He may have been one of the flops of 2012 but could Chris Sandow get back to his best in his second year in Eels colours?
Photo: Getty Images
Last year's average: 36.43
Last year's high score: 89
Positives: "You know, in 2013, everyone is going to see the real Chris Sandow."
So said Chris Sandow in a recent interview with Rugby League Week magazine. A return to the "real" Sandow is something Parramatta fans (and to a lesser extent, Dream Team coaches) are hoping for this season after Sandow's disappointing first outing in Eels colours in 2012.
And there's reason to be hopeful. The arrival of Ricky Stuart – a coach whose stocks have only risen despite the NSW Blues' losing streak under his reign – is expected to be a boost for the Eels in general, and possibly Sandow in particular. Stuart himself was a star halfback in his day and can refer to his own premiership-winning experience when advising the enigmatic Sandow.
And Sandow could be guaranteed a boost to his Dream Team scoring potential if he gets the Parramatta goalkicking duties as expected, following the retirement of Luke Burt.
Negatives: Just what is the "real Sandow", exactly?
In Dream Team terms at least, 2013 was pretty much par for the course for Sandow. He had some good games (most notably a two-try effort in a score of 89 against the Broncos in Round 21) and some bad, and finished the season with a solid scoring average of 36.
And history would suggest that's par for the course.
Sandow burst onto the scene for the Rabbitohs in 2008 and averaged 39 Dream Team points (under the current scoring system) from 13 games, then averaged 26 per game in 2009, 34 per game in 2010 and an impressive 47 per game in 2011.
It was that 2011 effort that established him as a rising NRL star and helped earn him a bumper contract at Parramatta, but was that single year a taste of the "real" Chris Sandow? Or was that just a case of an inconsistent player having a good run of form?
While Stuart has a history as coach of improving a team's defensive performances, he has never really been able to significantly boost his teams' attacking displays. So even if Stuart manages to help tighten up Sandow's leaky defence (he lost 254 points through missed tackles last season), the coach might not be the man to get Sandow back to his 2011 form in attack.
Risk rating: Needless to say, Sandow is a gamble.
He does come much cheaper than Dream Team's big name halves (there are actually 38 halves in the game more expensive than Sandow, with both Daly Cherry-Evans and Cooper Cronk costing more than $440,000). But then again, he's much less reliable than those big names.
If he gets the kicking duties, it's almost a given that Sandow's scoring (and price tag) will go up. But will it be enough to justify having a middle-of-the-road player in your squad? His price rise is unlikely to match that of a genuine "cash cow" (usually a rookie), and his scores are unlikely to compete with the likes of Cherry-Evans or Cronk.
But if you've got faith that Sandow and the Eels can lift their game significantly in 2013, then anything can happen. We'll rate him four Matt Orfords.
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