The dreaded bye rounds have arrived, making this the toughest time of the season for NRL Fantasy coaches aiming to climb the overall ladder and the easiest for those only focused on winning their head-to-head league (if that's you, you can probably take the week off from Fantasy altogether).
Before I get to this week's questions, a couple of key points to keep in mind for the bye rounds.
First, even if you're making trades with the aim of getting every point you can out of the Origin period, it's worth having an eye on the final squad you want to have for the run home. That means buying keepers when you can rather than just mid-rangers with good bye schedules. To me, that's forwards or halves who score 50 points or better on average, or outside backs who score 40 or better.
In my book the definite keepers who play in two or more bye rounds are these guys: Jake Friend, James Graham, Elliott Whitehead, Jordan Rapana, Joseph Leilua, Jarrod Croker, Euan Aitken. Don't hesitate to buy these guys if you need a scorer in their position (and if they're playing this week).
And the borderline keepers are: Shaun Fensom, Dylan Napa, Ethan Lowe, Elijah Taylor, Manu Ma'u, Moses Mbye, Josh Hodgson, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Mitch Rein, Semi Radradra, Kerrod Holland, Chris Lawrence, Latrell Mitchell, Ben Barba, Jackson Hastings (if he gets his spot back). These guys are worth keeping if you've got them, and will probably be good buys if you haven't.
The Eels have the advantage of playing all three major bye rounds so are even more valuable in terms of overall points, but I still don't quite rate guys like Corey Norman, Kieran Foran and Michael Gordon as keepers so beware you may need to upgrade them again later if you trade them in now.
The second point is to be aware of the so-called captaincy loophole which is available to you in the bye rounds. You can't change your captains during a round but you can substitute them out of your 17 (for situations where, say, Cameron Smith is a late withdrawal). You also get an auto emergency from your lowest-scoring non-playing reserves if one of your starting players doesn't play in a round. So in bye rounds because you probably don't have a full 17 you can take advantage of this and get two bites at the captaincy cherry.
Here's how it works.
1) Pick a vice captain who plays before your captain (like Ben Hunt, whose Broncos play on Friday night).
2) If your vice captain scores big, you can substitute your captain out of your squad altogether, bringing a non-player into your 17 (like somebody who has a bye this week).
3) Because you won't have any other scorers in your non-playing reserves, your original captain will have his score counted in your team score as the auto emergency.
Again, this only works when you don't have a full 17 – so on the three major bye rounds – and it still involves the risk of guessing whether your captain will outscore your vice captain. But it could net you a few extra points.
Now, onto this week's big questions.
Is ET now a must have?
From Andrew Wilkinson
I wouldn't say Elijah Taylor is quite a must-have, and certainly not if you're playing head-to-head. He's scored 45 and 61 in his two games at the Tigers, but that 61 included a couple of try assists from dummy-half that he won't get very often. If he continues to play big minutes he should score around 50 points a game, which would make him a quality buy with the Tigers playing in two bye rounds, but at this stage he's not a top-line gun in the second row. The fact he's yet to play alongside both Robbie Farah and Matt Ballin (who could spend some time at lock himself) in the same game makes him a little bit of a gamble at this stage.
When are bye round players locked out? Before the first game or before the last game?
From Greg Johnson
As their teams don't actually play this weekend you are free to move them around or trade them out of your team across the weekend during the rolling lockout.
With Jackson Hastings being dropped and Mitch Pearce not selected for Origin does that make Hastings a sell? We'll obviously wait for team lists but surely last week was a heads up his days are numbered?
From Rachael-Robert Jane
It's a tricky week for Hastings owners. Yes he was dropped for Ryan Matterson last week, and with the Roosters not playing this week it's tempting to trade Hastings now for somebody who will get you some points in Round 12 – especially if you haven't already got a halves keeper like Ben Hunt in your side. On the other hand, Matterson hardly played the house down last week and Hastings could be back sooner or later – and if he does come back he'll be handy over Origin with the Roosters playing in bye rounds 15 and 18. I'd hold unless you can upgrade him to someone like Ben Hunt or you really need his cash to fund another trade this week.
What's a good option for Fisher-Harris and for Lamb? Both were cashies and now both injured...
From Sam Arends
In terms of cheapies, you could replace Fisher-Harris with dual-position forward JJ Felise ($145,000) from the Wests Tigers, who made a decent 30 on the weekend and plays in two bye rounds.
Lamb could be a straight swap for his replacement at the Knights Jaelen Feeney ($128,000), who could keep his spot for the next couple of months although he scored badly when playing at fullback at the start of the season; or Jahrome Hughes ($130,000), who is set to play his first game for the Cowboys this week but probably will only play this week and Round 18. Feeney's got more chances to make a bit of cash but could also become a low-scoring auto emergency risk, which Hughes won't.
Is Javid Bowen worth bringing in to make cash? (Not worried about overall, just H2H.)
From Andy Donaldson
For head-to-head I wouldn't really bother with Bowen – unless injuries hit the Cowboys' backline he won't be required apart from the two pre-Origin rounds, when presumably you don't have head-to-head matches on in your league anyway. He will make a bit of cash in those games but not as much as a player who has decent job security for four or more games. Someone like Jahrome Hughes who is also set to play in those two Cowboys games at least comes at $130,000 rather than $188,000, so frees up an extra $58,000 for your team right now.
Hey LS is trading Jackson Hastings for Corey Norman for the bye rounds a good trade?
From James Hannan
All Eels players will play in all three bye rounds, but even so I'd only consider this trade if you've got a lot of trades left. Norman isn't a season keeper unless he boosts his average from the low 40s into the 50s, so you'd probably need to use another trade to upgrade him later. He might be worth a move anyway if you're set on making big strides during the bye rounds, but I'd move for potential keepers like Manu Ma'u and Semi Radradra first.