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Sonny Bill Williams is out for a month... but who do you replace him with in your Fantasy team?
It's a bumper Q&A this week with Holden NRL Fantasy coaches concerned about what to do about Paul Gallen, Sonny Bill Williams, Jarryd Hayne, Sam Tomkins, Greg Inglis and plenty more. 

For things first, check out this week's late mail with Shaun Johnson very unlikely this week and Sam Burgess only rated a 50-50 chance of taking the field. As usual, keep an eye on the final teams over the weekend and have a back-up plan ready if you have Burgess in your squad.

With Sonny Bill Williams out for a month, Paul Gallen sidelined for another couple of weeks and Fantasy coaches closing in on their ultimate final team for 2014, here are my answers to this week's big questions.

From Mark Keulen 
I'm worried about Ben Hunt (after scoring 28 in Round 20). Last week was his lowest metres gained since Round 1, so will (new Broncos five-eighth) Ben Barba cement this chunk of runs from the halves? Why does he decide to turn up now?

I wouldn't read much into it. It's true that Hunt didn't run the ball much last week, but that's not why his scores were down. He never scores many points through run metres, with the bulk of his scoring coming through kick metres, tackles, and attacking stats (try assists, line breaks, tackle breaks and tries). Hunt didn't get much chance to attack last week with the Broncos thumped at home by Melbourne, but in a more even contest expect him to get back to his usual high scoring. 

From Brenton Vicary 
What are your thoughts on Barba?

He's showing some promise since moving to five-eighth at Brisbane but remains a risky buy in Fantasy. He didn't do any kicking last week so his scoring relies on him making an impact with ball in hand and being solid in defence – and keep in mind he did only score 19 the week before last. He will be dual position as a WFB/HLF this week at least.

From Albert Chavez
I need to trade out SBW with four trades left and $50,000 cap space. I was thinking Trent Merrin as you have stated in your teams wrap but would someone like Gillet or Watmough be good alternatives too?

All three are good options, especially if you're going for a point of difference. There is a bit of a cloud over Merrin in terms of minutes as he gets back to full fitness (he played just over half an hour last week) but he is capable of playing the 80 and is a proven Fantasy gun at his best. Gillett and Watmough are obviously fit and firing already, but I don't think they have quite as much upside as Merrin, who averages mid-50s this season. Boyd Cordner's another good in-form option.

From Marcus LS
Hi LS. Just wondering who the best straight swap for SBW would be with $15k in the bank? Cheers.

With $15k spare you should be able to just afford a straight swap to Boyd Cordner, who is coming off scores of 48, 81 and 61.

From James Ling
I have one trade left and have both SBW and Gallen. My question is which am I best getting rid of and for who? Gallen's return seems to be later and later and SBW hasn't been scoring amazingly and won't be back until finals.

Gallen should be back sooner (he's due back in Round 23, compared with Round 24/25 for Sonny Bill) and is a better scorer, so if you only have one trade left I'd be keeping him. He should still be very handy to have at the end of the season. As I've said above Merrin and Cordner are my preferred replacements for SBW at a similar price.

From Joey Crooks
Hey Scout! I'm in the boat where I have SBW and Gallen. Playing head to head and have nine trades left with $121k to spend. Would the better option be to go SBW to Fifita and save a trade for later? Or is it time to get rid of Gallen and go to Fifita and then SBW to the likes of Elijah Taylor, Josh Jackson, or Boyd Cordner? Thanks in advance!

Unless you're right at the top of your league and can survive the next couple of weeks without Gallen, I'd strongly consider trading both. These next few weeks are crucial, and with nine trades left you should have enough room to trade Gallen back in later if you need.

From William Prizeman
G'day scout, just wondering if there's been any word on how cemented Will Smiths position at 6 will be in the upcoming weeks at Penrith?

Depends how he plays this week I'd say. They've got a lot of depth so if he has a shocker they're not short of alternatives.

From David Button
Hey Scout, is it worth trading Sam Tomkins to get Jarryd Hayne in?

Hayne's in super touch but I always warn against trading one keeper for another, unless you've got a lot of trades left or have depth to burn. Tomkins is in great form at the moment, so see if you can find another way to get Hayne (remember he's available in the halves as well) or look to bring in another keeper elsewhere instead.

From Sam  
Hey Scout, I was looking to bring in Inglis this week for Tomkins. But with Tomkins racking up some solid scores, and the option of moving Dugan into the centres, would it be a better idea to trade out Jamal Idris for Inglis? Idris's past three scores of around 30 have worried me and I'm not sure I can trust him in my final 17. Thoughts?

I think you're on the right track there. Tomkins and the Warriors are in great attacking form so he looks a safer bet than Idris. I've still got Idris in my squad but am considering benching him this week in favour of Alex Johnston. 

From Richard Hearn
Hey mate just wondering what your thoughts are on Alex Johnston. I was going to upgrade him to Greg Inglis but maybe the cash is better spent elsewhere (eg. upgrading my 18th man)? On the other hand the Rabbitohs have a tough-ish run home so maybe Johnston's scores will drop off.

Yeah it's tough to say. Johnston will keep scoring well while he's getting tries, but you can't rely on him crossing the line every week (let alone twice a week, as he is doing at the moment). Inglis on the other hand should get 30-40 points on most weeks even without a standout game, with the capacity to produce the occasional monster score as well.  

I plan to keep Johnston in my squad as a back-up option, and a starter when Souths play the weaker teams (like Newcastle this week). Inglis is definitely an upgrade, but see if there's a way you can get him without trading out Johnston before locking in that trade. If you've got a real weakness elsewhere in your squad, fix that first.

From Chase Nightingale
I have six trades left! I'm looking to cash in Daniel Mortimer for likes of either Andrew McCullough or Jake Friend – who would you go with? I have Smith and Farah already plus the likes of Fensom, Fifita, the Burgess lads, etc.

I'd lean towards McCullough, but there's not much in it. Both the Broncos and Roosters have named an extra hooker on the bench this week – but both have done that in recent weeks and then dropped them before kickoff. Friend can obviously go big when he plays 80 minutes and does a lot of defending – like he did last week – but I think if both play similar minutes McCullough's the more likely to score well, and he's also $22K cheaper than Friend at the moment.

From Sam Webb 
Is Ethan Lowe still banned or just dropped?

He's free to play after his suspension for betting, has just been left out by the Cowboys this week.

From Shane Fletcher
What should I do with Fa'amanu Brown? He worth hanging onto? 

Also how many decent players should I have this time of year? Is 19 enough or do I want more, and should I be cashing out now with five trades left or is that ship sailed?

At this stage of the season I'd basically want a strong first 17, plus decent-to-strong back-ups for every position. That includes dual position players. So for example I only have two good out-and-out centres, but I do have Josh Dugan at the back who I can play in the centres, plus a handy back-up WFB in Alex Johnston. The same goes for 2RFs who can cover FRF, halves who can play at the back, etc.

So, if Brown is your only back-up for the half and winger/fullback positions, I'd consider keeping him. 30 points a week from a back-up player isn't bad. But if you have other back-ups, and you'd like another $100K to spend on bringing in a keeper elsewhere, there's nothing wrong with cashing him out now if it means you'll have a solid final team. With five trades left you don't have too many more trades to use on cashing players out though.

From Andy Tomlinson 
What's the goss with Farah, is he playing this week?

Despite last weekend's dramas and the fact he's missed training this week, Farah is expected to play on Monday night according to the late mail.

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. Best of luck for the weekend.

Start playing Holden NRL Fantasy now, get more hints and tips on my page, or join in the Fantasy conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

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