Half a dozen rounds in and we're getting to that next key stage of the Toyota NRL Dream Team season. The cash cows are starting to hit their price peaks, meaning it's just about time for them to be sold, while the NRL's biggest stars are playing with one eye on rep honours. After a very rough start to the year it's also time to make sure every trade counts – you can't afford to waste trades on half-baked ideas and expect to have enough left when it matters later in the year.
It's also a time when the head-to-head match-ups are starting to heat up, meaning DT fanatics are making sure every line break, try assist and kick metre counts. With that in mind, I've chased up the guys behind NRL Stats to run through how they judge what constitutes an ineffective tackle or a try assist. More on that at the end of this article.
In the meantime, here are my views on this week's most asked-about players.
Yes, the man is back, scoring a healthy 61 points despite starting off the bench for the Broncos last week. With Cameron Smith's scoring proving to be solid but unspectacular this season, it does look like Parker will be the best captaincy option in the long run for your Dream Team. But not yet, necessarily. He's again been named on the bench this week, so there's a good chance he'll miss at least some of the match against the Raiders.
His chances of returning to the starting side have been boosted by the injury to back-up Broncos goalkicker Peter Wallace, but even if he is does start he'll need to score about 95 to avoid dropping in price. My verdict – if money's a little tight then hold off another week before trading him in if he isn't in your squad yet. But if you're cashed up and are playing for overall points, it could be worth swooping on him now.
The promising young half has bumped Jordan Rankin out of the Titans lineup at five-eighth, and should be a bargain if he can hold his spot in the team. Still, there should be no need to rush him into your squad now unless you desperately need a fourth half (or have lost patience with one of your current halves). Like all rookies, Sezer could drop out of the NRL team at any time, with Rankin and Beau Henry waiting in the wings. His price won't change for three weeks, so the smart move could be to wait and see before jumping on board.
Now the third-most popular player in Dream Team (behind Todd Carney and Adam Reynolds), Hurrell is back from a groin injury (meaning he wasn't dropped last week) and returns on the bench for the Warriors in round 7. The cheapie doesn't have a lot of finesse but is a tackle busting machine when he gets on the field – hopefully he'll be seeing more and more minutes as the season goes on. Keep him if you've got him... I'm still optimistically hoping he could become a long-term keeper if he wins a starting spot down the track.
Yes, I hadn't heard of him either before this season, but Areaiiti could become a genuine Dream Team prospect after Rabbitohs prop Roy Asotasi was ruled out until the finals with a pec injury. The rookie looks like getting his debut off the Souths bench this week and could be a handy player to bring in when trading out one of your cash cows. But again, like Sezer, there's no rush so could be best waiting until Areaiiti has played a couple of games.
The tricolours' mystery man has been named in Toyota Cup again, after being ruled out for the under-20s due to injury last week. We have confirmed his existence, but he could struggle to break into the Roosters team for some time yet as he battled to regain full fitness. I'm keeping the faith, partially because I've burned so many trades elsewhere and partially because he could be in with a chance later in the season if injury strikes the Roosters' backline.
The hard-working back-rower looked a good option when Gareth Ellis went down with injury, and he looks even better as a Dream Team prospect now with Chris Heighington also out indefinitely after injuring his hand. He can play 80 minutes, gets through a lot of defensive work, and has likely seen his price bottom out for the time being.
Last week's score of 56 has suddenly put Humble on the most-wanted list for a lot of DT coaches, and it's easy to see why. After a very ordinary start to the season (his previous three scores had been 16, 4 and 4), Humble passed the half ton after being given the halfback role at the Tigers by Tim Sheens. He won't score that every week – a line break and a try inflated his score – but at $93,200 he will definitely make some decent cash in the short term. I'm always wary of picking up players based on one big score, and if the Tigers keep losing Sheens may look for yet another No.7, but if cash is what you're after then Humble could be the answer this week.
The promising Rooster has made $52,100 as a cash cow this season, but after scores of 10 and 21 in the past fortnight it looks like it's time to sell. Cordner saw his first price drop last week (albeit of just $400) but needs to hit 60 to hold his price this week. He is capable of doing that (he scored 62 back in round 4) but with Mitchell Aubusson excelling in the back row and Aidan Guerra returning this week it looks like Cordner's minutes will be limited from here on in. Take no notice of the fact he's been named to start this week – Brian Smith likes to chop and change his lineup on game day so don't be surprised if the youngster comes off the bench again against the Cowboys on Saturday night.
A bit of online debate amongst the DT die-hards about whether Jeff Robson should have been awarded two try assists last week (he only received one) prompted me to get in touch with the guys at NRL Stats to define how some of the Dream Team point-scoring statistics are measured. Here's a quick rundown on a few of the contentious ones.
Try assists – This is awarded to the player who has contributed most to a try-scoring play. That means it's not necessarily the guy who provided the last pass before a try was scored (see the Robson case last week). It can come down to a judgment call by the NRL Stats folk, and is sometimes be a 50/50 decision. All try assists are reviewed a third time after the weekend before being finalised.
Line break assist – A pass or offload that leads directly to a line break.
Kick metres – Only kicks in general play are counted (so no kick metre points are awarded for drop-outs, kick offs, penalty kicks, penalty kicks for touch, or field goal attempts).
Tackle breaks – These are awarded for both tackle "busts" when a player runs through a defender (eg. Tony Williams) and can also be awarded when a player evades a tackle without being touched, through sharp footwork (eg. Benji Marshall).
Handling errors – Usually knock-ons and forward passes, but these aren't strictly awarded against a player who drops a ball. Sometimes when a player is thrown a bad pass and gets a hand to it but can't catch it, the player who made the pass is attributed with the error.
Ineffective tackle – This is when a player attempts a tackle, but the attacking player gets an offload away.
All these stats are recorded by people who know what they're doing, although it's worth keeping in mind during live games that they are keeping track of statistics for 34 different players from two teams. The numbers are checked and double checked across the weekend (hence the DT score updates the next morning). No stats will be changed in Dream Team after lockout ends on a Tuesday, so it's really not worth complaining about individual incidents once a weekend is over.
Instead, do something valuable and get started planning your trades for the weeks ahead. How will you navigate the bye rounds? How many trades do you need to use to get to your ultimate team this season? How will you celebrate victory when you beat your mate this weekend? These are the big questions, and the reason we play NRL Dream Team.