Lone Scout's Dream Team Q&A: Round 20

After a week of monster scores in Toyota NRL Dream Team, this week I take a look at what you should do with the injured Dene Halatau and the suspended Issac Luke and a few other big questions heading into Round 20.

But first up, thanks for all the tales of woe. There were plenty of hard luck stories coming from Dream Team punters this week.

Most Dreamers complained about the unprecedented plague of injuries to DT favourites this season. I think Karl Le Lievre took the cake with his record of 18 injuries in the first 19 rounds. So far this year he's had an injury list of Kane Lawton, James Tedesco, Nathan Merritt, Josh Dugan, Michael Gordon, Corey Parker, Jerome Ropati, Tony Williams, Sam Burgess, Michael Weyman, Sam Burgess again, Terry Campese, Josh Dugan again, Liam Fulton, Curtis Sironen, Justin Poore, Konrad Hurrell and Dene Halatau.

A lot of other Dreamers went close, with Tedesco, Parker, Fensom and Burgess causing plenty of damage across the board.

There were also some trades from hell, like Cameron Chamberlain swapping out Adam Reynolds for Tom Humble before Reynolds' mid-season scoring spree, and Chris Slade trading out rookie sensation Konrad Hurrell in order to keep Jerome Ropati, who promptly suffered a season-ending injury.

And then there were several entertaining stories of one-off horror weeks. Nick Lennon traded in Canberra stars Josh Dugan and Shaun Fensom in Round 3, and both instantly got injured (Dugan was his captain for the week and scored an underwhelming 5 points). Matt Field went into Monday night football in Round 16 with a 160-point lead against his head-to-head opponents, who only had Timana Tahu and Jarrod Mullen left to play – and watched on as Tahu and Mullen somehow scored 184 between them as the Knights stunned the Tigers. Last week Ibrahim Dib led by 72 points with his head-to-head opponent having only Chris McQueen left to play, and McQueen scored a huge 76 points thanks to the Rabbitohs' match-winning last play of the game.

Rebecca Hardes (and a lot of others I'm guessing) left William Zillman out of her team last week, only to see him score 106 points.

So if you think you've had rotten luck this season, rest assured that thousands of other Dream Teamers have as well.

Now, onto this week's big questions.

From Brad Hawkins (on Facebook)
Issac Luke: Trade or not?

This is really a 50/50 call, and depends entirely on your team's circumstances. Luke's accepted a three-match ban for his dangerous tackle on Shaun Kenny-Dowall on Monday night, so he won't be back until the Dream Team head-to-head finals begin. He's also one of just four hookers in the game to average 55 points or better, so is a keeper in the long run.

So, hold onto him if: (1) you're very low on trades; (2) you have decent depth (another strong hooker and a handy reserve in your squad to replace Luke in your 17); or (3) you can cope without Luke and still cruise into your league's finals spots.

Trade him out if: (1) you absolutely need points in the next few weeks (either because you're playing for overall points or because you are struggling to reach your league's top eight); or (2) you've got plenty of trades.

To those Dream Teamers who are down to one or two trades (and by the sound of things that's a lot of you) then I strongly recommend you hold on to them as long as you can to make sure you're not wiped out altogether by one or two big-name injuries late in the year.

Scott McBryde (on Facebook):
Time to grab Stagg with Halatau out?

Unlike Luke, Dene Halatau is a definite sell after being ruled out for eight weeks. As a centre/second-rower, there are obviously a lot of players you could bring in to replace him. Here's my quick wrap of the leading contenders.

If you haven't got him, your top target should be Manly's Tony Williams (centre/second-row, $229,700). He's already in a lot of teams but T-Rex is a player tailor-made for Dream Team this year, and is the best centre in the business. He's also sensational value for a player averaging 51 points a week, so snap him up now if you haven't got him yet. The only concern is the risk of his back injury flaring up again (which is actually a pretty real risk).

Stagg's not a bad option – he's replaced Halatau in the Bulldogs starting side and is cheap at $213,600, and has a history of being an 80-minute tackle machine. But he isn't guaranteed 80 minutes (he's only played the full 80 twice this year) and has a break-even of 60 this week, so it could be worth waiting and making a call on him next week.

If you're after a cheapie, Josh Jackson is the new face on the Bulldogs bench and will play a similar role to Halatau but comes with a $77,100 price tag. He'll get his first price boost this week, but again it's unclear just how many minutes Des Hasler will give him.

There are a handful of other quality players in the centres or the back row who are a little more expensive that Halatau's $211,700 price, so could be worth snapping up if you've got a little cash in the bank.

The best of the centres are Greg Inglis ($241,500), Jamie Lyon ($251,300), Josh Morris ($234,400) Jarrod Croker ($243,000), Justin Hodges ($237,400) and Michael Jennings ($230,800), while the back-rowers in the price range are Sam Burgess ($253,400), Chris Houston ($243,500) Gavin Cooper ($243,000) Simon Mannering ($231,900) and Feleti Mateo ($230,800). All those players are averaging better than 40.

Also averaging 40 (just) is Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who is actually a little cheaper than Halatau and has the potential to score big on his day.

From Henry Carta (on Facebook):
Lone Scout, is William Zillman the real deal or was his 106 just a one-off?

Pure one-off. He was great in the game itself, tearing up the Raiders defence with five line breaks, 17 tackle breaks and two tries – but it's very hard to see him doing it again. Before last week he had only made three line breaks all year and hadn't scored a single try, and in 11 out of 15 games this season he has scored less than 30. He's not even particularly cheap any more at $183,200 either, so don't buy him.

From Iain Stanmore (on Twitter):
Is this Mullaney kid worth a buy? Will Hayne maybe play 5/8th when he comes back?

Stand-in Eels fullback Jake Mullaney is a pretty solid option if you are looking to cash out one of your winger/fullbacks anyway. Mullaney missed last week with the flu so will stay at $77,100 for at least another couple of weeks, but I expect he's the man most likely to make way when Jarryd Hayne comes back. I wouldn't read too much into his 52-point effort on debut, but he could get you a solid 30+ score this week and free up some cash which you can spend elsewhere.

Of course there's the chance that Parramatta's Joseph Paulo experiment at five-eighth doesn't work and they use Hayne in there instead, meaning Mullaney keeps the fullback spot, but I wouldn't count on it. Hayne's most dangerous when he gets room to run the ball from fullback, not in the halves.

And of course Parramatta's coaching woes could have significant repercussions for their lineup in the next few weeks...

From Simon Vale ‎(on Facebook):
NRL Lone Scout is Matt Ryan likely to suffer much for minutes being on the interchange?

You'd have to think he'd drop a little, although he'll remain pretty solid. His break-even is an achievable 36 this week. If you need to bring in one of the big guns (Parker/Fensom/T-Rex/Hindy) then now's a good time to upgrade, otherwise you can cash him out or wait and snap up Gallen in a week or two.

That's all for this week, good luck.

Remember, there are still great weekly prizes up for grabs, including $500 in cash every week, so if you have family or friends that are yet to sign up there is still time to get them involved. The Dream Team coach who achieves the top weekly round score over the entire season, as well as receiving the weekly prize pack in the round they achieve the best score, will also win at the end of the season the BONUS cash prize of $1,000 and 4 x NRL Category 1 Grand Final Tickets!