We've taken a look at the numbers from the past 10 years of NRL Fantasy to come up with this elite 13 of players who were the most valuable across the season.
The undisputed king of Fantasy (until recently at least). At the start of every season, picking Smith as your starting hooker and making him captain has been a rock solid move. The key for Smith has always been that he can score in a variety of ways and in low-scoring battles or in blowout wins for the Storm – he can be relied on to produce big tackle counts, try assists, kick metres, goals, offloads, tackle breaks and the occasional 40/20, and crucially rarely makes a mistake or misses a tackle. He has averaged north of 60 points per game in most seasons this decade and is the obvious captaincy choice for this side. Special nod to Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah and Rabbitohs rake Damien Cook, who was the game's top scorer in 2018.
Andrew Fifita & Payne Haas
One player who has been a consistent Fantasy force, and another who has just produced possibly the most stunning Fantasy season ever.
Fifita can be an erratic player on the field but his combination of tackle-busting and offloading ability plus a high defensive workrate has made him the standout prop of the decade in Fantasy, earning between 55 and 65 points a season throughout the majority of the decade.
But while Fifita was relegated to a bench role late in the 2019 season, suggesting his time as a must-have Fantasy player may be coming to an end, a new force has emerged in the form of Payne Haas. In fact, Haas's rise from cheapie to the game's most valuable player has happened so quickly that it's fair to overlook the fact he's only played a single season and throw him straight into this side. The likes of Ryan James, Sam Burgess and Trent Merrin may be hard done by but an 80-minute, tackle-breaking workaholic prop is an incredibly rare commodity and the 19-year-old looks certain to inherit Smith's mantle as Fantasy's top dog for the next 10 years.
Corey Parker, Paul Gallen & Jason Taumalolo
In the first half of the decade Corey Parker rivalled Smith as Fantasy's No.1 player. Like Smith, Parker was a goal-kicking forward who got through a lot of defence, with the added bonus of quality run metres and offload numbers. He averaged 57 points per game across his career and regularly scored more than 60 points a game through to 2015, before retiring a season later.
Recently retired Sharks great Gallen was never afraid to take an extra hit-up, and his run metres and offloads numbers ensured he was a perennial 55-point player up until 2017. In that season he ranked second in the league for run metres behind Taumalolo, who has been a huge performer in the past three seasons. He's averaged more than 60 points a game in two of those, standing out in what has been – on paper at least – a star-studded Cowboys pack.
Special mention to unofficial Fantasy hall of famer Nathan Hindmarsh, a tackle machine who would have regularly scored in the high 50s under the current scoring system, who retired at the end of the 2012 season.
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Daly Cherry-Evans & Shaun Johnson
There have been several playmakers who have scored 50 points a game across a Fantasy season, but none have been as consistent as Manly No.7 Cherry-Evans and Warriors-turned-Sharks star Johnson. Both Cherry-Evans and Johnson have been dominant kickers – with kick metres a crucial scoring stat for any Fantasy half – but both also have unusually strong running games, with Cherry-Evans also among the best defensive halves in the game and Johnson possessing arguably the best footwork of any player in the league.
A nod goes to Johnathan Thurston, who despite giving up several missed tackles per game still managed to rack up some massive Fantasy scores by frequently leading the league in try assists – his 60 points per game in 2015 being his best season.
Greg Inglis & Simon Mannering
Without the workrate of forwards, the run metres of wingers or fullbacks or the kick metres of halves, it's no secret that centres can have a hard time consistently scoring well in NRL Fantasy. It stands to reason then that two of the great dual-position players take up the centre spots in this team, with centre-turned-fullback Greg Inglis a dominant force at the Rabbitohs and second-rower/centre Simon Mannering tackling his way to plenty of points at the Warriors.
Inglis scored 55 points a game in 2013 and regularly averaged in the mid-40s, thanks largely to a sensational running game. Mannering meanwhile did almost all his Fantasy scoring through defence, either playing 80 minutes on the edge or getting through 50 tackles in the middle.
James Tedesco, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck & Tom Trbojevic
We live in a golden era for NRL fullbacks, and it shows in the three inclusions in this list. Billy Slater may have revolutionised the position but Tedesco, Tuivasa-Sheck and Trbojevic are the new prototype of the ideal No.1 – players who are safe at the back, are adept as playmakers and consistently beat the first defender whenever they receive a kick.
Tedesco's tackle-breaking ability is unmatched – he has led the league in that stat in four of the past five seasons – and he scored a career-best 59.6 Fantasy points a game this year. Tuivasa-Sheck made a ridiculous 240 run metres per game in his final season as a Roosters in 2015 and led the league in that stat again this year. Trbojevic has gone close to 50 points a game in the past three seasons with a remarkable combination of size (194cm, 102kg), speed, evasiveness, and playmaking (he ranked second in the league for try assists in 2017).
Unlucky to miss out on spots at the back are Josh Dugan, an excellent scorer at fullback despite a chequered injury history, and Jarryd Hayne, who in 2014 scored an amazing 63 points a game and became the first fullback to be the most expensive player in Fantasy.
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NRL Fantasy Team of the Decade
- James Tedesco
- Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
- Greg Inglis
- Simon Mannering
- Tom Trbojevic
- Shaun Johnson
- Daly Cherry-Evans
- Andrew Fifita
- Cameron Smith (c)
- Payne Haas
- Corey Parker
- Paul Gallen
- Jason Taumalolo