Another round of Dream Team, another sorry tale for the Scouts, with poor form and late withdrawals costing me plenty of H2H match-ups... and yet more of my DT cred.
Still the show must go on, so here are some more thoughts to help you get your final 17 together.
Last week I ran through the options to fill out your Dream Team's forward pack, keeping an eye on each players' run home to the finals – with the thinking being that the forwards facing stronger opponents are likely to do more defensive work, and hence bring home better scores.
This week I'll take a similar look at the leading candidates to fill your halves spots. But while forwards score primarily through tackles, halves score through kick metres (and, often, conversions). That means you want your halves to get their hands on the ball as much as possible, and that happens when their team is winning. So here's the run home for six of the best Dream Team halves, and a prediction on how each will score from here on in.
Cooper Cronk ($312,800, Storm – run home: Panthers, Titans, Dragons, Sea-Eagles, Roosters)
The Melbourne halfback has flown under the radar a little to become the highest-priced half in Dream Team right now. Up until Round 13, Cronk's scores were almost entirely grouped between 25 and 46, but he's now coming off four straight scores of 50 or better. The Storm's winning run continues after a close shave on Monday night, and they're expected to romp home against the Panthers, Titans and Roosters. The tough double of St George Illawarra and Manly is a different story – and those games do land in weeks two and three of the DT finals – but overall it's a comfortable run home for Cronk. A model of consistency, Cronk Should post 40-50 for the tough games, and mid-50s for the others.
James Maloney ($292,400, Warriors – run home: Broncos, Knights, Panthers, Dragons, Cowboys)
Another playmaker on fire in recent times, Maloney has been very consistent over the past month and a half with scores of 51, 56, 52, 52 and 56. The Warriors' four-game winning streak has helped, although that could end in Brisbane on Saturday and the last two against the Dragons and Cowboys may be problematic. Still, he should score well against the Knights and Panthers, appears to have thrown off the Mt Smart DT hoodoo and looks a very safe option – the Warriors always finish the home-and-away on a high.
Daly Cherry-Evans ($280,900, Sea Eagles – run home: Roosters, Eels, Bulldogs, Storm, Broncos)
The most successful cash-cow in 2011, DCE has gained more than $200,000 in value so far this season. Has continued to score fairly well despite losing the goal-kicking duties at Manly to Jamie Lyon in Round 12. Finishes the year with two tough matchups against the Storm and Broncos. DCE is a keeper if you have him still, but if you're looking for a bit of finals edge you would be looking to upgrade at an opportune time as Cronk and Harrison (if playing) are better options for a consistent-scoring half and Maloney trumps DCE on ability to rack up a big score. Note: if DCE gets the goal-kicking back, I take all this back.
Ashley Harrison ($270,900, Titans – run home: Sharks, Storm, Raiders, Tigers, Eels)
The odd-one out in this list, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he's actually a back-rower who slots into the HLF position by virtue of the Titans classifying him as a part-time five-eighth. Secondly and more importantly, of course, he's out injured. The Titans unfortunately aren't forthcoming with injury news and predicted return dates, so Harro is still out "indefinitely" and therefore a problem child. The Gold Coast's position at the foot of the ladder doesn't bode well for his chances on playing a big role for the rest of the season, with the possibility the club could play it safe and keep him on the sidelines. Could be worth holding onto for one more week if you're low on trades (or simply can't adjust a la the Scouts) and don't need a big score in your league this weekend, but otherwise take a look at another of these options.
Jamie Soward ($272,500, Dragons – run home: Tigers, Roosters, Storm, Warriors, Panthers)
An established Dream Team gun who was the highest-scoring player in the game a couple of years ago, Soward comes relatively cheap now, thanks to a run of average scores as the Dragons have slumped. The Red V face a few more tricky games against the Tigers, Storm and Warriors, but this is the reigning premier and a turnaround will come, so Soward should be back scoring decent numbers. Soward will post a big score against his former club the Roosters (he scored the highest individual DT score on record – 96 – against the Chooks) and is likely to score well against the enigmatic Panthers. May look shakey at present, but his price will soon be hitting rock bottom and he is a proven performer, so seriously consider picking him up this week or next.
Chad Townsend ($244,500, Sharks – run home: Titans, Bulldogs, Roosters, Cowboys, Tigers)
A terrific mid-season bargain whose price is just about levelling out. Hasn't kicked goals for the Sharks since Round 18, hence a couple of sub-50 scores (43, 36) since then. Has a dream run in the short term against the lowly Titans, Bulldogs and Roosters, before two tougher games against North Queensland and Wests. Still a handy player to have, but the lack of goalkicking means he may not match the likes of Maloney and Soward. I'd also be wary of picking up Townsend now as he needs to play one more Toyota Cup game to qualify for the junior Sharks finals campaign (yes, they are going well in Toyota Cup too), so he will likely be 'withdrawn' when the Sharks inevitably drop out of mathematical contention for the Eight.
Matt Srama ($240,500, Titans – run home: Sharks, Storm, Raiders, Tigers, Eels)
Mentioned last week among my list of forwards to consider, the hooker/half is still a handy player to have (as a fourth reserve) – although regular scores in the 50s may be off the cards. In rounds 19 and 21 he's shared the hooking role at the Titans with Preston Campbell – with the youngster actually coming off the bench to replace Campbell at dummy half last week. In those games he posted scores of 38 and 36. With his price peaking, now should be the time to find another option if you have a trade or two up your sleeve ... for mine that option is cash in (Romelo style – see below) and use the dollars to fund an upgrade elsewhere, unless you have a strong, fit first 17.
So where does that leave you? My advice is aim for Cronk and Maloney as your two playing halves. If you don't already have him, Soward is a great option to fill a reserve spot and DCE also works as a reserve capable of matching the gun 2RF's scores. If you have any of these four, keep them. Ashley Harrison's injury makes him the wildcard. If you can work a trade to gain Cronk, Maloney or Soward, why not? Alternatively, do some arranging and make the trade for a gun 2RF. Better still, hold out for one more week if you can ... I've sent word to Carty that the Scouts need Harro back ASAP. Surely he will oblige.
Obviously there are other options (Mullen, Sandow, Prince, Sutton, et al) who are capable of a score, but you need to be strong and dismiss them as too inconsistent. That said, you might consider Trent Hodkinson if things are tough. At a touch over $230K you could do worse than grab Hodkinson, who is capable of posting decent scores. If you can't afford the preferred halves than Trent may be a reserve solution.
Lastly, I can't mention halves without mentioning JT. And, if you mention JT you mention the word "indefinite". Great player, great year, but move on – Thurston is not the solution for you.
Following on from the musings about Matt Srama, here's an idea from left-field: Bulldogs rookie Joel Romelo. Yes, I know, the time to buy cash cows has come and gone, but could buying an $84K hooker now (his price will jump next round) be a smart idea?
Before the season began, the established thinking amongst experienced Dream Teamers was to aim for a playing 17 featuring one hooker and three second-rowers on the bench. But with a lack of genuine big-scoring hookers beside Cameron Smith, and a host of strong-scoring halves (see above), could it be time to play an extra half instead? Or use the extra cash to beef out your CTW spots?
Buying a playing cheapie like Romelo (or Pita Godinet) gives you plenty of cash and – at worst – a back-up bench player who will post a handy 25+ points a game from hooker. The other option would be to snap up a non-playing hooker (hello Pat Politoni and Cameron King) if you've got a strong-scoring auto emergency in place.
Of course, to do all this you'll still need to have enough trades up your sleeve to play with, with brings me to the battle of the Lone Scouts and the Reset Scouts ...
The Reset Scouts would've scored 766 last round, handing them a first victory over the troubled Lone Scouts (754). Not bad for a team missing Corey Parker.
Although it was achieved on the back of misfortune for the Scouts, it's the first evidence in convincing the trade-ragers to pull back on the stick next year.
At this time of year you need to be able to trade. At this time of the season injuries (see Ashley Harrison, David Stagg, Gareth Widdop), form slumps (yes, I'm looking at you Chris Houston) and inconsistent minutes (Nathan Smith, what is going on?) are the difference between a winning team and an average team. Ration your trades to ensure you have room to manoeuvre.
This week the question for the Lone Scouts is simple: who do I use my last trade on? I can't be relying on any two of Houston, Allgood and S. Johnson as reserves, especially as I'm already locked in to using Srama. The options are limited and there is almost no manoeuvrability.
Meanwhile in the Reset's camp there are a number of possible trade scenarios to keep me awake at night. The most obvious of which is trading in Parker, but he is way up there price-wise, so I'm going to be more strategic again and grab Nate Myles while I can, keep a decent wedge over to buy Parker next week.
So, Justin Horo and Chris Houston, your time is well and truly up! In comes Kyle O'Donnell (as cheap as you can go and not likely to play, but if he does can be moved to CTW if appropriate) and Myles. The bank sits at a healthy $194.1K, 800+ points is the target and Parker is on board next week. Looking good.
Also looking good are the final 32 teams in the Eliminator.
You may recall me mentioning that last year the overall Dream Team winner also took out the Eliminator. In 2011 I'm happy to report that that won't be happening again.
Round 22 means the Eliminator is now down to the last 32 and the highest-placed Dreamer still alive is in fifth overall, but they were only seeded 11th for this next round and scored 43 points less last round than the highest-seeded Dreamer.
Indeed, this year's Eliminator has gone along brilliantly. Despite some sour grapes from a few of you, the timing of the Eliminator competition (namely starting around the bye rounds) has done a great job of mixing things up, and personally I couldn't be happier.
The make-up of the final 32 remaining teams in the Eliminator goes something like this:
- Teams ranked in Dream Team's overall top 10: 2
- Teams placed 11 - 100: 8
- Teams placed 101 - 500: 8
- Teams placed 501 - 1000: 7
- Teams placed 1001 - 5000: 6
- Teams placed outside the top 5000: 1
This week I'll be cheering for Louise and her team Prestige Worldwide (currently ranked 6,450 overall), as they take on the 215th-ranked MickyTiger. I hope you have trades Louise? Upgrade David Stagg now!
Finally, a big thanks to all of you that have sent in suggestions for improving DT in 2012. Keep the ideas coming by sending an email to email@example.com, and we will check them all out.
Catch you next week, when I'll review the most talked about centres and wingers. Your final choices here will likely be the difference between the title and the minor placings.
Best of luck to all this round. Keep dreaming...