The NRL's benchmark team begins a new era without superstar halfback Cooper Cronk, but they're still packed with talent and led by the best NRL Fantasy player in the business: Cameron Smith. Billy Slater is also playing on after exceeding expectations in his comeback season after practically two years on the sidelines, while a new-look forward pack will be looking to lift after a couple of big exits.
Fantasy gun: Cameron Smith
The Melbourne, Queensland and Australia captain had a near perfect season in 2017 and is the best NRL Fantasy scorer in history. He makes 40+ tackles a game, is a strong kicker, lays on tries, hits 40/20s and kicks goals to boot. He doesn't come cheap but the simplest way to start picking your squad is to bring in Smith, make him your captain, and leave him there.
Value buy: Nelson Asofa-Solomona
The exit of Cooper Cronk from Melbourne has consumed the headlines but Jordan McLean and Tohu Harris are also big losses, and while Ryan Hoffman and Sam Kasiano have been recruited there's a good chance Asofa-Solomona moves up the pecking order in the front-row rotation. The hulking prop is now a New Zealand international and after scoring a point a minute in limited game time in 2017 could up his impact if he gets 40 minutes a game next year. Tim Glasby played that kind of role last season but is expected to become a starter next year, opening the door for Asofa-Solomona to become a handy mid-range scorer and potential money-maker.
Wildcard: Jesse Bromwich
He's one of the best props in rugby league but Jesse Bromwich had a season to forget despite Melbourne's premiership win, losing his place in the Kiwis' World Cup squad and suffering a real slump in NRL Fantasy terms. In the previous three seasons Bromwich had scored better than 50 points a game – in 2017 he managed just 36. That makes him a risk going into the new campaign, but with Melbourne needing to make up for the departure of Jordan McLean, Browmich could get back to his old self which would make him excellent value at $534,000.