Lone Scout: Do your players have momentum?
You can certainly smell the semi-finals atmosphere in the air, can’t you? As things heat up in the NRL they are also certainly heating up in Dream Team, with this the last regular-season round for all of the head-to-head competitions. <br><br>I’m guessing most of you head-to-head players have stacked your sides by now, or are in the final process of doing so; come finals, it is much smarter to have big names and less depth than the other way around. Sure, an injury or suspension might burn you, but it’s a risk worth taking. <br><br>Speaking of suspension… Dream Team’s most popular player Sam Burgess has sent most coaches into damage control after he tried to place Ben Barba’s head on someone else’s body with his grappling. The big pommy forward will spend a week on the sidelines, forcing coaches to either just replace him (assuming you have depth at prop), play a prop who won’t play and hope your emergency reserve makes up some of the difference, or if you can afford it trades-wise, swap him in and out for a week, or just trade him out altogether for a similar-scoring player. The two biggest guns around the same price bracket and average are Luke Douglas and Ben Hannant... either would be a safe pick. Maybe picking up Michael Weyman for cheaper wouldn’t be a terrible call; you’d assume he’d be fired up for a big match after a suspension of his own, although he could be a little rusty and get less game time.<br><br>Or, if you can jiggle it, trade one of your non-playing players to a minimum-cost player, get a little more cash and afford a Sam Thaiday. The way big Sammy is playing... that's your best bet.<br><br>Anyway, the big word around the NRL at this time of the year is momentum. Each team is looking to time their run into form just right so they can ride the wave all the way to the title. With this in mind I thought I’d shed some light on the players who have some Dream Team momentum over the past few weeks. Which players have upped their average over the past three rounds from their season averages and are consequently coming into form at the right time for you head-to-head finalists (and also everybody else)? <br><br>Let’s start with the man of the hour, Todd Carney. The Carney ‘Concorde’, or ‘Carnage’ (or whatever you want to call the Roosters five-eighth) is in superb form. Over the past three rounds he has averaged 49 points, up from his season average of 38. With the Roosters firing, Carney’s selection is a no-brainer. However, given he is one of the most popular players, most head-to-head combatants are cancelling each other out with this guy. His Roosters team-mate and beneficiary of his move to No.6 is Anthony Minichiello, who now at fullback has a 22-point average over the last three weeks, up from his season average 13.<br><br>But believe it or not, Carney isn’t the hottest Dream Team player over the past three weeks in terms of momentum against their average. This honour goes to Panther Nathan Smith, who has pumped out an average 45 points in the past three rounds, smashing his season average of 31 by 14. But… before you go trading him in, beware the first two scores in this period came when he played 80 minutes at lock – shifted back to the bench last week, he registered a trademark 31 points. Selected on the bench once more, don’t expect any massive gains despite his good form.<br><br>Another with big momentum is Raiders hooker Travis Waddell, who has 37 points on average over the past few weeks, up from his 24-point season average. But while he is named to start this week, Alan Tongue’s return will probably stifle his momentum. Another Raider, centre Jarrod Croker, has also lifted his game with a 33-point average in the past three weeks, up from his season number of 21.<br><br>Gold Coast prop Luke Bailey, thanks largely to his 74 points a few rounds ago, is averaging 54 over the past three rounds as he tries to get his side into the finals. This is well up from his 43-point season average, making him a player with momentum going forward. With another huge game against the Eels this weekend, ‘Bull’ could be continuing the rage and is a great reliable prop to have in your side. <br><br>Speaking of Titans, the move to five-eighth has certainly given Mat Rogers some momentum over the past three weeks, with the dual international pumping up his average by 11 points also. In the past three rounds Rogers has averaged 37 points, up nicely from his 26-point season average.<br><br>Those of you who have had Dragons and Queensland forward Neville Costigan in your side over the past three weeks are laughing. You had been languishing, with the forward most likely on your bench due to his poor 23-point average, but over the past three weeks that average has skyrocketed to 36 – and this week he is named as the starting prop. I sense a potential 40-plus this week. Another Dragon with momentum is Jarrod Saffy, with an average 38 over the past three weeks, up from 28 for the year; however, Weyman’s return could see him miss out on selection altogether. <br><br>Costigan’s future team-mate at the Knights, Jarrod Mullen, blasted out a 60 last Monday night which pushes his past-three-week average to 42. This is a 10-point jump on his season average of 32 – perhaps the former prodigy can finally build some form as the Knights scrap for their survival in the premiership race. <br><br>After basically failing to deliver on all previous predictions in 2010, Michael Ennis has finally lifted his Dream Team game over the past three rounds. He has still been well down on early reckoning but he is building some momentum with a 44-point average in recent weeks compared to his dismal 35-point average for the year. <br><br>Bronco Matt Gillett, a favourite among many Dream Team coaches for his money-making earlier on this year, is once again lifting his standards. In the past few weeks his average has headed north to 45, eight points up from the season average of 37. As a starting second-rower in a good Broncos side, he is going great. <br><br>While we’re on the Broncos, his partner in the back row Sam Thaiday is actually down on his season average over the past three rounds – but only because of his injury against the Titans three weeks ago. In the past two weeks he has averaged 48, up from his 41-point average. He looks a man possessed. <br><br>Dream Team legends Paul Gallen and Nathan Friend have both upped their points over the past three weeks by seven, with Gallen running at 58 – up from a 51 season average – and Nathan Friend at 54, up from 47. Another Friend – Rooster Jake – has also gathered momentum as the Chooks play well. He has a 44-point average over the past three weeks, up from his season average of 38. <br><br>Some big names up six points on their season averages over the past three weeks include last year’s MVP Jamie Soward (54 from 48), Rabbitoh Roy Asotasi (33 from 27), Titan Anthony Laffranchi (52 from 46), Rabbitoh Eddy Pettybourne (29 from 23) and Eels team-mates Jarryd Hayne (41 from 35) and Ben Smith (41 from 35). <br><br>Up five points are Matt Hilder (42 from 37), Luke O’Donnell (48 from 43), Mark Minichiello (33 from 28). Beau Scott (36 from 31), Ben Cross (34 from 29) and Anthony Watmough (35 from 30).<br><br>Two other guys to watch for are Liam Fulton and Scott Prince, both up two points in recent weeks from their average. Fulton is now starting in the back row permanently and will want to keep that spot, while Prince has resumed goal-kicking duties now his hamstring appears healthy. <br><br>Hope this helps when you are doing last-minute tweaks guys, as players in form at this time of the year are obviously crucial!