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With Trent Merrin copping a four-match ban and the Rabbitohs, Eels, Wests Tigers and Cowboys sitting out this weekend's matches with a bye, Round 18 looms as the last genuinely tough round of the 2015 NRL Fantasy season.  

To lend a hand, here are my answers to a few of this weekend's big questions.

This week it's particularly tempting to sell off players from teams who have the bye – but only do that if you're better off trading them out in the long run. Try to avoid selling a keeper – or even a potential keeper – just for the sake of one round. 

Fine-tune your NRL Fantasy team

With five trades left, is it too risky to bring in a broken Paul Gallen for Martin Taupau? Any inside word on Gal's fitness that could sway me?
(From Toby Funke)

The latest mail is that Gallen is in doubt for this weekend's clash with the Dragons, so at the very least it's worth holding off until Sunday before making that trade. In any case, Taupau has been scoring pretty well lately and Gallen has a break even of 81, so it's probably worth waiting a few weeks before looking to bring him in – and with five trades left holding fire is probably the smart move. Who knows, you could lose a forward to injury in the next few weeks, and you could use that trade to bring Gallen in then.

Are there any good pickups, particularly at either forward spot, who has bottomed out in price and should be scooped up? I've got some cash cows to trade out but a standard downgrade one/upgrade the other will leave me with only three playing reserves that I can rely on.
(From Brendan Ellwood)

If you're looking for forwards around the $350,000 mark, there a few decent options who should still average around 50 points a game. Ethan Lowe ($353,000) hit 58 last week and has hopefully ended a mid-year slump, Tohu Harris ($356,000) is scoring mostly in the 40s but is capable of the occasional big score, and if you're keen to take a bit of a gamble Bryce Cartwright ($339,000) is averaging 53 over his past five games and his minutes seem to be on the rise following a man-of-the-match display against Souths last week. Trent Merrin would have been a popular buy this week after his price dropped to $360,000 but a month-long ban has put an end to that option.

Worth holding Bryce Cartwright for another week? Or upgrade to Fensom or B. Thompson this week? (Have CP, Mannering, ET, and enough cash to do in one trade.)
(From Nathan Boyle)

With a break even of 30 and a few big scores in the past few weeks, I'd be tempted to hold Cartwright for at least another week. He hasn't been consistent (his past six scores are 34, 60, 39, 77, 31 and 58) but he's been a big improver on the field and the Panthers could well give him the full 80 minutes on a regular basis after last week's star showing. If he can keep averaging 50 over the rest of the season he'd be a bargain keeper at his current price – although he won't match the tackle counts of the more reliable (and $100K more expensive) Shaun Fensom.



Jake Granville has been performing really well in last few weeks. Should I hold him in my final 17 or upgrade to McCullough? Upgrading will leave me with a handful of trades left to cover injuries.
(From Rachael-Robert Jane)

Granville has been a big part of the reason the Cowboys have managed to remain successful over the State of Origin period. In their past four games Granville's minutes have jumped significantly – he played about 40-50 minutes for the first half of the season but is averaging 70 minutes a game since Round 13. In those four games he's averaged 58.5 Fantasy points a game – having averaged 35 before that – and if that trend continues there's no real reason why you'd sell him. With a break even of 26, and with not many trades remaining, I'd hold him while his price continues to climb and only jump off board if his scores drop back to the 40s.

G'day Scout. What's the go on Blake Leary – if fit and healthy, we he get back into the Manly side?
(From Mark Konkers)

He's set to sit out one more week with a back injury but should slot back into the pack when he's fit again.

Hey scout, is Taumalolo is a hold or a trade? Looking to upgrade to Fensom, then next week looking to upgrade Tepai to Elijah Taylor, your thoughts?
(From Jaii Graham)

Depends on trades. If you're running low, it could be worth holding Taumalolo and just making the must-trades (like Tepai to Taylor) and keep the rest to cover any injuries. If you've got trades to spare or are almost at your final 17, and don't expect Taumalolo to get back to regular 50s, then make the move.

Who are you making captain this week, Scout?
(From Brad Gilmore)

Probably Simon Mannering, maybe Andrew Fifita.

That's it for this week, best of luck to your team.

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