This article was first written for and published by Swoop - The Daily Telegraph.
With round 7 kicking off Thursday, more than one-quarter of the NRL SuperCoach season is over.
How have you fared in the first six rounds?
Has your team suffered as a result of injuries to experienced campaigners like Sam Burgess, Paul Gallen, Daly Cherry-Evans, Adam Reynolds and Aaron Woods?
Were you clever enough to have brought in Moses Mbye from week one? Were you too ambitious (like me), bringing in Semi Radradra in too early?
How have your captaincy choices been?
Regardless of how your team has performed during the first six rounds, if you are playing to be crowned the overall champion of NRL SuperCoach 2016, the ‘make-or-break’ period of the NRL SuperCoach season is on approach: the bye rounds.
This year the main bye rounds fall in Rounds 12, 15 and 18, but Round 19 is equally as important and, in my view, forms the equivalent of a main bye round.
This may seem some time away, but your planning must start now.
There seems to be more unpredictability in scores compared to last season and that makes me think the bye rounds are going to be even more important.
To win NRL SuperCoach I think you must have 15 to 17 players the main bye rounds while ensuring you have 17 in the mini bye rounds.
The way to do this is to start planning from now.
HOW TO DO IT
Save your trades wherever possible. Unless you have glaring issues in your team, every trade you make from now on should be bye related. It is easy to fall into the trap of wasting trades between Rounds 7 to 12 when you should be ensuring you maximise your bye-round coverage.
Look carefully at the bye rounds. The Eels and Dragons cover Rounds 12 and 15 and will be hardly sought after, but these teams have a bye in Round 13. Too much emphasis on players from these two teams will mean you will be struggling to field a team in Round 13.
Who to trade out. The Sharks and Panthers do not play either of the first two main bye rounds. I would be trading out players like Ben Barba, Wade Graham and Trent Merrin as part of my planning. Any State of Origin players who are not absolute guns should also be considered as trade out opportunities. Players like Josh Morris and Aidan Guerra can be sold to bring in players who provide bye coverage.
State of Origin guns. My view is that Origin players who are likely to be rested or receive decreased game time in the rounds following Origin Wednesdays should be traded out. Corey Parker and Cam Smith are not getting any younger and if you have managed your trades well, these two are guns you can trade out after Round 11 and trade back in at the conclusion of State of Origin.
Who to bring in. It is a wasted trade to bring in a player who may only get you 20 to 30 points. It is not simply about quantity but also quality. Some suggestions:
• Semi Radradra (particularly now that he has fallen in price). Remember Jennings will not be there to damage the SuperCoach output of Semi during the bye rounds.
• Nathan Peats. An 80-minute player who you should have in the hooker position for Rounds 12, 15 and 18.
• Jack de Belin and Tyson Frizell. Both high-quality, reliable performers who will play Rounds 12 and 15.
• Ethan Lowe. Will step up his base stats for Rounds 12 and 18 and will hopefully have goal-kicking duties too.
• Lachlan Coote. With JT playing State of Origin, Coote will be even more central to the Cowboys’ attacking efforts.
• James Roberts. Covers Rounds 12 and 19 and by that time will be settled in the Broncos’ attack.
Try to bring in players who, even if things go astray with your trades or injuries, you are comfortable enough to keep.
If you are feeling brave, Gareth Widdop may also be a player to consider. Despite only averaging 31.7 SuperCoach points per game, he has significantly decreased in value and will be easy to fit in. Trade in at your own risk. On the upside, surely he can only get better.
Remember: start planning for the bye rounds now as they are generally the undoing for most coaches.
Having three to four players more than the average in these rounds should net you an extra 200 points and propel you up the rankings.
Ladies who League
Picture credit: Gregg Porteous