Welcome to Daily Fantasy Rugby League in the NRL (National Rugby League) for 2021! For those who do not know what Rugby League is you can find out the basics of the game in our “How to Play” article. NRL Fantasy Contests are available on Australian Fantasy site Draftstars



The NRL in 2021 will consist of 16 teams in a 25 round competition (teams have one bye) and 4 weeks for finals to determine a premiership team. The 2020 competition was hit by the pandemic but fought well to get back onto the park in one of the success stories of the year. The NRL will try and run a normal competition in 2021 but may face some challengers along the way.


The game itself will remain the full 80 minute game with the 1 referee and "six again" ruck infringement returning for 2021. A couple of new rules include: 2 points for field goals kicked outside 40 meters from goal. The "six again" will also be inforce for players within the 10 meters.


Traditionally, the NRL fixture consists of 8 games per round with games played from Thursday evening (Australian Time) through to Sunday afternoon. Unlike NFL or Soccer in Europe, Australians like to watch each match individually so the fixture is staggered throughout the weekend. Thus there will be a mixture of “Single” and “Multi” slates each round.


Squads for each round are released by clubs and published on NRL.com (the league's official website) late Tuesday afternoons (Australian Time) and consist of a 21 player squad. A starting squad of 13 players are named with 4 on the interchange bench and 4 Reserves. 24 hours prior to a game, 2 players are removed from the 21 squad to 19 then 1 hour before the commencement of the match the final 17 man team list is submitted. This is very important. Due to the nature of the sport and the recovery of players, changes to the starting 17 are common. Whilst “beat reporters” do their best in covering “late mail”, coaches tend to keep their cards close to their chest in terms of injuries. There is no “questionable, doubtful” official tag reporting in the NRL so be prepared come scheduled match day to amend fantasy lineups.




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Just like other sports around the world, there are few factors that need to be considered when building lineups.


Weather Conditions


No games in the competition are played indoors so the weather can have a influence on scoring, especially if the game is played in wet conditions. Players struggle to handle the ball in the wet and the scoring suffers as a result. Errors increase and try scoring potential for backs are shortened. However, investing in forwards in these close and wet games is optimal for cash games. 


Vegas (Bookies) Odds 


In Australia we call the market odds for the game “The Bookies” which is short for Bookmakers. “Bookies” will post a variety of markets that can be key for lineups. Spread and Total Points are essential, but prop markets such as “To score a Try” are popular to identify value in players' fantasy output (especially backs). If the total is on the high scale, look to invest in backs in fast and open games. If the total over/under is on the low side then investing forwards is the way to go. Chalk builds occur when spreads are high towards a favourite, especially for the Halves and Backs. 




In the NRL you have 4 players on the interchange bench and a team is restricted to 8 changes of players in a game. Whilst anything can happen in a game such as an early injury or a coaches elaborate game plan, interchange players more often than not do not feature in the winning GPP lineup. Fantasy potential for interchange players can be described as your backup Centre in Basketball. Interchange players will see some game time, but you need a combination of minutes, opportunity and some luck (scoring a try) to become fantasy relevant.


Late Changes 


I alluded to this as being important. Just like the NBA and the NFL, if a starter is injured and does not play then a squad member will take his place. More often the replacement player is on the cheaper salary scale and thus with opportunity becomes a value play. There have been some cases that a named interchange player gets the start and the starter goes to the bench. A word of caution diving into the value as coaches like to inject their “ex-starter” into the game after 20 minutes to play the rest of the majority of the game. Late Changes can also be a surprise when a non-reporting for an injured player is not named to play at game time.  




Winning teams more often than not have higher fantasy scoring halves and backs than the losing team. It cannot really be said for forwards as losing teams tend to make more tackles as they are not winning the possession battle. Look for forwards who contribute the fantasy bonuses of offloads and tackle breaks from either side. The bonuses from tries including try assists and line breaks benefit backs who score the majority of the tries on a team.


Try Scoring is King


Tries like touchdowns in the NFL get the fans excited but also fantasy players who have rostered a try scorer. A try itself is worth 8 fantasy points. But leadup to a try can provide great fantasy scoring to a teammate(s). For example If a Centre delivers the final pass to the Winger on his outside and scores a try, the Centre will be awarded a Try Assist (5 Points) and if the Winger broke through the Line whilst scoring the try then the Centre will be awarded with a Line Assist (2 Points). For the Winger, it will be 8 Points for the Try, 4 Points for the Line Break and if the Winger was attempted to be tackled before scoring the try you can add another 3 Points for the Tackle Break. Kicking the ball on the last tackle near a try line is the last attempt to score and many tries come from kicks. If a Try is scored from a kick then the kicker is awarded a Try Assist in the try. Halves do the majority of kicking in the game but Hooker’s can also kick the ball down field as well.     

The Aftermath


One topic that needs to be raised is that Rugby League is a fast game which is bruising and tough for the players and is very popular with fans. It is also a tough game to gather statistics when live. The statisican team will score a match live which will deliver live fantasy scoring, however the same team then will rewatch the match shortly afterwards and apply adjustments to the statistics. This is known as the ‘adjustment sweat’. And the adjustment sweat can be brutal or a pleasant surprise. I have seen teams that were top of GPP’s overtaken by teams back in 20th place due to the adjustments in scoring. The scoring tends to increase on adjustments due to players not being scored correctly for run meters, tackles etc. Adjustments can take a couple of hours to finalise, so try not make a scene when scores are still in “progress” and you haven’t been paid out on contests. 


Rugby League is relatively new in the DFS world, so hopefully with a larger audience tuning in this will improve the fantasy product. Remember to keep an eye on team lists and make roster swaps when needed.


Contests are available on Draftstars right now! Good Luck!