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Three quick tips for picking an NRL Fantasy starting squad

NRL Fantasy is open for 2020, so now comes the tricky task of fitting the right 21 players under a $9.8 million salary cap.

To give you a hand, here are three pieces of advice.

Get a good captain

Players in Fantasy score points based on their on-field performances each week of the NRL season (see the end of this article for the complete scoring system) but your captain earns double points, making the skipper selection one of your more important decisions when picking a Fantasy side.

At the start of the year money is tight and you'll find it's hard to fit more than two or three stars into your line-up, but feel free to break the bank for a quality captain.

Last year's top scorer Payne Haas is the safest (but most expensive) option, dominant hookers Damien Cook, Cameron Smith and Cameron McInnes are all worthwhile candidates, while Cowboys wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo and Canberra's English star John Bateman are also elite Fantasy scorers.

You'll notice all those players are forwards, who tend to be more reliable scorers in Fantasy. Superstar Roosters fullback James Tedesco is the best of the backs and can produce a monster score on any given week but even he is a risky option for captain when you want to be guaranteed 50 points at least from your skipper.

Go cheap in your reserves

A Fantasy squad has the same structure as a 21-man squad each NRL club names on Team List Tuesday – that is, 13 starters (a hooker, two front-rowers, three back-rowers, two halves, two centres, and three wingers/fullback), plus four bench players and four reserves.

Your top 17 (starters plus bench players) all have their scores count towards your team's total each week, meaning your reserves are purely back-up options to cover injuries and suspensions.

To get the most bang for your buck, you're better off spending the bulk of your salary cap on your top 17. Ideally, none of your reserves at the start of the year cost more than $250,000.

If you can't spot four good cheapies for your reserves just yet, feel free to select random cheap players in those reserve spots now and update your team later. The trial matches and any pre-season injuries will give us a clear indication of which rookies are set to line up in round one, and you can make unlimited changes to your Fantasy squad before the season starts on March 12.

It's all about the bargains

Player prices may be set for now, but once the games kick off each player's price will move up or down based on their Fantasy scores. Expensive players who start slowly will become cheaper, and cut-price players who start with a bang will quickly rise in value.

So the key to a successful Fantasy team is getting as many good value players into your squad as quickly as possible. Apart from your captain, each player you pick should be capable of improving on their starting price – which is primarily based on how they performed in recent seasons, particularly last season.

So look for players who are set to get a larger role at their club this year – meaning bench players moving into the starting side, players from low-scoring positions (eg. centre, wing) moving to higher-scoring positions (eg. fullback, halves), players coming off injury-hit seasons, or rookies who didn't play many or any games in 2019.

To help identify these bargains, I'll have plenty of articles on in the run up to round one – and there are already Fantasy guide articles for each of the 16 clubs. Keep an eye on (and subscribe to the NRL Fantasy Podcast wherever you get your podcasts) for the latest advice on the best players to buy in 2020.

NRL Fantasy scoring system

Try: 8 points
Try assist: 5 points
Line break: 4 points
Line-break assist: 2 points
Tackle break: 3 points
Forced drop-out: 2 points
Goal: 2 points
Offload: 2 points
Tackle: 1 point
Kick defused: 1 point
Run metres: 1 point for every 10 metres
Kick metres: 1 point for every 20 metres
Field goal: 5 points
Try save: 5 points
40/20 kick (or 20/40 kick): 4 points
Missed tackle: -2 points
Error: -2 points
Penalty conceded: -2 points
Sin bin: -5 points
Send-off: -10 points

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.