There's injury and Origin dramas for Paul Gallen, the byes are underway, two rookies are quickly moving into "must-have" status, the game's busiest defender is a bargain buy, and one mythical Rooster may finally get his debut this weekend.
It is all happening in the Toyota NRL Dream Team world.
Before I get to this week's big questions, a few quick points. First up, for the beginners – get all your Tigers and Rabbitohs players out of your starting 17 now. Those teams have byes this week, before the serious bye rounds begin next week (six teams will sit out round 11).
The buy of the week is Raiders back-row sensation Shaun Fensom, whose price has bottomed out. He makes 50 or 60 tackles a week, meaning guaranteed big scores, and although he can be injury prone he's close to a must-have when he's on the park.
Also among the must-haves are boom rookies Aidan Sezer and Matt Ryan. The Titans half and Eels back-rower both saw their price rise by more than $40,000 last week, but still have plenty of rises left in them. Crucially, they're also scoring strongly enough to warrant a place in your starting side.
Finally, there are some solid-sounding rumours that popular cheapie-turned-Dream Team myth Tautau Moga may finally get his debut this weekend for the Roosters, replacing Peni Tagive, who has a knee injury. It's sensational news for those of us who snapped him up at the start of the season, and could come in very handy for those teams who are struggling to field a full 17 this week because of the Rabbitohs' and Tigers' byes. On the other hand, if you don't need to play him, leave him out this week while you see how he scores, and if you haven't got him yet then wait a fortnight before making any move.
Should I trade out Paul Gallen?
Here's my simple answer: if you're playing for head-to-head glory, then no; if you're playing for overall points, then yes.
Gallen's possible injury this week, plus Cronulla's bye schedule and his status as NSW Origin captain, means the gun forward may miss round 10 and will definitely miss rounds 11, 12, 14, 16 and 17.
That doesn't look good. If you're playing for overall points, it's a horror stretch of games to leave out a player worth $386,000. You can trade him out for anyone you like – with Corey Parker the obvious candidate (particularly if he misses out on Queensland selection on Monday night, as is looking likely).
But if you're focusing mainly on your own head-to-head league, then I suggest taking the hit with Gallen. There are no head-to-head match-ups in rounds 11, 14 and 17 anyway, so he'll effectively only be out of action for just three games (if he's out this week). You will need to trade him back into your squad down the track anyway, so save a couple of trades and leave him in your team now unless you've got plenty of trades to spare.
From Ant McLellan (on Facebook)
Any tips on who to replace Friend with?
With Nathan Friend ruled out for six weeks, it's time to look elsewhere for a hooker if he's in your squad. Money may be an issue (with Friend currently priced at a modest $228,900) but there are a few in-form No.9s available in Dream Team these days. The regular faces are Cameron Smith ($365K) and Robbie Farah (good value at $277K) – but both are set to play Origin, making them players to avoid for DT coaches chasing overall points. New Zealand hooker Issac Luke is the obvious name for the Origin period – he's pricey at $331K and has a bye this week, but can score anything from 40 to 90+.
Elsewhere, Matt Ballin ($250K) and Matt Srama ($261K) are both traditional 80-minute No.9s who will be very solid performers over the Origin period, although their byes are much better for head-to-head than overall. Meanwhile cash cow Josh Reynolds has hit his price peak but is still a decent buy at $254K, while Jeff Robson has a little more climbing to do at $226K.
Of the cheaper options, the man who replaces Friend in the Warriors lineup – Alehana Mara – is the obvious choice. He won't play the full 80, but looks good value at $116,800 for a starting hooker. If he scores in the 30s then he'll make a bit of cash until Friend returns, but will that be worth the two trades you use to get him and sell him later on? He's yet to play a game this season so his price won't budge until after round 13 (the Warriors have a bye in round 12) so he is only a short-term move, with Friend to return in round 17. I'd still recommend upgrading to one of the stronger hookers now, if you can afford to.
From Jason Wood (on Twitter)
What's the go with Bukuya? Still didn't get many points with Gallen off – worth keeping?
Jayson Bukuya plays close to 80 minutes every week in Cronulla's back row, so it doesn't make a massive difference whether Paul Gallen is on the field or not. If anything, Gallen's absence may leaving Bukuya with more ball-running to do, but it's not a certainty to boost his scores. What does matter to Bukuya's score is tackle breaks – he has the ability to make a lot, as he showed early in the season, but when he doesn't bust tackles then his scores will obviously drop. He doesn't make the big tackle counts to be a consistent scorer (like 80-minute workhorses Shaun Fensom or, at the moment, Liam Fulton) but I think he's still worth having as a hit-and-miss strike weapon. Some weeks he'll score plenty, some weeks he'll score low (in the same way as centres or fullbacks who score a lot of points through tackle breaks).
If you're happy to accept that weekly risk then he could still be a keeper in the long run... at least keep an eye on things to see if his last couple of low scorers are rarities or the start of a trend (he does seem to be playing a little wider – is that going to be a long-term issue?).
At the moment, Bukuya's amongst a bunch of back-rowers averaging scores in the mid-40s. Only five second-rowers are averaging better – Gallen, Corey Parker, the suspended Tony Williams, Fensom and Fulton (who is benefiting from injuries in the Tigers' pack). If you can't upgrade to one of those players, I'd recommend holding Bukuya for now.
Byes are another issue to take into consideration – the Sharks have great byes for overall, but bad for head-to-head, so whether you're an overall or head-to-head player could be the determining factor if you're stuck for a decision.
Good luck this week, and may the DT gods smile on your squad over the bye period.
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