Need to find a few mid-season recruits for your NRL Dream Team? NRL.com's Lone Scout ie here to help with a rundown on the likely candidates.
Well, here we are already. It seems only yesterday that I selected my (rather average) initial squad and now we are hitting the bye rounds and State of Origin is on the immediate horizon. It's non-stop in our house, with the Dream Teamers firing off so many questions, my head is spinning and my fingers have keyboard rash.
As ever, most of the queries are directed at player trading options, to bring quick cash and added points, but now there are many more possibilities to milk the cash cows as regular stars disappear for representative duties or succumb to injury.
So, without further fanfare, here are some names that have been lighting up the switchboard, plus some thoughts for you to digest, over the next eight weeks.
1) The mid-season cash cow raid
These guys are worth a look due as they will get extra game time during the rep. period, especially at those clubs that will lose players to Origin on top of their current injury concerns.
Jason Clark (Rabbitohs, $92,500, HOK/2RF)
Will be playing second fiddle to Issac Luke as hooker, but also fills a role in the backrow (and is available at both spots in Dream Team). First game back from injury was a 24. This versatile player has been selected on the bench for round nine and should stay there as the Rabbitohs suffer with a nasty injury crisis.
Jayson Bukuya (Sharks, $84,100, 2RF)
Another decent option if you want to save some cash in the second row, Bukuya scored 29 in Cronulla's last start in round eight and has been named on the bench again this week, but may well start for the injured Jeremy Smith. Should get plenty of game-time when Gallen &Snowden nick off to the Blues.
Tim Robinson (Sea Eagles, $104,400, 2RF/FRF)
Robinson has already caused headaches for DT coaches who snapped him up weeks ago, with the young prop constantly being named but left out of the squad on game day (Des doesn't mind a bit of that – think Jamie Buhrer in 2010). He finally played that vital third game last weekend and jumped $30,800 in value, and should have a similarly big rise next time he plays. Be very wary though – Robinson came in for the injured Jason King last week, but King is back in Manly colours in round 10 and the Sea Eagles are not likely to lose a forward to Origin.
Mitch Rein (Dragons, $88,800, HOK)
Another of the back-up Dragons who could benefit from the Origin period, with Dean Young a big chance to play for the Blues and Nathan Fien struggling with a hamstring complaint. If Fien is available, he may get moved to the halves to cover for Jamie Soward, if Soward gets a Blue call-up. It adds up to Rein being a decent DT back-up hooker option for the next two months.
Jack Bosden (Dragons, $73,600, 2RF)
Remember him? Was all the rage amongst Dream Team fanatics before the season began after a starring role in the Charity Shield, only to be left out of St George Illawarra's side until last week. The round nine cameo was nothing to write home about, but Bosden could be good value during the rep season with a host of Dragons forwards expected to be called up to NSW Origin duty.
Maurice Blair (Storm, $84,100, CTW/HLF)
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 approximately six weeks. Scored a very solid 23 in his only outing so far, so will be due for a price rise in a couple of weeks. Could be a decent short-term option in the backline (preferably) or halves.
Beau Henry (Knights, $92,000, HLF)
Henry has already had one price rise after three solid performances from the opening rounds of 2011, but what he has over the rest of these bargain buys is his status as a first-choice starter for his club. Henry impressed at five-eighth in the opening three games of the season before being hit by injury, and he should get plenty of game time to boost his value when he returns to the field in the next few weeks.
Riley Brown (Titans, $150,000, HOK)
A more-expensive option, but Brown is getting increased game time at the moment in the absence of the injured Nathan Friend, and may get a lot more of it after it was revealed this week Friend could be months away from returning from shoulder surgery. Has jumped $65,000 in value already, but has more to give. Only consider as a short-term option as his coach has shown no signs of playing him for close to the full 80, and his average score is around the mid-20s.�
For mine, Clark & Bukuya are the best choices from this bunch.
A word of warning here. At the risk of repeating myself, don't buy someone until they are named to play their third match, unless it is part of your long-term strategy.
2) Cashing in on a gun
Whilst the bargain basement players are of most interest there is also plenty of talk about grabbing DT guns who are well-priced and off the Origin radar.
Here's a quick wrap of my thoughts on the most attractive options at Round 10, remembering that you're buying quality for the long haul.
Michael Luck (Warriors, $271,800, 2RF)
Usually among the big scorers in Dream Team, Luck has been a little down on his past-season glories. Accordingly, his price tag has dropped steadily as well to the point where he is available at well under the $300K mark. Add a break-even of 43 to this low price (ie. he's hitting rock bottom) and the fact that he is a mainstay of the Warriors and you have a mid-season bargain for coaches on the hunt for another regular score in the early 40s – and the occasional 50+.
Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels, $308,900, 2RF)
The DT legend sits besides Cameron Smith, Corey Parker and Robbie Farah in the DT Hall of Fame. Hindmarsh is an absolute steal at the moment thanks to a couple of scores in the mid-30s in recent weeks. He's had an erratic year by his usual standards, but still has three 50s and two 60s to his name, and – as he's unlikely to get an Origin call-up in 2011 – is the perfect go-to guy to score valuable points during the rep season. Hindy is also a stayer and will come home like a train in the later rounds of the regular season. If you want him, you could even gamble on waiting another week as his R10 break even is 56.
Liam Fulton (Tigers, $287,200, 2RF)
One of 2010's must-have players, a shoulder injury has limited Fulton to just three matches so far this season. It's good news for Dreamers, as an injury is often a chance to capitalise on a price drop from the resultant low score(s). Fulton's 14-point aberration in round seven means his price has slipped $22K. His other two scores – 49 and 47 – are more indicative of Fulton's regular scoring, suggesting he is value at his current price tag. He will be even better value next week as the 14 means his BE for Round 10 is 75. Fulton has some competition for minutes among the Tigers backrow, but is also apparently playing for a contract (at Wests or elsewhere) so will be eager to impress in the back half of the season, and he converts his precious minutes into points at a rate equal to the best of the DT guns.
Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles, $269,800, 2RF)
A former international who has nevertheless flown under the radar in Dream Team, Watmough has gone up in value by $65,300 this year – and it won't stop there, with his BE for Round 10 a meagre 12. He's coming off scores of 59 and 56 in the past fortnight, and will take a massive price leap this week if he hits the mid-50s again. One possible hitch is he could play Origin football at some time during the series, although he does look like missing the cut for game one, if for no other reason than he's a disruptive influence. Fingers crossed he does, as the snub will spur Choc on to even greater heights.
Trent Waterhouse (Panthers, $259,300, 2RF)
Another established backrow star who could be undervalued. Waterhouse has enjoyed steady improvement as a Dream Team player this year, starting with a couple of scores in the 20s, then stringing three 40+ efforts together before a 56 in round eight. That 56-point game included a try and a massive seven offloads, meaning he may be a gamble, but Trent is obviously hitting form as he plays for his next contract and tries to drag the Panthers out of the mire. This week he needs a 29 to break even. The perfect alternative to Luck as an extra 40-a-week guy.
Ben Smith (Eels, $172,900, CTW/2RF)
Another former Dream Team gun who's been well below par this year. Limited game time off the bench has taken his value down by a whopping $68,100, making him right for the picking now. A non-stop tackler when let run (he made 40 tackles in 66 minutes against the Dragons) Smith's price has bottomed out, so now is the time to grab him if you believe Smith has finally retrieved his starting spot in the backrow. But make sure you add him to your centres. Then sit back, take the 30+ a week as his value rises again ... and hope Stephen Kearney doesn't change his mind. A lack of knowledge about the new coach's plans for Smith (the Eels have issues in the backs) is the only downside.
Mitchell Aubusson (Roosters, $156,00, CTW/2RF)
The alternative to Smith is Aubusson, who is comfortably the biggest under-achiever in Dream Team so far in 2011, having fallen in price by $95,500 in eight weeks due to his move back to the centres. As Brian Smith searches for the winning formula in 2011, whilst trying to cover for injuries, Aubusson again finds himself in the backrow and Dreamers cheer, as Aubo's tackle count will again rise to where we want it. Dream Teamers from 2010 will know, Aubusson can score seriously big points when he plays in the backrow and he'll do it regularly. Get him in your centres in the next week or two or you will miss the boat.
William Zillman (Titans, $173,200, FLB/HLF)
And finally one from left-field. Previously regarded as a lightning-fast super-sub and an occasional fullback at the Titans, Zillman has been getting time at five-eighth in recent weeks – and it's done wonders for his DT scoring. Now almost $80,000 more valuable than he was at the start of the year, and still yet to reach his peak, Zillman could be a handy option at fullback. Beware a lack of consistency, however – he followed up two 40+ scores with a 15 last week, but if he stays at 5/8 he will be more involved and forced to tackle as the opposition will target him. Needs a 27 this week to maintain his price, which is about right as his five-game average and a decent return for a fullback.
That should give you enough options to cause the old grey matter to boil working over the potential trade combinations, so I'll delay jumping into the list of other potential (short-term) mid-season cash cows until next week. My choice from this list are one or other of the two 2RF/CTWs (Smith & Aubusson) and the two Ws: Watmough and Waterhouse, with Choc first in.
Finally this week, remember to keep your eyes on NRL.com this Sunday and Tuesday as the Blues and Maroons teams (respectively) are announced.
Good luck this week and ensure you play hard and keep it clean.