One glance at the Sydney Morning Herald's sport section this week would suggest that crunch time has arrived for Dream Teamers as injuries begin to bite into every NRL club.
Most Dream Team coaches (and indeed the NRL’s bona fide clipboard-holders) have spent time this week working out how they can effectively manoeuvre their playing roster to cover for the losses. The question whether to trade or not to trade is made simple when unlucky players such as Wests Tigers’ Lote Tuqiri and Chris Lawrence are ruled out for long periods, but it becomes far more complicated when one of your top men is ruled out for a shorter period.
For example, the Titans’ Ashley Harrison injured a hamstring in last Friday night’s loss to the Broncos and coach John Cartwright says he will miss at least one week. It’s no problem to sub Harrison out of your 17 for one or two weeks but how long can you keep a $308,000 player in reserve?
Middo’s Magicians continued their improvement in Round 3 with a creditable score of 667 but we have not escaped unscathed with Harrison, Tuqiri and Manly centre Tony Williams all on the injured list. Tuqiri’s loss means a forced trade while we have stuck with Harrison and Williams for the time being.
We are mindful of keeping trades to a minimum (with only 30 available for the season) but we also need to shore up our line-up with the bye approaching in Round 9 when only eight NRL clubs will be taking the field.
Fortunately, by trading out Tuqiri we can trade in Canberra winger Blake Ferguson, who is in red-hot form on the Raiders’ right flank. The Raiders do not have the bye in Round 9 so we have managed to make both a necessary trade for the injured Tuqiri and introduce a player who will be available in Round 9.
Other trades will be necessary between now and Round 9 to ensure we have viable players so our thinking is that it is better to make those trades sooner rather than later and not take the risk of injuries limiting our ability to make the changes we need to make.
The selection of Mitchell Aubusson at centre for the Roosters might make this a good week to trade him out. He comes at a high price for a centre (237,000) and he is unlikely to score as well now that he is not starting in the back row.
Conversely, it is a good week to introduce Lewis Brown from the Warriors to the line-up. He is cheaper ($186,500) and will again start in the second row. He has already averaged over 30 points per game, despite spending much of the opening round in the centre and coming from the bench in Round 2. What’s more, the Warriors are scheduled to play in Round 9 and Brown will free up some space in the Magicians’ salary cap for next week’s trades.
We will also need to move on a front-rower with Aidan Tolman, Sam McKendry and Mitchell Allgood all to sit out Round 9 and we presently have one centre/winger and one fullback who won’t score as our team now stands.
It will necessitate some frantic trading over the next few weeks and it is looking like the Magicians will be well over our quota of trades by the time the byes kick in. And that’s not even allowing for further injuries. There’s an important lesson to be learned for the future: your original team should be chosen with a view to the byes otherwise you will spend the first half of the season chasing your tail.
For now the Magicians are gritting our teeth and sweating on our players coming through Round 4 unscathed. Much like 16 NRL coaches will be doing this weekend.
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