Your Edge: 2021 NRL Buy Of The Year, Replacing CNK & The Best Fullback In The Game

Your Edge: 2021 NRL Buy Of The Year, Replacing CNK & The Best Fullback In The Game

This week for ‘Your Edge’ we highlight a big factor in the Storm v Roosters clash, consider how the Raiders will replace Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, hand out the Buy of the Year award, and find the best value plays of the weekend.

Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters

Boy, does this game have some mouthwatering head-to-head battles?

Ryan Papenhuyzen v James Tedesco is the obvious headliner. Nobody has been alongside Tedesco in the “who is the best fullback in the game?” conversation like Papenhuyzen is now for quite some time.

TriesTry AssistsLine BreaksTackle BreaksAve. Running Metres
Ryan Papenhuyzen (4 games)74621230m (1st in NRL)
James Tedesco (5 games)71530199m (4th in NRL)
2021 Data

Cameron Munster v Sam Walker is an interesting battle. Munster is an established first-grader and arguably the best half in rugby league right now. Meanwhile, Walker has made a hot start to his career and it’s not difficult to imagine the pair linking up in State of Origin one day down the track. A 200cm and 115kg Nelson Asofa-Solomona matching up against 182cm and 92kg Victor Radley in their #13 jersey’s is another.

But it’s the overall performance of the back-three’s that will go a long way to determining this one. Both have impressive packs capable of getting up the field. However, at 1st and 3rd in the NRL in average running metres by wingers and fullbacks, both sides receive a lot of help to start exit sets.

While Papenhuyzen and Tedesco are the highlights, George Jennings (174m), Josh Addo-Carr (137m), Daniel Tupou (187m) and Brett Morris (169m) lay a platform for them, and the rest of the side, early into their sets with the ball.

It’s set to be a big factor of this blockbuster clash on Friday night.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad Out & Caleb Aekins In

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has become one of the best fullbacks in the NRL since signing with the Canberra Raiders back in 2019. His 204.25 running metres per game (excluding Round 5) puts him at fourth in the competition in yardage this season, his skills as a ball-playing threat are improving, and few fullbacks work harder behind the defensive line than the Cook Islands and Kiwi international. But a bulging disc is set to keep him out of the Raiders side for up to two months with fellow Kiwi Caleb Aekins named to take his spot this week.

Aekins looks to be an excellent replacement. In fact, he’s taking a similar path to first-grade as the man he’s replacing. After doing the hard yards in reserve grade and switching clubs at 23-years-old, Aekins has been presented with an opportunity to skate a claim on a regular first-grade spot whether it be at the Raiders or elsewhere.

His style fits well with kick returns and the yardage game a significant feature of Aekins’ skill set. He ran for an outrageous 303 running metres on debut back in 2018 but didn’t see the field again that season. While he hasn’t reached quite the heights of his debut in the following 11 games, his potential as a yardage man is clear. He’s exceeded 180 metres four times and averages 175 running metres per game in those he plays the full 80 minutes.

Career Running Metres: Caleb Aekins

Aekins has his work cut out for him matching Nicoll-Klokstad defensively, but the new Raiders #1 may add a different element to the Raiders attack. He’s recognized as more of a ball-player than Nicoll-Klokstad. His 13 passes per game for the Panthers in 2020 highlights the faith Ivan Cleary had in him out the back of shape. Meanwhile, Nicoll-Klokstad has only thrown more than 13 passes five times in his 59-game career while averaging just 5.75 per game throughout the first four rounds of this season.

It will be interesting to see how Ricky Stuart uses his new fullback and whether or not he pops up alongside Jack Wighton on what is already one of the best ball-playing edges in the NRL.

Isaiah Papali’i: Buy of the Year

Look away, Warriors fans.

After telling Isaiah Papali’i to pack his bags and look elsewhere, the 22-year-old landed with the Parramatta Eels and can already be appointed as the best buy of the 2021 NRL season. He has been outstanding off the bench and as a starter for Brad Arthur. Whether he’s tasked with bending the line through the middle of the field or filling in at his more natural position on the edge, Papali’i is doing the job and putting up impressive numbers.

Papali’i’s has added 64 running metres per game to set a new career-high in 2021 at 144 running metres per game. He finished up with 521 post-contact metres and 21 tackle breaks in 15 games last season but has already piled up 300 post-contact metres and 18 tackle breaks through five games in 2021. He’s doing it on both sides of the ball to average 35.8 tackles per game too.

Just look at some of the names around him on this list which highlights some of the best metre-eating and tackle-making forwards in the competition.

Tohu Harris, Payne Haas, Angus Crichton, Jake Trbojevic and David Klemmer are all considered top tier players in their position. Here’s Papali’i matching them for numbers to start 2021 and he can still get better the more comfortable he gets at his new club.

The Buy of the Year conversation is over.

Papali’i is it.

Net Running Metres Update

The net running metres ladder is continuing to look more and more like the NRL ladder every week.

Net Running Metres after Round 5, 2021

The Newcastle Knights dropped below 0 in net running metres after allowing the Gold Coast Titans to run for an extra 516 metres on Saturday afternoon. As a result, all six of the positive teams now have a spot inside the Top 8 of the NRL ladder.

A hot start to the season for the St. George-Illawarra Dragons has them at fourth on the ladder but their -434 net running metres adds to the argument that they’re overachieving. Meanwhile, what seems like a weekly spate of injuries have the 8th-placed Canberra Raiders hanging onto a finals spot despite a whopping -1,058 net running metres to their name.

Try Scorers

He didn’t get the job done last week, but Brett Morris added another two tries to his 2021 tally to have 11 for the season. With his Roosters side rare $3.25 underdogs this week, the right-side winger presents as an excellent option in this one. Elsewhere, Matt Burton against an awful Broncos right edge defence appeals.

Top 10 First Try Scorer Value Plays for Round 6

Youngsters Nathan Cleary and Sam Walker top the value list of anytime try scorers this week. Cleary, in particular, should be considered. He loves to take on the line late in a big win to bag a try of his own. Nobody expects anything other than a big win for the Panthers this week. Check out all our data on Edge.

Top 10 Anytime Try Scorer Value Plays for Round 6

DFS Value Plays

Top 10 DFS Value Plays for Round 6

Limited to just 49 minutes last week, expect Ben Condon to play closer to the 80 minutes he played in Round 5. With how the Cowboys are lining up – Coen Hess at prop, especially – Condon should see more time on the field this week. Our predictive model has pegged him as the value play of the round with a projected score of 42 points at $8,200.

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