Middo's Dream Team talk: Round 12
David Middleton, NRL.com
The Magicians have held steady on trades this week even though we have hung on to some moderately-scoring players for our top 17.
We have only 13 trades available for the rest of the season so it is important that we make use of them at the most opportune time. For example, if we lose one of our top-scoring players to injury then we need to be able to trade in another high scorer.
We can’t see the value in making trades that will get us out of a hole for one week and then leaving ourselves short of options over the final eight to 10 weeks of the season.
We are well placed to cope with Round 14 when six teams will have the bye and we have enough time to shore up our line-up for Round 17 when six more teams, most of which include a significant number of our players, will be sitting out.
Melbourne hooker Cameron Smith remains high on our wish list for intended trades, along with Canberra powerhouse Shaun Fensom. But we’re prepared to wait for Smith to complete his State of Origin duties and we’re also aware that Canberra have byes in Round 12 and Round 15 so there is little point in looking at Fensom before then. The way our team is structured at present, it will cost us two trades to manoeuvre either player into our squad.
We’ve taken a risk by naming State of Origin reps Corey Parker and Ashley Harrison in our 17 but we have decided to take the captaincy from Parker and hand it to Cowboys lock Dallas Johnson this week, as it is possible that Parker will be given a rest after playing on Wednesday night.
The injury to Canterbury prop Aiden Tolman had a significant effect on our score last weekend and has presented us with a trade/don’t trade dilemma, with reports suggesting he will miss three-five weeks. We had chosen Tolman as captain for Round 11 but when he left the field with knee ligament damage soon after halftime against the Raiders, he had scored only 36 points (72 with the captaincy). He had been averaging over 50 points for the season, with a season-high of 69 in Round 7.
Canterbury have another bye to come in Round 14 so it’s possible Tolman will miss as few as two games for the Bulldogs, a good argument to stick by him.
On the other hand, it is not a good idea to have a $311,000 player sitting in reserve for too long so we may explore involving him in a double-trade for a cheaper prop and then having some leeway under our cap to work in Fensom.
The opportunity to trade in Fensom and/or Smith will soften the blow of Round 17 when it looks likely that we will be stuck with non-scoring halves. Our four halves – Daly Cherry-Evans, James Maloney, Elijah Taylor and James Segeyaro – will all be out of action that weekend when their teams have byes. We could trade our way out of trouble for that one round but then we would be left with non-preferred halves and trades fast running short.
The other area we have left ourselves short this week is on our bench. Apart from the injured Tolman, we have five Warriors players and two Raiders out of commission with the bye so it means we have the bare minimum of four reserves, including Souths’ winger Nathan Merritt. Casey McGuire (even though he is now at five-eighth), Harrison and Corey Payne should score reasonably well as three of our subs but we’re not expecting a major contribution from the flying Rabbit.
The Magicians have made steady progress up the leader board since Round 9, when team management and strategy became all-important. It is apparent that the gun outfits vying to win the Toyota FJ Cruiser will live or die on their decision-making over the next six rounds.