This is a massive week for Toyota NRL Dream Team, for two major reasons: (1) it's the final week to make trades before player prices start to change; and (2) the game's most expensive player, Corey Parker, is injured.
The main thing to keep in mind this week is this: make two trades. I know saving trades is usually of paramount concern, but this is the final week before the cash cows start rising in value and the 2012 flops start losing value. Even if you missed out on some smart value buys earlier, you can still make the most of them if you bring them in now.
So unless you are 100 per cent happy with your squad as it stands, I'd strongly recommend making the most of the two trades available to you this week (in fact, I'd like to have four of five to make this week).
Now, before I get onto the answers to this week's big questions, here's something to keep you feeling hopeful even amid injury disasters and form slumps.
Remember last week when I said "the Dream Team Eliminator and weekly cash prizes will be wide open this year"?
In round 2, a guy called Hamish sent his Dream Team into battle, even though only 16 of the 25 players in his squad would take the field (Frank Pritchard would have made it a full team of 17 if not for a suspension). His team had no back-up hooker and only three playing second-rowers – traditionally the two biggest-scoring positions in Dream Team. His backline was short on the popular dual position players and was filled with less reliable attacking threats – guys like Jharal Yow Yeh, Akuila Uate, Josh Dugan, Michael Jennings and Dane Nielsen.
Yet, somehow, everything went right. Yow Yeh, Uate and Dugan all found the tryline, while Jennings and Nielsen both bagged doubles. His halfback Daly Cherry-Evans scored a massive 104 points alone.
Hamish's 16 players somehow put together a total score of 994 – with just 16 players – to make him the weekly top scorer for Round 2. It earns him a cool $500 in cash and two tickets to an NRL Finals game this year.
So make sure you get your mates to sign up and enter a team now – one lucky week and they might be able to repay you with a ticket to a finals game.
Now, onto this week's big questions.
What do I do with Corey Parker?
The Broncos lock is Dream Team's most expensive player, and therefore the man expected to score more points on average than any other player (yes, even Cameron Smith). But he has now undergone surgery on a broken thumb, and will be out of action for between four and eight weeks, with the most common prediction being six weeks.
So, do you trade him out? And if so, who for? Here are four general options you could take this week, each with its own advantages and disadvantages depending on how the rest of your team is shaping up.
1) Keep him
Corey Parker's a tough guy. He reportedly broke his thumb 10 minutes into the game against the Cowboys last Friday, and still played the full 80. When he was told he'll be out for up to eight weeks, you can bet he was planning to make it back in four.
If he does return sooner than expected, you could save two trades by just leaving him in your squad now (assuming you want him in your team at the end of the season). It would give you the chance to make changes to other parts of your squad to avoid any major price drops for your players this week (Parker's price won't change until he's played his third game of the season).
On the other hand, if he is out for six weeks or more then you'll be spending at least some of that time with more than $400,000 of your salary cap sitting unused in your reserves. It's a gamble, particularly if you're playing for overall points – when you really can't afford to see that much cash gone to waste.
Of course, you could always keep him for now and trade him next week, before the head-to-head league matches begin.
2) Trade him for another big gun
This is the most obvious move, and probably the safest – especially for Dreamers chasing overall points.
Firstly, there are good reasons to trade Parker. If he was to miss three weeks I'd strongly consider keeping him, but he's more likely to miss a month and a half. Even when Parker returns he's a strong chance of keeping his Origin spot for the very loyal Maroons, which means he'll amount a large chunk of your salary cap sitting in your reserves for a big part of the season.
Losing Parker will sap a lot of points from your squad, so it's a smart move to simply pick up the next best scorer in his position.
So which big guns are the best to swap him with? The obvious answer is Raiders workhorse Shaun Fensom, who has been great so far this year. After that it gets a little tricky. Nathan Hindmarsh and Paul Gallen are both traditional DT guns. Sam Burgess and Tony Williams are almost must-haves for their ability to post big scores and their versatility as dual position players. Elijah Taylor has had a very strong start at lock for the Warriors (although he's likely to be replaced mid-season by the returning Micheal Luck). Then there are the likes of Chris Heighington, Feleti Mateo, Dallas Johnson, Ashley Harrison...
3) Trade him for a cash cow
If you haven't got them already, there are plenty of second-row cash cows there for the taking this week. As I've said before, focusing on cash rather than just points early in the season can be particularly effective for head-to-head players, who can afford to lose a couple of early season league games if it means building a stronger team by the end of the year. If you haven't got any bargains in your squad yet, I'd strongly consider picking one or two up now.
Again, there are a few here to pick from (and they've been mentioned many times), including Tony Williams, Jack De Belin, Boyd Cordner, and Warriors duo Ben Henry and Sione Lousi.
4) Get creative
Is your second-row looking pretty strong, even without Parker? Then how about boosting your centres instead, or your front row?
How? By using dual position players, like Burgess or Williams. By switching a DPP from your front row (eg. Burgess) or centres (eg.Williams, Dene Halatau, Mitchell Aubusson, Nathan Smith, etc) into your second row, you can bring in a quality prop or centre.
That option opens up the possibility of bringing in a high-scoring centre (like Justin Hodges) or prop (like Trent Merrin), or a cash cow in either position. If you have Feleti Mateo or Greg Bird in your halves you could bring in a new playmaker (Cherry-Evans, anyone?). If you happen to have hooker/second-rower Glen Buttriss in your squad, you could even just make a straight switch of Parker for Cameron Smith.
(For those who haven't done it yet, you can use dual position players in a trade by clicking an 'S' next to a player's name after you've selected a player to trade out. That will substitute your selected player into the position of the player you are trading out, allowing you to trade in someone in the other position. Trust me, it's easy to work out if you give it a try.)
From Jason Wood (and a few others):
Could you explain the 'Break-even' in simple terms, I'm not quite getting it.
'Break-even' is a statistic that comes with the Assistant Coach subscription, and is essentially the score a player needs to make in order to remain at the same price next week. Each player is allocated a 'break-even' number, based on his price and his past scores. If he scores better than that number, he is likely to go up in value, if he scores worse, his price will go down.
For an example, Souths rookie Adam Reynolds and Manly's Tony Williams are both guaranteed price jumps this week, to the extent that their break-evens are -52. Justin Hodges has a break-even of 1, meaning any points at all this week will give him a price rise, while Johnathan Thurston will drop in price unless he hits his break-even of 102 (although who knows, he may be inspired by Cherry-Evans's heroics last week).
From Ben Graham:
I was dead set on bringing Tony Williams into my team for Aubusson before his inevitable price rise but now Aubusson has been named as a 2RF I'm not so sure. Thoughts?
I think Aubusson's now a keeper for the short term at least (you've kept him this long, and now he's got a chance to score some decent points so why trade him?). But Williams is probably a must-have. Can you bring him in for someone else, even in the second row? I know a certain C. Parker will be out of action for a while...
And now an epic from Jordan Steer:
This week is obviously the critical week for finalizing your team before price rises. I apologize for asking you do many questions this week (5) but your opinions would be greatly appreciated as this week is so crucial.
1. So I am in a bit of a pickle as to go for profit making machines like Josh Reynolds, Dominique Peyroux, David Shillington, Jordan Rankin, Jonathan Wright or to go for guns and trade out prince to Cronk or Moltzen to Dugan.
Depends what you think your squad needs – make sure you've got a few cash cows in there but don't overload your squad with them or you might run out of the trades you'll need to use them all. Also beware of potential one-hit wonders like Wright (seven tackle-busts last week) and Peyroux (who has been switched to the wing this week). Players who can score decent points and still make you cash, like Shillington and Rankin, look like smart buys at the moment, although Cronk and Dugan look very much like keepers for the season so no harm in snapping them up now.
2. Also I am quite interested in Jarred Mullen because without Gidley he is definitely going to run the place over at the knights. What your thoughts on him?
He's looking good so far isn't he? Two scores in the mid-50s and now he's guaranteed to continue to dominate the playmaking for the Knights without his usual halves partner. Gets a lot of kick metres, and can also bust tackles. Could be a surprise keeper this year.
3. Will Travis Waddell rise in price just as much as Josh Reynolds so I could hold off one week on doing this trade or do I have to jump on him now?
No, Reynolds will jump more this week I'd say.
4. Dave Shillington is sure to bring the house down from here on in isn't he? With no Dane Tilse for a month he should step up and get at least 50 minutes which at 140k is looking quite juicy.
Remember Tom Learoyd-Lahrs was missing for Canberra last week and he's still to return, but he did play in Round 1 and Shillington still scored 49. Shillington is playing well and is chasing an Origin jersey (which could become a problem later on) but should be a solid bet for 40+ points every week.
5. My last question is about Nathan Smith, do I keep him? With players like Newton and Galea off the bench it doesn't look like he'll get much game time so I'm starting to toss up trading him or not. Would you trade him?
The Panthers' back row was always going to be a tricky situation this year with a new coach and a few new faces there, which is why I stayed away from Smith at the outset. His break-even this week is 46, which isn't out of the question, but he doesn't look like being a real money-maker this year. There are other, cheaper, 2RF/CTRs out there who will definitely make you cash, so I'd consider jumping ship now or in the next few weeks if he doesn't improve.