A season-ending injury to Fantasy favourite Sia Soliola and confirmation of a six-week ban for Cronulla's Fifita brothers have thrown another couple of spanners in the works for NRL Fantasy coaches this week as the Fantasy head-to-head league finals begin.
Did your side make your league's top eight? If so, congratulations. Now it's time to get really tactical. Check out your opponent for the weekend and work out whether you have the stronger team. If not, it might be time to take a few risks. Bring in a left-field trade option who could score big this weekend, or give the captaincy to somebody your rival won't choose. If you're the favourite in your match-up this weekend then play it safe and trust that your team's class will win the day; if you're the underdog try to differentiate your team from your opponents and hope to ride a bit of luck.
Now, onto this week's big questions.
How do the finals work in NRL Fantasy leagues?
(From Richie Clements)
The same way as the NRL Telstra Premiership. You should be able to see how the finals fixtures work by selecting your league on fantasy.nrl.com, but here's the gist – the top four teams in the league play off for a chance at a week off (1 v 4 and 2 v 3), while the next four teams in the league are playing to survive (5 v 8 and 6 v 7).
Next week in the semi-final stage, the losers of 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 play the winners of 5 v 8 and 6 v 7, and the following week the four remaining teams play off for the chance to play in your league's grand final.
I have one trade left, who should I bring in...?
(From a lot of people)
Before you go any further, it's best to consider whether you really need to use up that final trade this week. Yes, the first week of the head-to-head finals is here, but if you use that trade now you'll have no more cover if another serious injury or suspension strikes next week. I've been as guilty as anyone of too much "trade rage" this season but the last few trades are priceless in a season of NRL Fantasy.
So, if you've finished in the top four of your league and aren't playing in a sudden death knockout game this weekend, consider holding that trade and taking your chances. There are still four weeks left of head-to-head Fantasy (and five weeks left of Fantasy overall) so that's still a lot of time for more major injuries or suspensions to strike your squad.
If you have two players needing replacing in your side this week (like Andrew Fifita and Sia Soliola) and are getting low on trades, I'd recommend trading the more expensive player and seeing if you can get by holding the other one if you have decent cover. If you have someone like Jack Bird as 18th man who you can sub in for Soliola, you might as well hold a trade which could be vital down the track if a big-money star like Cameron Smith or Corey Parker goes down injured.
Keep in mind as well that Storm forward Tohu Harris is set to become available at centre after this weekend's game (assuming he doesn't switch back to the forwards before kick-off), so if Harris is in your forward pack you could potentially hold Soliola and shift Harris into the backline next week.
Now assuming you're still planning to trade...
Trade Soliloa for whom?
(From Matthew Lippiatt-Sidman)
If Soliola is in your centres, Josh Dugan is the obvious replacement if you haven't got him yet – he costs just $31,000 more than Soliola and is the only other player available at centre in NRL Fantasy who is scoring more than 45 points a game.
After him it's a bit of a lottery, with the main contenders Dylan Walker, Jamie Lyon, Euan Aitken, Michael Jennings, Jack Bird, and even Mitchell Aubusson. With the Raiders having a fairly soft run home, even the likes of Jarrod Croker and Jack Wighton could be worth a gamble.
If you're looking for a replacement in the second row then price will obviously be the main consideration, but the best options are Paul Gallen ($485,000), Corey Parker ($491,000), Simon Mannering ($483,000), Shaun Fensom ($434,000), Mike Cooper ($432,000) and Elijah Taylor ($387,000). Fensom has been a mid-50s scorer this year but those numbers could rise if he takes on Soliola's role as an 80-minute player in the Canberra pack.
Should I hold Fifita one more week or not?
(From Marty Holroyd)
With the news on Thursday that Andrew and David Fifita will be suspended for the rest of the regular season, it's time to trade. Fortunately if you've got Fifita then you have the spending power to bring in pretty much any forward you like, so I'd be targeting one of the names above, or a prop like George Burgess or Jesse Bromwich (the in-form Kade Snowden is in doubt this week with concussion).
What are your trades this week, LS?
(From Jordan Hamel)
Andrew Fifita out, Paul Gallen shifting to prop, Shaun Fensom in.