Fantasy coaches have been hit with the double blow of star front-rowers Paul Vaughan and James Graham being sidelined for the next few weeks, while new cheapies have emerged at an interesting time of the season. With the final major bye round just around the corner, here are my answers to some of this week's big questions.
I have Vaughan and Graham, what do I do? - From Te Rangihau Caleb Whiu
This is the most popular question of the week, for obvious reasons, so I'll break down your options depending on your team's circumstances.
- If you're playing head-to-head only, don't have many trades left, AND are on track to make your league's finals, hold both.
- Otherwise, sell Graham. He's out for a month, and there are better scorers in the front row out there this season. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen your final 17.
- Martin Taupau is the best replacement option, particularly with both Manly's byes out of the way. Andrew Fifita is the next best although he'll miss Round 18 and plays Origin before Round 19. Aaron Woods is in good form with scores of 54, 55 and 72, while Nathan Brown and Felise Kaufusi will play Round 18 (but miss Round 19).
 Taupau Martin - Sea Eagles
- Paul Vaughan is actually the third-ranked prop in Fantasy this year so you could hold him if you can cover his scores for the next few weeks. Otherwise, upgrade to Taupau/Fifita if you can.
- If cash is tight but you have 18 good scorers in your squad, downgrade one of the injured guys and upgrade the other.
Keep in mind for head-to-head you ideally want to have five or six spare trades when your head-to-head finals begin (usually in Round 22) and even for overall points you want a few trades left considering there are still 10 rounds to go.
Hi @lone_scout out of Aaron Woods, Ryan James and Jesse Bromwich, who do you reckon is the best replacement option for James Graham? Thanks - From Kent Bowater
On current form, Woods. Bromwich is coming off his best two scores of the season but those have come playing increased minutes with the Storm missing their big Origin guns.
Is Lewis Brown a viable cash out option? Or is it better to just pick a NPR? - From Jaedyn Tuiloma
All of a sudden Lewis Brown has become a decent option in Fantasy. His scores this year have been pretty terrible (he averages 11.5 and hasn't scored more than 20 since Round 8) but he's only been playing limited minutes off the bench, and that will change with Brown starting in the second row at the Sea Eagles now with Curtis Sironen ruled out for eight weeks with a pectoral injury.
If you buy him you're basically doing it as a cash-out (as he costs only $138,000) who doubles as injury cover, especially in Round 18 and 19. If you don't need more depth and are playing for head-to-head, you might as well go for a non-playing reserve instead as Brown could still be an auto emergency risk if he goes back to the bench at the end of the season as expected.
With Jamie Buhrer back, is he going to kill the value of Sione Mata'utia or Lachlan Fitzgibbon? I've got both, probably looking to move Sione, but if it's Lachlan's minutes he'll be eating into... - From Graeme Lock
Yeah Buhrer's return will likely see the Knights returning to their original back-row setup, with Buhrer starting in the pack alongside Sione Mata'utia and Mitch Barnett. Buhrer can play the 80 so Fitzgibbon's game time could drop dramatically. We'll get a better idea after this week, with Buhrer (at this stage) named on the bench.
I've got Cameron McInnes and Kaysa Pritchard at hooker, was thinking cashing out Kaysa to Cameron King and upgrading Vaughan to KAPOW! Then trading McInnes to Smith Round 20. Thoughts on running one hooker for the run home? - From Paul Messell
It's a bit of a gamble but if Cameron King can be a reliable 40-point player in that second hooker slot (which he's certainly capable of considering he should get the Eels hooker role for the rest of the season with Kaysa Pritchard out) then there is the option of running with one gun hooker, and using King as an 18th man. The safer option is always to run with two gun hookers – especially when both McInnes and Smith are scoring more than 55 points a week (and remember McInnes is almost as good a scorer as Taupau this season).
Hi Scout, Josh Mansour form has been incredible, constantly looking for the ball and piling on the tackle busts. Is he worth a trade in for someone like RTS? - From Michael Zhang
Mansour has been awesome – he's now made 24 tackle breaks and 559 run metres in just three games – but upgrading a borderline keeper like Tuivasa-Sheck does still seem like a bit of a luxury trade. In saying that, RTS has relied on tries in each of his last four games to boost his scores, and without those tries he would have made less than 40 points in three of those four games. Still, I'd only be considering this kind of upgrade if the rest of your squad is finalised for the run home and you have a spare trade – otherwise wait until the Origin/bye period is over and make the trade then if you don't have more pressing problems to fix.
Is it too late to get Crichton? Have CHN, Elliot, Moga & Kelly who all need to go. Thinking of going CHN and Moga to Crichton and a nuffie. Have 10 trades left. - From Ash Hoss Bahadori
Angus Crichton has been the breakout star of the season and is now the most expensive player in Fantasy at $597,000, but while it's never too late to buy someone who has scored 60 points a game there could be wiser ways to spend your money. Crichton has scored five tries in his last three games and seven in his last seven, so it's going to be hard for him to keep that kind of strike rate up, and someone like Jason Taumalolo still has a better season average than him and now costs $30,000 less. Paul Gallen ($544,000), Jack de Belin ($513,000), Simon Mannering ($540,000) and Martin Taupau ($550,000) all cost a bit less than Crichton and could potentially match his scores on the run home – but if you've got a few of those guys already and have the cash to spend then go for it.