The final weekend of trial games ahead of the 2018 Telstra Premiership season provided the best clues for NRL Fantasy coaches picking their squads until we get a look at the round one team lists. While few forwards played big minutes, there were plenty of backline players who put their names forward for selection in your side.
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Cowboys v Storm
Johnathan Thurston has started 2018 with a bang, albeit in a testimonial game, with a solo try and the match-winning try assist in a 16-14 win over the Melbourne Storm.
Torrential conditions meant it wasn’t the most free-flowing contest you’ll ever see and players like Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona didn’t have the same impact for Melbourne that they had a week earlier against Leeds (even with Asofa-Solomona starting at prop for late withdrawal Jesse Bromwich).
Storm centre Curtis Scott scored an impressive tackle-busting try and Brodie Croft set up another four-pointer after a stunning display against Leeds, while Kyle Feldt may have played his way into a few Fantasy teams with an excellent hat-trick including a couple from kicks.
Broncos v PNG Hunters
Brisbane were given a bit of a scare in Port Moresby, trailing 12-6 at half-time on Sunday, before fighting back to take a 26-12 win over the Hunters. Jamayne Isaako filled in again for Daris Boyd at fullback but his first-grade chances may have taken a hit with Boyd set to return and Corey Oates spending time in his old wing spot in the second half, scoring a try out wide in the final few minutes.
Titans v Warriors
Blake Green and Shaun Johnson were the standouts in the Warriors’ 20-14 win over the Titans, with Gold Coast playmaker Ash Taylor told to improve by coach Garth Brennan despite scoring a solo try and looking sharp at times. Former prop Ryan James has shifted to an edge for the Titans where he should see more minutes (even if his defensive workload drops), while more worryingly Simon Mannering also spent time playing on the edge rather than the lock role where his tackle counts traditionally soar. Former Fantasy gun Ryan James meanwhile has talked up the performances of 2018 cheapie and fellow Titans forward Keegan Hipgrave.
Bulldogs v Panthers
There were some worrying signs for Penrith here with a 24-10 loss to a largely second-string Bulldogs outfit, but Anthony Griffin did put the Panthers through their paces with the starting pack all playing big minutes in the first half before the likes of Corey Harawira-Naera and Sam McKendry got their chances off the bench. Fa’amanu Brown grabbed a try from dummy-half for the Bulldogs and could be pushing on a bench spot that would potentially take minutes off Michael Lichaa once the season gets underway.
Roosters v Sea Eagles
Jake Trbojevic showed off his playmaking skills early on in this one with a hand in all three of Manly’s early tries – giving the Sea Eagles a 16-0 lead after eight minutes – but James Tedesco had the last laugh after following up a quiet first-half display with a couple of tries in the second term to help carry the Roosters to a win. One of those was a solo chip-and-chase effort that would have had Fantasy coaches salivating, while Latrell Mitchell strengthened his case as a potential 2018 keeper with two tries and a couple of goals. Forward Sio Siua Taukeiaho kicked two goals as well and is the team’s first-choice kicker when on the field. For the Sea Eagles, Tom Trbojevic crossed the line while Lachlan Croker played well in the halves alongside the more dominant Daly Cherry-Evans.
Knights v Eels
Jarryd Hayne was quiet in the centres for Parramatta in the first half but set up a try after switching to his old fullback role in the second in Parramatta’s 26-6 romp over Newcastle. But Bevan French will hold onto the No.1 jersey after scoring a couple of tries himself and setting up another for Josh Hoffman. Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman won’t be threatening Clint Gutherson’s goal-kicking job anytime soon after landing just one goal each from a combined six attempts. The new-look Knights were a little disappointing but Kalyn Ponga looked their most dangerous man in attack and is one player who does look like a talented kick, slotting his only chance from the sideline to convert Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s early try.
Sharks v Wests Tigers
Fantasy cheapie Corey Thompson seems to have locked up the Tigers fullback spot for now at least, preferred at the back this week with Tuimoala Lolohea playing in the NSW Intrust Super Premiership instead. Thompson pounced on a Luke Brooks kick to score one of his side’s two tries in their 24-12 loss to Cronulla. Fellow Fantasy cash cow prospect Sione Katoa continued his excellent pre-season campaign with another try and looks all but certain to start on the wing for the Sharks with two-try hero Valentine Holmes impressing at fullback.
Rabbitohs v Dragons
Greg Inglis made his long-awaited return in the centres for South Sydney as they won yet another Charity Shield game 22-18 in Mudgee, although he was restricted to a 20-minute cameo with Hymel Hunt playing the bulk of the game in his place. Damien Cook starred at hooker, punctuated by a long-range line break to set up a try for Angus Crichton, and he should play big minutes despite the presence of Robbie Farah in the Rabbitohs squad. Meanwhile Matt Dufty scored a good try for the Dragons and looked sharp at fullback.
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