Round 22 in the NRL gets underway on Thursday night when two of the best teams in recent times meet in Sydney. Kickoff is at 7:50pm, with the Penrith Panthers (1st) hosting the Melbourne Storm (4th) at BlueBet Stadium. Neither team is at full-strength, but both have enviable depth and will put on a strong spectacle regardless.

Draftstars has a $20,000 contest with $2184 to first place. There are also several other contests including the Mini, Micro, and the High Roller 

Team News

Just one change for the Panthers, with James Fisher-Harris suspended and Matt Eisenhuth directly replacing him at prop. The halves combo of Salmon/O’Sullivan was serviceable last week, and managed to keep the team playing to their usual structure. I’m not sure what’s going on with the minutes of Chris Smith, who has starting in the second-row four times this year and played less than 40 minutes every time. That’s very unusual, but I don’t think all of them are due to injury, so there might be something to it. Viliame Kikau and Kurt Falls are both in the reserves and could come into the starting team.

The Storm have three changes. Justin Olam and Nick Meaney return to the backline, forcing Young Tonumaipea out and allowing Cam Munster to move back into the halves to replace the injured Jahrome Hughes. That means Cooper Johns retains a starting job after perhaps his best career game last week. Felise Kaufusi is out, with Tom Eisenhuth promoted to the second-row and Chris Lewis joining the bench. The backline is looking a little better than it has lately, but the loss of Papenhuyzen and now Hughes continues to be significant.

Betting Odds

Panthers $1.55 v Storm $2.45 - Bet now at Ladbrokes!


The Storms issues in the second half of the season have perhaps been papered over a little by comfortable wins over the Warriors and Titans the last two weeks, but even those results weren’t all that convincing. They are sorely missing their game-breaking fullback and several other first-choice players. Meanwhile the Panthers have showed that they can withstand the loss of Nathan Cleary, accounting for the middling Raiders with ease and still looking like a formidable team on paper. The odds seem about right, and if there’s any value at all I think it’s on the Penrith side.


Love It - Harry Grant $21,240

There are some strange dynamics on this slate, whereby the HH position has almost all of the premium options. We are almost forced to play one of four 19K+ guys at the position, and then consider pairing with another of them in the flex or Yeo/Edwards/Tago just to spend all of our salary. Grant is the player of those four that stands out as being the best points per dollar value, and having perhaps the best ceiling (although Munster did just score 100 points). The much tougher matchup this week also suits the hookers a little better as there should be less attacking points on offer and their defensive work can rise to the top.


Love It - Brian To’o $13,820

Even if it hasn’t been the case lately, To’o is a better fantasy scorer than all of the other Panthers backs. That makes the 3K+ discount to Edwards and Tago very hard to ignore, and makes him easily my favourite OB play. There are various reasons he might be below his best, but we’ve seen him rise for big games before, and his yardage work and tackle-breaking ability will both be mighty handy in this game. I also have a soft spot for Stephen Crichton as he has the goal kicking duties in the absence of Cleary.


Love It - Tom Eisenhuth $10,380

Eisenhuth may not be anything special in real life, but he has shown some fantasy chops in his limited opportunities. 8 starts in the second row have translated to a 40+ average and 3 50+ scores. He has been injured a couple of times in those games, which means there is more upside to the average, but also clear downside if he doesn’t survive into the second half. The price is very nice, making him the clearest value play available to us.


Hate It - Dylan Edwards $17,600

If anyone at the Panthers is in form, it’s Edwards. The hard-working fullback has averaged 50 points in his last 12 games, with 6 tries in that time. That’s a little unsustainable given he generally averages a try every 3 games rather than 2, and the tough matchup makes it a bit harder to pay up at the volatile OB position. With some of his talented teammates far cheaper than him, I’ll find it hard to get to Edwards in many line-ups (and a similar story for Tago).


Hate It - Chris Smith $10,080

As above, Smith is not being used in a normal way at the Panthers this season. I fell into the trap of playing him last week, and again he only saw 30 something minutes. At this point I have to assume he’s not going to pay a normal 2RF role, and not get sucked into a similar price and scoring profile to Eisenhuth. It’s somewhat likely that we won’t need to decided anyway with Kikau to resume his spot in the team before kickoff.


Who Knows - Cooper Johns $10,200

Both teams are giving us a cheap HH to consider, although it’s hard to get there with the need to play an expensive guy at the position. Johns took advantage of the easy matchup and a Jahrome Hughes injury to dismantle the Titans last week, but he’s mostly been underwhelming from a fantasy perspective in his early NRL career. Does he play a big role again, or take a backseat to Munster? Jaemen Salmon is a similar story, after scoring well last week (including a try) and being at a similar price. He also has a mediocre fantasy history in the halves, and isn’t someone I’m too keen to invest in heavily.

Draftstars Suggested Team

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