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Is it time to get Bulldogs superstar Ben Barba into your Dream Team?

Hey Dream Teamers! We're into the serious stuff now: the cash cows are peaking, the bye rounds are coming, and a tough week of scores has sent the Scouts team tumbling out of the top 100.  

There's been a stack of questions this week on cash cows, Mark Minichiello, Ben Barba, Matt Bowen, James Graham and more, so I'll get right into it.

From James Thompson (on Facebook)
With all the Tigers injuries, are Spence, Sue or Thompson good pick-ups?

The poor Tigers have certainly been hammered by injuries and that does bring a few cash cow opportunities for Dream Team coaches. Wests Tigers rookies Suaso Sue and Shaun Spence are both playing their third game of the season this week, while dual position cheapie Bodene Thompson has been named to start in the centres. For that reason I'd stay away from Thompson for now, and of the two youngsters Sue seems to be the busier worker, having made 37 tackles in 47 minutes back in round 6. If you need a cash cow (or just a cheapie to free up some money) and need to trade out a back rower, Sue's my tip for the week.

From Tom Canfell (on Facebook)
Hey mate after Mark Minichello's 49 is he a good option to trade in for Ryan James considering he's pretty much at his peak?

Minichiello's an odd one. On the positive side, he's come back from injury and killed it in the past two weeks, scoring 61 and 49, and his position in the Titans' starting side looks safe for now with Ashley Harrison injured until round 11 and then Harrison, Greg Bird and Nate Myles all bound for Origin duty. With the Titans' good bye schedule, he looms as a very handy player for the bye rounds if his high scoring continues.

On the other hand, his scoring looks unusual – he's traditionally a mid-30s scorer (he averaged 34 from 23 games last year) and his points so far have included a try against the Eels and 10 tackle breaks in two games. Can he keep up that kind of attacking output? He also only played the full 80 minutes last weekend after the Gold Coast lost three players to injury. For those DT coaches focusing on head-to-head who don't care about the bye rounds, Minichiello's not a genuine gun and at $269,500 isn't a genuine cash cow either. Still not a bad trade by any means, but some food for thought.

From Michael O'Keeffe (on Facebook)
Ben Barba seems to be getting more consistent, is he one to look to get soon or avoid until he proves old form?

Barba obviously hasn't been his usual self this year, but there are two reasons to consider buying him in the next few rounds. One, the Bulldogs have a great bye schedule with games on all three major bye rounds (the weeks before an Origin game). Two, he's Ben Barba. The guy can rip teams apart on his day and will always be capable of putting together a bunch of tackle breaks. His break even is still high this week (59) but he's taking on the struggling Tigers and could beat that score, and if not he could be a very handy pick-up in the next couple of weeks.

From Thomas Smith (on Twitter)
Would you say Matty Bowen is a good buy right now?

Like Barba's Bulldogs, Bowen's Cowboys have a good bye draw, so he'll be in action in round 12 and round 18. Bowen's usually a great Dream Team player to have over the Origin period as he steps into Johnathan Thurston's shoes as North Queensland's chief playmaker, racking up plenty of kick metres and try assists. His price is very close to bottoming out as well with a break even of just 23 this week.

On the other hand, Bowen's yet to really shine this year, with just 24 points a game and only four tackle breaks all season. He's not running the ball and beating defenders as much as you'd like from a star Dream Team fullback. The 31-year-old's not over the hill yet (he's got more try assists than any other No.1 in 2013) but there's no guarantees he's going to start hit 50s on a regular basis at this stage. Despite all that, I'll still probably bring him in before Origin.

From Troy Douglas (on Facebook)
How long do you see Matt Moylan holding a first grade spot?

Moylan was great on debut against the Eels and should keep the Panthers fullback spot at least until West Naiqama and Josh Mansour return from injury in round 12, which could push Dean Whare back out of the centres to fullback. Or, if things go well, Moylan could keep his spot for longer with Whare staying in the centres and Lewis Brown shifting back to the forward pack instead. Either way, Moylan should make some DT cash in the next month once his price starts rising after round 9.

From Ra Pomare (on Facebook)
Shaun Johnson is one of the better scoring halves and doesn't have a lot of competition for kicking metres. Worth bringing him in?

Yes. Of the halves, only Daly Cherry-Evans has scored more Dream Team points than Johnson this season. Johnson's not consistent (he's got two scores in the 80s, two in the 40s and two in the 20s) but he does a ton of kicking, breaks tackles, kicks goals and sets up tries. And as a Kiwi he won't play Origin. What's not to like?

From Shadi Masri (on Twitter)
Do you think James Graham is worth it?

I'll be waiting a week at least to see how he goes after such a long layoff, but Graham is certainly one to keep an eye on. He's a terrific player who could be the dominant Dream Team front rower over the Origin period, considering the Bulldogs' good bye draw. He's not cheap ($361,600) and there are other good FRFs out there, but I like Graham as an upgrade for someone like Jack Buchanan, Sam Rapira or Jack Stockwell in the next few weeks.

From Ben McCarroll (on Facebook)
Time to cut Trent Merrin?

Where's the faith? Merrin's been rock solid all year and then plays reduced minutes and scores 27 on Anzac Day, a few days after playing City-Country. That's not a good enough reason to trade out a keeper. My only concern about him is the chance of playing Origin, but otherwise he's a gun. Keep.

From Connor Monk (on Facebook)
What to do with Te'o and McQueen?

Ben Te'o and Chris McQueen were surprisingly quiet in the South Sydney back row last week against Manly, both scoring less than 20, which hurt those of us who have both in our Dream Teams. But I'm still keeping both. McQueen is still an 80-minute back-rower and Te'o has been a very solid scorer – particularly for a DT centre (before last week his scores were 51, 47, 40, 42, 36). If Te'o misses out on Queensland selection the pair could be very handy guys to have for the first two bye rounds.

From Marc Roest (on Facebook)
Tom Humble. Keep or trade?


From Nigel McFall (on Facebook)
Will Hodkinson keep his spot? He is a good player for the bye rounds, but if replaced he is no good at all. Any inside info?

There's a bit of conjecture about whether Trent Hodkinson is playing halfback at the Bulldogs because of Kris Keating's calf injury, or because he's leapfrogged Keating in the pecking order. Going off the Dogs' start to the season with Keating at halfback, there's good reason to think Des Hasler has now opted to give Hodkinson a run in the No.7 jersey for the long haul. He performed well under Hasler back at Manly (and was a great DT cash cow in his rookie season) and impressed on the weekend with a try assist and four goals. I like his chances of staying in the side for the Origin period at least, particularly if the Bulldogs keep winning.

From Cameron Cooper (on Twitter)
Is Sam Irwin a good cash cow buy? Is Srama out for a few weeks?

Rookie Titans hooker Irwin will stay on the bench until Matt Srama gets back from his finger fracture injury in round 11. When that happens, Srama will presumably start with Beau Falloon dropping back to the bench and Irwin getting the axe. That means Irwin will only get two weeks of price rises before dropping out of the side, which probably isn't enough to justify a trade. He's only played one game so far, so at the very least hold off a week to see if the injury situation for Srama changes before bringing Irwin in.

From Billal Skanda (on Facebook)
What do we do with Scott Moore!!?

Upgrade him for a better hooker as soon as you can get hold off some spare cash, with a view to (ideally) getting the Smith/Farah combo together by the end of the Origin period.

From Andy Donaldson (on Facebook)
Has George Burgess peaked, or can we expect more 50+ scores here and there?

Yes and yes. With a break even of 47 it's safe to say big George Burgess probably has peaked, or is close to it, but that doesn't mean you should trade him. Somebody who averages in the mid-40s is a keeper in my book. He's likely to keep mixing 30s with 60s all season, but that's probably good enough to keep a spot in your front row. I'd look to improve other areas of your squad first before trading out Burgess.

From Jason Murray (on Twitter)
Hi there, who would be the best long term option? Gallen, Woods or Fensom?

All are great buys, but Fensom is the only certainty out of those three to not play Origin this year, so I'd bring him in first.

That's it for this week, good luck to your team.


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