Just like in Round 14, the post-Origin NRL fixture gives us a rare triple treat to enjoy on Sunday (Thursday was a quiet one though!). It kicks off at 2pm as the West Tigers (16th) host the Penrith Panthers (1st) at CommBank Stadium. The Tigers are fresh off an exciting coaching announcement this week, and the Panthers will set lots of Origin stars….but still, it’s first v last. Then at 4:05pm the Melbourne Storm (3rd) welcome their bogey team the Canberra Raiders (11th) to AAMI Park. The Storm also have an availability issue at the moment, so the Raiders will have their hopes up. Finally the Canterbury Bulldogs (14th) take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs (7th) at Accor Stadium. Both teams have found a bit more form lately, but may be short of some Origin stars as well.

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Team News

The Tigers don’t have Origin players, but they do have 4 changes. Ken Maumalo (wing) and James Roberts (centre) return in the backline, forcing out Junior Tupou and seeing Adam Doueihi move into the halves. That sets off a chain reaction with Jackson Hastings shifting to lock (weird!), Joe Ofahengaue to prop, Fonua Pole back to the bench and Stefano Utoikamanu out of the team. Jake Simpkin (utility) and James Tamou also come onto the bench, with Jacob Liddle and Austin Dias making way. Finally, Justin Matamua (second-row) and Luke Garner (bench) switch spots. It’s a lot to take in! The Doueihi move is positive, and it will be very interesting to see how Hastings performs as a mobile lock.

Huge changes for the Panthers off their bye. All of Cleary, Luai, Yeo, Martin, Koroisau, Crichton and To’o are being rested after Origin. In almost the exact team that played under the same circumstances in Rd 13, the ins are Jennings (centre), Staines (wing), Falls & O’Sullivan (halves), C Smith (second-row), Eisenhuth (lock) and Soni Luke (utility). Most of them are solid role players who can stick to the Panthers system. Falls actually looked really good on debut and will kick the goals.

The Storm named 3 changes on Tuesday, but they may not run out that way. Felise Kaufusi (second-row) comes in after missing Origin, replacing Chris Lewis. Cameron Munster (five-eight) could return after his COVID issue during Origin camp, which would see Nick Meaney move to the wing in place of the injured Grant Anderson. Finally, Harry Grant (hooker) is meant to return in place of the suspended Brandon Smith, but may not be able to back up after Origin. In that case I’d expect Tyran Wishart to play hooker with Jayden Nikorima on the bench as a utility. Munster in is great, but this is still a long way from the Storms best stuff.

The Raiders have just one change, James Schiller replacing Charnze Nicoll-Kolkstad as bench utility. That could have something to do with CNK signing with the Warriors. There’s a switch between Ryan Sutton (lock) and Adam Elliot (bench), but that could easily revert back to last weeks formation before kick-off. This actually probably is the Raiders best line-up, and with only Josh Papalii backing up after a fairly light workload in Origin I’d expect them to be raring to go.

The Bulldogs also have one change. Braidon Burns (centre) returns in place of Declan Casey who was knocked into another universe by Andrew Fifita on debut. Burns could switch with Jacob Kiraz on the wing for some or all of the game. Matt Burton is the sole Origin player backing up, and avoided suspension after throwing some of the only punches seen in the last few years. I assume he’ll back up with 4 days rest, plus as the team’s most important player. Jake Averillo has looked okay at fullback the last 3 weeks, but 5 tries is super unsustainable.

Five changes for the Rabbits, 3 of whom will need to back up for Origin. Those three are Cook, Murray and Arrow. Clearly Murray misses after being KO’d in the first minute, so I’d expect Tom Burgess to retain his starting prop role with Mark Nicholls returning after his own concussion at lock. Cook and Arrow had smaller bench roles in the big game, so should be able to resume their roles in this one. Alex Johnston (wing) returns, forcing out Richard Kennar after his hat trick heroics. Cartwright, Havili and Nikorima are all demoted to the bench after filling the Origin players roles last week, and Suluka-Fifita, Moale and Shaq Mitchell drop out of the team. One of those three will likely come back onto the bench due to the Murray situation.

Betting Odds

Tigers $3.10 v Panthers $1.37

Storm $1.28 v Raiders $3.75

Bulldogs $3.25 v Rabbitohs $1.35

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Similar odds in all 3 games, with none of them particularly evenly matched. However, as I’ve mentioned above, I think the Raiders are a red-hot chance in this one. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see the Tigers be at least competitive given they have some interesting team changes and the Panthers are missing almost half of their best players. Even the Bulldogs have a decent chance of an upset with some stronger recent form and a far from consistent Rabbits team. All that to say, I wouldn’t get carried away stacking the favourites in any of these games. Balanced/mixed line-ups or underdog stacks could be the better way to go.


Love It - Adam Doueihi $16,490

The talented Tiger has been back from his ACL injury for 3 weeks now, building up with two bench games and a full game last week at centre. With the team in disarray he’s now been deemed ready to move back into the five-eight position where he averaged 60 points in 14 games last season. Those scores were built on a bit of everything, with creativity, defence, running game and general kicking + goals all showing up on the stats sheet. He may not be straight back to that level, especially against the Panthers, but I think the best move is to invest early while the price is down and he doesn’t need to get to his massive 80+ ceiling to be a strong play. 60+ is fine, and he can do that today.


Love It - Xavier Savage $11,250

We all saw what Kalyn Ponga did in winning the game for Queensland on Wednesday night, and that’s the closest comparison for the running game and instinctual play of Savage. He’s still very raw, but an average of 40 in his 7 starts at the position is a great starting point at this price. I’m not particularly afraid of the Storm matchup after they conceded 60 points in the last two weeks and are still under-strength. With one score of 74 under his belt from last season, Savage has the ceiling to absolutely destroy this price tag in any game and that needs to be respected today. Jacob Kiraz is another young OB that looks far too cheap based not he tacks-breaking strength he’s shown in his first 7 games.


Love It - Mitch Kenny $11,450

Having half your team out creates fantasy value, and Kenny looks like one of the bigger beneficiaries for the Panthers today. He averages 70 minutes and 44 points as a starting hooker (25 games), although the presence of Luke not he bench could limit his minutes a bit more than that. Still, with an appetite for defensive work he can tackle his way to cash game value. Having never scored a try in those games (or made a line break), it might be a bit much to ask for a 50+ ceiling game. A good cash game play for sure. Other Panthers with value include Eisenhuth, Tago and Smith.


Hate It - Jai Arrow $18,050

This could apply to several Origin stars on this slate, but I’m focusing on Arrow because even at 100% I don’t like this price tag on him. With his hybrid edge/middle role he loses a little upside, and is very unlikely to hit the 70+ score that would make him a winning play. His teammate Koloamatangi in comparison is a little cheaper and has slightly more ceiling, plus the freshness of a normal week of training. I don’t love either of them, but Arrow is a clear avoid for me. Cook is the other Rabbit backing up, but I’m reluctant to fade him given the short stint off the bench and massive ceiling.


Hate It - Sean O’Sullivan $21,150

Not all of the Panthers are good value. Both O’Sullivan and his halves partner Falls have been priced up after their success as replacements this year, and despite a 79 point game in Round 1 I can’t get behind paying this much for the journeyman halfback. He’s a solid player and a good signing for the Dolphins next season, but don’t touch him today. Falls has a little more value but there are still far more interesting plays at HH in my opinion, don’t get sucked in by the debut 56.


Who Knows - Justin Matamua $9,700

The Tigers aren’t the best fantasy environment right now, but a starting second-rower at minimum price is always worth considering. I couldn’t find out much about the youngster (even his age eludes me), but we can always expect 60+ minutes and something int he mid-30s as a floor at this position. There might be enough value elsewhere to not take this kind of risk, and he might even end up dropping back to the bench for Garner. Last weeks 22 points in 22 minutes was achieved in the middle of the field, but it is at least an indication that he’s not going to be a couple flop and we could do a lot worse as a salary saver. Ryan Sutton is another cheapie worth considering whether he starts at lock or on the bench.

Draftstars Suggested Team

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