It is the biggest question that Dream Team coaches will confront over the final eight rounds of the competition: to trade or not to trade.
If you are like Middo’s Magicians you will be down to your final few trades for the season and facing trouble if injuries strike your line-up.
The Magicians had four trades remaining after Round 18 and that appears to us to be on the light side. And we had pledged only to make future trades based on serious injuries to key players. But against our better judgement we have dipped into the trades pool once again this week to promote in-form Wests Tigers prop Keith Galloway to replace Warriors’ front-rower Russell Packer.
Packer’s scores have been down in recent times and he returned only 27 in last weekend’s win over the Titans and that is not enough for a front-line forward. Galloway, fresh from his State of Origin debut, scored 48 for the Tigers in their loss to Parramatta on the same night.
We’re counting on “Big Keith” to get the job done again this weekend when the Tigers take on North Queensland in Townsville. We’ve also hauled in three players from outside last week’s 17 – Brisbane's Corey Parker, Andrew McCullough and Ben Hannant – to add some serious scoring power to our forward pack.
We were on the money last week with our decision to stick with Canberra lock Shaun Fensom as captain. He achieved the highest score of the round, with a 65 against the Sharks.
This week, we have handed the “C” back to hooker Cameron Smith, even though he scored only 35 points for the Storm in last week’s win over the Bulldogs. Smith came off the bench in Adelaide after backing up from Origin III but after a solid break of seven days, he should be ready to put in a strong 80 minutes against the Raiders.
We’ve teamed Sharks rookie Chad Townsend with St George Illawarra’s Jamie Soward in the halves and the two will go head-to-head in Monday night’s showdown at WIN Jubilee Oval.
Our backline could prove our Achilles heel this week with some hot and cold scorers returned to our starting 13. We’ve stuck with Luke Burt, hoping he will see more action again at the back. He has scored superbly as fullback over the past fortnight and last Friday night he tallied 44 points against Wests Tigers.
Brisbane rookie Jack Reed wins a recall at centre even though he was a huge disappointment against the Eels a fortnight ago, while Joel Thompson from Canberra and Sam Tagataese (Titans) also get a start.
We have preferred Melbourne’s Gareth Widdop to Souths’ Nathan Merritt at fullback.
Our reserves include McCullough (Broncos), Ashley Harrison (Titans), Elijah Taylor (Warriors) and Nathan Fien (Dragons). Taylor is not scoring as well as he was earlier in the season since the return of regulars such as Micheal Luck and Sam Rapira forced him out of the Warriors’ starting line-up. Still, his score of 33 last week was a solid effort for an interchange. And Fien would have been a better proposition if he was starting at hooker for the Dragons but he should still produce a handy score by playing 80 minutes at halfback.
Our changes should produce a competitive total this week after a moderate tally of 585 in Round 18. It was not an unexpected result considering the number of Broncos and Dragons players we have in our 25-man squad but we were also knocked about through the early injury to Warriors’ centre Lewis Brown as well as the light scoring of Cameron Smith, Mose Masoe and Canberra pair Joel Thompson and Blake Ferguson.
It will be a return to high scores across the Dream Team competition this week so be sure to take advantage.