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There's yet another bargain starting hooker up for grabs as this year's mammoth injury toll creates new opportunities for the NRL's youngsters – while also wreaking havoc with Fantasy coaches' trade totals.

This week's big questions

Is Chris Randall a worthy pick up and will he get lots of minutes as hooker?

From Jonathan Flavell

As a starting hooker who costs less than $300k, and with his main competition for the role at Newcastle Andrew McCullough and Connor Watson both out for the season, Randall is the obvious cheapie of the week. He'll make a ton of cash next round no matter what he scores after smashing out 72 points (with 71 tackles) in a 90-minute draw with Penrith back in round three, and even if he doesn't play the full 80 minutes he is still capable of posting decent scores.

The reason why he won't play 80 minutes is the presence of rookie five-eighth Phoenix Crossland on the bench. Crossland will almost certainly give Randall a spell at some point, and either play at dummy-half himself or play in the halves with Kurt Mann moving to hooker.

Randall is the last specialist hooker standing at the Knights so he's the front-runner to play big minutes for the regular season, although if coach Adam O'Brien prefers what he sees with Mann at hooker and Crossland at five-eighth there's a chance Randall could be benched down the track. The most likely result is Randall scoring around 45 points a game, similar to Raiders cheapie Tom Starling.

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Would Chris Randall or Tom Starling be a better pick-up this week?

From Tim Kovea-Vueti

Starling costs a little more than Randall ($309k rather than $293k) and is perhaps a safer option with an established bench role – where he's scored around 45 points in 50 minutes in both his matches. Randall's role isn't quite set in stone (if Crossland stars off the bench he could potentially move into the starting halves with Mann playing more minutes at dummy-half) but he has a higher ceiling; he's capable of playing the full 80 minutes and he's already shown he can tackle all day if required.

If you have enough trades to afford to bring a player in now and sell them later, then Randall looks like the better cash cow. If you're buying them as a cheap bench player or 18th man, Starling looks good for reliable scores in the 40s while Randall could potentially be more like the next Reece Robson and provide keeper-level scores (with some risk he could also be a bust).

Why did Tevaga not score so well on the weekend? Is he a cut-price keeper?

From Mark Konkers

Yes, Jazz Tevaga is still a keeper in my book despite "only" scoring 51 in 50 minutes. He's a super-busy player who managed to make 49 tackles in that time, but the problem was he also had five missed tackles plus an error and two penalties conceded. Those negatives cost him a combined 16 points. He won't do that every week.

Last year Tevaga averaged 67 minutes per game, with about three missed tackles and less than one error and penalty per game. So I expect to see his game time go up and his demerits go down as the season goes on.

Can you name the keeper 2RFs? Are there any cheaper options out there to pick up now?

From Will Desmond

Tevaga is the standout value option in the second row. Here's my take on the second-row keeper trade targets, split by price bracket:

$880+: Cameron McInnes (after he comes a dual-position player next week), Jason Taumalolo, Tohu Harris, Ryan Matterson (who is getting cheaper in the next few weeks)

$700k-800k: Alex Twal, Isaah Yeo, Patrick Carrigan, Jake Trbojevic, Josh McGuire, Cameron Murray, James Fisher-Harris, Tyson Frizell, David Fifita

$600k-$700k: Jazz Tevaga

If you've already got the likes of Luciano Leilua, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Shaun Lane, Jai Arrow and Joe Tapine they're probably keepers as well.

Should the Warriors look to lock up Hetherington long term?

Will Hunt get DPP even if he goes back to 7 this week?

From JP Paul

With the Dragons' planning to play Ben Hunt at hooker and Cameron McInnes at lock when at full strength, and both players having already started in those roles several times this season, you can expect to see both of them become dual-position players next week (Hunt HLF/HOK and McInnes HOK/2RF).

Is Josh Papalii a POD keeper for the last few rounds?

From Alistair Rathbone

Yes, with 59 points a game he's an elite scorer in the front row, and he's a good point of difference option as a player in just 13% of teams.

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Who should I buy for a bench WFB? I already have Teddy, Ponga and Papenhuyzen.

From Kristy Kyle

With three keepers already in your squad at the back you can ideally afford to grab a cheap player as your backup option. Spending more than $300k on a player who isn't going to be in your top 17 is a waste, especially at this time of the year when strengthening your starting team is the top priority.

The likes of Tommy Talau and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow are popular back-up options this season simply because they started so cheap and are capable of producing decent scores on their day (even if they're not reliable enough to be top-17 scorers).

There are no standout WFB cheapies at the moment but the best value right now is probably Souths winger Jaxson Paulo, who costs just $245k and was picked ahead of Corey Allan this week with Alex Johnston taking the other wing spot. Otherwise, the smart option is probably to wait until the next obvious bargain at the back arrives. 

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How many trades should we have left at this point?

From Nathanael Whyte

Ideally, enough to be able to trade your way into a strong top 17, while also having around four or five trades remaining to cover injuries in the final rounds of the season. I have only seven trades remaining but am planning to use two or three to finalise my squad then hold the rest for injuries.

If you're in a similar position, it's time to plan what your "final" 17 will look like and what trades you'll need to make to get there. With the way injuries are going this season every spare trade will be crucial in the final five or six rounds.

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