters like Paul Gallen and Jason Taumalolo, who can also be great scorers – if a little less consistent. A busy, 80-minute player is what you want.
Key stats: Run metres (1 point per 10 metres); Tackles (1 point); Tackle breaks (3 points); Offloads (2 points)
Like second-rowers, you want players who will play big minutes and get heavily involved in both attack and defence. These players are less likely to have huge tackle counts as their main job is charging the ball up themselves, but there are still plenty of workaholics who score around 50 points a week like James Graham, Jesse Bromwich, Aidan Tolman and Josh McGuire.
Key stats: Tackles (1 point); Run metres (1 point per 10 metres); Try assists (5 points)
Possibly the key position in NRL Fantasy, both because these players touch the ball more than anyone else on the field and usually lead the tackle counts and because you only have two slots in your 25-man squad for hookers. Cameron Smith is pretty much a must-have at some stage of the season, but Robbie Farah has challenged him in recent years and the likes of Andrew McCullough, Issac Luke, James Segeyaro, Jake Friend and even rookie Damien Cook have been able to post regular big scores in the No.9 jersey. The key factor in a strong Fantasy hooker is a player who loves to tackle and doesn't miss many, and if they can have an impact in attack like Smith, Farah and Luke do then that's a bonus.
NRL Fantasy scoring system
Try: 8 points
Goal: 2 points
Field goal: 5 points
Try assist: 5 points
Line break: 4 points
Line-break assist: 2 points
Tackle: 1 point
Tackle break: 3 points
Missed tackle: -2 points
Metres gained: 1 point for every 10 metres
Kick metres: 1 point for every 20 metres
Offload: 2 points
Error: -2 points
Penalty conceded: -2 points
40/20 kick: 4 points
Try save: 5 points
Kick defused: 1 point
Sin-bin: -5 points
Send-off: -10 points
This article originally featured on NRL.COM