Hi everyone. My name is Lone Scout, and I'm a Dream Team trade addict.
My addiction began like most others. An injury here, a bargain there, and I was away, trading once or twice a week.
And then the injuries kept mounting and I couldn't stop.
Soon I was making trades on Tuesday morning, before the team lists had even come out, and changing them every day until Friday night lockout.
Last week, I decided that was it. I would go cold turkey for an entire week. A week and a half, really, what with the rep weekend delaying the start of Round 8.
But now, I've just fallen back into old habits. After promising to keep the faith with Feleti Mateo, I've callously dumped him, just like thousands of my fellow DT addicts. And, as often happens, one trade leads to another. Suddenly another two trades have disappeared.
It's all part of a long-term plan, I tell myself. My ultimate 17-man lineup is coming together, I insist. But, deep down, I know a single serious injury to one of my stars could send me spiralling back down to the dreaded trade centre next week, and the whole horrible cycle will repeat again.
This is the tragic life of a Dream Team addict.
Now, with that confession out of the way, here's a few tips ahead of the start of Round 8, which begins early with two midweek games.
How to make the most of partial lockout
Partial lockout begins before 4pm on Wednesday afternoon, and – importantly – the reverse trade function won't be available after that.
That means you can still make trades on Thursday or Friday (for players not involved in Wednesday games) but you won't be able to reverse any trades after Wednesday afternoon.
So I'd recommend only make your planned trades that involve Dragons, Roosters, Storm or Warriors players now, and make the rest of your trades on Friday after checking out the late injury news ahead of the weekend.
Ins & Outs
Here's a very quick rundown on the key team changes this week for the Dream Team world:
- Boyd Cordner is out of the Roosters' 17 with a knee injury, with fellow young gun Jack Bosden getting his chance off the bench. Still no sign of under-20s sensation Tautau Moga this week, with City's BJ Leilua and New Zealand's Shaun Kenny-Dowall having locked up the centre spots at the tricolours.
- Mitch Rein is out with a pec injury for the Dragons, with Nathan Fien starting at hooker in his place./p>
- Shaun Johnson and Manu Vatuvei were named to start for the Warriors, but both are still injury doubts with Pita Godinet and Glen Fisiiahi on standby. Jerome Ropati is out for the Warriors with a hamtring injury, with the centre aiming to return against the Broncos in Round 9. Kevin Locke isback this week.
- Brett Stewart, Glenn Start and Kieran Foran have all been named to return for the Sea Eagles against the Bulldogs on Friday night.
- Nathan Merritt looks set to finally play his first game of the year, with a fitness test to decide whether he returns from a toe injury this weekend.
- Matt Scott was left out of the Cowboys lineup with a foot injury, but is still rated a 50-50 chance of playing this week.
- Tackle-machine Shaun Fensom is back for the Raiders, and promising young hooker Matt McIlwrick gets his debut off the bench, but Josh Dugan looks set to sit out another week.
- Panthers cash cow Blake Austin gets another run in the five-eighth role, with Travis Burns at hooker to cover for the injured Kevin Kingston.
- Kurt Gidley returns to Newcastle's starting side, with Willie Mason getting his Knights debut off the bench.
Cashing in on the cows
On the face of it, now is the time to make the most of the cash cows you picked up at the start of the season. Most are now seeing their prices level out, although a few will continue to gain in value in the next week or two.
Guys like Jack De Belin, Ken Sio, Neville Costigan, Sam Mataora and Boyd Cordner (who I recommended selling last week) are all unlikely to see any big price rise this week, with Cordner ruled out of the Roosters 17 after captaining NSW in Saturday's under-20s Origin game.
With a few gun players now ripe for the picking (including Corey Parker and Cameron Smith), it makes sense to cash out some of your bargains now so you can upgrade any middle-of-the-road players to the real DT stars.
But keep in mind – State of Origin is just a few weeks away. That means increased game time for several of the NRL's bit-part players when their club teammates are away on Origin duty. Jack De Belin is the most obvious case here, with the youngster's likely to lift when a couple of the Dragons' best forwards leave for NSW duty.
Try to analyse whether your team's cash cows will get another price boost around Origin time before making the call to sell them now.
Start your bye planning
I mentioned this at the start of the season but now's the time to really start keeping an eye on the upcoming byes in the NRL, if you haven't already.
To put it briefly, Warriors and Sharks players (who aren't playing Origin) are the guys you should be looking to buy IF you're aiming for overall points, but are the players you should be trying to avoid if you're focusing on head-to-head.
They play both their byes outside the four designated "bye rounds" in the head-to-head DT leagues, meaning they will be available during the pre-Origin rounds that overall points players will need to contend with.
On those head-to-head bye rounds (a week off for private leagues), the following teams will be out of action:
Round 11: Broncos, Raiders, Storm, Knights, Titans, Eels
Round 14: Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Dragons, Cowboys, Eels, Rabbitohs
Round 17: Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Storm, Roosters, Tigers, Titans
Round 18: Broncos, Panthers, Dragons, Cowboys
But there will also be a couple of teams enjoying byes in every week between round 10 and 16, starting with the Tigers and Rabbitohs in a fortnight:
Round 10: Tigers, Rabbitohs
Round 12: Warriors, Sharks
Round 13: Panthers, Roosters
Round 15: Raiders, Knights
Round 16: Warriors, Sharks
So all Dream Team coaches should look at how their team will cope during the bye rounds. If your squad is packed with Tigers and Rabbitohs players, should you look to trade some out in order to field a full 17 in round 10?
Or is it worth taking the hit in that round, in order to put your trades to better use building a strong lineup for the rest of the season? Is it worth taking some short-term pain for long-term gain?
Good luck with your trades, and I hope the DT gods treat your team well this week.
Playing Toyota NRL Dream Team or Bundy NRL Tipping? Don't forget you can make your tips and trades – and follow all your Dream Team's live scores – wherever you are with NRL.com's mobile sites and apps.
You can enter your footy tips every week on NRL.com's Bundy Tipping mobile page, http://nrlwap.virtualtips.com.au/.
And Toyota NRL Dream Team coaches can make trades and substitutions to their team through their phone via our mobile site, or the official Dream Team iPhone and Android apps.
Just go to the mobile site at http://nrlwap.virtualsports.com.au/, or download the Toyota NRL Dream Team iPhone app (http://nrliphone.2012.virtualsports.com.au/) or Android app (http://nrlandroid.2012.virtualsports.com.au).
They're all free, and let you keep track of your tips and your Dream Team's progress live throughout the weekend.