We're halfway through the season, with the second of the three major bye rounds upon us. How's your NRL Fantasy team travelling? Are all your plans for the Origin period paying off nicely? Or is your squad battered and bruised by injuries and suspensions in the toughest part of the year?
Either way, don't lose faith yet. This should be the cruisy period for coaches playing for head-to-head glory, with the option of tweaking your team here and there with an eye on the season-ending finals series. Fantasy coaches out to climb the overall points ladder can make use of the three trades on offer this round to get a decent number of players on the park in a tricky week made tougher by the injuries to James Graham and Issac Luke.
To help out with those trades, here are my answers to some of your big questions. (And don't forget to pick your six-man State of Origin Fantasy side ahead of next week's Game Two.)
Time to trade James Graham to Andrew Fifita, given Graham's supposedly out to Round 18?
(From Tobias Smith)
The news around James Graham's hamstring injury isn't great, with the Bulldogs skipper set to miss the next month. For those of us (myself included) who have held onto the Bulldogs skipper this long it's a big blow, especially considering he was set to be a key player in this week's major bye round.
If you're desperate for a replacement for this week, then Jesse Bromwich and Aiden Tolman are the best bets (both average about 50 this year, with Bromwich having the higher scoring ceiling but Tolman being more consistent). If you're eying off Fifita – who is averaging closer to 60 – you can hold off on the trade this week as the Sharks have the bye and then snap him up. Fifita's minutes can be a bit erratic at times but he can pile on the points on his day, with four 65+ efforts from 10 games so far, and his Sharks will be bye-free after Round 14.
So I just bought Issac Luke last week and now he's out. Should I replace immediately or just take it on the chin and wait it out?
(From Tristan Birkinshaw)
Depends what you bought him for. If you feel you need a high-scoring hooker for the two remaining bye rounds, then Nathan Peats is your man this week. If you can cop missing Luke this week (and next, with Souths' bye) then you should at least get him back for the final major bye week in Round 17, so hold. If your plan is head-to-head rather than overall, wait it out this week and then trade Luke for Cameron Smith, James Segeyaro, Robbie Farah or Andrew McCullough – those guys are top quality keepers at hooker, whereas Luke isn't quite in that bracket and will miss two more head-to-head weeks (Round 15 and 18) anyway.
I'm looking to trade Tohu Harris out following his move to the centres. Do I go Elijah Taylor, even though Bryce Cartwright is back for Penrith, or Frizell, with the knowledge that Joel Thompson will come back and both he and Merrin can play 80 if Mary wants?
(From Daniel Schorn)
It's a flip of the coin I'm afraid. Taylor has played about 70 minutes a week this year including four 80-minute performances, while Frizell has played the entire 80 for all but three games this year. I expect both those trends to pretty much continue this season (Cartwright's been in the Panthers side for all but one of Taylor's games and hasn't affected him too much, while Merrin hasn't really gone close to playing the full 80 at all this year). Taylor averages 54, Frizell averages 53. Taylor is a little more expensive, Frizell's price is falling faster after last week's 31.
Neither Taylor or Frizell plays this week (and Frizell has actually dropped out of the NSW squad with a back injury), so the only reason you'd bring them in now is to avoid Tohu Harris's price drop. His price has been falling since Round 8 – he hasn't scored a 50 since Round 7 – but I still hold out a bit of hope that Harris can bounce back. With winger Young Tonumaipea named on Melbourne's bench this week, the Storm could easily reshuffle their side before kickoff with Mahe Fonua shifting to centre and Harris returning to the back row – where he would presumably play his usual 80 minutes. His break even is a high but achievable 62, and considering he was averaging 56 two months into the season Harris could still become a long-term keeper.
The safe bet, with trades at a premium these days, is to hold Harris this week, see how he goes, take his points, and then re-examine the question next week. Otherwise, flip that coin.
(Note: If you want to check up on a player's minutes per game, check out NRL.com's player stats pages.)
With us now being half way through the season Scout how many trades would you recommend us having left for the remainder of the season?
(From Michael Saunders)
With a combination of injuries, suspensions and trade addiction hitting a lot of us Fantasy coaches hard this year, I reckon anything above 15 trades remaining is a good number right now. It all depends on how close you are to your ultimate final 17 and whether you plan to use more for the bye rounds. If you are close to that number or below it, you should be planning out – roughly – how you'll use the rest of your trades, leaving as many as possible spare.
It's not as complicated as it sounds. Just run through your squad, counting the number of players you want to trade out between now and the end of the year. You'll obviously be keeping the keepers, and probably the low-priced players as well who won't make you much cash with a trade. Any mid-range scorers who won't make the cut in your ideal 17 should go. The next step is to guess which players you'd like to bring in, and estimate whether you'll have the cash for them. Now you've got your trade plan – the tricky bit is sticking to it.
What's your view on Semi Radradra? Is he a keeper on the same level as RTS or Dugan?
(From James Irlam)
I always hesitate recommending a winger in NRL Fantasy – even tackle break merchant Josh Mansour has been dicey this season – but Radradra could have the goods. He's got the best average score of any winger/fullback in Fantasy this year, but like all wingers he relies a lot on tries for his points. The Fijian flyer can make big metres and bust his share of tackles, but it's his nine tries in seven games that have taken his average past 50. Only buy him if you think he can keep that try-scoring trend up – although he must be a chance against an inexperienced Storm backline this week. Just beware it's a risk, and he's hardly cheap at $362,000.
Should we look now at selling off Lichaa? Seeing as though Des is wanting to give Mbye a definitive spot in the 17 each week, that may have an impact on Lichaa's scoring. Trading Lichaa to someone like McCullough seems to be looking as a good trade, but I don't want to go wasting unnecessary trades at this point in the year.
(From Cameron James)
Looks unnecessary to me. I agree, Lichaa's minutes look in danger with the rise of Moses Mbye at the Bulldogs, but they haven't been hurt yet. The five minutes he spent on the bench last week are the only bench time Lichaa has had since Round 6, with Mbye actually taking minutes off Josh Reynolds (20 minutes last week) and Trent Hodkinson (65 minutes last week) instead. Of course, that may change in future weeks, but until it does it's too early to be trading out Lichaa. In any case McCullough only scored 33 last round, isn't playing this week and has a break even of 72 so his price should come down a little.
Hey Scout, is now the time to start getting $128k players who won't play to free money up for your final 17? Also who are your picks at the moment for a final 17 if money wasn't a problem?
(From Max Edward Robert Gordon)
The answer to the first question is yes, although if you're playing for overall points it's worth keeping an eye out for $128,000 players who are playing in the two remaining bye rounds.
My ideal final 17 at the moment, if money wasn't an issue, would look something like this:
Cameron Smith, Robbie Farah
Paul Gallen, Aaron Woods, Andrew Fifita
Simon Mannering, Corey Parker, Shaun Fensom, Elijah Taylor
Daly Cherry-Evans, Adam Reynolds, Johnathan Thurston
Iosia Soliola, Jack Bird
James Tedesco, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Lachlan Coote/Josh Dugan
That's it for this week, good luck to your team.