NRL Fantasy is back for another year. As both avid and first-time players prepare their teams for 2024, our fantasy expert has his say on the 11 players every player should avoid.
NRL Fantasy’s return for another year means more than 100,000 eager fans are flooding the game’s site to attempt to construct the early foundations of their (hopefully successful) 2024 side.
Armed only with rumours, last year’s form and team lists, and without pre-season friendlies to base their decisions on, many of these first drafts won’t see the light of day when the season kicks off in Las Vegas on 3 March.
As part of our series aiming to put you in the best position to begin the NRL Fantasy season with a bang, we’ve broken down 10 players you should avoid, at least for the opening parts of the season.
An important caveat to make is that this article is no criticism of these players, all are great in their own right. Rather, it’s an assessment based on their suitability to NRL Fantasy as a game, with a myriad of factors driving our decision.
11 NRL Fantasy players you should avoid in 2024
We’ve done our 15 must have players to start with this season, so now it’s time to move things over to a more negative tone.
Club: South Sydney Rabbitohs
On his day, few rugby league players are as good as Latrell Mitchell. In our eyes, he’s a top 10 fullback and the 25th best player in the NRL. Seemingly, his magical displays are increasingly infrequent, with injuries and suspension limiting his minutes. Since joining South Sydney, he’s yet to feature in more than 17 games.
There’s little he can do to solve his injury woes and the arrival of Jack Wighton, his great mate and an astute professional, could inspire Latrell to clean his suspension act up. All that remains to be seen. At his price point, there are far better options.
Club: St George Dragons
You may read this and gawk, crying ‘Jack Bird averaged 46 fantasy points in 2023!’ Yes, he did, playing mainly at back row or lock, two positions he’s unlikely to fill under Shane Flanagan in 2024.
Bird is on record stating he wishes his future to lie outside the forwards. What does that look like in 2024? Centre? Maybe. Five-eighth? Unlikely. Off the bench? Most probably. Either way, he won’t fill the position that led to his high fantasy output last season. For that reason alone, he should be avoided like expired cheese.
Club: New Zealand Warriors
In as simple terms as possible, RTS is a centre dubbed a wing-fullback in NRL Fantasy. You don’t need a centre clogging your limited WFB allocations in 2024, especially at his price point.
A world exists where Roger Tuivasa-Sheck transfers his world-beating fullback and wing form into centre and I eat my words. Not including him in your NRL Fantasy team, at least for the opening stanza of the season, is a hill I’m more than prepared to die on.
Club: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
In a 2023 to forget for the Bulldogs, co-captain Reed Mahoney often tried his hardest to lead from the front. At certain points, this proved his undoing. Shooting out of the line in an attempt to generate line speed and defensive thrust for his side often left Mahoney isolated defensively against men much larger than him, resulting in 131 missed tackles throughout the season, the second-most of any player in the last decade.
While the Bulldogs are likely to improve in 2024, meaning Mahoney’s game too will improve, the reality is his missed tackles hurt his Fantasy potential. Across every other facet of the game, Mahoney is a star. He kicked more 40/20s than any other player in 2023 and was behind Harry Grant and Blayke Brailey for try assists by hookers.
Yet all his attacking upside is undone by his missed tackles. Should they go down, Mahoney could be a great shout for Fantasy, but then there’s also the consideration of either Kurt Mann, Jake Turpin or Drew Hutchinson rightly reducing his minutes.
Club: Brisbane Broncos
Selwyn Cobbo is a mercurial talent with one of the highest ceilings in the NRL. I’m just sceptical about his centre prospects this season, especially with Kurt Capewell’s departure leaving a highly promising yet inexperienced Brendan Piakura tightening Brisbane’s left edge defence.
On the wing last season, Cobbo made the third most errors (39) of any player in the entire NRL. Whether he can iron these from his game while learning a relatively new first grade position remains to be seen. Much like Tuivasa-Sheck, you don’t need a centre clogging your WFB allocation.
Position: HOK I MID
Club: Sydney Roosters
The Cheese’s start to Bondi wasn’t that grate… I’ll let myself out. In all seriousness, Brandon Smith arrived at the Roosters with a mountain of expectation he only started meeting towards the back end of the season.
At his price, there are far better middle and hooker options in NRL Fantasy for season 2024. A 40-point average last season is an incredibly respectable return while acclimating to a new club and new system. In all likelihood, that could rise this season with a fresher, potentially injury-free Roosters roster rolling, but for the opening part of the season I’d advise steering clear of him, especially with Conor Watson back in the mix.
Club: Newcastle Knights
Phoenix Crossland is in a similar boat to Jacob Liddle. Shoehorned into the Knight’s hooker role in 2023 due to Jayden Brailey’s ACL injury and consequent season-long absence. Crossland excelled, especially for a natural half, becoming a crucial element of Newcastle’s last season finals surge.
Recency biases aside, he is a second-string hooker behind Brailey. Minutes are likely to be shared between the pair with their lack of versatility, particularly for involvement in the forwards, which means their output is likely to diminish and as such their relevance in NRL Fantasy for 2024.
Club: St George Dragons
Tyrell Sloan is a budget Latrell Mitchell, in the sense that he is a Fantasy trap. Despite somehow always showing up for the big-time, eye-catching plays, Sloan’s scores in the game never seem to reflect his on-field performances.
An inconsistent performer, which is to be expected at this early stage of his career, Sloan is still developing into the first grader we expect him to be. A slight frame means he’s not a great metre eater, a metric closely aligned with successful fantasy scoring, and there’s also the looming threat of Zac Lomax shifting to fullback.
Club: St George Dragons
Here’s a fun fact; Kyle Flanagan is owned by over one-fifth of NRL Fantasy players. Here’s my question to that cohort: why? Initially signed by his father Shane to play hooker, the Talatau Amone situation means Kyle Flanagan is going to partner Ben Hunt in the halves.
In short, he’s not scoring hooker points. He’ll be lucky to average 20 this season. It’s ludicrous to think so many people still own him. How much longer can this go on? I suspect not long.
Position: HLF I WFB
Club: Canberra Raiders
Jack Wighton’s departure left a gaping hole in Canberra’s side. For so long, Wighton was Canberra. Now that he and Croker, decade-long club stalwarts, are gone it all feels a little empty. 41% of NRL Fantasy players expect Kaeo Weekes to assume the Raiders’ five-eighth role in Wighton’s wake.
Not only is that not a locked-on possibility but young gun Ethan Strange will have something to say on this issue, if Weekes does appear in the six for Canberra expectations shouldn’t be sky-high. Physically he doesn’t look up to the task of front-line defensive duties. Even at his price, I’m not sold and neither should you be.
Club: Canberra Raiders
Initially reported to be Ricky Stuart’s chosen fullback for the 2024 season, it now looks likely Chevy Stewart will spend a majority of the season continuing his development in NSW Cup, with Jordan Rapana the fullback down the in the national capital.
Stewart looks an exciting prospect and undoubtedly has a rich future in the NRL. For now, he remains resigned to reserve grade and out of many NRL Fantasy sides.