NRL statistics expert David Middleton discusses the weekly trials and tribulations of running his NRL Dream Team, Middo's Magicians.
The Magicians scored a solid 759 points in Round 10 but now we are left with little option but to take a hit in Round 11 with only 15 scoring players available.
We have already made one trade, drafting in Canterbury’s in-form benchman Corey Payne for the Warriors’ Jacob Lillyman, who we hadn’t counted on being called into State of Origin. We traded Lillyman into our team only a fortnight ago but if he stays in the Queensland 17 then he won’t be available in Round 11, Round 12 (when the Warriors have their first bye), Round 14 or Round 17 (when they have their second).
We could make another trade to give us 16 scorers in Round 11, but who to trade? Do we sacrifice one of our high scorers for the sake of one week or do we offload someone of minimal value like Manly’s Tony Williams ($78,100) or North Queensland rake James Segeyaro ($75,700). That might score an extra 10 or 15 points for us this week but it uses up another trade and at this stage of the game we have to treat our trades like gold.
We are down to 13 trades for the rest of the season and we are not even at the halfway mark. The sensible decision is to wear some pain this week and then look towards Round 14 when six teams have the bye (involving seven members of our present squad) and then the more problematical Round 17 when 13 members of our current squad will be out of action.
That round, before Origin 3 is shaping as another stand-out series of matches that could sort the contenders from the pretenders. Our biggest concern will be in the halves where three of our four men will be out of action. Once again, we are likely to face a dilemma. Do we trade out high-value players Daly Cherry-Evans, James Maloney or Elijah Taylor for the sake of a scoring halfback in that round? Or do we count on a setback that week (that could cost as many as 100 points) in order to retain those players for the balance of the season?
An alternative option is to make ourselves strong in other areas which will mean making four trades between now and Round 17. That would leave us with nine trades for the final nine rounds.
That would put us in reasonable shape but, of course, we have left ourselves no leeway for injury and that is always a potential trap.
This week we are on tenterhooks over the availability of Warriors centre Lewis Brown, who was assisted from the field last weekend with a knee injury. He was hopeful of playing when he spoke to the media early in the week and he has been selected in the line-up to play Souths but if we had the luxury of substituting him out for this round, we would have little hesitation in doing so. Such is our situation, we are sweating on Brown passing his fitness test or we will be another man down this week.
For the first time this season we have been forced to choose an alternative captain with Corey Parker out of action (the Broncos have the bye and anyway, he has been called into the Queensland Origin squad). We’ve gone with Canterbury prop Aiden Tolman, who has scored consistently well this season and should be determined to produce a high-energy performance following his non-selection for New South Wales.
Of our available players, Tolman was the highest scorer of Round 10, with 57 points. While he will do us this week, and possibly in Round 12 when Parker will be backing up from Origin, we may have to choose a third leader in Round 14 if Parker holds his place because the Bulldogs have the bye that weekend. Other options like Titans lock Ashley Harrison could also be ruled out because of Origin selection.
There is an endless number of pitfalls that mark the road ahead but as we have often said, the secret to Dream Team is in the planning.