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NRL stats expert David Middleton talks through the weekly trials and tribulations of managing his NRL Dream Team squad, Middo's Magicians.

James Maloney, you have given great value to the Magicians over the first half of the 2011 season but we are afraid we are going to have to vote you off the island!

Wrong game, we know, but you get the drift. Maloney has been a consistent Dream Team performer this season, averaging a highly creditable score of 47.42, but watching him play against the Wests Tigers last Sunday we get the feeling he is going to be in for more moderate scores.

Maloney returned just 27 Dream Team points against the Tigers, although admittedly an off-day with the boot didn’t help him. In fact he missed as many kicks against the Tigers as he has for the rest of the season put together, but that was only half the story.

The arrival in first grade of rising playmaker Shaun Johnson threatens to diminish Maloney’s impact. One of the stars of the Warriors’ Toyota Cup victory of 2010, Johnson was superb last Sunday, running the ball to the line, off-loading, making breaks and kicking with great effect.

Johnson scored 33 points last Sunday, not bad for a player with an $84,100 price tag. By comparison, Maloney is valued at $274,400 and by our reckoning his value is going to drop in the coming weeks.

Our inclination is to trade Maloney for Queensland ace Johnathan Thurston ($300,900) but that is not going to solve our problems in Round 17 when we have a huge complement of players unavailable.

So we have made a move with a double trade, exiting the injured Matt Utai and taking a punt on new Sharks recruit Sam Tagataese. The switch freed up over $20,000 which has given us enough room under our cap to trade Maloney for St George Illawarra’s Jamie Soward.

It’s a win-win for the Magicians with the only cost two trades, which has us down to seven for the rest of the season. We have traded up for Soward, given us a potential scorer for the Sharks for the second half of the season (and Cronulla have already had both byes) and swapped two non-scoring players for Round 17 with a known high scorer and another potential scorer.

We’re sweating on the fitness of Brisbane lock Corey Parker for the Round 15 clash with the Dragons but we concede that we may take a hit if he can’t shake off the effects of the groin injury he picked up in Wednesday night’s State of Origin.

We considered making a trade to give us a viable back-rower for this round but believed our Soward-Tagataese move will be more beneficial to the team in the long run.

We were pleased with our Round 14 total of 634, even though we were stuck with two non-scorers in our 17-man squad (James Segeyaro and Mose Masoe). But that is a factor that most Dream Teams have to confront at some point of the season.

Canberra lock Shaun Fensom proved a great choice as captain, scoring a round-high total of 73 points.

And we are sure we are in for more pain in Round 17 even though we have an opportunity to make four trades before that round kicks off. That would give us close to the full complement of players but the downside is that we would be down to just three trades to cover us for the final nine rounds of the season.

Our most prudent move might be to split the difference on Round 17, make two trades to take us to 15 potential scorers and leave us with the cover of five trades between now and Round 26.

The best part of it all is that we have almost negotiated our way through the most treacherous part of the season and while we concede that we will not finish among the front-runners, our goal is week-to-week improvement and with a couple of exceptions, we have been successful so far.