NZ Warriors hooker Nathan Friend says the game has changed a great deal from his first game to his 200th.

The Origin stars are back and so is head-to-head NRL Fantasy, with leagues returning to action this weekend. Trades are at a premium at this stage of the season so you need to make each one count. It's time to start planning how your final "ultimate" Fantasy team is going to look by the end of the Origin period, and trading towards that team. 

Make your NRL Fantasy trades
Official Round 12 NRL team lists
Check the Round 12 casualty ward
NRL Late Mail

Robbie Farah hasn't been the player of 2014, and with the injury concerns after Origin I, is it time to trade?
(From Josh Boomfa-Uproar)

He's a trade in my book. With a 2-4 week shoulder injury suffered in Origin I, Farah will miss at least Rounds 12, 13, 14 (Origin II), 17 (Origin III) and Round 18 (Tigers bye). If it's a four-week injury he'll miss Round 15 as well.

You could hold him if you're playing solely to win your head-to-head league and are happy to ride it out and save a trade over the Origin period (and back yourself to get a few wins in your league without him) but for overall points he has to go.

Will Nathan Friend lift now he's starting? Cheap price too.
(From Mathias Te Koua)

Friend looks like a very handy mid-range cash cow/scorer at the moment. With Thomas Leuluai out for the season with an ACL injury, Friend is now the undisputed first-choice hooker at the Warriors and should play about 60 minutes a week – as he did in Round 10, for a season-high score of 49. A quiet start to the year off the bench has brought his price down by a massive $182,000 to $214,000, and he should earn most of that cash back if he keeps hitting 45+ each week. 

The tricky thing is you can only have two hookers in your Fantasy squad, so Friend's only worth trading in if you have somebody worth trading out (like Robbie Farah now, or a mid-priced player like Jake Granville or Kierran Moseley). If you have two fit, 50+ scorers in your team already you're probably better off saving a couple of trades and holding onto them.

Hi Scout, what are Blake Leary's stocks like at Manly? Will he play 80 regularly or is Lachlan Burr a better mid-range cash cow?
(From Jackson Porter)

Good question, and a tough one to answer. At the moment Leary is obviously going great, playing 80 minutes in the past couple of games and posting bumper Fantasy scores of 63 and 57. He's been the surprise success story at Manly following injuries to halves Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans, with Tom Symonds moving into five-eighth in recent weeks and Leary taking Symonds' starting spot in the back row. The question is whether Leary will stay in the starting side when Cherry-Evans is fit and Symonds moves back to the pack – he could be playing well enough to send Justin Horo or Dunamis Lui to the bench. If he does, he could be a potential keeper. If he's benched when Manly's back to full strength, then he's just a short-term cash cow – and not a particularly cheap one either at $239,000.

Burr is cheaper at $198,000, and appears to have a more clear-cut future this season. He's currently playing 80 minutes at lock for the Titans, and he's on track to keep doing so until Greg Bird returns from suspension in Round 19. He's very unlikely to be a keeper, like Leary could be, but could remain an 80-minute player for longer than Leary, and costs $40,000 less. Apart from Bird, he's only other competition for the lock spot is probably bench forward Ben Ridge – although Ridge is aiming to make the Titans No.13 jersey his own this season. There are pros and cons in trading in either player; take your pick.

Do you think Adam Reynolds has any chance of making it back for Round 14 (he is listed as out till Round 16)? If not do you think Shaun Johnson, who has strung together a run of 50+ scores and will play the second major bye round, would be a good buy and good backup half behind Hunt and Thurston long-term? 
(From Nicholas Heffernan)

My guess is Adam Reynolds could be back by Round 14 – he returned earlier than expected from his last injury – but Shaun Johnson is also a long-term option in Fantasy, if not quite as reliable a scorer as Reynolds. After a slow start to the season, Johnson's averaging 57 over the past five rounds, well above my "keeper" requirement of 50 points a game for a half. Like a lot of players, Johnson will only miss one more week through the byes this season (in Round 17) so is a handy pickup.

Should we steer clear of captaining players backing up from Origin like Parker and Thurston and use options like Segeyaro, Frizell or Lowe instead?
(From Eddy Durham)

Not necessarily. Origin stars tend to back up most of the time and can often lift in their return from the toughest level of rugby league on the planet. For example, Thurston scored 82 in Round 12 last year after State of Origin I, while Corey Parker scored 78 in Round 18 after Origin III. 

The key question is whether a player is likely to play less minutes at club level after Origin – somebody like Cameron Smith might get some rare bench time at the Storm (although probably not this week with a five-day rest before Monday night's game against the Roosters) while Parker already gets about 15 minutes of bench time each week so that's unlikely to change too much this week. Backline players will obviously play the full 80 unless they pick up an injury.

Do we pick up Mansour, or give him a week or two to get back into the game?
(From Reuben Claypole)

I'd hold off for a week or two, partially to wait until he gets back into form and partially because his break even is still a very high 74 – meaning he's likely to be a fair bit cheaper in a week or two. Penrith's tackle-break merchant started the season costing a whopping $450,000 but could be under $300,000 in a few weeks' time. The Panthers have their second bye in Round 14, so the following week is probably the ideal time to snap up Mansour.

What is the go with George Burgess being dropped to the Rabbitohs bench? Is there a chance he is injured and possible late scratching?
(From Troy Hetherington)

My guess is Michael Maguire is just shaking things up to give George a rev-up, having given twin brother Tom his starting spot this week. He did a similar thing with Issac Luke a few weeks back, with Luke spending a couple of weeks playing off the bench before returning to the starting side last weekend. At this stage there's no need to panic.

Playing for overall. Have 20 trades left and $300K in the bank. Would it be smarter to keep both Taupau and Lovett, or upgrade one of them to Mannering?
(Richard Hartles)

It's certainly a good time to get Mannering. Who to sell is a trickier question. Taupau and Lovett obviously both have value for overall points as they are Tigers who will play in the remaining two major bye rounds, although they're obviously out this week. Lovett is a cash cow who has almost peaked, albeit playing off the bench, while Taupau has been an underwhelming 40-point scorer since Round 5. If you trade one of them for Mannering you'll get a score boost this week and most other weeks (as Mannering is scoring about 61 a game this year), but will be one player short in Round 17. Whether that is worth it is your call to make. 

For what it's worth, after keeping the faith with Taupau for a while I'm starting to think his time could be up.

Will Delouise Hoeter and Aaron Gray get DPP updates this week?
(From Jason Milne)

They both need one more game to be officially named in their new positions to get dual position status. After their next games, both Hoeter and Gray should be available at both centre and winger/fullback.

That's all for now, good luck to your team this weekend.

 

 

Follow the Lone Scout on Facebook or Twitter and read more Fantasy hints and tips here.