Lone Scout, NRL.com
It's been a good week for Queenslanders but now we have a rough weekend coming up for Dream Teamers, with Bulldogs and Eels players kicking up their feet with a bye while Cameron Smith, Paul Gallen, James Maloney and the suspended Trent Merrin join them on the sidelines after the Blues' big defeat in State of Origin II.
My first advice of the week is to hold onto Smith, Gallen, Maloney and Merrin if they're in your squad already. At this stage of the season (unless you've got trades to burn) you're better off copping a week or two on the sidelines from one of your keepers rather than wasting a trade bringing somebody else in.
Smith's absence will make Robbie Farah a crucial player at hooker this week, although for many Dreamers just getting a full 17 on the field could be a tough task. As always I'd argue against panic trades; only make a move this week if it'll help your squad in the long run.
Now onto this week's Q&A.
From Hitesh Sampat
Will there be any more issues regarding Matt Moylan and the Penrith salary cap issue for the rest of the season?
It's technically a week-by-week issue, but basically the Panthers can play Moylan when there are injuries they need to cover in the outside backs. They now have Josh Mansour out until round20 (as well as Lachlan Coote out for the year, among others) so Moylan is allowed to play as a replacement. You can read into that that Moylan's spot is safe at least until round 20.
From Andy Air
Could Ashley Harrison be the mid-season buy of the year?
As a busy defender Harrison has always been a decent Dream Team option, and his past couple of scores (49 and 59) have obviously been impressive. But with plenty of competition in the Titans' back row (Myles, Bird, Taylor, Minichiello, etc) Harrison has only played the full 80 five times in 11 games this season.
He did play the 80 in the past couple of games so if that trend continues you can expect him to keep hitting close to 50 points a week, but he still remains a bit of a risk and is probably a level below the very top back-rowers out there. He does look good value though at $263,200 after dropping almost $80,000 on his starting price this season.
From John Parkinson
Who is a must-have player for round 18? I don't see any keepers in any of the teams involved, minus Origin players. Maybe Walsh? Help!
Round 18 is an extraordinarily tough week this season – so it's a good thing head-to-head Dream Teamers get the week off. Only the non-Origin players from the Broncos, Sharks, Eels, Panthers, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Storm and Cowboys are involved, causing plenty of headaches for those Dreamers aiming for overall points or a win in the Eliminator.
The best options available look like being Ben Hannant (if he doesn't get picked for Origin III), James Graham, Brenton Lawrence, Matt Ballin, Luke Walsh, Andrew McCullough, Aiden Tolman, Tim Grant and Michael Ennis. In the outside backs a few decent options are Jamie Lyon, Jacob Loko, Michael Gordon, Maurice Blair and rookie Ben Hampton.
Is it worth trading in any of these players for the sake of a single week? Not really. So only make the trade if it'll also strengthen your squad in the long term. It could even be worth fielding an under-strength team in that week if it means getting your final "ultimate" team together a week or two earlier.
From Paora Te Oka
What's the deal with Hampton now Widdop's gone?
Ben Hampton's been named as 18th man this week and seems to be behind Brett Finch in the pecking order (the Storm did recruit Finch as a specialist back-up half, of course). But he looked good on debut, will play round 18, and could break into the first-grade side if Finch fails to fire in the next few weeks.
From Roshan Mehta
I have $419,200 to spend on a replacement for Tariq Sims. Not sure on the best option. Suggestions?
With Paul Gallen out, Sonny Bill Williams looks the best option this week.
From Adam Kal
Hey Loney, who's the better front-row choice: Aiden Tolman or James Graham? For next week of course.
James Graham is a super-consistent player and has to get the nod. Apart from last weekend's injury-affected 33 his scores haven't dropped below 40 this season. Tolman isn't a bad option either, having really hit his straps in the past month or so, but with Graham now getting a starting spot for the Bulldogs he remains their best prop.
Canterbury has the bye this week, but the Dogs expect Graham to be fine to play in round 17.
From Jarrod Williams
Is Fifita still a keeper in your books? His average when Gallen plays is lower and the extra money would benefit me a lot. Wasted trade?
For a guy who's the third-highest scorer in Dream Team this year (behind DT legends Cameron Smith and Corey Parker), Andrew Fifita still somehow hasn't managed to convince some Dream Team coaches. The guy is a monster, with a motor to match. He's averaged 60 points a game this year, including five scores over 70, and has been hitting good scores whether or not Paul Gallen is in the Sharks team. He was also on fire at the end of 2012 alongside Gallen. Don't sell him.
From Ben Sexton
With only a few trades left how vital is it to hold some back? I could bring in Inglis and Watmough or similar but would then be out of trades but have my final team I want now rather than later. It would leave me with 19-20 definite scorers.
It depends what you're aiming for, but I'd strongly recommend keeping hold of a few trades at the end of the season. Yes, people in the past have won the overall Dream Team comp after running out of trades with a few rounds to go, but you need to ride your luck to do that.
If you're looking to win your head-to-head league, you really need some trades in the bank when the league finals series arrives. I can see the attraction of having 19-20 good scorers in your squad (meaning you have a few back-ups to cover short-term injuries), but if one of you genuine guns is injured and you have no trades to bring in a like-for-like replacement then that could end your season.
From Liam Ngaputa-Hawkins
Is Adam Reynolds a real deal half now that he's consistently scoring over 50 points a game as compared to his early season scores?
Reynolds was a keeper last year as a rookie, so he was always going to be a keeper this year. He's on fire at the moment, averaging 70 in his last five games, and while he probably can't keep that up he's still among the best halves in Dream Team.
From Carmine Rositano
Time to bring Farah back in? He should be playing 80 minutes with Iosefa out shouldn't he?
Farah's already an 80-minute player, so it shouldn't matter, although he could always get some rests in the post-Origin weeks. He does have a break even of 78 this week so there's a good chance his price will fall, but it's never a bad time to bring in a keeper.
From Adam Blocksidge
Who are the wingers/fullbacks I should be grabbing now for the rest of the season?
Greg Inglis, Josh Dugan and the injured Jarryd Hayne are the big guns, although David Nofoaluma is going great so far as well. After that, anyone scoring 35 points a game is probably worth keeping.
From Thomas Parker
Is the goal now to get 18 players that are playing so you have an auto emergency for finals, or is it to get the best 17?
In the end you want probably 19 or 20 scorers in your squad, ideally with a clear "best" 17 and a couple of back-ups – with coverage for all six positions. You want some back-up players you can use to cover short-term injuries or suspensions, and trades up your sleeve to cover any long-term injuries.
From Daniel Reid
I have 6 trades left, and am just wandering what is the best thing I can do with these trades? I know to bring in keepers, but which ones are the necessaries to have in your side?
If there's nothing urgent that needs fixing in your team, then do nothing. Keep those last few trades to cover any emergencies – there are still 11 rounds left in the season and a lot can happen between now and round 26.
That's it folks, good luck to your team this week.
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