Hello Dreamers and welcome to a DT round where all your regular stars are back in the mix and you can look forward to returning some cracking weekly scores again. It will be a welcome relief to many after a nasty post-Origin round that reduced scores all round and exacted the odd tear.
As ever we hit Round 16 (still with seven rounds of the DT regular season and four of finals to play) with far too few trades and plenty of questions burning away at the back of our minds. So, here we go again with my weekly QandA. Hopefully, some of it helps relief your burden as lock-out looms or puts to rest a conundrum that has been doing your head in all week.
But, before I hit the paddock for the real thing, here are some preliminaries to warm-up on.
Plenty of Dreamers were left scratching their heads as the Round 15 scores were being finalised, wondering what would happen with two fringe players who became the focus of hard-fought Eliminator or H2H match-ups.
On Friday night Broncos winger Dane Gagai sat stoically on the bench for the full 80 minutes as his teammates downed the Dragons. Gagai's score was obviously a fat duck. On Monday evening, Manly prop Vic Mauro sat for 77 minutes before slipping on to the field. He touched the ball once, ran sideways, passed and did not lay a tackle before the final siren. Mauro also scored 0.
Come Tuesday morning the question was raised, "who gets an auto emergency?"
The rules of Dream Team clearly state, "Your team is awarded one automatic emergency. In the event that any one (or more) of your Starting 17 players don't play in any given round and receive a score of 0 points, you'll receive an automatic emergency," meaning Mauro's score of zero stood (he played) while Gagai was subbed under the auto-emergency rule (he didn't play).
Commiserations to those that were eliminated via the application of this rule. That's (fantasy) footy. Pick yourselves up and get back out there.
Which brings me to the question of player minutes or, more specifically, how to keep tabs on them.
There are plenty of references about, mostly for individual matches, but the quick reference I use to review individual player minutes, by match, for the season is on NRL.com.
It's a bit hard to find, but if you copy and paste this URL: http://www.nrl.com/TelstraPremiership/PlayerStats/tabid/10877/Default.aspx, you'll get a page from which you can pick a team and then a player. Down the bottom are his DT-pertinent individual stats for all matches. The navigation and drop-down menu at the top let you work your way through every player, if you want.
It is often a useful, quick reference for assessing trade decisions.
Round 16 means we're now down to the final 2048 teams in the Eliminator.
Many have asked me what the lowest-ranked team still alive is (or big-noted themselves as likely candidates). The answer is 37,348 overall. A fair effort from John's team, 'my boys'.
Last year the winner of the Eliminator was also the team that finished the season with the car, so those still alive will be pleased to hear that our current overall leader, Matt (The Reserve) was knocked out of the Eliminator competition in last week's carnage.
Speaking of last year's winner, I'll have more on his progress next week.
So, let's get amongst the tough stuff, with short answers to the most-asked questions of the week.
Q: I have two questions. One is about Cam Townsend. If the Sharks keep winning do you think he'll keep his spot? The other is about Jake Friend. If the Roosters keep losing do you think he'll lose his spot to Anthony Mitchell?
A1: CHAD Townsend will keep his spot: 1) while the Sharks keep going well, and 2) until Albert Kelly is right to go again (apparently that's R17, but it has been moving). This makes him a short-term prospect only in my eyes (a la Shaun Johnson of the Warriors).
If you have 14+ trades you may well want to take a run at some quick cash on Townsend (especially this week as he will jump in value), but remember to factor in at least two trades if you want to eventually capitalise on any price rise from Chad. Don't pick him up if you expect to play him as one of your two HLFs and be very sceptical of the whispers that he may stay in the first team when Kelly returns, with Wade Graham switching to the pack.
The same basic scenario applies to Dream Team's very own Stig, the new (short-term) five-eighth for the Knights.
A2: Jake Friend is clearly the Roosters No.1 and he will not lose his place to Anthony Mitchell regardless of results. He may lose minutes, but not his No.1 position ... at least not this year. Mitchell was brought across to cover the immediate retirement of Riddell at a club that is suffering a nasty injury toll. I wouldn't be put off purchasing Friend (especially as a second HOK/playing reserve). He is going gangbusters and is unlikely to drop significantly in value. He also has no bye or Origin commitments.
If you have Jake Friend already you should keep an alternative scenario in play, as there is a chance continued losses will force Brian Smith's hand. That said, I figure the chances of this happening are no longer than Friend going down with an injury ... and we deal with that weekly.
And while I'm on the Roosters ... a message to the faithful from the Roosters' official site injury list.
Mitchell Aubusson: Aubo dislocated his shoulder while performing tackling drills at training in the lead up to the game against the Sharks in round 10. Aubusson has had shoulder surgery and will be out for the remainder of the 2011 season.
If you still have him as a CTW there's no need to panic-trade him, just make sure you work his exit into your plans for your final 17/18 ... and everyone should mark him down as a likely member of their initial squad for 2012. He will have a juicy price, especially if he starts in the backrow.
And I should also add that Martin Kennedy is also gone for the duration. Kennedy's foot injury has got the better of the big fella.
There is also plenty of talk about the future of Warriors captain Simon Mannering following his (apparent) return to the pack this round. Should you grab him?
Scores of 54, 42, 58 in the first few rounds while in the pack suggest yes ... but none of us will really know if it's a good move until Sunday, when Ivan Cleary figures it out for himself – potentially as the game progresses. So, I won't be placing my DT faith in Mannering staying a 2RF, just yet. Cleary has too much move-em-about form for me. Mannering is only a mid-20s to mid-30s prospect if not going 80 minutes in the pack.
But, I will be keeping a close eye on his round-16 effort as he should still be at an attractive price after the bye round ... and his game in the pack also has implications for Lewis Brown's scoring (if a majority of us are lucky Brown and Mannering will do a bit of rotation).
Moving on from one 2RF query to another that keeps cropping up: is it time to offload Dallas Johnson?
I'm starting to think that that's now a yes. I have been advocating him as a keeper, if only as your fifth or sixth 2RF, but his scores have remained down, so I'm reconsidering.
DJ is playing somewhere about the 80 minutes, but only scoring from high 30s to low 40s. That's reasonable, but not ideal. I want my reserves looking at low 40s to 50 and I'm now concerned that Dallas's past-season scoring feats are gone, as he fits into a somewhat different role within a winning side with many backrow options. It has me thinking he is the 2RF to trade up on (rather than, say, Bukuya, who has a couple of rounds left in him, or Houston, who is still going along nicely).
Obviously, you only do this if you are upgrading to a definite DT gun (Parker, Fensom, Gallen anyone?) with David Stagg now a tempting proposition. I'm not too concerned that DJ needs moving on this round though. His price is about as low as it will go and his BE is reasonable, plus he always comes with massive potential for a big score.
This week's effort will likely be telling as to his long-term future in your side, as Johnson has his critical am-I-still-worth-it game this round, with no Sims, Bolton or Paterson playing.
Personally, I've got DJ in for critical review in R20, but I play every league and don't have a specific run of match-ups to work against.
And, on a side note, I'm not sure this week is the right time for Fensom as he is way up there in cost. He too may be a better trade proposition in R20.
Plus a second note, Cory Paterson debuts for the Northern Pride in the QCup this weekend. I assume that puts further pressure on DJ's minutes in coming rounds?
Moving up to the front line, I think it's wise to warn people off Anthony Laffranchi.
A former must-have, Laffranchi may be back in the starting line-up and fresh after a decent spell on the sidelines, but he is also back into the prop rotation. His minutes will be reduced and, just like last year when he did the same thing, his scores will suffer. He may well score solidly on occasion and go comparatively well for a frontrower, but he's only a 2RF in DT and he will not have scoring consistency (eg. his final four round scores from 2010 were 26, 37, 16 and 26).
Which brings me to Luke Douglas. How come he scored so poorly last week?
The obvious answer is he only played 28 minutes. There has been no solid word on why, but my guess is he was rested (maybe he got a knock) to help his injured knee (remember he could still be in the casualty ward) as the Sharks were mostly doing it easy against the Dogs.
The good news to take from this low score is Douglas was converting while he was on the paddock (almost a point a minute) and the low score, on top of his injury-influenced eight, means he is now at a very tempting price. His BE is low 40s, so he may even stay around this price for another week or two.
It's got me looking hard at him as the Scout's ultimate partner for Tolman. I just have to decide if I can come up with the extra $50k to $80k for Hannant and if I am convinced Douglas will get back to his 50+ ways. Normally, I'd have no concerns as Douglas is arguably the toughest player going around, but he is only human and a knee ligament issue doesn't inspire confidence in his longevity, nor does his impending move to the Titans. He may well have a cracker this week as he attempts to show the new boss what he can do, but the Sharks' season is all but over, so I wonder about his minutes as the season winds down.
In short, Douglas looks like a great buy this week, but I'm likely to pass.
And finally, a query to ram home the message that trades are your most valuable asset in DT and need to be managed with absolute care.
Phillip Brien writes that he has "no fear in saying I'm a DT N00B! Thought I was doing okay for my first year, but learned a valuable lesson about trades ... Those things are GOLD! (I have) only 7 left for the season, and my team needs a lot of upgrading."
It's a familiar refrain and a difficult conundrum, especially for first-time players. Phillip continues, "Do I throw caution to the wind and make the team the best I can (and hope for no injuries) or should I play it safe until finals time?"
His question was delivered on the Facebook wall and (as ever) received plenty of advice (amongst the usual smart-alec drivel). The following are the important bits of that advice and they're worth remembering as you likely struggle with maintaining a strong 17 starters until Round 26.
- "Take your medicine. See if you can crack the Top 8 (hopefully Top 4) in your league and work for a win from there."
- "Lock yourself out from making trades unless it's glaringly obvious and necessary (like Bukuya or Srama a few weeks back)."
- "I had to have the perfect team which I now have, but hoping my 4 trades see me thru. For what it's worth it's a good feeling having the perfect team means no more urge to trade."
In short, if you find yourself in this position you should continue to aim for the best team that will get you into your league's Top 8. That will mean slightly different tactics for everybody, based on the relative strengths of the teams you still have to play.
Your aim is to get there (to the league finals) with at least 4 trades, as there is no joy in scraping into the Top 8 with no trades, then getting belted in the first finals match-up because you can't cover an injury or two. But, you have to make it first, so better to go for glory and die trying than to err on the side of caution and end up with the also rans. You might even scalp the eventual winner along the way, giving you some defence against his/her non-stop bragging through October.