Middo’s Magicians should have done far better in Round 19, for so many reasons. Here they are:
1. Injury to Ashley Harrison. When the Titans’ lock forward left the field with a hyper-extended elbow only 14 minutes into the clash with the Broncos last Friday night, Dream Teamers across the land winced. By that time Harrison had accumulated just two points.
2. Only one extra-timer. Extra-time is gold for Dream Team coaches with bonus points galore on offer when play goes beyond the 80 minutes. And many struck pay dirt last Saturday night when two matches went into golden point. The Magicians, though, had only one player involved across both matches – Parramatta’s Luke Burt.
3. Cameron Smith benched. Little did we expect Craig Bellamy to spell his most important player for a second successive week but when Smith was left on the bench for the first 20 minutes against the Raiders it proved especially costly for those who had reinstated him as captain (guess who?). If only we had stuck with Shaun Fensom (62) or our regular choice Corey Parker (70). Smith scored just 50.
4. The disappointment of “Big Keith”. After returning scores of 45, 56 and 48 in his previous three games we drafted Tigers’ prop Keith Galloway into our side for Round 19. He scored only 26 against the Cowboys.
5. Our other prop Ben Hannant equalled his lowest score of the season with a mediocre 32 against the Titans. Meanwhile we had Parramatta’s Mitchell Allgood (40) sitting outside our 17.
6. Nathan Fien at halfback. We much preferred it when Fien played at hooker and Dean Young operated in the back row but with Young and regular halfback Ben Hornby out injured it meant Fien spent 80 minutes at halfback and scored only 19 points, almost half his average.
7. Elijah Taylor’s low score. We cheered when Warriors’ rookie Elijah Taylor was called into the starting line-up for Feleti Mateo last Friday night but our expectation of a 50+ score was dashed when he came up with a season low of 21.
8. Diminishing trades. If we had more than three trades remaining we would have done something to fortify our three-quarters. Jack Reed has been a cheap stop-gap for much of the season but we needed someone like his Broncos team-mate Alex Glenn alongside him. Instead we are stuck with Cronulla interchange Sam Tagataese, who averages a meagre 13 points.
9. No Hindmarsh. We should have moved heaven and earth much earlier in our Dream Team campaign to work the Eels’ marvel into our line-up. Against the Panthers he scored a season-high 77 but it was hardly a fluke return. Over the past month his scores have been 61, 67, 64 and 77.
10. No luck. Apart from Luke Burt, we had next to no-one with a score well above their average. We would have loved to have had Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano or Penrith hooker Kevin Kingston, for last week at least.
So that was the basis for the Magicians’ frustration and in response we have made some key changes (but no trades!) for Round 20. Corey Parker is back as captain to guard against Smith again starting from interchange. On our bench we have substituted Ben Matulino (Warriors) for Harrison and Allgood for Fien and we’ve given Blake Ferguson another chance in the three-quarters for Tagataese. Galloway and Taylor earn a reprieve as we shoot for a score over 700. And hopefully, no more excuses!