Is Jason Taumalolo a better captaincy option than Damien Cook? Who should you bring in to replace Nathan Brown? Which centres will outscore the rest in the final two rounds of the season?
NRL.com's Lone Scout has a stab at answering those questions and more ahead of the penultimate round of the 2018 season.
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Do you think Taumalolo will have a blinder against Eels, especially in the last home game for Thurston and to make up for missing last week? Thinking of chucking the big C on him instead of Cook.
From C.J. Pettit
Yeah, I think it's a big chance. After a week off and in what's pretty much a must-win game for the Cowboys – both to send Thurston off on a winning note at home and to avoid the wooden spoon – there's every chance Taumalolo plays 80 minutes for the first time since round 15 (when he scored 71 against the Warriors). He's scored tries in his past two games before sitting out last week's loss through suspension, and the last time he played 80 and scored a try Taumalolo made 91 Fantasy points. He's a very good captaincy option.
In saying all that, Taumalolo's season average of 55 is still 10 points below Cook's, so I'd only take him as captain if you think your head-to-head rival has you covered elsewhere. If you're the favourite to win your match-up, you're probably better off playing it safe with captain Cook.
Who to captain out of McCullough, Fifita, Crichton or RTS?
From Jason Levy
I'd probably go Fifita.
By season averages, those guys are ranked Fifita first, then Crichton, McCullough and Tuivasa-Sheck. Recent form favours RTS, but fullbacks are notoriously risky captaincy options in Fantasy (he's got five scores under 30 this season). Crichton's probably the safest bet, scoring consistently in the 50s, so if you've got your head-to-head opponent covered he's a good option. But after Fifita managed 62 (with a try) in just 38 minutes last week, he's likely to be fired up again and a good chance of playing more minutes against a Newcastle side with an infamously brittle goal-line defence. I like his chances of a big one.
Nathan Brown? One trade left, in the prelims, I have Stimson in the emergencies – play him or trade Brown to James, Guerra, Fifita, etc?
From Sammy Haris
Unless you're confident of breezing through your prelim final with 30 points from Stimson, I'd be trading Brown (who won't be back in round 25 anyway). Of those three options, I'd get Fifita first, ahead of Ryan James and then Aidan Guerra – who's been great recently but still has an average score that's right on 50. Tom Trbojevic and Jason Taumalolo are slightly better options than Fifita if you haven't got then already.
With Brown out, do I bring Fainu in from my reserves or use my last trade to get James/Crichton?
From Luke Gesler
Tricky one, but considering Fainu's scoring 40 points a game these days I'd make the trade.
Best Brown replacement regardless of position ... Cleary, Turbo or McInnes?
From Mark Rimer
If I had to rank the top 10 replacements right now, regardless of position, I'd go Cook, Taumalolo, Jake Trbojevic, McInnes, Farah, Fifita, Crichton, Cleary, Taupau, James. Cameron Smith's back injury makes him an awkward buy right now. Cleary is getting great base stats with James Maloney out for Penrith but could struggle to pull off big attacking plays in away games against the Warriors and Storm.
Sup Scout? Trade Fainu to Turbo to block my H2H opponent, or go to Holmes as a POD (he normally destroys Knights)? Our game is pretty even.
From Brad Asher
I like your thinking. In terms of average scores it's a non-contest – Tom Trbojevic averages 50 for the season; Holmes averages 39 – but right now trades are all about these last two rounds.
If your team had the edge in your head-to-head match-up I'd definitely get Turbo Tom to cancel out your opponent's score. But if you're behind, or if it's an even contest, it basically comes down to Trbojevic v Wests Tigers (a decent defensive team, albeit one that misses a lot of tackles) or Val Holmes v Newcastle (the second-worst defensive team in the league, above Manly). Holmes scored 82 against the Knights in round 12, while Trbojevic made 52 against the Tigers in round 6. Holmes may have a slight edge this week.
Put one eye on round 25 as well – grand final week in Fantasy – when the Sharks visit the Bulldogs and Manly are away to Brisbane. Trbojevic could be on the wrong side of a big defeat there. Any other time of the season I wouldn't recommend Holmes over Trbojevic but right now it could be a smart play.
Fainu + Brown to Fifita and Taumololo?
From James Kapaniris
Good trades. Do it.
Need to trade out Brown and want to avoid Farah as the remaining players in my H2H all have him. Will Keary's return have any impact on Jake Friend's run of scores, or should I get Frizell, who's averaging 55+ in his last five and the Dragons won't get Vaughan back for the rest of the season?
From Tom Conway
I've already listed the best replacements for Brown above but if your chasing left-field options these are two of the most in-form guys. Friend is consistently playing 80 minutes for the first time in 2018 – he hasn't spent a minute on the bench in the last four weeks after playing the full 80 twice in the first 19 rounds – and his scores have followed with an average of 61 in his last five (built largely on 50+ tackle counts). Frizell's a little different – he played a season-low 43 minutes in the front row last week, effectively replacing Paul Vaughan up front – and only made 57 because of a try. There's every chance he switches to prop again before kick-off this week. I prefer Friend out of those two.
How long is Jesse Ramien out for?
From Mark Konkers
He's due back next week, but is still probably a trade unless you've got a good back-up centre or can win your match-up without one.
Candidates for best scoring centres in the final two rounds?
From Adrian Estrich
Based on season form, current form and schedules I'd rank them like this: Latrell Mitchell; Blake Ferguson; Esan Marsters; Will Hopoate; Waqa Blake; Euan Aitken; Nick Cotric; Jarryd Hayne; Josh Dugan.
Thoughts on Jai Arrow? Hasn't had the minutes that get him big scores lately. Playing H2H and can trade in any other FRF.
From Nick James
Arrow's 73-minute 58 (points) against Parramatta in round 21 looks like it may have been a false dawn – it followed back-to-back 25s (when he played 45 minutes and 40 minutes) and the Titans lock has gone back to playing less than 50 minutes a game in the past couple of weeks. Between round two and round 16 Arrow averaged 55 Fantasy points and 61 minutes a game; since then he's averaged 38 points in 52 minutes. At his best, he's an elite Fantasy player but even though he's said in recent weeks he had overcome a knee injury following his first State of Origin series, his Fantasy scoring hasn't reflected that just yet.
He's not a must-sell by any means but if you've got 18 quality scorers this could be the week to make Arrow your 18th man, or look to upgrade if you're missing an elite player and have a trade to spare.