Lone Scout: We've hit the mountain stages

So who's been watching the Tour de France? The teamwork, the complex strategies, the intense battle between mind and body... I 'm addicted, and the big black rings under my eyes seem to be the first physical sign of my 'issue' with Le Tour.<br><br>So far, the teams have been cruising around some beautiful European countryside... but tonight, oh, tonight... well, the poor sods will hit the wall. Literally.<br><br>Tonight they enter the Pyrenees, with 2km of vertical climb ready to smash their strategies right off the mountain.<br><br>So (yes, you are still on NRL.com) it's rather a timely co-incidence that tonight us Dream Teamers will be facing our 'mountain stage'.<br><br>Replace the 2km ascent with a six-team bye, an Origin drain, a number of key suspensions and an injury curse... well, I'd almost prefer to be on the bike.<br><br>Yes, it will be tough.. but not impossible!<br><br>For all you General Classification riders (overall leaders), Round 18 could make or break your season. If you have trades remaining, I'd suggest taking some calculated risks and using them now. <br><br>For all you ‘domestiques’ (league players), there's no head to head this week... so I'd suggest making no trades but shuffling your team around as best you can to maximise your 'playing average'... and therefore your chances of increasing player values.<br><b><br>So... on to the important player updates:</b><br><br><b>Justin Carney </b>($138,200)<br>Injury: Leg<br>Due back: 2010<br>Verdict: Keep him... nah, just kidding. He's out for the season! Axe the guy!<br>Suggested replacements in similar price range: Colin Best ($147,700), Steve Michaels ($129,200)<br><br><b>Jamie Lyon</b> ($206,100)<br>Injury: Ankle<br>Due back: Indefinite. Could be Round 19, could be Round 20. Definatley not this week.<br>Verdict: Ohh tough one. Posted a 51 last week and could score nicely if the Eagles continue to storm home this season. I wouldn't take the gamble. Buy Mortimer.<br>Suggested replacements in similar price range: Daniel Mortimer ($193,000)<br><b><br>Frank Pritchard</b> ($168,600)<br>Injury: Hand<br>Due back: Round 22<br>Verdict: He can use that broken hand to wave goodbye.<br>Suggested replacements in similar price range: Reece Williams ($184,700) - he'll do more work when Barrett returns and he plays in the back-row consistently.<br><br><b>Matt Prior </b>($208,300)<br>Injury: Virus<br>Due back: Round 20. Round 20? That's got to be a serious virus. And a very precise doctor's prognosis! <br>Verdict: Punt him, he's made you money already.<br>Suggested replacements in similar price range: Michael Hodgson ($199,000)<br><br><b>Dene Halatau</b> ($173,700)<br>Injury: Knee<br>Due back: Round 24<br>Verdict: Gone... ey, bro?<br>Suggested replacements in similar price range: Grant Millington ($175,200)<br><br><b>Bryson Goodwin</b> ($147,700)<br>Suspended<br>Due back: Round 20<br>Verdict: I personally wouldn't waste a trade on a centre. Your call.<br>Suggested replacements in similar price range: Colin Best ($147,700)<br><br><b>Greg Eastwood</b> ($175,200)<br>Suspended<br>Due back: Round 20<br>Verdict: If he is one of your scoring players, here's a good excuse to punt him.<br>Suggested replacements in similar price range: David Stagg ($340,100) - Ok, so he's not in the same price range. But with players suspended and on Origin - expect an enormous one from Stagg this week. If you can afford him, buy him.<br><br><b>Heath L'estrange</b> ($76,600)<br>Suspended<br>Due back: Who cares.<br>Verdict: Worst Dream Team player ever... though possibly just ahead of Brett Kearney (go on, check him out - it's funny).<br>Suggested replacements in similar price range: Conrad Ta'akimoeaka ($73,100) - he hasn't played a game... but will score about the same as L'estrange and has a better name.<br><br><b>Lone Scout's 'Value Picks':</b><br><br><b>Daniel Mortimer </b>(Eels)<br>Position: Five-eighth<br>Current price: $193,000<br>Season average: 41.60<br>Last week: 51<br>The scoop: If you still havent got him... why the hell not?! I've been telling you about him for weeks now!<br><br><b>Guy Williams</b> (Broncos)<br>Position: Centre<br>Current price: $100,700<br>Season average: 28<br>Last round: 35<br>The scoop: Seems to be the latest utility to get stuck in Ivan Henjak's backrow turnstiles. Worth the gamble to get a centre playing in the backrow at this price... but be aware that he could be dropped any week. Also be aware that the Broncos have the bye this week.<br><br>Now onto the Lone Scout's favourite time of the week... communicating with real humans!<br><br><b>Phil writes:</b><br><br><b>What advice can you give regarding choosing my captain from week to week? I.e, should I stick with Jamie Soward every week to stay on the safe side?</b><br><br>Common question, Phil. Generally speaking, if you go with the player with the highest 'average' (so Soward in your case)... then you can't really go wrong. But if you don't mind a gamble, you can often predict the high-scoring players for the round by looking at some key factors like...<br><br>- Team depletion. If this player is a workhorse and his team is fielding some key injuries, expect your man to step up.<br>- Weak defence. If you have an attacking player (like Robbie Farah) then he will often score highly when his team decimates an opposition. Case in point - Tigers smashed Souths last week... Farah got 62. (Note: This can have the opposite effect for defensive players like Nathan Hindmarsh. A high scoring game, like last week's thriller between Penrith and Parramatta, saw him actually have an off round.)<br>- History repeating. Believe it or not, players often step up against certain clubs. Take Soward for example. In Round 7, against the Roosters, he posted 79. Hence why I tipped him as captain material last week... but I certainly didn’t expect his 96!<br><br>Taking these factors into account, I still like the look of Jamie Soward, but also wouldn't look past David Stagg. He's in a very depleted team and will be facing the big New Zealand pack. Expect him to post 50+ tackles here.<br><br><b>Alex writes:<br><br>I have $75,200 left in the bank, with three trades left. I was just wondering about Guy Williams. He played for Broncos in the second row and scored 35 on the weekend. I'm thinking of getting him as centre. Will he play every week? Or should I save my trades for the finals?</b><br><br>Very, very tough call, Alex. If you had five or six trades and needed a strong centre... I'd say go for it. But with only two trades left in eight rounds... you really are leaving yourself exposed. Without seeing your team, I'd say don't do it. Ivan Henjak seems to change his back-rowers as often as Nate Myles changes underpants, so there's a big gamble involved.<br><br><b>Kevin writes:<br><br>I have Scott Porter and Thurston in my halves, and I want to cash in on one of them and get a better 5/8. Currently, I have Lockyer who gets 30s which isn’t good enough. Should I opt for someone like Mortimer? Do you think he will play out the season even if Mateo and Kris Keating return from injury? Or should I get Jamie Lyon? What’s the news with his injury? Do you think he'll play out the season at 5/8?</b><br><br>Kev, I could write a detailed response to this... but all you really need to read is blah blah blah buy Mortimer blah blah. Just do it. In fact, you probably should have done it three weeks ago when he was half the price!<br><br>In terms of which half to dump... it's almost a 50/50 gamble. Scott Porter may kick considerably less when Barrett returns so may not consistently hang around 50. On the other hand, Thurston is so unpredictable... to be honest, I never have a idea of what he's going to score.<br><b><br>Also, what’s the deal with the player values? One week Cam Smith gets 38 he goes up by $1000, Laffranchi gets 64 and his value goes down by $7000.</b><br><br>Ah, the impossible algorithm. As I wrote on Tuesday... "The algorithm used to determine player value changes is about as closely guarded as the Colonel's eleven secret herbs and spices... but I can confirm that it relates rather closely to the average of the player's three previous scores." Basically, don't expect one good week or one poor week to drastically change a value. Instead, look at the average of the past three or four weeks... compare that to the player's season average... and you'll be on the right track.<br><br><b>Byron Cristol writes:</b><br><br><b>I'm currently 6th in my league but I am not assured of a top 8 finish. I have $91,800 in cash remaining. I want to trade my second halfback Thurston for Jamie Soward but I am still 30,000 short.<br><br>I was thinking to trade Benji Marshall for Daniel Mortimer, is this a good idea?</b><br><br>Yes, it was two weeks ago! If you do it now, you'll only make about $13,000. Not enough for Soward. Sorry mate.<br><br><b>One last thing, my second rowers aren't very good apart from Laffranchi - they're not scoring over 30. I have Vea, Laffranchi, Pritchard and Lillyman on my reserves. Should I trade any of them out, if yes who for?<br><br>P.S. I have 13 trades remaining.</b><br><br>13?! And $91,000 in the bank? Oh, to be in your position...<br><br>In short - yes! Ditch Pritchard now, he's injured. Lillyman is an under-achiever and Vea isn't always assured of a start. If I had an open slather for second rowers... I'd be getting David Stagg (if money isn't an issue) or for a totally under-valued player at the moment, Dallas Johnson. Anthony Tupou will also give you a fair run from the lower end of the price scale.<br><b><br>James writes:<br><br>After you reported on how to deal with injuries to squad members last week I'm interested to know your thoughts on the new automatic emergency rule brought in this year.<br><br>I've had great success with this rule already this year and intend to take advantage of it again with Travis Burns being out for the next three weeks.<br><br>Of my squad of 25, 5 players are unlikely to play another game this year.<br><br>The remaining 20 all score 25+ on average a week. This week, of the 8 players outside my 17 only 2 (Adam Blair and Jeremy Latimore) will score points. Meaning that by applying the automatic emergency rule I can effectively use Blair or Latimore as a 5th reserve in place of Burns, who is the weakest link in my team. I did the same thing earlier in the season when I went without a fullback for a few weeks.<br><br>Your thoughts on whether this is a good rule to have in place?</b><br><br>I like your style, James. And a shout out to Mitch, too, who asked the same question. You guys a thinkers, and a cunning ones at that. I'll leave my personal opinions regarding the laws of our game out of this... but Benny Elias wasn't a legend because he played by the rules, if you get my drift. Just be careful, I've known mates who have had this come back and bite them on the backside!<br><br>So to wrap it up... <br><br>Take your time this week, guys. Sub out all your bye players, then your Origin stars, then <a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/casualtyward/tabid/10247/default.aspx"><b>click here to check out our Casualty Ward</b></a> of injured players.<br><br>Apologies to all the emailers I didn't get to this week... scouting is a busy business and I always work alone. Keep them coming and I'll do my best to get to them next week.<br><br><a href="mailto:lonescout@nrldigital.com">Email me your queries by clicking here.</a><br><br>Scouts honour,<br>Lone Scout<br>