Lone Scout Q&A: Round 12
For those who haven't caught the news, views and opinions of the NRL Dream Team community at large, here's my take on the two big questions leading into Round 12.
Question 1. What do I do with Aiden Tolman?
For those who have been sleeping on the job for the last week, let me start with the shocking news that everyone's favourite point-scoring prop suffered a medial ligament injury in the Dogs' loss to the Raiders, ruling him out for four to six weeks.
Tolman has easily been the most valuable frontrower in Dream Team this season and is clearly the most popular. If he is now out of action for anywhere up to two months (medial ligament injuries rarely heal to the timeline everyone involved would like), there are now almost 29,000 Dreamers asking themselves, do I keep him or trade him?
The timing of the injury and his standing among the props make this a tricky question. Like most things in Dream Team, the answer is dependent upon personal circumstances.
Why you should trade him
Having a player worth $311K+ sitting on your reserves bench is a costly exercise, especially when you consider that such a benchwarmer will leave a 50-point hole in your weekly score.
If you're chasing the overall prize, facing some tough head-to-head league match-ups, or even chasing the weekly prize, you'll find that hole intolerable and should be bringing in a new star frontrower. If you're lucky enough to have a large bank balance and no other issues with the roster, then spend your dough and upgrade another prop (something like Ben Ross to Luke Douglas would work).
Whatever you do, it should be an upgrade that gets you an immediate points advantage as cover for the loss of Tolman (to either the bench or the trade pile). You might think it a fun exercise to mess about with a multi-trade (eg. Tolman to Hala to Bailey over the course of three weeks) but be warned, bigger pay-offs always come with bigger risks and there are many sad stories about Dream Teamers whose best-laid plans went south thanks to a mounting injury toll and a nasty last-minute team change. You don't want to waste trades too early in the season.
Although a number of the high-profile FRFs are now permanently or temporarily on the scrap heap, there are still a number of decent options out there. The two most obvious are the two Lukes: Bailey and Douglas.
Shark Douglas is coming off a season-high 63 that illustrated his importance to the Gallenless/Snowdenless Sharks and his point-scoring potential. An increasing point-per-game of 42.7 (over 45 if you take out the blemish against the Dragons), an average Break-Even, a run of more familiar scores, an excellent record for playing week-in, week-out and a history as a DT gun suggest Douglas as the perfect replacement for Tolman.
Titans veteran Luke Bailey is currently the second-most effective FRF in the league with 44.2 ppg (Tolman averages 49.9). Like his namesake, Bailey is an all-action frontrower, who is one of the first names on the team sheet. The Bull is reliable, can play in pain and will score you between 40 and 55 points a game. Bailey has hit near 80 in past years and I wouldn't put it past him to crank out another 70+ this year when he takes on former club the Dragons. Bailey's price is reasonable (ie. there's room for it to rise some) and his current BE easily obtainable this week.
Other names to consider are the Origin FRFs (Ben Hannant, Tim Mannah, Nate Myles and Trent Merrin) who have all scored well this season. If you go in this direction you will be willing and able to wait a few weeks to trade Tolman, as these players will likely drift down in value over the Origin period. Also up for consideration are James Tamou, Russell Packer, Andrew Fifita and Martin Kennedy (who should return to action soon), but realistically you wouldn't be considering any of these guys (Origin & non-Origin options) as a legitimate Tolman replacement. One of these guys could be your secondary FRF, but not the No.1 guy. Bring one of these guys in by all means, but only as a smart long-term play that works with your Luke X for Tolman trade (eg. Tolman out for Douglas and Ross upgraded to Hannant).
Why you might have to keep him
I've been banging on about it for weeks now, but even I'm not listening to myself. Trades are precious and now is the time that we all get a personal reminder of this. Having trades up your sleeve is crucial to managing inevitable injuries. So crucial are they as the season ticks on that you may well need to store an injured player in your squad just to save the trade it would cost you to get him out.
Hopefully you've not yet reached this somewhat desperate state, but if you have less than 13 trades you should store Tolman (at least temporarily) and make do with what you have. The short-term pain should be worth it for the long-term gain.
Tolman should be back and scoring freely by the end of the H2H rounds, so your plan is to keep him on ice until you can unleash him again, whilst managing the personnel in other positions.
Obviously this may not be easy if you have only (say) Ross, Robinson and Sims as your remaining FRFs, but you should try. Ultimately, you want to be playing with Tolman and another decent FRF, so work on upgrading Ross or one of the other guys as this is not burning a trade, it's simply continuing to execute the longer-term plan.
LS View: Trade Tolman for Bailey or Douglas if you have 14 or more trades or you DON'T have two non-Origin props to cover while you monitor Tolman's recovery.
Question 2. Should I buy Shaun Fensom?
Shaun Fensom's massive 89-point effort last week (which toppled Cameron Smith's Round-6 82 to become the highest score of the year so far), on the back of a 62 a week earlier, has got the Dream Team universe in a pickle.
Only 8,039 DT coaches benefited from his massive score, meaning there are over 73,000 teams that don't have the young 2RF gun and over 73,000 of you asking: is Shaun Fensom back to his best or is this another aberration that I missed out on? Should I buy Fensom or will I regret it when the 80-minute dynamo becomes the 60-minute fix-it man again?
I'm glad you asked.
Why you should buy him
Shaun Fensom is made for Dream Team. He is a human tackle machine (laying on a record 75 against the Dogs) in the mould of David Stagg and Nathan Hindmarsh, and as such one of the best converters of minutes-to-points in Dream Team. When given the opportunity of the full 80 minutes, Fensom excels.
Fensom is the future at the Raiders and the pin-up boy of the club's policy of promoting junior talent (he captained the Raiders team that won the inaugural Toyota Cup). He's a DT star for his tackling, but he can also score points elsewhere as he is a strong ball-runner on the edge and has a decent offload.
Fensom's recent return to form coincides nicely with the Raiders' return to winning ways. Hopefully this means coach Furner will be loath to change the winning formula, meaning Fensom gets to continue the 80-minutes of tree-cutting for another few rounds at least. His BE is in the negatives and he will be named if fit.
After an innocuous start to 2011, Fensom looks to be back to his DT best and presents great value at his current price of $287,900, especially as your fourth (or even fifth) 2RF. If you are contemplating upgrading Houston or wondering what to do with Matt Hilder, the Fensom trade is your answer. How can you not feel good about bringing in a guy who might go nuts at any time?
You have a week to think about it, as the Raiders have a bye, but get in before R13 as Fensom won't be any cheaper any time soon.
Why you shouldn't
Along with his big scores (89, 64 and 62), Fensom has also returned some very average totals (37, 34, 31, 30 and, ouch that hurt, a 26). So, whilst he can be Dream Team dynamite he is also just as likely to be a damp squib.
The question of whether Fensom will score the big points in Dream Team is in the hands of coach David Furner and Furner has already shown he is not averse to utilising Fensom in different ways: from the bench, as part of a backrow rotation or as cover for an injured centre. It makes us all nervous about Fensom's likelihood of playing the full 80 week-in, week-out. At near $300K you can't be risking one of your primary 2RFs getting a paltry 30 or so.
Fensom's team also has some poorly placed byes for the H2H types. The Raiders byes fall in Rounds 12 and 15, meaning Fensom can't be utilised to down your mate's gun team in those weeks. Maybe your $300K would be better spent on someone like Johnson, Watmough or Fulton? At least they'll play and score and, who knows, they may even crank up a 60+ game.�
The closely-bunched byes also give fellow Canberra forwards Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, David Shillington and Danny Galea more time to shake-off their injuries, thereby providing Furner with more options. And we all know what he does when he's got more options – limit Fensom's minutes.
LS View: Grab Fensom (after reading the Late Mail next Friday) if you can afford it, but only if you are not selling any of your current three gun 2RFs. The potential for a 60+ score is too good to miss out on.
Finally, here are a few tidbits for you to mull over:
- Beware the Broncos stars during Origin
Ben Hannant and Corey Parker may well play against Manly, but they can't get any more game time than they would normally, so their scores and price is likely to drop across the Origin period. If you want them, hold out until Rd 17 or 18. Sam Thaiday will be nursed through and will not back-up after any Origin game.
- Tolman's injury is good news for some
Bulldogs skipper Andrew Ryan has been moved to prop this week (not good news), but that's opened the way for popular cheapie Jake Foster to get a start. Sam Kasiano too has been elevated. Avoid the temptation to upgrade these guys until after Origin. With Ryan in the frontrow, workhorse lock David Stagg is likely to get going the full 80 and may well be a wise choice as captain.
- Mortimer's loss will be yours too
Casey McGuire's scoring is likely to stay down after he successful switched to five-eighth and help to rip the Sharks apart last weekend. Sell him now, before you lose money. The win over the Sharks also restored faith in two old DT performers. Nathan Hindmarsh finally played 80 minutes again (albeit while not having to make too many tackles) and Ben Smith has retained his starting position in the pack making him the most-compelling choice to fill your CTW hole(s).
- Mr Smith isn't coming for you
Good news for those who snapped up Jayson Bukuya last week, Jeremy Smith's comeback for the Sharks has been delayed until Round 15. Smith will likely bump Bukuya to the bench when he does return.
- Don't hook Fien just yet �
Dean Young is the most likely to be unable to back-up for the Dragons this round, meaning Nathan Fien should get the starting spot. I've been advocating selling Fien, but suggest you hold him a bit longer. The flow-on effect gives Mitch Rein new impetus as a cheap back-up hooker, but a word of warning: Cameron King is nearing a return.
Lone Scout: Analysing the mid-season bargains
Lone Scout Q&A: Round 13