Kalyn Ponga is out. Ryan Papenhuyzen is out. Mitch Barnett is out. And it's sudden-death NRL Fantasy finals time.
It's a tough week of decisions for Fantasy coaches, most of whom don't have many (if any) trades to burn.
This week's big questions
With Ponga and Barnett both being rested, what should I do? I need the points and don't think I can afford a low scoring week.
From James P. West
In usual circumstances, they are both definite holds. But for head-to-head especially I'd consider trading if you absolutely need a points boost to stay alive this week.
Barnett is particularly tricky as a point-of-difference kind of player – while your head-to-head opponent and all the top overall teams probably have Ponga in their side, Barnett isn't in too many teams so there's a bigger argument for trading him, even for the sake of a single week.
In saying that, if you only have one or two trades left, and are a decent chance of staying alive in your head-to-head league, there's still good reason to hold.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see more star players rested in the next couple of weeks, so having a free trade up your sleeve could be the difference between head-to-head glory and a defeat in the prelims or grand final.
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With only one trade left my only wingers are Teddy and my emergency Tabuai-Fidow. Absolutely killer week to lose Ponga and Paps. Do we know how long Paps is likely out for?
From Graeme Lock
The early mail (and for the latest news keep an eye on the NRL casualty ward) is that Papenhuyzen's Achilles injury is a minor one. That suggests he'll be back either next week or the week after. It means he's more of a trade option that Ponga, who will definitely be fit to play next week, but again if you can get away with holding both while still scraping through your head-to-head final then do it.
If you are trading, here are the top candidates as I see them:
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ($671k WFB) – After a quiet first half of the season, the Warriors skipper has sparked into life recently, with a five-game average of 57 and a three-game average of 71.
He's scored four tries in his past four games, and scored 93 against the Knights a fortnight ago including nine tackle-breaks. Does have a low floor with three scores under 30 this year.
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David Nofoaluma ($712k WFB) – Super-consistent tackle-busting winger, who has a season-high 17 tries. Has just two scores below 40 and none below 30, is coming off 80 points against Manly and scored 93 against the Bulldogs a month ago.
The main negative is his price tag may put him out of reach if you're trading Papenhuyzen.
Round 18 - Johnson back, Ponga & Papenhuyzen out
AJ Brimson ($607k HLF/WFB) – Is affordable and dual-position, and has been in great form this year with a five-game average of 55, even after last week's underwhelming 29 against the Bulldogs. Half of his six scores have been above 60 this season. Could potentially go large against under-strength Broncos and Sea Eagles sides before facing the Knights in round 20.
Dylan Edwards ($628k WFB) – Flying below the radar this year but still averaging just a tick under 50 as the fullback for the league leaders. May not have the high ceiling of the other candidates.
Tyrone Peachey ($581k 2RF/CTR) – If you've got a dual-position player like Zac Lomax in your centres you could switch him to the back and bring in a left-field option like Peachey, who has been a Fantasy revelation since being used exclusively as a middle forward by the Titans.
Now starting at lock, Peachey is coming off scores off 66 (with a try) and 64 and is playing around 60 minutes per game. Was held to just 21 points in 45 minutes off the bench a month ago but has otherwise scored at least 40 every week since round 9.
At this stage of the competition is it worth holding on to players who are keepers but have short term injuries?
From Jonathan Flavell
It depends. If you're playing for overall points, anything more than one week on the sidelines at this stage of the season (with only three rounds remaining) is probably a trade.
If you're playing head-to-head it's all about your match-up this week – so if you can get a win without needing to trade, hold the trade. If you need those extra points now to stay alive, pull the trigger.
Remember with rolling lockout you can hold off the decision until sometime during the round, potentially even Sunday morning depending on which players you're considering trading out and in.
Will Edwards or Peachey score better for the rest of the season?
From Brent Jackson
My tip is Tyrone Peachey.
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My H2H finals have finished and I managed to win my league. I've got 1 trade left, thinking of getting rid of Ben Hunt now with his reduced minutes, who's my best bet at just maximising overall rank for the next three weeks?
From Zachariah James
Even though Ben Hunt has lost some game time – dropping from 80 minutes to about 65 under interim Dragons coach Dean Young – he's still a hold in my book, especially with the high likelihood star players will be missing games altogether in the next few rounds.
You can live with Hunt getting 45-55 points a week, but not having a full 17 is going to be a bigger problem if you run out of trades early.