Round 3 of the NRL season gets underway on Thursday night with the St George Illawarra Dragons hosting the Cronulla Sharks at WIN Stadium in Wollongong. Both teams are off to 1-1 starts, so will be looking for a bit of positive momentum early in the season. Last week the Dragons almost pulled off a comeback from nowhere against the reigning premiers, while the Sharks had a 2 point win over another strong team in the Parramatta Eels. There is plenty of promise around both teams early in the season. It looks like it’s going to be wet for this one.

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Team News

The main change for the Dragons is veteran hooker Andrew McCullough dropping out with a painful dislocated elbow. Moses Mbye moves into the starting side from his bench utility role. Interestingly no utility has been named in his place, with Jack Gosiewski and Jackson Ford joining the bench, and George Burgess dropping out of the bench. It’ll be interesting to see if one of the additions is able to give Mbye a rest at hooker, as there isn’t even a utility option in the reserves that could do the job. The young backline is still more promise than production, but the likes of Sloan, Suli and Amone look like they could be part of the Dragons push higher up the ladder.

The Sharks have two changes also, with Teig Wilton suspended and Ronaldo Mulitalo missing after a head knock. Wilton is replaced int he second row by Siosifa Talakai, with Braydon Trindall added to the bench as a utility. Matt Ikuvalu comes onto the left wing in place of Mulitalo. If Trindall remains on the bench, that will be good news for all of the middle forwards, and potentially bad news for the chances of Blayke Brailey continuing to play 80 minutes at hooker. Cam McInness is the wildcard as the star continues his return from last seasons ACL injury. He only saw 25 minutes in the first game back last week, but that should start to grow quickly and eat into the minutes of others.


Dragons $2.10 v Sharks $1.74


Despite very little difference in performance so far, the Sharks are favourites in this one on the back of a sentiment that they could become a premiership dark horse this season. A lot of that is based on the addition of Nicho Hynes and Dale Finucane, who have both been immense through the opening two weeks. If McInness can get back to full fitness and some of their veteran forwards can stay healthy enough to contribute, it’s a team with plenty of depth.

As above, the Dragons are a younger team, but do have plenty of talent being led around the park by veterans like Ben Hunt, Jack De Belin and Tariq Sims. How Mbye slots into the hooking role in bigger minutes this week could be important to their chances, but don’t write off the youngsters making enough big plays to get the job done in this one.

Love It- Moses Mbye $11,390

With the bench and reserves as they are, it’s entirely possible that Mbye plays 80 minutes at hooker in this one. He’s started at the position 6 times in his career, and amazingly played 80 minutes every time. He averaged nearly 40 tackles as well as running and kicking a little, for an average of ~42. Even without the 80 minutes, he looks like great value at position where the clear best scorers are now fully priced. Unless anything changes with the team structure before kickoff, he looks like the safest play on the slate.

Love It- Siosifa Talakai $10,000

Similar to Mbye, Talakai has stepped into this role and done pretty well in the past. 13 times int he past two season Talakai has started in the back row, averaging 67 minutes and 40 points per game. He’s not a workhorse, so tends to be much more volatile in his scoring than Mbye will be, and could also be asked to play in the backs if there is an injury. Still, the price is very nice, and with the Sharks as favourites Talakai is very likely to be one of the better plays on this slate.

Love It- Zac Lomax $13,280

With some nice value options on the slate, we can afford to splash some cash on the premium backs. Jesse Ramien is the standout scorer, but his price has spiked quite a lot. Lomax on the other hand is looking fairly cheap after an injury interrupted 2021, and has looked okay so far this season. Some of his cheaper teammates could get a little more attention, but Lomax is historically the best scorer of the lot and I don’t mind that he’s running at the Moylan-Talakai-Tracey-Ikuvalu side of the field.

Hate It- Cameron McInnes $15,870

The time to play McInnes is fast approaching, but I don’t think we’re there yet. In 2020 he was int he top 3 fantasy players in the entire NRL, before last years ACL and team change dropped him off the map. With a utility not on the bench this week and a game under his belt, I do expect more minutes this week. However, I don’t think it will be anywhere near the 50+ minutes needed to approach the big scores needed to pay off this price tag.

Hate It- Blayke Brailey $16,180

Another player impacted by the addition of a utility, Brailey has gotten off to a great start with 80 minutes and a couple of big tackle counts so far. Still only 23 and clearly ascending in his career, I still think the big price jump is enough to make him a player to avoid with his minutes likely to be limited to the 65-70 range.

Who Knows- Matt Ikuvalu $12,640

The former Rooster used to fill in for the powerhouse team on the right wing and rack up big fantasy totals by just putting the ball over the line thanks to his teammates dominance. Moving to a weaker team, and switching to the left wing, are both big question marks on a player who already had some pretty unsustainable scoring. Having said that, this price looks very reasonable, and the Sharks might be a little better than they’ve been for the last few years. As favourites today, we definitely need to consider Ikuvalu as a genuine alternative to equally volatile team-mates Sione Katoa and Will Kennedy.

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