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The NRL is back, and that means turning our attention back to Holden NRL Fantasy. Hope your Test Match Fantasy team did you proud, and congratulations to Barry Willard who took out the top prize with 526 points, earning $500 and two tickets to this year's Four Nations Final in the process.

With Round 9 upon us, it's time to start planning for the bye rounds if you're playing for overall points, and time to start saving up trades if you're playing for head-to-head. Head-to-head Fantasy coaches don't have to worry too much about Origin or the major bye weeks (Round 11, 14 and 17) as there won't be Fantasy much-ups in those weeks, but beware several teams also have byes in Round 12, 15, 16 and 18.

Before we get to this week's questions, here's a quick wrap of the bye rounds – which teams will be sitting out which NRL rounds.

2014 NRL byes
Round 11: Dragons, Eels, Knights, Panthers, Sea Eagles, Storm + all Origin players (No matches in regular head-to-head Fantasy leagues)
Round 12: Bulldogs, Sharks, Wests Tigers, Titans
Round 13: None
Round 14: Broncos, Cowboys, Raiders, Sea Eagles, Sharks, Warriors + all Origin players (No matches in regular head-to-head Fantasy leagues)
Round 15: Panthers, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Wests Tigers
Round 16: Bulldogs, Titans
Round 17: Broncos, Eels, Knights, Raiders, Storm, Warriors + all Origin players (No matches in regular head-to-head Fantasy leagues)
Round 18: Cowboys, Dragons, Rabbitohs, Roosters

Which leads us to this week's first question...

From Thomas Schumann
G'day Lone Scout,
This is my first year playing the fantasy competition, and coming into the Origin/Bye period, I'm not sure how to go about my trades.

Are you supposed to get 17 on the park during these rounds, by selling every player in your team who has an upcoming bye, and then purchase them again at the completion of that bye? Or just hope for the best in terms of points with who is playing in that round?

No, you don't need to overhaul your team for the bye rounds. 

If, like most people, you're playing to win your head-to-head leagues, then I wouldn't worry much about the bye rounds at all – regular head-to-head leagues don't have any match-ups on the major bye rounds when Origin players aren't available (although league administrators this year had the option to continue playing matches on these weeks, so check your league fixtures). It's better to run with the team you have available on any given week and save up those trades for the all-important final series at the end of the year instead.

If you're playing for overall points, though, then you'll need to try to get decent scores over the bye rounds. Getting a full 17 on the field for all three rounds is pretty much impossible, but getting are 13-14 is probably what you should be aiming for. To do that, you'll want a few players from teams who play in all three major bye rounds (see the next question).

So keep in mind which goal you're playing for. If it's your first year, you're probably focused on head-to-head, in which case I wouldn't worry about the Origin period too much.
From Sabin Karibasic 
Which teams have the best Origin schedule?

The Bulldogs, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Titans and Tigers. These five teams will play in all three major bye rounds, when the Origin stars are away. So if you're serious about climbing the overall points ladder, you'll need a few non-Origin players from these teams to compete over the bye period. Beware of course that each of these teams will miss two regular head-to-head Fantasy rounds, so if you go overboard stacking your squad with these guys you might struggle to get a decent 17 on the field in other weeks.

The twist with this is that the Origin players from these five teams actually have the worst bye schedule of all in Fantasy – they are guaranteed to miss at least five weeks, and potentially more if they fail to back up from Origin for their club side. So Robbie Farah, for instance, will miss Round 11 (Origin), Round 12 (Tigers bye), Round 14 (Origin), Round 15 (Tigers bye) and Round 17 (Origin). It's a similar story for Greg Inglis, who has been a Fantasy superstar this season but could become an expensive liability over the Origin period.

If you are deciding which Origin players to hold for the bye period, pick those from teams who have both their byes on pre-Origin weeks – meaning they are only guaranteed to miss three games. Those teams are the Broncos, Raiders, Sea Eagles, Storm, Knights, Eels and Warriors. These are also the best teams to pick players from for head-to-head.

From Giles Smith (@Gilofiji)
Is Jack Littlejohn a buy this week? Should generate some decent wedge and be involved for a good few weeks, do you agree?

Not necessarily. Littlejohn had a great debut with 47 Fantasy points in Manly's walloping of the Raiders, and is still very cheap at $122,550. But will he play enough games to make a significant amount of money? If Kieran Foran is out for three weeks, that means Littlejohn will play two more games before being bumped out of the side in Round 12 (Manly have a bye in Round 11, and in Round 14). Littlejohn would likely return in Round 17 when Daly Cherry-Evans is on Origin duty, although Jamie Lyon could also be chosen to play in the halves that week. So unless Foran or Cherry-Evans get injured again, Littlejohn will have two or three games in which to boost his Fantasy price, and that's probably not enough to make him a must-have cash cow.

From Sam Hawkins
Hey Scout, a few questions:
1) Is Parker definitely not a buy if I don’t already have him?
2) Is it too late to jump on Mau? 
3) What is your view on the most reliable centres at the moment?

1) I reckon Parker will be a buy soon, if not now. His price has dropped a lot this year and he's still a 50+ points a week player. I'm keeping him, but wish I had the chance to buy him now instead of at the start of the season.

2) It is too late to jump onto Ma'u now, as he's just about peaked. He's still a good scorer but there are better keepers out there in the second row.

3) As a hard-working forward masquerading as a centre in Fantasy, Simon Mannering is probably the most consistent Fantasy centre right now. Tackle-busting types Joseph Leilua, Tim Lafai and Jamal Idris are in good form, but defensive players will generally be more consistent than attacking players. Lafai and Tim Simona look like good options for the bye period if you're playing for overall points, and Jamie Lyon will be a pretty safe bet when he returns from injury. 

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From Brennan Brown
I am just wondering whether or not I should trade Jamie Lyon. My other centres are Dane Gagai, Wille Tonga and Kirisome Auva'a.

He's set to miss three weeks according to Manly, but I'd consider trying to hold him if possible – especially if you're playing to win your head-to-head comp. He's a keeper in the centres in the long run, so it's probably worth keeping that trade up your sleeve and copping a slightly lower score in your centres for two games (remembering that Round 11 is a bye round for regular head-to-head Fantasy leagues anyway). Better to trade someone like Tonga who is not and keeper and is unlikely to make you much money.

If you're playing for overall and don't want to risk that points drop, consider a trade straight from Lyon to someone like Tim Lafai who is scoring well at the Bulldogs and will play in all three major bye rounds.

From Peter Minshall
I'm wondering if it's worth keeping Elijah Taylor or trading him now? I just upgraded Dobson to Adam Reynolds so I'm pretty short of cash so should I go for a cheapie for cash or for a possible keeper for a similar price? 

There's no major rush as Taylor won't be losing value while he's injured, but I still think he's a trade. He's out for 4-6 weeks and there are a lot of other back-row options around. Somebody like Josh Jackson could be a smokey now that he's playing the full 80 mins at the Bulldogs, and he's almost $20,000 cheaper than Taylor, or if you're desperate for more cash you could take the plunge on Eels youngster Pauli Pauli who costs just $138,785.

Good luck this week. As always, double check the official team lists, NRL judiciary results and the casualty ward – plus the Friday late mail – before locking in your team.
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