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Young second-rower Ethan Lowe has emerged as one of the best workhorses in a star-studded Cowboys pack.

This week we're looking at the best back-row buys, trade targets for the Origin period, whether Tom Burgess is the real deal and a few more burning NRL Fantasy questions ahead of Round 9.

Before you lock in this week's trades make sure to check out the late mail, with Adam Reynolds, Josh Dugan, Elijah Taylor and Jamie Soward all a chance of returning this week.

And congratulations to Fred Feki, winner of Test Match Fantasy last week with a whopping 598 points. He'll be getting $500 plus two Category 1 tickets to the NRL Grand Final. In a few weeks Origin Fantasy kicks off, with more fast and furious mini-games featuring six-man line-ups, with prizes for weekly winners and the overall Origin Fantasy champ.

Play NRL Fantasy now
Official Round 9 NRL team lists
NRL Casualty Ward: Round 9
NRL Late Mail for Round 9

I have Glenn Stewart and/or Jason Taumalolo, who should I trade them for?
(From a lot of people)

There are a lot of high-scoring back row options available in Fantasy right now, so here's my quick thoughts on each.

Corey Parker ($504,000) – Top dollar, but the best of the lot and a rock solid captaincy option. Only misses three games over Origin.

Simon Mannering ($456,000) – Has come back to the pack a little after a huge start to the season, but is still averaging close to 50 tackles a week. Think Shaun Fensom from recent years.

Tohu Harris ($418,000) – An 80-minute forward who hits regular 50s and can make a big impact in attack as well. 

Ethan Lowe ($400,000) – Had a quiet run after a huge start to the season, but is a great worker and should take on more attacking responsibilities with Jason Taumalolo injured. Good value and plays in two major bye rounds.

Tyson Frizell ($428,000) – Back after a two-week ban, is rising in value and averaging a massive 58.5 this season. Will probably miss out on Origin selection. A great option for head-to-head.

Trent Merrin ($462,000) – Historically a better Fantasy prospect than Frizell but will play Origin and hasn't scored 50 in a month. Still a good option but his price is falling.

Shaun Fensom ($464,000) – A Fantasy legend but yet to play the full 80 this year thanks to a few nagging injuries and the rise of Sia Soliola and Josh Papalii as 80-minute men at the Raiders.

Martin Taupau ($376,000) – He's had a lean three weeks but should be fired up after his Kiwis appearance, is good value for a potential keeper and plays in all three major bye rounds.

Jack de Belin ($384,000) – Has been very solid this year with almost 50 points a game and is still affordable at under $400,000. Like Taupau, is a dual-position front-rower/second-rower.

Any players you have a bullseye on as a must for the upcoming bye round 11? I'm playing for overall.
(From Austen Beats, @austenbeats)

I prefer thinking long-term whenever possible, meaning chasing players from teams with good schedules for the whole bye period rather than just for Round 11. So that means Tigers, Rabbitohs and Eels (if you can find any good Eels Fantasy players), and to a lesser extent Cowboys and Bulldogs. Ideally, you want keepers from those teams – meaning you won't need to use another trade to sell them later on. For the bye rounds, you also rule out Origin players, obviously.

So the list of in-demand bye-round players reads something like this: Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, Ethan Lowe, James Graham, James Tedesco, Issac Luke, Michael Lichaa, Martin Taupau, Lachlan Coote, Tom Burgess.

What are your thoughts on Tom Burgess going into the bye rounds?
(From Kane Johnston)

Tom Burgess is actually a player I started the season with, then (foolishly, it turns out) traded out after four rounds for Martin Taupau. Since then, his scores have improved and he's now in the Souths' starting side – with his two best performances coming in the past two rounds. He's been named at lock this week due to Glenn Stewart's injury, which is interesting in itself, although either he or Chris Grevsmuhl will drop back to the bench when Adam Reynolds returns, with John Sutton to shift back to the second row.

'Turgess' has got a low break even and, on recent form, could average 50 points a week from here on out. If he does, he's a good buy (especially at his $328,000 price). On the other hand, if he continues his season average of 40 points a week, then he's just a short-term option for the bye rounds and could cost you a couple of trades in the long run. That makes him a risk, but if you're looking for another bye round scorer it could be a risk worth taking.




With the Cowboys losing Taumalolo and Bolton, is it worth jumping on one the newbies? Who is the best choice?
(From Kevin Said, @kevstar1982)

The absence of Taumalolo for four to six weeks and Scott Bolton (who is out for a few months after managing to injure himself fishing) means there is a fair bit of slack to be picked up in the Cowboys' back row. That's offset a little by the fact Ethan Lowe and Gavin Cooper are already 80-minute players, meaning new lock John Asiata ($161,000) and returning bench man Kelepi Tanginoa ($159,000) will be fighting for about 80 minutes between them at most (Rory Kostjasyn could also be used at lock). 

Both Asiata and Tanginoa are nicely priced, but both have their risks. Asiata's break even is a reasonably high 31 due to a string of low scores – but that's mainly because he's had very limited minutes (less than 20 in his last three games). His minutes should increase now that he's a starter, but there are no guarantees he'll start getting significant game time. Tanginoa has been a better scorer in his two appearances this season, and has a break even of 9, but is still on the bench and behind Asiata in the pecking order.

They could start playing about 40 minutes each, which should mean scores around 30 or more and decent price rises – plus the extra value of playing on two bye rounds, if you're chasing overall points. If that's the case, Tanginoa may be the better bet for Fantasy as he'll be a handy cash cow and back-up scorer in the short term and then probably be out of the side again later in the year – meaning he won't risk being a low-scoring auto emergency as Asiata has been lately. 

If Taukeiaho stays on bench is he still a keeper?
(From Eddy Durham)

Sio Siua Taukeiaho has been a great Fantasy buy this year – he's risen almost $180,000 in price, his status as a dual position winger-fullback/second-rower opens up a lot of trade possibilities, and he's averaged a very solid 47 from the Roosters' starting side over the past three rounds. 

But now he's back on the bench, where he averages 35 points a game. My rule of thumb is that a "keeper" is an outside back who averages 40 points a game or a half or forward who averages 50 points a game, so he might not make the cut if he's stuck on the bench for the long haul. 

I'll be holding him for now though as he's still a consistent scorer in the very tricky winger/fullback position, and will probably only consider an upgrade at the end of the Origin series. He's probably not a buy at this stage though. 

Delouise Hoeter, Kelepi Tanganoa, John Asiata or Richie Fa'aoso – which is the best bet out of these?
(From Daniel Knowles)

Probably Hoeter, who's cheap, had a very solid score last week and should get a good run in the centres at the Tigers for at least the next month with Tim Simona out injured. Tanginoa and Asiata are risks as I've said above (and a little more expensive), although as forwards they could turn out to be more reliable scoring options than an outside back like Hoeter. Fa'aoso has a great bye schedule with the Eels and is dirt cheap, but he might just remain a low-scoring bench player as the Eels ease him back from a long injury layoff. 

That's the lot for this week, best of luck for your trades.

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