Lone Scout: How to handle the Origin period

Okay guys and girls… settle down! So last week’s column was a simple one; one for the ‘newbies’, one for those still coming to grips with the whole NRL Dream Team concept. But it’s time to get back to business, my fellow Dream Team addicts…<br><br>Now, how did the bye week treat you? Cameron Smith was the highest-profile injury in the recent flurry of rep football and is now sidelined for at least another week. <br><br>As a certainty for Origin, his value to your team (and mine) is starting to come into question; and now that we have seen the Storm get belted, is this a sign their players will fall away and score fewer points? An interesting topic but one I will delay until a few more Storm results… if they fail to put in against the Raiders, we might be witnessing a free-fall in their value!<br><br>But the Origin fallout is something we need to discuss. Looking around on Facebook, it appears most of my fans know they will lose Origin players for three games (assuming they don’t have a bye beforehand) but the damage goes much deeper than that. It’s one thing to be able to bench a guy when he isn’t playing and have the depth to cover him, but another when NRL coaches start pulling guys off early to rest them, or giving them less minutes post-Origin to keep them fresh.<br><br>Who had Anthony Laffranchi in their side last week? Surely you noticed how your usually reliable workhorse back-rower started from the bench after City-Country, and pulled in just 11 points? This is the sort of thing you need to be prepared for across the board if you rely on Origin stars. <br><br>Johnathan Thurston was a great case in point last season… he was scoring 40-plus before Origin, and while he would back up after rep games, Neil Henry would give him 20-minute breathers in matches if the result were a foregone conclusion. Can you afford to bank on these guys?<br><br>Origin selections are still up in the air, but you can be sure the likes of Michael Weyman, Ben Creagh, Petero Civoniceva, Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Nate Myles, Darren Lockyer etc, etc, etc will tally fewer minutes in games post-Origin – if they even front up at all.<br><br>Why would Wayne Bennett leave Creagh and Weyman out on the pitch for extended periods against the Eels post-Origin? He has set up a nice start to the season, and his squad boasts plenty of depth. The club has some games in hand to lose if need be, and he'll be desperate to avoid player burn-out. So while you may have stacked up on Dragons players to get around the byes, this sort of micro-management of minutes could end up costing you big time.<br><br>I’ll lay big bucks that Sam Thaiday’s average of 74 minutes a match drops after Origin. Same goes for Civoniceva’s 54-minute average and Cameron Smith’s 78 minutes. It might just be a few minutes here and there, but in the rough-and-tumble Dream Team world, that can add up to 10-12 points – and that can make all the difference. <br><br>So with this in mind, is it worthwhile having Origin players at all? They also usually drop a little in intensity post-Origin, and this could be just when you are trying to make your head-to-head finals. Is now the time to load up on the Sowards, Campeses (he could still play in the sky blue), Fultons, McCulloughs, Friends, Hodkinsons and Rapiras? Or do you anticipate the Origin guys will make up for any lull, once their rep duties are over? <br><br>Let’s use Cameron Smith against Nathan Friend as an example. Smith has scored the most points this year, despite missing a game. He averages 53.88; Friend averages 45.11. That’s about 8 or so points down a game, assuming Smith plays. <br><br>Smith costs just over $60,000 more than Friend at this stage, but as his minutes (and work rate) potentially drop, so too will his points. <br><br>It is conceivable to think they could drop around 8 points a game. And then there are the numerous games Smith will be out of action altogether. So where is the value? <br><br>Maybe it’s in the knowledge that Smith can pull a 60-point game if the Storm fires, whereas Friend would be unlikely to get that high without goal-kicking duties. But maybe Smith has less to play for as the year goes on, and one or two less tackles or runs will start to count. There’s some food for thought.<br><br>At the end of the day, a good balance might be the key. So look at your squad to see how many guys might be affected. As of last week, my side had up to four players in Origin contention… realistically I'm preparing to lose two. If you have some depth, that's a managable number. But if your team has four, five or even more players likely to get an Origin call-up... well, it could be time to reassess.<br><br>If you think your Origin men can power through, more power to you. But if not – get trading now! <br><br><b>PS.</b> A shout out to Cam Green. He's lodged the first entry in my 'Handsome Hammy' Video Challenge... and he's set the bar pretty high! <b><a href="http://www.facebook.com/video/?oid=278813953019#%21/video/video.php?v=10150177715090291&amp;oid=278813953019" target="_blank">Check out his Facebook video entry here.</a></b><br><br>You've still got a few weeks to get your entries in... and remember there's the chance to take nine of your mates to the NRL game of your choice up for grabs!<br>