Hopes of a profitable Round 15 were quickly turned to dust last weekend when injuries and rep fatigue sent the Magicians crashing down the rankings.
Corey Parker’s inability to back up after State of Origin II proved especially costly and so did scores for Cameron Smith and Jamie Soward that were well below par. An early injury to Manly second-rower Tony Williams contributed to our mediocre score of 569.
Yes, we should have acted on news that Parker was in serious doubt for Friday night’s clash with St George Illawarra because of a groin injury but with limited back row options available as substitutes one of the only options open to us was to trade our way out of trouble.
But that would have almost certainly required us to trade a player out and trade him back again this week and our supply of trades is running dangerously low. So we decided to risk Parker’s fitness and his late withdrawal from the Broncos’ line-up cost us almost 50 points (his average score is 60 and our auto-emergency Sam Tagataese brought us just 12).
Soward was 25 points down on average and Smith was down by 22 after he started from the interchange bench against the Tigers. Smith’s drop cost us double because we had him selected as captain.
After scores of 34 and 38, Tony Williams had registered only five points before he was forced from the field with injury against Parramatta last Monday night.
Dallas Johnson, Luke Bailey, Daly Cherry-Evans and Gareth Widdop all scored around 10 points less than average, adding to the Magicians’ misery.
Only Warriors’ Russell Packer and Elijah Taylor and Broncos’ centre Jack Reed scored above expectations in Round 15.
Our response for Round 16 is to make use of two trades that hopefully will benefit the team this week and shore us up for Round 17 when only 10 teams will be in action. We’ve reluctantly traded out Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, who has been a strong scorer for us all season (and has dramatically increased in value) and we’ve gone back to the future with Dragons utility Nathan Fien. His scores have been strong through the State of Origin period and even though the Dragons have a bye in Round 18, we’re confident he’ll provide value through to Round 26.
Our other trade was Bronco Ben Hannant for Titans warhorse Luke Bailey. Hannant was top scorer for Round 15 with a haul of 71 points while Bailey collected just 31 for the under-performing Titans. Again, Hannant will give us another scoring player for Round 17 but like the Dragons, the Broncos have a bye the following weekend.
So this week we are confident that we will have a high proportion of top scoring players in our 17, including Smith, Shaun Fensom, Dallas Johnson, Hannant, Soward and Corey Parker.
We have stuck with Smith as captain and believe he will return a higher score now that he is back in the starting side for the Storm and refreshed after a week’s break.
We’ve pinned our hopes on three rookies on the bench, along with the reliable Ashley Harrison. Mitchell Allgood (Parramatta), Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters) and Elijah Taylor (Warriors) have all been performing well in recent weeks and should be good for at least 30 points apiece.
We are somewhat light on for centres and wingers, especially with Jack Reed now coming off the interchange with Justin Hodges returning to action for the Broncos, and we’re counting on Sam Tagataese being given an opportunity off the bench for Cronulla when he returns to Skilled Park on Saturday night.
Round 15 might have been a losing week for the Magicians but we’re tipping a strong fight-back this weekend.