We've arrived at probably the toughest fortnight of the NRL Fantasy season – at least for those coaches who have been aiming to climb the overall rankings. Fantasy coaches can use three trades this week instead of the usual two, but they'll probably need them in order to get something close to a full 17. With half the NRL clubs plus all State of Origin players sidelined – not to mention the long list of names in the casualty ward – you'd be doing well to have even 14 or 15 players available this weekend.
It won't get much easier next week either, with the Rabbitohs, Eels, Cowboys and Wests Tigers having their final bye during Round 18. That will make it a tricky week even for Fantasy teams focusing purely on their head-to-head leagues – so it could be wise to make use of some trades this week in order to be closer to full strength next week.
So who are this week's best buys? Here are my answers to a few of your questions.
Mike Cooper has turned a lot of heads. He’s a big point of difference and has a solid average, but is it an unspoken rule that if Fifita is there you get Fifita?
(From Perry Moore)
I have to say I like the look of Mike Cooper as a Fantasy prospect. He actually flew under the radar last year as a decent scorer for the Dragons off the bench – early in the season at least – but this year the Englishman has started to play big minutes and has been a big part of why the Dragons have become the best defensive team in the NRL. With 475 tackles and just seven missed tackles for the season, Cooper is a super defensive player who also contributes handy points via run metres and the odd tackle break. With an average of 65 in his past three games and both the Dragons' byes out of the way already, he looks like a great buy this week.
He's probably a slightly better buy than even Andrew Fifita, who has also been superb of late after last week's 71 and will also play in the next two rounds. Fifita's likely to outscore Cooper in the long run, but he costs $47,000 more and has a break even in the 60s compared with Cooper's break even of 37, so you're probably better off getting Cooper now and Fifita later – if you'll be able to fit them both in. If you can only get one, Fifita may still be the best bet as a genuine captaincy option on any given week.
Is it worth trying to trade for cash cows this late in the season?
(From Caolan Cullinane)
Only if you have a lot of trades left to use (say, 15 or more). Keep in mind every cash cow you bring in could use up three trades – one to trade them in, one to cash them out, and one to spend the profit to upgrade another player. If you need to find a way to get more star players into your team and have trades to burn, then keep looking for ways to make some quick cash.
Who is your 'cheapie of the week'?
(From Matthew Lippiatt-Sidman)
Anyone who will play the next two rounds. Unfortunately there's not a lot going in the way of genuine must-buy cash cows this week – and for most Fantasy teams the time to get cash cows has come and gone. When cashing out your mid-range scorers you're better off getting somebody as cheap as possible to make as much profit as possible, and finding somebody who will score points – any points – over the next two rounds is a bonus. Cheap players from the Panthers, Dragons, Sea Eagles and Sharks are worth a look, as they'll play in both Round 17 and 18. The only base price $128,000 players from those clubs named this week are Heath L'Estrange, Jake Marketo, Kiti Glymin, and James Hasson, but beware they have all averaged less than 20 this season and could be unwelcome auto emergencies down the track.
Thoughts on Shaun Lane?
(From Sam Heyes)
He's a quality player in the making and will probably make a lot of cash in Fantasy in the second half of the season.
Pros: He played the full 80 minutes on the weekend after getting his first shot in the Bulldogs' starting pack (Michael Lichaa was the only other Bulldogs forward to play 80) and he did just about everything – 32 tackles, 167 metres, a couple of offloads, a try and a try assist. He's also got a break even of -23, meaning he's guaranteed to get a few more price rises even with limited minutes.
Cons: The Bulldogs have a bye this week so Lane won't play until Round 18, when Josh Jackson will also return to the side – presumably bumping Lane to the bench. Lane's big 82-point performance on the weekend also means he jumped $47,000 in value – taking him to $182,000. Now that he's no longer bottom dollar, you'd only really be buying him as a cash cow – meaning you need to have enough trades left to be able to bring him in and trade him out later. If you have, say, less than a dozen trades left then you might be better off holding them for emergencies rather than using two or three of them up just for the sake for a little more cash.
I'm running very short on trades and have a few players to trade out for cash. Is it better to hold off as long as possible to save the nine trades I have left or trade out my non-starting cash cows when I think they have reached their peak, and use the cash as late as possible?
(From Stephen Durrant)
It really depends on how close you are to your ultimate "final" 17. The key is to get that team together as quickly as possible. So, if you're fairly happy with your starting 17, then hold the trades. If you need to use a couple of trades to get there, make the trades. Don't use trades to get more cash just for the sake of it – those trades might be more valuable than the cash you make in the long run.
Is Trent Merrin a good buy for next week considering his low price, or is he a trap?
(From Bynum Lynch)
It all depends on his minutes, really. With big minutes, Merrin is a proven Fantasy performer – in 60 minutes on the weekend he pumped out 67 Fantasy points primarily from base stats (35 tackles, 189 run metres, four tackle breaks and an offload). But his minutes have been erratic this year. With a lot of impressive performers in the Red V pack this season, Merrin has played 60 or more minutes just once since Round 7, and before last week he averaged just 42 minutes in his previous three games (you can see the full rundown of his minutes by game online here). Those numbers might lift in the back half of the year, but it's hard to predict. I'd prefer to bring in a safer option as a keeper in the pack at this stage of the season, and in any case Merrin is on Origin duty this week.
I can only keep one out of Lowe and Taumalolo. Unfortunately due to trades they'll be in my final 17.
(From Toby Funke)
I'd keep Ethan Lowe over Jason Taumalolo at this stage. As an 80-minute player Lowe is a more reliable option and is also capable of hitting big scores when he fires in attack (unfortunately for his Fantasy coaches he's also one of the leading decoy runners in the NRL). Taumalolo can run over the top of teams on his day but when he's contained he tends to produce fairly quiet Fantasy scores.
Are Klemmer and Napa keepers since they been starting? Looking to upgrade to Fifita and downgrade on Napa to free some cash. Playing head to head. Have 13 trades left.
(From David Gatt)
I don't think either of them are quite keepers at this stage, although they both obviously went well on the weekend. They're also both still rising in value so you could hold off on the trade for now, but in the long run Fifita is obviously one of several genuine star props you could upgrade to. If your head-to-head comp is having a week off with the bye round as most are, you might be better delaying the trade until Round 18 or later though – Fifita's price may have dropped a little by then.