It's another big week for NRL Fantasy, with injuries again causing a bit of havoc as Fantasy coaches aim to finalise their squads for the middle part of the season. With the likes of Paul Gallen ruled out this week and James Segeyaro in serious doubt, getting a star-studded team together isn't getting any easier.
On the bright side, tackle machines Shaun Fensom and Elijah Taylor are both on track to return this weekend, and next week's representative round will give a welcome breather to players nursing injuries and Fantasy coaches nursing headaches as the NRL takes a break.
You won't miss out on your Fantasy fix though, with $500 and two tickets to the NRL Grand Final up for grab in Test Match Fantasy. Just pick six players out of the Kangaroos and Kiwis sides for next Friday's game and the prize could be yours.
Until then, there are still a few key NRL Fantasy dilemmas to be solved before Round 8...
Worth getting Cameron Smith now or after Origin?
(From Mitchell Rogie)
If you're playing to win your head-to-head league, get Cameron Smith now. If you're playing for overall points... it's still probably worth getting Smith now.
Unlike Robbie Farah, who will miss at least five games over Origin, Smith will only miss three – with both of Melbourne's byes taking place on weeks that Smith is away on Origin duty anyway. Considering all NRL players will sit out at least two rounds over the bye period, Smith's extra game on the sidelines isn't such a big deal.
He might have reduced game time when backing up from all three Origin matches, which could mean reduced scores, but right now he's the best player in NRL Fantasy so there's no harm in snapping him up if you need a new hooker.
At the moment I have Lichaa and Segeyaro and was thinking (before hearing of Segeyaro's injury) of either downgrading/upgrading Lichaa to Granville/Smith. What's your thoughts on this matter? Also is it time for Ethan Lowe to go with two consecutive sub-40 scores, or should I keep the faith?
(From Jia Yeung)
I'd hold Lichaa if you're playing for overall points, and hold Segeyaro if you're playing to win your head-to-head league. Keep in mind Segeyaro still hasn't been ruled out this week, with the Panthers saying he'll have a fitness test before kick-off, but the rumour is he could potentially miss up to three or four weeks with an elbow injury.
Overall: If Segeyaro is out for the next few weeks, plus Penrith's two byes in Round 11 and Round 14, a straight upgrade from him to Smith makes sense. Lichaa meanwhile will be valuable in the first two major bye rounds (11 and 14). He'll also play the 80 again this week with Moses Mbye playing at centre (rather than as a bench hooker) and the Bulldogs are likely to go back to four big men on the bench rather than a spare dummy-half when James Graham and David Klemmer return in the next few weeks.
Head-to-head: Assuming your league doesn't have match-ups in the major bye rounds before each Origin game, Segeyaro will actually be available for every head-to-head round during the Origin period while Lichaa will miss one. If Segeyaro is out for the next three weeks, that will only actually be for two NRL games with rep round on next weekend. Segeyaro is also a better scorer than Lichaa, so if you're only going to trade one of them out this year and don't care about byes then he's the man to keep. Of course if you keep Segeyaro you could be missing a second hooker for the next few weeks if the injury talk is true.
If you're trading one of them, I'd prefer to bring in Smith rather than Granville, who will get a few price rises after last week's 84 but almost certainly won't score another hat-trick this season (before last week his average score this season was 30).
On the second question, Ethan Lowe is worth keeping for another week at least – he's still a busy 80-minute back-rower, and once he starts racking up a few attacking stats again he's likely to post some more big scores.
When will Jack Bird be a dual-position centre/half?
(From a lot of people)
Next week, after he plays his fourth game of the season in the halves.
My heart has plummeted as quick as Jarrod Mullen's value in the past couple of weeks. Is he still a keeper?
(From Scott Moyes)
It's a very tough question, but I'd probably hold him. At worst, his price will probably only drop for another couple of weeks – meaning you don't save too much money by selling him now. At best, he'll regain his form from earlier in the season and start hitting 50s and 60s again. Keep in mind his three recent low scores have come in games played in poor conditions – hurting his kicking game – and in matches where the Knights had poor ball control – meaning he didn't get too many fifth-tackle opportunities to make long-range kicks or set up tries. He also scored 66 against this week's opponents the Cowboys back in Round 2.
If he gets another good score on Saturday I expect a lot of people to snap him up at a bargain price next week, and if that happens you could be left red-faced if you traded him out. On the other hand, if the Knights' poor form continues Mullen is unlikely to turn the corner. If you've lost patience and can afford to upgrade him to a more reliable half then make the trade, otherwise hold off for another week.
Is Dylan Napa a good POD considering he has DPP and will get an increased workload due to JWH injury?
(From Terence Hiamoe)
(Just for those who aren't down with the Fantasy footy lingo: POD = point of difference; DPP = dual position player; JWH = Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.)
Napa is looking like a decent buy right now – and it's not just because Waerea-Hargreaves is injured. Napa's minutes have been steadily rising this season, and his Fantasy scores have followed suit. After playing about 40-45 minutes in the early rounds (and hitting scores in the 30s) Napa has averaged 55 minutes and about 49 points a game in the past month, including an average of 40 tackles and 120 metres in the past three weeks. Meanwhile Waerea-Hargreaves' minutes went down after the first three rounds of the season, with the veteran Kiwi used more as an impact player (and he's now out for four to six weeks). Napa has impressed with his workrate in recent times, and with the possibility of a Maroons call-up up for grabs there's a good chance he'll keep those kinds of numbers up. At $350,000 he's hardly cheap, but he is decent value if you think he can average about 50 points a game or more.
Is Elijah Taylor playing this week? Isn't named but reports are he is in? #confused
(From Chris Kelly)
Last week Taylor was named on Tuesday and didn't play, and this week he was left out of Penrith's team list but could be a late inclusion. The man himself is confident of returning from a knee injury.
We won't know for sure until an hour before kick-off on Sunday. The safest thing to do if you're worried would be to include him in your 17 but as one of your four reserves. If he is ruled out on Sunday, you can take the "R" off him and give him to another player in your squad who plays on Sunday – like Chris Grevsmuhl from the Rabbitohs. (Souths, Cronulla and Canberra are the other three teams playing on Sunday, along with Penrith.)
That's it for this week, best of luck to your team.