Finally, a week in which the Scouts haven't been hit by major injuries or suspensions (David Shillington was my only casualty from round 4, and he could even return this week if you believe Canberra's team list). Commiserations though for Toyota NRL Dream Team coaches who had Penrith dual-position centre Nathan Smith or Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodkinson in their squads – sadly the injury woes continue for some.
But the Dream Team world could finally be slipping back into normality, meaning most DT coaches have the chance to make a couple of tactical trades – rather than just trading to cover injuries or suspensions. With that in mind, I've run through some of the most talked about players this week and listed some pros and cons for buying each of them.
Pros: Do I need to spell this one out? The guy was simply superb last week, carrying his Sharks to victory over the Cowboys and scoring 104 DT points in the process. Gallen's an unusual back-row DT superstar in that he only makes about 30 tackles a week, but he makes up for it with a non-stop running game that gets him plenty of points for tackle busts and run metres. He's also expected to get a price bump this week.
Cons: When he doesn't break tackles he'll be a little inconsistent, meaning you'll have to settle for solid scores in the 40s on a lot of weeks. He's also got a bad bye schedule, particularly for head-to-head teams, with Sharks players to miss the head-to-head match-ups in rounds 12 and 16.
Pros: He breaks tackles, scores tries, kicks goals, is pretty good value at $240,100, and is coming off a score of 98. With a break-even of -12, he's guaranteed to take another big price bump this week.
Cons: Against the Tigers, Croker scored two tries, ran for 240 metres, kicked five goals, and made three line breaks and a dozen tackle breaks. He simply won't score that well again this year. He's scored five tries in four games, and in the one game when he didn't find the tryline he scored a modest 25 (albeit against the defensively rock-solid Storm).
As a genuine centre (as opposed to a dual-position back-rower), Croker's scores will depend on tackle busts and tries, so prepare for some inconsistent scores if you snap him up. Certainly he's a very good short-term money maker, but I see him as a solid goal-kicking centre in the Jamie Lyon mould – rather than a genuine DT gun – in the long term.
Pros: He's probably the best player in the world, and has somehow managed to start the season with four straight try-scoring doubles. He's clearly the highest-scoring Dream Team fullback so far, averaging 61.8 points a game (Brett Morris is the next best, with 48.8). With Josh Dugan out injured, Slater appears to be the top dog as far as No.1s go in Dream Team.
Cons: No matter how good he is, Slater cannot keep scoring two tries every game. Nobody can keep that form up. Excluding those eight tries (even while leaving the line breaks and tackle breaks that came with them), Slater's average drops to 45.75 – back with the rest of the pack.
Like Croker, he'll be a money-spinner in the short-term and a solid option in the long run, but his price could level out in a month or so if and when the tries dry up. It could be worth waiting until then before jumping on board.
Pros: One of the surprises of the season so far, Burns has been a big scorer for a Penrith team that has shaken off its tag as wooden spoon favourites (with a little help from the woeful Eels). Burns is averaging 53 points a week and has a break-even of -26, meaning he's guaranteed another price rise even after jumping $67,800 already.
Cons: Again, be wary of players who are scoring big through tries and tackle breaks. Those attacking factors are a much riskier barometer of a player's worth than the dependable base stats (tackles, kick metres, run metres).In the one game Burns didn't score a try, he scored just 24 DT points – so be wary.
Andrew Everingham, Reece Robinson, Jeff Robson, Daniel Vidot, Cameron Ciraldo, Ryan Simpkins
What have all these players got in common? Apart from being less than household names, they're all due to play their third game of the season this week. That means they'll get their first price change after Round 5, and they will all make money this week. Any or all of the above could be good cash cow options if you've got a trade or two up your sleeve to burn this week.
But beware, some might not be as promising as they seem. Rabbitohs winger Everingham is a $77K cheapie who is averaging almost 40 points after two games (thanks to three tries) and is guaranteed a hefty price boost this week. But how long will he keep his place in the team if, say, Nathan Merritt returns from injury in Round 6? He has been playing well, but can you be sure Michael Maguire won't drop him out of the 17 when his squad gets closer to full strength?
Likewise, will Jeff Robson continue to dominate the general kicking duties at a Cronulla side that boasts half a dozen genuine options in the halves? Can Reece Robinson continue to carve it up as Josh Dugan's replacement at the Raiders? (Dugan is expected to be out until round 10, which is a plus for Robinson.)
When considering swooping on a cash cow, don't just look at their previous scores and break-evens. Look at how they scored their points – have they got lucky and simply scored a few tries, or are they regularly doing plenty of tackling, running or kicking? Also, try to assess their job security in the team. The best way to do that is to actually watch them play, but also take a look at who they've replaced in their team and whether that player is due back soon.
Certainly take a look at these guys if you have trades to burn, but if you're still in recovery mode after the onslaught of early injuries this season you might be better off fixing other aspects of your squad first.
And now, to sell or not to sell....
He's a huge talent, he's hard to tackle, he's dirt cheap, he's the fourth-most popular player in Toyota NRL Dream Team... and he's been named as the sixth man on a six-man bench for the Warriors this week. His best chance of taking the field seems to be on the wing if Manu Vatuvei succumbs to a hamstring injury. His scores are on the wane as well, with a meagre 11 last week.
And yet, my instinct is to keep him. Remember he's a first-year rookie, playing for a team that reached the grand final last year – meaning the club can afford to let him gradually gain experience in the top grade before giving him a full-time starting berth. There's a good chance he'll break his way into the starting team down the track, even if he is seen as a back-up to the Warriors' more senior men at the moment. If and when he does start, he has the potential to be a long-term keeper.
Moltzen's the opposite story – he's an established first-grader who is guaranteed a start every week, but simply doesn't score well in Dream Team. He's likely to have a bit more to do this week in the likely absence of Benji Marshall, but look to upgrade him sooner or later. He's still a chance of being a minor cash cow if he strings together a few try-scoring performances, and his scores might see some improvement as a fullback, but that's a risk that might not be worth taking. Sell, sell, sell.
See Tim Moltzen. Quality NRL player, but he doesn't convert his talents into Dream Team points.
The pre-season hype billed Moga as another Greg Inglis in the making, but the 22,000+ Dreamers who picked him up may well be wondering, does he even exist?
Fortunately he does, having played in the NSW Cup last weekend after recovering from a nagging injury. His Newtown Jets were smashed 54-10 by Canterbury though, so it's hard to tell if Moga's done enough yet to earn an NRL call-up.
The hope of many Dream Team coaches is that Moga will move into the Roosters' centres and push Mitchell Aubusson into the back row (possibly as early as this week), but there's no telling when that will happen. Still, there's no harm in keeping him in your 25 for now – unless you are absolutely desperate for more depth in your centres.
If NRL Dream Team awarded points for outlandish sidesteps and no-look flick passes, Benji Marshall would be a DT gun. But it doesn't, so he isn't. His form's been poor, and he's set to drop further in value this week, so sell him now. There are plenty of other quality halves available, both cash cows and genuine keepers.
That's my two cents for this week, so good luck with your trades, and keep dreaming...