Tigers skipper and Toyota NRL Dream Team star Robbie Farah will miss the rest of the NRL regular season with a broken hand, so who should you replace him with in your Dream Team?
Photo: Getty Images
With two rounds remaining in the Toyota NRL Dream Team season, every move is crucial as Dream Team coaches look to get the edge in their head-to-head finals leagues or the overall points race.
There are three big absentees this week, with two of the four highest-scoring hookers out of action, along with the fourth most-popular player in the game, Warriors rookie Konrad Hurrell.
Hurrell was dropped by the Warriors last week and was only included in their squad as 18th man this week, while star Rabbitohs hooker Issac Luke has also been dropped. Wests Tigers skipper Robbie Farah – the only hooker apart from Cameron Smith to average more than 55 points a game this season – has a broken hand and won't play again before the finals (if at all this year). Farah and Luke are definite sells, while Hurrell is still some chance of sneaking into the Warriors lineup under new interim coach Tony Iro, following Brian McClennan's axing this week.
Warriors captain Simon Mannering's frustrating ankle injury has again kept him on the sidelines as well, meaning those who have kept the faith with the back-rower now have to sell.
Replacing Farah and Luke is the top priority this week, so it's time to basically bring in the best No.9 you can afford. Cameron Smith is obviously the best of the lot but his price has exploded to $413,900 (and is still rising) after scores of 75, 72, 110 and 84 in the past month. Dragons rake Mitch Rein is also in great form after taking on an 80-minute role (although tries in his past two games have helped his scores) while Bulldogs playmaker Josh Reynolds and Broncos workhorse Andrew McCullough are both very solid options with a $317K price tag.
Penrith's Kevin Kingston is probably the best value buy at hooker, at just $268,800, and like McCullough is a no-nonsense 80-minute tackler who should be relied on for around 50 points a week, although he's not likely to hit the big scores that Rein or Reynolds have scored in the past.
If you're looking for a replacement for Hurrell, Tony Williams has bounced back to form with a barnstorming 67 against the Knights last week, and will continue to score well if he starts getting involved more often in games. Elsewhere, Ben Barba, Greg Inglis, Josh Dugan, Matt Bowen, Krisnan Inu and Justin Hodges are all quality replacement options for Hurrell, either in the centres or at fullback/wing.
Beware the Big Three
A final worrying thought to keep in mind this week: Storm coach Craig Bellamy has made a habit of resting his trio of stars – Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater – late in the season ahead of the finals series. All three were very busy over State of Origin and Melbourne's post-Origin lull showed that burnout could be a factor playing on Bellamy's mind. It's still not worth leaving those players out of your Dream Team if they're already in your squad, but it may be something to keep in mind if you're considering trading in one of the trio in the next couple of weeks.