What a week's it's been. After the Blues and the Maroons threw everything at each other on Wednesday night in an epic 100th State of Origin match that won't be forgotten for some time, Fantasy coaches around the country are now scratching their heads about how to deal with the injury toll that's been left in Origin I's wake.
At least things aren't as tough for us as they are for Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy, who has lost his halfback Cooper Cronk for a few months, Billy Slater for two to three weeks and Cameron Smith for a week or two in a nightmare scenario for the Storm's 'Big Three'.
But the casualty ward doesn't end there, with Parramatta set to rest their star fullback and Origin I Man of the Match Jarryd Hayne this weekend, Daly Cherry-Evans in doubt with a hip injury, Anthony Watmough has a bicep complaint, Brett Morris has a dislocated shoulder, Josh Morris has a knee injury, Justin Hodges is in doubt again, and – away from Origin – the Panthers have allowed Jamal Idris to take an indefinite break from rugby league to deal with personal issues.
Read this week's Late Mail for the full wrap-up, and try to keep an eye on the final teams across the weekend on NRL.com's team list page.
So what to do? Here's my say on this week's big Fantasy questions...
From Jai Kretchmer
Hey Scout, just wondering whether it'll be a good idea to keep Smith or go for McCullough?
If you've got a lot of trades left and are playing for overall points then Smith could be worth a trade, considering he's guaranteed to miss at least this week, the other two pre-Origin weeks (Round 14 and 17) and possibly next week as well if he doesn't recover from his ankle injury. In saying that, he'll only play one or maybe two games less than McCullough, who will sit out Round 14 and 17 with Brisbane's byes anyway.
Options are starting to get thin on the ground as far as bye-friendly replacements go, with Jake Friend a chance of becoming Queensland's bench utility for the rest of the series with Daly Cherry-Evans replacing Cooper Cronk in the starting side. Mitch Rein is a decent option with the Dragons playing in Round 14 and 17, while Issac Luke – who could be a late inclusion for Souths on Monday night – could be the best hooker to play in the remaining major bye rounds.
Personally, I'm keeping Smith. For one thing, I want to start conserving trades, and would need to use up two to get rid of Smith now and then bring him back later. I'd prefer to use trades from now on strictly to bring in keepers or cut-price cheapies. For another, Smith will be desperate to get back on the paddock as soon as possible with Cronk and Slater out, so is a fair chance of only missing a week for now. Fingers crossed anyway.
If you're playing in a head-to-head league and don't have to worry about the major bye rounds, I'd definitely keep Smith.
From Kent Bowater
Just after your thoughts on Taumalolo. Time to off load him maybe?
I've been in two minds on this one, and I think it really depends on how your squad is travelling. Taumalolo made a strong start to the season, with a knack for busting through defences and playing big minutes, but he's struggled a little recently with an injury and scores of 29 and 18 in his past two games. He came off the bench last week and starts again this week with Tariq Sims suspended for two matches, and although he's likely to lose some more cash with a break even of 51 it's worth remembering he has hit 50+ three times this season, most recently in Round 7.
I'm probably going to hold him this week as I'm trying to conserve trades and am aiming for overall points, and he'll play in the key bye week Round 17. He's also in my best 17 this week so if I was to trade him it would have to be for a keeper, and there aren't many alternatives out there who I don't have and who aren't involved in Origin.
If you're playing for head-to-head, or have trades to burn, or can make a decent upgrade, then now's a good time to trade him.
From Matthew Lippiatt-Sidman
Is Buhrer a good buy with G. Stewart's fitness questionable, Watmough out with a torn bicep, and his last 4 scores over 40?
Is Mann likely to get a boost to his avg of 27 with all the Storms big 3 going down?
Jamie Buhrer is looking like a solid bet in the short term, but beware he remains just that – a short-term scorer/cash cow. He'll continue to get through a big workload while Manly are missing their two star back-rowers, but he's not particularly cheap at $264,619 and he's not a long-term keeper either. Only consider buying him if you've got trades to burn, otherwise try to focus on keepers and cheap players from here on out.
Kurt Mann could get a larger role at the Storm if he switches to fullback or the halves in the absence of Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk on the next few weeks. He has played both position in the lower grades so is as good a chance as any of getting one of those roles this week, with the Storm also missing back-up halves Ben Hampton, Joel Romelo and Cody Walker.
From James Hawaikirangi
Hey LS, what's your thoughts on the Sharks management concerning Paul Gallen after Origin – you think he'll get plenty of bench time and rest for next season seeing as the Sharks have almost no chance of making the finals? Is it worth picking him up after or during Origin?
For overall points, I'd wait til after Origin. Gallen is obviously a great Fantasy player, he's got a pretty low break even of 28, and he has hit 71 and 92 in his last two games, but there is a very decent chance he spends some time on the bench during the Origin period. He has a history of being rested after big Origin performances even when the Sharks are competitive, so there's every chance he gets a rest again this year considering their slow start to the season. He's also got the bye this week so there's no point snapping him up yet.
For head-to-head players who don't have league matches on the major bye rounds, pick him up when you can after Round 12 – he's a definite keeper in the long term, injury permitting.
From Matt Huppatz
Hi Lone Scout. Just wondering on what your thoughts are on buying Corey Parker and/or SBW? I'm looking to get rid of Gavin Cooper and possibly Taumalolo. What are your thoughts on this – good time to buy these guys?
Yeah I like them both. Parker and Sonny Bill Williams are both in my team – they've had disappointing starts to the season but Parker's price has bottomed out and SBW is coming off his season-best performance. Keep in mind though that Parker is a better fit for head-to-head players (he only misses the pre-Origin rounds) while SBW is better for overall points (he plays in the big bye rounds but misses Round 15 and 18).
From Wadeh Taylor
Cordner isn't due back until Round 17, but always keep in mind the Mitchell Aubusson Rule ("Never buy Mitchell Aubusson"). Aubusson's a good player and probably a great bloke, but one of his biggest strengths on the field – his versatility – is also his biggest weakness in Fantasy. Aubs can slot into the back row and score big on any given week, but as soon as a Roosters backline player goes down he's generally the man to be shoved out into the centres where his workrate drops, along with his scores. His up-and-down scoring is enough to drive any Fantasy coach crazy (I speak from experience) so avoid him if possible.
At this stage of the season, try to bring in genuine keepers or very cheap players who will bring in cash, or if you really want an affordable back-rower who has the potential to score big you should grab Ethan Lowe from the Cowboys.
From Brendan Cheers
Any chance of Pete Mata'utai being DPP before lockout?
Excellent chance! Mata'utia looks set to get a spot in the Dragons centres for the next few weeks, so he is now a dual position player and is now available as a winger/fullback and as a centre.