Lone Scout's Dream Team Q&A: Round 21

It's Round 21, and that means just two more weeks to go before the Toyota NRL Dream Team league finals series get under way. Are you in the race for your league's top eight?

Unfortunately things still haven't got any easier for Dream Team coaches, with Jarryd Hayne and cheapie Curtis Sironen being ruled out for the season, Greg Inglis copping a three-week ban, and DT superstars Corey Parker and Paul Gallen both being in some doubt for this weekend's games.

But there are a few pieces of good news floating around. For one thing, there are plans in place to keep the Dream Team action going after Round 26 comes and goes this year. Word is that a Dream Team finals game will kick off this year for the first time, giving you the chance to start a team from scratch and go in the running for more big prizes over the four weeks of the 2012 NRL finals series.

Plus there are still some great buys emerging in regular Dream Team this season. The time for cash cows may be well and truly over but two genuine bargains have arrived on the scene in the last few weeks.

Parramatta rookie Jake Mullaney presumably has a mortgage on the Eels fullback spot for the rest of the year after Hayne's injury, and is a steal at $77,100, while Bulldogs back-rower Josh Jackson is slightly more expensive at $91,100 but has overtaken David Stagg in the pecking order at the Dogs after playing 76 minutes last week. With Dene Halatau ruled out until the finals, expect Jackson to hold onto his starting spot in the Canterbury pack.

If you need to free up cash and also want to boost your depth with an extra handy scorer, then Mullaney or Jackson are both very good options.

Now onto this week's big questions.

From Caren Hugginson:
So should I trade Inglis? I just punted Croker, was not confident with Canberra's upcoming matches but he proved me wrong... I have 10 trades left and $15,000 spare. I will need a decent centre for the coming weeks without Inglis. My other centre is JoshMorris. The others are dregs.

This is one of the ones that purely depends on your situation. I've got Inglis, and I'm holding him, but I suggest you trade. On the "hold" side of the argument is that he's one of Dream Team's highest-scoring centres so could be a wasted trade in the long run – particularly if points aren't crucial in the next three weeks. On the "trade" side is the fact that, well, he's out for three weeks.

So here's my formula for this decision: if you're playing head-to-head and are on track for a finals spot (preferably a top-four spot), or have between one and four trades left, then hold.

If you're playing for overall points, or need all the points you can get in the next three weeks, or have five or more trades left, then trade.

From Paul Hayden:
Since Hayne is out for the year Mr Scout, I am torn in what direction to go? A half or a fullback?

Hayne's obviously a must-sell, but at least with his $298,800 price tag you should be able to bring in a strong replacement. There are more big-scoring halves than fullbacks around at the moment, so bring in a half if you can.

Cooper Cronk is a steal at $279,300, while Benji Marshall and Johnathan Thurston are both a little less consistent but still good value at less than $250K. Daly Cherry-Evans is the other gun worth having, while James Maloney and Adam Reynolds both seem slightly overpriced at the moment.

Amongst the fullbacks, Jake Mullaney isn't a guaranteed huge scorer but will contribute solid 30+ totals (he did score 52 in his one and only game so far) and gives you real options with his tiny price tag – if you need cash to strengthen your team elsewhere. Otherwise, Josh Dugan's probably the best value fullback out there, ahead of Billy Slater, Matt Bowen and the now fairly expensive Ben Barba.

From Matthew Cordell:
Should I keep Matt Srama if his game time is dropping?

Beau Falloon looks to have secured a spot as the Titans' bench hooker and will continue to take minutes off Srama, so it's worth upgrading Srama to one of the top 80-minute hookers (Cameron Smith, Robbie Farah or Kevin Kingston) or trading him for Eels rake Nathan Smith if you want to free up some cash.

From Danieal Forsyth:
Hey Lone Scout should I keep Carney or should I trade him?

Keep. Last week's -6 was a terrible one-off, but all the best teams have him. He averages 50 points a week so any trade would be a sideways move, which is a waste at this time of the year when there are so many injuries around.

From a few people:
Hi Lone Scout, I have one trade left and I'm thinking of....

HOLD IT! In just about every circumstance, apart from one of your best players being ruled out for the season, I strongly recommend you don't get rid of your last trade now. After this week there are five rounds to go, so there's a big chance a more important trade could come up in the future. Trades are priceless at the moment so keep at least a few up your sleeve for the DreamTeam finals... remember there's a bottom-eight playoff series as well in your league so there's something to win even if you don't make your top eight.

That's all for this week, good luck this weekend.

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