The Origin sides have been picked and Round 11 is here, meaning the dreaded byes have arrived on the scene in Holden NRL Fantasy. It's either the busiest time of the Fantasy season or the quietest, depending on what your goal is. If you're just focusing on your head-to-head league and aren't matched up against any opponent this week, you can rest easy and keep those trades up your sleeve – unless there's a player losing you cash who you need to trade fast. If you're aiming to climb the overall points ladder though then you'll need to try your best at getting close to a full team on the park this week, and in the other tricky weeks (Round 14 and 17).
To help out, you're able to make three trades this week rather than the usual two. You'll probably need them if you want a decent score this week with all Origin players plus the Dragons, Eels, Knights, Panthers, Sea Eagles and Storm having the weekend off.
So who are the best buys of those players still in action? Here are my recommendations.
Bulldogs v Roosters, Friday night at ANZ Stadium
Bulldogs: The league-leading Dogs have suddenly become the core of the New South Wales Origin team, with Trent Hodkinson's call-up particularly frustrating for Fantasy coaches who had already bought the halfback for bye coverage over the Origin period. He's joined by Josh Reynolds, Josh Morris and Tony Williams in the Blues side, giving opportunities for new halves pairing Moses Mbye ($114,218) and Reni Maitua this weekend. Krisnan Inu gets a run on the wing, while Dale Finucane starts in the back row for Williams. There are plenty of good bye-round options elsewhere at the Bulldogs, with prop James Graham ($342,212) coming off a barnstorming 72-point performance, Josh Jackson ($303,439) solid as a rock in recent weeks, and Aiden Tolman ($319,266) another handy scorer in the pack. With both first-choice halves missing, expect young gun Mbye to perform well in the three major bye rounds.
Roosters: Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney may have lost their NSW Origin spots but the real loser here in Fantasy terms is Daniel Mortimer, who now won't be starting in the halves for the three major bye rounds as many Fantasy coaches had hoped. He'll continue to get limited minutes off the bench and is not a viable Fantasy option. Another one to avoid is Mitchell Aubusson ($207,925), who scored well as an 80-minute back-rower last week but is now filling in at centre for NSW star Michael Jennings so will be an erratic scorer over Origin. Dylan Napa ($161,327) will start in the second row for Boyd Cordner, while Sonny Bill Williams ($311,641) is back in the pack after last week's cameo at five-eighth. Jake Friend ($367,488) looms as the best hooker option for the major bye rounds with last week's 60 taking his average over the past five rounds to 56. Dumped pivot Maloney ($306,981) is a good halves option for the Origin period, while Aidan Guerra's elevation to the Queensland side will sting for the 3368 Fantasy coaches who own him.
Titans v Warriors, Saturday at Cbus Super Stadium
Titans: With Greg Bird suspended Nate Myles is the Gold Coast's only Origin representative next week, but they're still a long way from full strength. Ashley Harrison (neck) and Kevin Gordon (knee) remain on the injured list, joined by Aidan Sezer (pec) who will miss the next three to four months. Albert Kelly ($298,919) returns to join Beau Henry ($234,966) in the halves in Sezer's place, while promising rookie Paul Carter ($211,173) starts at lock. Kelly and Henry are a couple of cheaper options for those looking to score well in the bye rounds, but their scoring will largely depend on how they share the kicking workload. Carter's 49 was the Gold Coast's top Fantasy score last week and he has a break even of just 5, while fellow rookie Cody Nelson ($109,011) is another possible Origin-period purchase with if he improves on last week's score of 19.
Warriors: Kevin Locke gets his first start of the season on the wing, with Ngani Laumape, Ben Henry and Ben Matulino all returning to their preferred positions of centre, second row and prop respectively. One-time Kiwi Siliva Havili is back on the Warriors' bench, while rookie prop Nathaniel Peteru is a new face in the role of 18th man. This is the only time the Warriors will play on one of the major bye rounds (they get Round 14 and Round 17 off) so their players remain better suited to head-to-head Fantasy teams rather than those chasing overall points. Still, Simon Mannering ($302,110) could get another price bump this week after last week's 48, while Shaun Johnson ($408,649) remains a quality option in the halves. Ben Henry ($220,916) has a break even of just 15 after posting 52 points in Round 10.
Wests Tigers v Broncos, Saturday at Campbelltown Stadium
Tigers: Another one of the best bye-round teams (along with the Roosters, Bulldogs, Rabbitohs and Titans), the Tigers have Joel Luani and Martin Taupau replacing Blues Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods in the starting side this week. Kurtis Rowe ($156,315) will get another price boost at fullback but isn't worth buying now with James Tedesco's return just two weeks away, while Corey Paterson ($139,017) again looms as a cash cow after playing the full 80 in the back row last week, but is now out of action again with a finger injury. Luke Brooks ($196,700) was terrific last week for his 47 points and has a break even of just 8, but he remains more of a potential mid-range cash cow than a genuine keeper. Tackle-busting winger David Nofoaluma ($232,495) is a good bye round option after racking up 53 points in Round 10.
Broncos: Origin season has arrived, and that means a new-look Broncos team yet again with several Queensland players missing. Lachlan Maranta, Ben Hannant and Jake Granville are in, with cheapie Jarrod Wallace ($113,588) again named to start this week after being switched back to the bench before kickoff last weekend. Sam Thaiday remains on the sidelines while Justin Hodges, Matt Gillett and Corey Parker will be wearing Maroon next Wednesday. On the bright side, Brisbane's Origin players are worth keeping in your Fantasy side as they'll only miss the minimum three rounds, with the club's other two byes falling immediately before Origin II and III. That means Corey Parker is still a hold for the long run. Dale Copley ($169,870) breathed new life into his role as a Fantasy cash cow with a two-try effort last week and should get more action after moving into the centres to replace Justin Hodges.
Raiders v Cowboys, Sunday at GIO Stadium
Raiders: Rookie half Mitch Cornish ($107,000) gets his NRL debut off the bench this week, with starting No.7 Josh McCrone likely to shift to hooker during the game, while Joel Edwards starts for Canberra's lone Origin rep Josh Papalii. Anthony Milford ($288,695) is starting to really repay the faith of patient Fantasy coaches, notching a hefty 83 points in a losing effort against Penrith. His price is on the rise so he's a good buy even for head-to-head teams this week. There was also good news for Jack Wighton ($228,400), who bagged 46 after returning to his preferred position at centre.
Cowboys: With Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Brent Tate and James Tamou out, there are a host of new faces in the North Queensland side. Popular Fantasy buys Curtis Rona ($154,709) and Jason Taumalolo ($277,568) return, with Ashton Sims ($161,751) and Ethan Lowe ($168,811) starting in the back row. Rona has a break even of 4 so is the best cash cow option of the Cowboys at the moment.
Sharks v Rabbitohs, Monday night at Remondis Stadium
Sharks: Daniel Holdsworth ($163,042) replaces the injured Todd Carney at five-eighth, with Tinirau Arona and Chris Heighington starting for Blues stars Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis in the back row. Blake Ayshford returns in the centres while Tupou Sopoaga, Isaac De Gois and cheapie David Fifita ($120,518) get bench spots with Beau Ryan and Anthony Tupou out injured. Paul Gallen ($405,966) was at his superb best in a beaten Sharks side last week with 92 Fantasy points, but he's one to avoid over the Origin period – he'll be out of action in Round 12, 14 and 17 and has a history of missing games between Origins in recent seasons. Michael Gordon ($302,745) is coming off back-to-back scores in the 60s so his price is on the up.
Rabbitohs: Nathan Merritt is back in the side, getting a chance at fullback in place of Greg Inglis, while Joel Reddy starts on the wing and Ben Lowe is back in the second row, with Bryson Goodwin back to the bench and Ben Te'o and Chris McQueen on Origin duty. Alex Johnston ($165,140) keeps scoring tries and is proving to be a very handy cash cow, while Adam Reynolds ($362,334) will be a popular buy for the Origin period and Burgess brothers Sam ($416,063) and George ($404,837) are close to must-haves for overall points players.
Don't forget, Origin Fantasy is also now up and running, so put your six-man team together for Origin I.