Dream Team coaches will wave goodbye to the bye this weekend as St George Illawarra and Brisbane become the last clubs to have a second weekend’s break.
And that means by the end of Round 18 it is clear sailing until the finals with representative considerations and irksome byes finally off the radar.
The object now is to field as many of the top-scoring Dream Team players as possible over the final eight rounds. The strategy should be to load up with the Cameron Smiths, Corey Parkers, Nathan Hindmarshes, Shaun Fensoms and the like to ensure a maximum weekly score. Of course that is easier said than done with a salary cap to contend with and an ever-diminishing supply of trades placing serious limitations on the options of many DT coaches.
Middo’s Magicians are hamstrung this week with a handful of Broncos and Dragons players in our 25-man squad (Parker, Ben Hannant, Andrew McCullough, Jack Reed, Jamie Soward and Nathan Fien) and with two injured men on our books (Tony Williams and Boyd Cordner). It means that we will field a bare minimum of 17 scoring players.
Ideally, we would like to make some adjustments to our line-up, especially with Micheal Luck’s return from injury, relegating Elijah Taylor to the reserves bench for the Warriors. With reduced game time there appears little prospect of Taylor scoring into the 40s or 50s as he has been doing over the past six weeks.
And in normal circumstances we would not have the moderately scoring Nathan Merritt as one of our four reserves. But with only four trades remaining for the season we have to adopt a conservative attitude on trades from this point on. Our hard and fast rule is that trades will now be restricted to cover serious injuries to our highest-scoring players.
One of our key moves this week was to overlook Cameron Smith as captain and stick with Shaun Fensom as skipper. Our rationale is that Smith is likely to be spelled for a period of Saturday night’s game against the Bulldogs after playing in Queensland’s Origin victory on Wednesday night and that could have an impact on his score.
Ironically, Fensom’s score was down last weekend (he scored 52 points) because he was given an early mark by coach David Furner after the Raiders had their clash with the Roosters parcelled up. But with the Raiders to play Cronulla this week there is every chance that there will be more heat in this contest for 80 minutes than there was at the SFS last Monday night.
We finished up with a passable score of 438 in Round 17 – doesn’t sound great but with six teams out of action with the bye it was not bad considering we had only 11 scoring players. We got lucky with Luke Burt returning 45 points after a strong performance at fullback for the Eels against the Broncos. His two tries and two goals certainly helped the cause but we are not hopeful of Burt scoring as well this week with Jarryd Hayne back and Burt shuffling out to the wing for the clash against the Tigers.
We also hit the jackpot with new Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend. A bargain-base buy at $127,000, Townsend scored 56 points and looks a top prospect and a definite keeper for the rest of the season.
But on the negative side, Brisbane’s Jack Reed produced his worst scoring round of the year (scoring just five points) and Merritt managing just seven points for South Sydney.
We’re hopeful of a higher tally in Round 18 but the Magicians will be a better combination when the byes are history for 2011. And no doubt there are plenty of other DT coaches who feel the same way!