Lone Scout: Analysing the mid-season bargains
Dream Team guru the Lone Scout analyses the bargain buys out there as the NRL season hits the Origin period.
So injuries have massacred your centre/wing line and Origin duty has pillaged your back row? Never fear, there are always options for beefing up an ailing Dream Team and there's nothing quite as stimulating as 'going the think' on who to trade into your team.
So, this week I'm going to do a roll-call of players you may or may not be considering as cavalry for your absent regulars.
Most obvious for Round 11 is the need to make some trades in the CTW division. Michael Gordon was starring, but is now gone for good, Mitch Aubusson has stuck a knife in Dream Team hearts (again) and Timana Tahu, Lewis Brown and a handful of others are crocked for goodness knows how long. Who do we replace these CTW casualties with? I'm glad you asked.
Ben Smith, Joel Thompson, Matt Cooper, Mark Gasnier are obvious answers, but there are other names worth considering.
Nathan Smith (2RF/CTW, Panthers, $207,000, Break-Even score: 58)
Traditionally a handy Dream Team CTW who converts minutes into DT points at a good rate. Smith finally returned from injury (osteitis pubis) in Round 10 and scored a modest 20 off the bench. There are plenty of decent backrowers at Penrith to compete with at the moment and the Panthers are in a state of flux, so avoid for now. Reconsider later in the season once his price has come down (note that high Break-Even). One to reconsider later in the year or if Luke Lewis wins a spot in the Blues team for Origin II or III.
LS View: Not yet. Check back later in season.
Danny Galea (2RF/CTW, Raiders, $135,700, BE: 8)
Another of the very handy dual-position players, Galea had his first price rise of the season last week, when he played the full 80. Looks a great short-term pick-up as a CTW, especially as a cheap replacement for the likes of Aubusson or Gordon, but be warned he has injury issues and the tip is he is out of this week's match with the Dogs.
LS View - Considered and dismissed (especially after news he's out for R11).
Ryan Morgan (CTW, Eels, $92,200, BE: 13)
One of the apparent bargain rookies at the start of the year, Morgan hasn't seen any action since a Round 4 injury felled him. Morgan is back in the starting side now as replacement for Joel Reddy (season) and that's a good sign as coach Kearney had a number of other options. There's every chance Morgan could be a long-term starter from here on in (he was first choice when the season began). Morgan is $17K cheaper than fellow bargain Parra centre Jacob Loko and represents a good 5th or 6th option CTW for use during the Origin period, when scores in the 10 to 20 range are acceptable for your third or fourth centre.
LS View: In my team already. Too much upside to trade out now.
Jacob Loko (CTW, Eels, $109,500, BE: 4)
Now more secure in his starting spot and a much better DT scorer than new partner Morgan (note last week's 33), Loko's stocks (and value) are rising. If you're thinking of bringing in a cheap CTW, Loko is the value for money in that range. For mine, grab Jacob over Morgan.
LS View: Good option, but I have enough low-level CTWs.
Stewart Mills (FLB/CTW, Sharks, $73,600, BE: -23)
Played a blinder of a game on debut last week, posting a solid 29, and is a handy dual-position option. This kid has talent to burn and will be a star sometime. The issue is, when? If Nathan Gardner returns next week, as planned, Mills may go back a grade as Issac Gordon bumps him out (leaving Dreamers suffering another two-game tempter that will remain unfulfilled). First-choice kicker John Williams is due back in round 15, so should Mills stay in the top grade he will have to keep the form coming. If you believe he can, he is a rock-bottom bargain as your back-up fullback.
LS View: Tempted, but not enough.
Taulima Tautai (CTW/2RF, Sharks, $150,500, BE: 46 )
Tautai, the former Eels centre, has played two games off the bench so far this year, but comes into consideration as he is named in the starting side (lock) this week as Paul Gallen's replacement. Is capable of posting 30+ scores and may well do against his former club, but his price is on the way down and he is currently too expensive to consider for a place. At present there are cheaper and better CTW options out there.
LS View: Wait until later in the year and reconsider if price is right and hold a permanent bench spot.
Con Mika (CTW/2RF, Knights, $115,900, BE: -6)
Mika looks tempting. A dual-position player who scores well and is due a decent price bump whenever he can get back on the paddock. And that is the problem: his third game might not come this year. With Cory Paterson and Zeb Taia out, Mika still hasn't made a five-man bench this week and he hasn't gotten close to the 17 since the Knights overcame their early-season injury troubles.
LS View: Only grab if the Gods are kind and Mika makes the Knights team for R22 or later.
Tony Williams (CTW/2RF, Sea Eagles, $78,100, BE: 11)
His scores have been nothing to write home about (he's only hit 20 once this season) but it means his price has bottomed out. Williams is getting time off the bench in the forwards and is capable of mid-20s, so he may be a handy cheap CTW (dual position) option, especially as your back-up/emergency centre. Only grab him after checking the team sheets next week.
LS View: Had him once and got burned. Not the big fella's fault as he was injured, so may go there if require a real bargain.
Maurice Blair (Storm, $84,100, CTW/HLF, BE: -6)
A proven first-grader, Blair comes into the Melbourne side in place of the injured Beau Champion, who is expected to be out of action for another four to six weeks. Doesn't play this round, but (apparently) will get you a solid 23 next up, along with an approximate $15K price rise and the promise of another one or two after that. Could be the perfect, cheap-as-chips, short-term option in the backline (preferably) or halves (especially if you should be moving Elijah Taylor to the CTW line).
LS View: Would grab him if I didn't have other issues to deal with.
Bargains under $100K
Mentioning the T-Rex should get you wondering about options from the bargain bin. Here's my take from sifting through the available options.
Jayson Bukuya (2RF, Sharks, $84,100, BE -33)
Has all the attributes of being an excellent buy right now. Scored 29 playing mostly in the centres in round 8, scored 44 last week and is now in the starting side in the absence of Jeremy Smith. Should get good minutes during the Origin period while Gallen is out and up until Smith returns in Round 13, and is a likely bench player for the rest of the year. Will get a big price rise this week. Only downside is a long history of injury.
LS View: Grab him now. You're mad if you don't.
Jake Foster (HLF/2RF, Bulldogs, $99,700, BE: 14)
Returned to the Bulldogs bench last weekend, but has taken a slight dip in price after a string of low scores. Looks like he's set to become a regular at the Dogs in years to come, so may be value as the last 2RF or HLF in your team, especially if you have someone like Ashley Harrison in the opposite position (flexibility is a nice luxury at this time). His value will climb if he can find a regular bench spot, but will need to get scoring up to the 20 range.
LS View: Too iffy. Avoided him at start of year and see no reason to change my mind now.
David Hala (FRF, Broncos, $84,100, BE: -19)
One of the rookies to buy (next week) if you're in the market for a cheap prop. Is coming off two strong scores of 26 and 33, will definitely get a juicy price bump after his third game and should expect more minutes over the Origin period in the absence of Hannant, Thaiday and a couple of his direct competitors for spots. A future star getting an early run.
LS View: The perfect trade for someone like Tariq Sims or Adam Woolnough as your fourth FRF.
Lama Tasi (FRF, Roosters, $84,100, BE: -15)
Is the first man on the Roosters bench this week and will get a healthy price boost after last week's 38, but may be the man to go when Martin Kennedy returns in Round 14. Jason Ryles's return this week could also reduce Tasi's minutes. A handy short-term option. Tasi is a goer and looks like a decent minutes-to-points converter, but beware the 38 as it was scored as part of an injury-riddled side in a defensive slugfest.
LS View: No real knowledge makes me wary and gut says avoid as he appears to be behind Arona in the pecking order, even if last week he got more game time.
Ben Murdoch-Masila (FRF/2RF, Tigers, $73,600, BE: 21)
Has had two half-hour stints for the Tigers this year, with scores so low his rookie price may even go down after this week. Still, this guy will get going and has the potential to force a regular spot when his match-fitness returns, especially as a replacement for injuries. The Tigers' pack has been snubbed by the NSW selectors, which doesn't help, but Murdoch-Masila still looms as a very, very cheap option on the bench. And being a dual-position player may be handy.
LS View: Not now, but keep a close eye for later in the season as may be the perfect cheap inclusion as a dual-trade makeweight.
Steve Naughton (CTW/FLB, Roosters, $84,100, BE: 2)
Another dual position cheapie who played his first game of the year in Round 10. Naughton looked a solid performer in that game and will benefit from the Roosters' injury woes for the next couple of weeks. But he could be gone when Sam Perritt returns – as early as next week. Another wait-and-see option, especially as he is playing as a winger (behind this week's centre replacement Justin Carney) and may not get to three matches.
LS View: Like I said. Wait and see, but highly unlikely.
Isaac Gordon (CTW/FLB, Sharks, $92,500, BE: 18)
His score (13) didn't blow anyone away last week, but his performance was impressive, meaning he could hold onto a spot in the back three when regular Sharks fullback Nathan Gardner returns from injury. That could make him a handy back-up at the back, but his likely position is winger and, although Gordon is a solid player, he will not score like his injured namesake. The extra cost, despite being small, is off-putting also.
LS View: Only gets a second thought if he gets the fullback slot regularly, but even that means Mills is probably in the team and I know who I'd grab out of those two.
Alehana Mara (HOK, Warriors, $93,600, BE: -11)
Has now played five matches on the trot and has been named on the bench again. Hit the high 20s in his last couple of games and should keep it going as the Warriors try not to change a winning combination and Mara's confidence grows. Plenty of upside and I suspect he will play against the Rabbitohs as Berrigan starts for Brown. The downside is Heremaia is back now and Mara's two 20+ scores coincided with the first-choice rake's absence. The Warriors have the bye next week also.
LS View: Too many questions to confidently bring in as back-up hooker. Price is still very low, so let's wait and see.
Kayne Lawton (HLF/HOK, Titans, $84,100, BE: 2)
Made his first-and-only appearance in Round 9, but didn't get onto the field last week. Could play some minutes off the bench in the back half of the season with regular No.9 Nathan Friend out for the year.
LS View: Not this year.
Jason Clark (2RF/HOK, Rabbitohs, $92,500, BE: 6)
Should get a price bump this week after playing off the bench in another Warriors-Rabbitohs classic. Scores of 24 and 14 are indicative, so best a hooking cover only. Only got 28 minutes on the park at last start, which is a worry, but he should get regular game time all year for the Bunnies, considering the injuries they have in the forwards and Clark has big wraps and more versatility than some of his other backup forwards.
LS View: Time to cash-in on Jamie Buhrer in that back-up hooking spot. I did.
Shaune Corrigan (CTW, Rabbitohs, $92,500, BE: -10)
Came into the Rabbitohs side last weekend in place of Greg Inglis, who is apparently in a worse state than first advertised. Corrigan should get plenty of game time in Inglis's absence (GI will go straight into the Maroon squad if he does come back early) and should make a quick cash boost once he gets his third game out of the way. Likely to score close to his opening 27 as teams target the inexperienced Souths centre pairing. Concern is the possibility of Lang starting Chris McQueen instead.
LS View: Wasn't on the radar, but is now. Watch closely.
Tinirau Arona (FRF, Roosters, $81,100, BE: 15)
Entered 2011 with plenty of people expecting his to be one of the next big things, but up to now has been a bit-part player off the bench. Origin and injury sees him into the Round 11 starting side as lock, making Arona an interesting conundrum. A good game will see his scores rise significantly (he's averaging just 16.25 so far) and at his price he could make some decent cash over the Origin period. Martin Kennedy's eventual return will put paid to his game time and his opportunities will also be limited as Pearce, Myles, Symonds and then Aubusson return.
LS View: Likely a better option than Tasi, but still not doing it for me. Next year?
Ben Ridge (2RF, Titans, $95,900, BE: 11)
Appears to be a regular choice for Carty now (although missed last week due to a shoulder), but is in no way a regular scorer with his return drifting between single figures and a handy 35 (as starting lock in Round 5). This week's bye means he should be back come Round 12 and he may well get more game time with Harrison and Bird on Origin duty, although Laffranchi's imminent return will likely nullify any points bonus.
LS View: Wasn't swayed by the early 35 and haven't seen anything to change my mind. Look again if Titans suffer Rabbit-style injury disaster.
Value bench options
There are other names that should be mentioned when talking value options. Here are a couple for consideration on your bench. It's not an exhaustive list, but does cover most of the obvious omissions from the sections above.
Kevin Locke (FLB/CTW, Warriors, $133,000, BE: 3)
The winger/sometime fullback is in form and a solid option at the back, having already climbed $24K in value this season. Vatuvei and Fishiiai returns are a big worry. Price is too high.
Yileen Gordon (2RF/CTW, Panthers, $168,000, BE: 46)
Only played 16 minutes off the bench last week but will play his third game this week. Scored a handy 27 in Round 8 and should get more game time in future weeks, although he'll be competing with the likes of Waterhouse, Plum, Lewis and Nathan Smith. Not at this price.
Tim Lafai (CTW, Bulldogs, $121,600, BE: 6)
Has risen in value by $37.5K after steady scores in the mid-20s. Could get more game time if Idris becomes more involved in Origin. Decent choice, but will pass.
Greg Eastwood (2RF, Bulldogs, $130,600, BE: 28)
Injury has meant the Kiwis star has had a quiet return to the Dogs, with his value dropping $14K after last weekend. Looks unlikely to unseat Pritchard, Ryan or Stagg in the starting lineup for the Dogs but his minutes should increase in the back half of the year. Will get cheaper in the coming weeks, making him a handy late-season pickup.
Dayne Weston (FRF/2RF, Panthers, $138,600, BE: 8)
Finally getting a chance to resurrect his NRL career (he's a former Cowboy), Weston looks undervalued after hitting 29 in his first game of the year in the blitz of the Broncos. Named on the bench again this week. Watch how he performs and consider snapping him up as a value buy up front before the following week's price rise. Dual-position is a bonus.
Rory Kostjasyn (HLF/HOK, Storm, $112,000, BE: 13)
Converts minutes to DT points when plays (he made 20 tackles in 22 minutes in Round 9), but appearances will be limited without injury striking the Storm stars. As with 2010, Rory is a real chance of getting game time over the Origin period with Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk out of action, but I'll pass due to a lack of long-term benefit.
Sam Mataora (2RF, Raiders, $109,700, BE: 10)
Is due his first price bump this week after playing the last couple of games off the bench and scoring okay. Surely he will make way when David Shillington and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs return next month. Will make a bit of cash in the short term, but unlikely to be a regular feature after the Origin series. 2012 I think.
Shannan McPherson (2RF/FRF, Rabbitohs, $131,500, BE: 10)
Into the starting lineup at Souths thanks to a season-ending injury to Roy Asotasi. McPherson should start pushing his scores into the 30s. Is a little cheaper than he was at the start of the year so if you're planning on getting him, now is the time.
Luke O'Dwyer (2RF, Titans, $112,100, BE: 19)
Another Titan backrower expected to benefit over the Origin period in the absence of Harrison and Bird. Has been a regular on the bench since Round 5, although is coming off a couple of scores in the teens. Will probably drop in price after his next game. Reckon there are better options out there.
While you're digesting all that, I thought I'd answer an interesting question that was posted on my Facebook wall.
Q: Why has Ben Smith only gone up $600 when he got 10 points over his break even, but a week ago he came down $6,000 for getting 4 points below. What's going on? And Parker scored above his break even and came down a grand?
A: Break Even is a very close estimate (about 99% accurate), but is dependent on the entire playing list and can only be 100% accurate once everyone has played and all scores are in.
So, it's very close, but it's not reflective of the actual price change amount from one week to the next (i.e. if scoring 2 points above the BE was worth +$4K last week, doesn't mean it's +$4k again this week).
And finally, for those that haven't cottoned on (and there are a surprising number), the Eliminator competition starts this round.
The draw for the first round of the Eliminator competition was completed on Wednesday (the same day weekly updates will be made) and you can check out your first opponent (and live scores) for this straight knock-out competition by clicking on the Eliminator tab.
Unfortunately, you won't be playing my very average 10 men this week as the draw will NOT feature my team or the other 'celebrity' teams, so that the majority of Dreamers get a crack at the mullah on offer.
Lone Scout: Milking the mid-season cows
Lone Scout Q&A: Round 12