Holden NRL Dream Team has been hit by an injury crisis of biblical proportions, just in time for the head-to-head finals to begin. Many of the better Dream Teams have been hit the hardest, with a long list of popular keepers biting the dust.
The list of players missing games in the past couple of weeks through injuries or suspension now includes Robbie Farah, Greg Inglis, Ben Barba, Shaun Fensom, Aaron Woods, John Sutton, Sonny Bill Williams, Paul Gallen, Albert Kelly, Jamal Idris, Jacob Loko, Justin Hodges, Josh Dugan, Trent Merrin, Sam Burgess and Terry Campese.
Inglis and Sutton have been named to play this week, in good news for those who kept them and horrible news for those who traded them for the likes of Josh Dugan. Dugan is one of several stars to have been ruled out for the regular season, alongside Fensom, Merrin, Woods and Hodges.
There are now 82 players currently listed as injured or suspended in the Dream Team system, including four of the top 10 scorers of the year and five of the top 15.
You could actually put together a pretty handy Dream Team squad purely made of players who won't play this week:
Hookers: Robbie Farah, Matt Srama
Front row: Aaron Woods, Trent Merrin
Second row: Shaun Fensom, Sam Burgess, Anthony Watmough
Halves: Albert Kelly, Terry Campese
Centres: Jamal Idris, Justin Hodges
Wingers/fullbacks: Josh Dugan, Ben Barba, James Roberts
Bench: Dallas Johnson, Boyd Cordner, Adam Cuthbertson, Maurice Blair
But if your team's struggling, you can always be confident that somebody else is hurting more.
Last week's injuries cost Jarrod Lawrence a place in his head-to-head finals series: "I had to trade out GI, Barba and Farah as I needed to win to make the eight, so I ran out of trades. Then SBW got suspended as well as Sam Burgess, then Boyd Cordner, Josh Dugan and Watmough all got injured and I just missed the eight in ninth spot because I lost in the final round by 10 points."
Adam McMillan can name 23 players who have been injured or suspended while in his squad this season: Jacob Loko, Jamal Idris, Greg Inglis, Ben Barba, John Sutton, Josh McGuire, Michael Gordon, Sonny Bill Williams, Matt Bowen, George Burgess, Kurt Gidley, Tom Humble, Ryan James, Josh Mansour, Albert Kelly, Travis Robinson, Sam Rapira, Liam Fulton, Anthony Watmough, Josh Dugan, Sam Burgess, Michael Chee Kam and David Klemmer.
Kyle Jarrett's perfectly planned squad is in tatters: "I traded out Inglis when he got injured, for Barba. That week Barba got injured. Traded out Woods when he was ruled out for the season, but traded in Sam Burgess who got suspended the same week. Then I have Merrin, Dugan, Farah, Sutton, SBW, Fensom, who are all causing distress. Had my team perfectly planned so that there was only 1 non-playing reserve (Hodkinson) as an auto emergency if needed, because last year an Edrick Lee as auto emergency destroyed me."
And bit of an exaggeration (I hope) from Dale Bray: "I was so mad after the Dugan, Merrin and Fensom injuries that I kicked the cat, it died soon after, which my youngest daughter witnessed, and now I have $300 in psychiatrist bills. Anyone got a spare cat?"
Now, to this week's big questions.
From Jack Wiegman
Who is the best replacement for Shaun Fensom?
If you can bring in a front-rower by swapping a dual-position prop (like Paul Gallen) to your back row, then I'd aim for Andrew Fifita first. He's scored an average of 81 points a week in his past five games.
Your next best options, based on current form, are Corey Parker, Gallen, Josh McGuire (in the front row), James Graham (front row), George Burgess (front row), Sam Thaiday and Josh Papalii. Of those, Burgess and Papalii are both hit-and-miss kind of players who could score anything between 40 and 80, while the others are all pretty consistent. Papalii could take up more of the defensive workload at Canberra now with Fensom on the sidelines.
From Max Shearwood
Who should I trade for Watmough?
I'd hold Watmough if I was you. He'll probably be out for a week or two, and if you're like everyone else you've probably got more important trades to make first (guys like Fensom, Merrin, Dugan and Hodges who are out for the season). If you are facing a must-win game this week and have a few spare trades up your sleeve, then see my previous answer for the best trade options.
From Tony Callaghan
Is Blake Fergusson the best trade for Josh Dugan?
I'd take Greg Inglis above Ferguson, but only just. Ferguson is coming off a whopping 85 while Inglis is returning from injury so could be a bit quiet this week. Both the Raiders and Rabbitohs have fairly tough runs home (Raiders play the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Warriors and Sharks; Souths play the Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Tigers and Roosters) but Souths are more likely to score points against those top teams now that they have Inglis and John Sutton back.
Ferguson is a great point of difference though (only 4.6% of teams have him, compared to about 33% owning Inglis) so could be the smart move if you need to make up some ground on the top teams in your league.
From Abishek Naidu
What trades are you making this week?
I'll answer this one just this once, to give a bit of a leg-up to the 4779 teams I'm playing in league finals this week. I could still change my mind, but at this stage I'm looking to trade Fensom out for Paul Gallen and Merrin out for Josh McGuire, on the assumption McGuire will be a more consistent scorer than Greg Inglis (who I could have traded in for Josh Dugan).
It leaves me with a very lean back three, but a strong-looking forward pack. Now just watch Gallen and McGuire go down with injuries this week...
Good luck this weekend, we're all probably going to need it.