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NRL Fantasy Tips 2023 Semi-Final: Warriors vs Knights
The second NRL Semi-Final takes place on Saturday night, with the Warriors hosting the Knights in Auckland. With the winner of this clash heading to Suncorp Stadium next Saturday night to take on the Broncos in the Preliminary Final, the loser will bow out, so the stakes are high!
Draftstars has a $10,000 guaranteed contest for the Warriors and Knights, with several other contests available, there’s something for everyone, so get involved and make this game even more exciting!
The Warriors welcome back Shaun Johnson at halfback, with Dylan Walker reverting to the bench, pushing Freddy Lussick out of the 17. No further changes expected, as it sounds increasingly likely that Johnson will play in this sudden death clash.
As for the Knights, they will lose their halfback, with Jackson Hastings confirmed out, replaced by Adam Clune. Lachlan Fitzgibbon (shoulder) misses out, replaced in the starting edge role by Dylan Lucas. No other changes expected for the Knights, as they chase their 11th straight win.
New Zealand Warriors ($1.55) vs Newcastle Knights ($2.47)
Total O/U - 41.5
This should be a cracking game, with the Knights having won 10-straight heading into this clash, and the Warriors looking to get back on track with their halfback Shaun Johnson back into the mix. These teams are evenly matched for mine, with the Warriors having the better forward pack, and the Knights having the better outside backs, in my opinion. So, the real battle could be who stands up out of Shaun Johnson and Kalyn Ponga? If we can answer that question, then we will have a great idea who will win this game.
These teams met twice during the season, with the Warriors getting the win in round 1 in New Zealand, 20-12. The Knights got their revenge at home in round 6, running out 34-24 winners. It’s been a long time and a lot of water has run under the bridge since these matchups, so I wouldn’t take any stock from either game. This should be a cracker.
Love It - Kalyn Ponga - $22,470
Ponga has been the catalyst for the Knights to go on their 10-game unbeaten run, with the Knights’ fullback being in the form of his career. Over that 10-game span, for which Ponga has played in 9 of those games, he has averaged a whopping 73.3 points per game, with a high score of 97.9, and a low of 56.9. Whilst the Warriors defence is solid, you’ve got to believe that Ponga will cut this game open at some point, and I’m essentially taking him over Shaun Johnson in a 50/50 decision.
Love It - Tyson Gamble - $12,330
Now, obviously SJ is the selection here, however at his price there’s no way you can select both him and Ponga. As we’ve gone with Ponga, I’ve gone to a more economical selection here in the halves/hooker slot. Gamble will have to take more responsibility in attack with Hastings out, which should help his kicking statistics. Gamble has averaged 380 kick metres over the past 3 games (2 without Hastings, 1 with Hastings going off early), compared to him averaging 138m per game in all other games this season. I like him at the price, with a 3-round average of 52.4.
Love It - Dylan Lucas - $14,110
Lucas once again gets the callup with Lachlan Fitzgibbon missing out, and in the games, he’s played the full 80 minutes, he’s been a Draftstars beast. Lucas has averaged 57.7 points per game when playing 80 minutes on an edge, and that’s with just one try. His floor appears to be high for this mid-price range, with a low score of 46 when playing 80 minutes. Will play on the left, which means he’s running off Ponga, giving him a great chance at falling over the line for a meat pie.
Hate It - Shaun Johnson - $23,320
SJ has been an absolute beast this season, turning back the clock the best part of a decade to be once again one of the best players in the competition. However, he’s clearly been playing at less than 100%, and he’s coming into this match after having missed last weekend’s Qualifying Final against the Panthers with a calf injury. Whilst I believe both SJ and Ponga can take over this game and both score well, I’m running with Ponga here, and simply can’t fit Johnson in. With the chance Johnson’s running game and goal kicking will be non-existent, he’s a steer clear for me.
Hate It - Jackson Ford - $16,470
While Ford has had a breakout season in 2023, and he is a very solid Draftstars player with his high work rate, I believe there’s far better options at the price point, and his matchup with Tyson Frizell isn’t going to be easy. For less than Ford, you can get the likes of Elliott, Lucas, and Thompson, whilst for around the same price or a little more, you can scoop up Frizell, AFB, or Tohu Harris. Showed last week he’s capable of a silly error in a big spot, and with this game likely to garner even more nerves, don’t be surprised to see another brain snap by the young forward.
Who Knows - Greg Marzhew - $18,740
Marzhew has been a beast this season, scoring 22 tries in 22 games, including scoring 1 last week. However, he is very inconsistent when it comes to Draftstars scores, with four scores under 50 in his past 8 matches, three scores between 50 and 60, and one mammoth score of 93.1. Could be a game-breaker for anyone that picks him up but is also a 50/50 chance at a below average score.