SuperCoach NRL study guide: Dragons
The Dragons produced another sparkling start last year, only to fade into the sunset.
Opening with a six game win streak, the joint venture club went on to win 12 of their first 15 games.
Sitting equal top of the ladder with Souths in round 17, the Dragons won only four more games, including a 48-18 qualifying win over the Broncos.
The Dragons have always offered bang for buck when it comes to SuperCoach talent, with Gareth Widdop, Jack De Belin and Cameron McInnes amongst the top players in their positions.
Last season, as a club, they totalled 18,476 points, which was good enough to finish fourth overall. One of the big SuperCoach changes for the merged entity will be how Widdop adapts to the switch to fullback, and how the addition of Corey Norman compliments new halves partner Ben Hunt and hooker McInnes.
PREDICTED ROUND ONE TEAM
1. Gareth Widdop, 2. Zac Lomax, 3. Euan Aitken, 4. Tim Lafai, 5. Jordan Pereira, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Ben Hunt, 8. Paul Vaughn, 9. Cameron McInnes, 10. James Graham, 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Jack De Belin, 14. Matt Dufty, 15. Korbin Sims, 16. Jacob Host, 17. Luciano Leilua.
Who's Left: Blake Lawrie, Jai Field, Mitchell Allgood, Jeremy Latimore, Josh Kerr, Lachlan Maranta, Darren Nicholls, Jonus Pearson, Mikaele Ravalawa, Tristan Sailor, Reece Robson, Lachlan Timm
Ins: Korbin Sims (Brisbane), Mikaele Ravalawa (Canberra), Jonus Pearson (Brisbane), Lachlan Maranta (unsigned)
Outs: Leeson Ah Mau (Warriors), Nene Macdonald (Cowboys), Hame Sele (Penrith), Kurt Mann (Newcastle), Reuben Garrick (Manly), Jason Nightingale (retired)
The Dragons are on the bye in round 12. Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims, Jack De Belin and possibly Ben Hunt may be required for Origin duty.
Gareth Widdop ($553,400 FLB, 5/8)
2018 average 59.1
It was always going to be hard for Widdop to back up his sensational 2017 season where he finished with a 73PPG average, but boy didn't he give it a good shot. Through the first 11 rounds last year Widdop had a 72PPG average including a massive 173 point game in round 3.
Unfortunately for his owners, he would finish his last 10 games with a 44PPG average. Widdop owns three of the top 10 scores by a Dragons player for SuperCoach with 173, 139 and 131. Going back through the record books, Widdop played six games at fullback for Melbourne over two different seasons and finished with a 55PPG average. A more favourable scoring system is in place now compared to the 2012 season, and that could see Widdop push back up into the 60+PPG average again. Definitely a risky option to start with but has form for quick starts.
Cameron McInnes ($561,800 HOK)
2018 average 60.0
Starting the year as the sixth highest priced hooker, McInnes is an option for those not starting with Damien Cook, Cameron Smith or Josh Hodgson. Last year McInnes was the Dragons' top SuperCoach scorer with a total of 1441 points. That total was good enough to see him finish as the 14th best scorer in SuperCoach. Last season, McInnes failed to achieve a 100 point game with a season best of 87PPG, but still finished with a respectable 60 point average. Finishing the season with 908 tackles, 38 tackle breaks, five line breaks and six line break assists, McInnes could be one to watch early on, as his average has slowly improved over the last three seasons.
Tariq Sims ($527,300 2RF)
2018 average 56.4
Initially, I had reservations about listing Tariq Sims as the POD selection, but I chose him over Corey Norman and Ben Hunt and their Jekyll and Hyde SuperCoach games. I prefer the consistency.
Sims is the third highest priced Dragon to start the season. With a big increase in minutes (77MPG) last year from the two previous years, Sims improved his PPG average by 10 points to finish with an average of 56PPG. He had a high score of 101 points and when the season was done, he finished with a total of 1296 points. Tariq had his most consistent year since his last full year at the Knights in 2015.
For coaches playing for the overall title, Sims wouldn't be a selection to start the year, as he finished just outside the top 30 point scorers. I'm not expecting Sims to improve another 10PPG or anything outrageous, but he's definitely a POD when it comes to this roster.
Zac Lomax ($196,900 CTW)
2018 average 21.5
Starting at just above bottom dollar, Lomax is one of the most talked about young players in the game. A star at the junior level, Lomax is expected to nab a place in the backline for the Dragons. The NSWRL's under 18s player of the year from 2017 is intent on a centre position but may have to make do with a start on the wing. One of the top cheapie prospects of the season and a must own from the start.
Mikaele Ravalawa ($168,100 CTW)
Yet to debut
If you're going to sign a player, why not a former under 20s player of the year from a rival club? That's what the Dragons have done here with former Canberra Raider Ravalawa. In 13 games for Canberra's feeder team Mounties in 2018, Ravalawa had 66 tackle breaks and crossed the try line 11 times. If Lomax was to find himself in the centres at the Dragons to start the year, this Fijian could end up on one of the vacated wing spots of Nene Macdonald or Jason Nightingale.
Eddie Blacker ($168,100 FRF)
Yet to debut
Eddie Blacker is on a development contract so if he was to make his top grade debut this year, it would be safe to say the Dragons have had a few injuries to the props. Signed from the Broncos nursery, Blacker was an under 18 Queensland prop in 2017 and joins the Dragons after receiving offers from five other clubs. The big hard working prop is one to put in the black book.
NO GO ZONE
Matt Dufty ($460,800 FLB)
2018 average 49.3
When Dufty is on song he is one of the NRL's most exciting players to watch. Crossing for 12 tries in 24 games last year, one would think he had done enough to retain his position. With captain Gareth Widdop about to take up the fullback role in probably his last season in the NRL, Dufty is definitely a no go until he can find his way back into the No. 1 jersey. There are just too many class options ahead of Dufty in the fullback position.
Jack De Belin ($516,300 2RF)
2018 average 55.2
After consecutive SuperCoach seasons in 2016 and 2017 where it seemed De Belin was about to take the next step into permanent SuperCoach gun status, the bubble burst. De Belin's minutes dropped to 58MPG, down eight minutes from the season before. With the drop in minutes comes the drop in average, down 12 points from the 2017 average of 67PPG. With Tyson Frizell (70MPG) and Tariq Sims (77MPG) both receiving the bigger share of playing time, I think De Belin will have another season like last year and that puts him in to the No Go Zone for me.