Strength in the Spine – the Gun Halves and Hookers
MUCH like an NRL team, a strong spine is crucial to SuperCoach success. Last time we covered the first part of the spine in Fullbacks along with the volatile Centre / Wing position. This week's article focuses on the rest of the spine, being the hookers and the halves (halfback and 5/8 position).
When looking at gun hookers, an 80-minute player is a near must due to their reliance on tackles to give them a steady score, with the premium options also presenting a significant attacking threat.
Halves are more prone to poor scores when their team struggles but can go massive if the team fires; there is often one or two halves that explode at the start of the season, such as Cody Walker in 2019. If you can pick who does, it will go a long way to a strong ranking early.
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HALVES (5/8 / HFB)
NATHAN CLEARY | PENRITH PANTHERS | HFB | $631,500 | 68.0 avg.
The Panthers halfback ended the 2019 season with a bang, scoring a hat-trick on his way to 186 SuperCoach points. Unfortunately, this increased his 2019 average from 62.1 points per to 68.0 ppg, equating to a price increase of his starting price for 2020 by a touch over $50,000. This sets Cleary as the most expensive halfback in the 2020 season, but he could prove to be well worth the money. With the departure of James Maloney, the NSW State of Origin halfback goes from the young half to the experienced half, expected to shoulder more of the load which could up his numbers across the board.
MITCHELL MOSES | PARRAMATTA EELS | $579,300 | 62.3 avg.
After showing glimpses of SuperCoach stardom in previous seasons, Mitchell Moses put together a very strong SuperCoach season in 2019 averaging a strong 62.3 ppg. Lifting the Eels from wooden spooners to the semi-finals Moses managed an incredible 29 try assists. With a right-side attack of Matterson, Blake and Ferguson, Moses has plenty of attacking threats outside of him to maintain his amazing try assist rate. With the addition of Matterson and Reagan Campbell-Gillard many expect the Eels to be even better in 2020, and with a friendly opening draw Moses could fly out of the blocks…or will the Eels and Moses slip back to 2018 form?
CAMERON MUNSTER | MELBOURNE STORM | $644,400 | 69.3 avg.
With many thinking he needed to play fullback to be a SuperCoach gun, Cameron Munster proved the doubters wrong in 2019 averaging 69.3 ppg as the highest averaging 5/8 in the game. With a mix of deceptive strength, quick stepping and strong combinations with his outside men, Munster cracked the ton three times including a monster 159 in the thrashing of the Eels. But the strength of Munster isn't necessarily his high scores, but his low scores, never scoring below 40 SuperCoach points in 21 NRL games in 2019. For those that despise seeing a sub-30 score on their SuperCoach game day, particularly from one of your expensive guys, then Munster could be your man.
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DAMIEN COOK | SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS | $705,000 | 75.9 avg.
In 2018, Damien Cook established himself as a representative star and a SuperCoach gun, and 2019 was just a continuation of that success. Over the past two seasons Cook has been the number one Hooker, averaging 78 points per game and 76 ppg respectively. The durable Rabbitoh has played a slightly different role under Bennett, taking on the line less, resulting in less hit ups (13.6 ppg in 2018, 7.6 ppg in 2019) and tackle bust points (6.4 ppg in 2018, 2.9 ppg). His preference to engage the line and then pass to a teammate saw an increase in try assists from 10 in 2018 to 19 in 2019. If he can continue to provide the assists and return to running a little bit more we could be about to witness Cook go to another level in SuperCoach.
CAMERON SMITH | MELBOURNE STORM | $684,600 | 73.7 avg.
The man constantly defying father time returned to his SuperCoach best in 2019 averaging 73.7 ppg after a disappointing 63.5 ppg in 2018. While he started slow, he stormed home in the back half of the season averaging 85.9 ppg over his last nine games including five tons, with the highlight being a round 24 masterclass against Manly including two try assists and four forced drop outs on his way to 111 SuperCoach points. Taking on a bigger attacking role in 2019 Smith increased his tries, try assists, line breaks and line break assists from 2018 to 2019. With the Melbourne Storm staring down another year of uncertainly in the halfback position Smith will be forced to shoulder a large attacking load once again along with Cameron Munster. Will the future immortal go out with a bang or will Smith drop out of SuperCoach relevance in his final year?
CAMERON McINNES | ST. GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS | $633,200 | 68.1 avg.
The quiet achiever of 2019, McInnes went about his work tirelessly, having his best SuperCoach season, averaging an outstanding 68.1 ppg. An alternative to the popular Cook / Smith combo, the Dragons player of the year was very strong to finish the season before injury cruelly ended his run in the second last game of the season. With the signing of Isaac Luke, McInnes' role is set to change in 2020, with suggestions he will move to Lock when Luke comes off the bench, reflected by acquiring 2RF dual in 2020. If he continues to play 80 minutes then he could improve on his hit-up numbers and challenge Cook and Smith for the number one Hooker in SuperCoach, but coming off a big injury I'm worried he starts the season a little underdone.