Fans breathe easy over Fien

Dragons supporters held their collective breaths following Monday night’s gripping win over the Sea Eagles, waiting for the NRL’s Match Review Committee to announce a charge against utility star Nathan Fien.

The Kiwi international was reported for a high shot on Manly fullback Brett Stewart and it was clear that anything other than a Grade 1 charge would mean a suspension and force another player out of the Dragons’ line-up for Sunday’s home game against the Knights.

Already unavailable are Origin stars Darius Boyd, Brett Morris, Mark Gasnier, Jamie Soward, Ben Creagh, and Beau Scott while centre Matt Cooper remains on the sidelines through injury. Adding Fien to that list would have left the Dragons painfully short of experienced players to face Newcastle.

But if the Dragons’ fans were sweating, it was nothing compared to thousands of Dream Team coaches (17,338 in total), who are relying on Fien on a weekend when many of the highest-scoring players are out of action.

Origin has taken out many of the best Dream Team performers of 2011 including Cameron Smith, Corey Parker, Paul Gallen, Johnathan Thurston and Jamie Soward, while the byes have taken care of Daly Cherry-Evans, Dallas Johnson, James Maloney and Glenn Stewart.

High-scoring halves and five-eighths are in short supply this week and the loss of Fien would have been a major blow for a huge number of Dream Teams, including Middo’s Magicians.

Our “first-choice” halves are Jamie Soward and Elijah Taylor from the Warriors, with Fien and Cowboys’ rookie James Segeyaro on the bench but Origin, byes and a potential suspension threatened to leave us with nothing in the cupboard.

Fien’s reprieve (he entered an early plea on a Grade 1 high tackle charge and avoided suspension) left us with one scoring half and even though we swore off more trades (with only five left to cover the final 10 rounds) we couldn’t resist the temptation to use up one more and import another scoring half. With some wiggle room under our salary cap we traded out Segeyaro ($80,700) for the rising Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend ($127,000). Townsend produced an outstanding score of 50 against the Titans and while he may not have the same opportunities against the Rabbitohs, with team-mate Paul Gallen unavailable, we are confident he will come up with a score in the high 30s at least.

The vast number of absent stars will undoubtedly result in a low-scoring round across the board this weekend and like most of the NRL outfits who will play in round 17, the Magicians have been forced to field an under-strength combination. We’ll be short-handed, too, with only 13 potential scorers in our line-up, but we are sure we’re not alone.

In fact, there is little doubt that most teams will experience some pain this weekend, making it an ideal opportunity for one-off players to have a crack at the $500 weekly prize.

That means you can create a team from scratch, simply sticking to the talent available for this weekend. While the full-season players are desperately manoeuvring players in and out of their line-ups and facing the probability of being stuck with non-scorers, the one-timers have no such problems.

How would this be for a line-up for this weekend’s round: Jason Nightingale (Dragons); Alex Glenn (Broncos), Ben Smith (Eels), Jack Reed (Broncos), Joel Thompson (Raiders); Nathan Fien (Dragons), Trent Hodkinson (Bulldogs); Luke Douglas (Sharks), Jake Friend (Roosters), Aiden Tolman (Bulldogs), Andrew Ryan (Bulldogs), Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels), Shaun Fensom (Raiders – captain). Reserves: Dan Hunt (Dragons), Chris Houston (Knights), David Stagg (Bulldogs) and Matt Prior (Dragons).

We reckon that’s a line-up guaranteed to give you a run for your money.