NRL Dream Team is back for another year! And with it comes the Lone Scout, our resident Dream Team guru, with all the key tips and words of wisdom to help you pick your team ahead of the 2011 season.
Another huge season of NRL looms, with kick-off now just weeks away. The clubs have got their squads in order and now it's your turn – ahead of the most addictive game involved in rugby league.
Check out http://dreamteam.nrl.com/ and you can pre-register ahead of Dream Team launch on February 8.
If you register before March 11, you could be eligible to win $10,000 worth of early bird prizes. This season there will also be weekly cash prizes, plus the major prize - a Toyota FJ cruiser! There will be over $75,000 in total for prizes!
This is the first of six articles which will hopefully give you an insight on how to gain an edge on your opposition. Stay tuned to NRL.com each Wednesday between now and the beginning of the season for my further additions to this series and your mates will be looking over their shoulders in no time!
Regular coaches from last season will be happy to see the scoring system has been retained for 2011. That means a try is worth four points; a goal, line-break, try assist, line-break assist or offload is worth two; and players earn one point for every tackle, plus every 10 running metres and every 20 kick metres.
Players also lose one point for every missed tackle, and lose two for every handling error or penalty conceded. Keep these in mind when packing out your 25-man squad.
More detailed tips will be coming later in this series, but for now, if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to run through some of the basics for our newcomers.
GRAB THE WORKHORSES
It's no secret that Dream Team is dominated by the players that work their hearts out each week, making 40+ tackles and generally getting involved whenever possible. Of the top five players last season, four were hard-working back-rowers: Paul Gallen, Nathan Hindmarsh, Corey Parker and David Stagg.
Hindmarsh and Stagg are pure tackle-machines, while Gallen adds plenty of running metres and Parker doubles as Brisbane's goal-kicker.
Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah was the Dream Team player of the year, and proved to be a real all-rounder – scoring tries and making plenty of try assists, line-break assists, kick metres and tackles.
The common denominator for all these players is their endurance – they're all 80-minute men, who are guaranteed to do the hard yards for their team each week. So look for 80-minute players who are going to make plenty of tackles when you pick your forward pack.
GET A PLAYMAKER
The value of kick-metres – as well as try and line-break assists – mean a good playmaker is an invaluable member of your squad. Look for a half who is the No.1 go-to man for his team, the one who will do the bulk of the kicking and who won't shirk his duties in defence.
Canberra five-eighth Terry Campese and Dragons pivot Jamie Soward were ranked 6th and 9th respectively in Dream Team scoring last year. Soward, 2009's No.1 player, will always make plenty of kick-metres. Campese is a no-go for Dream Team coaches this time around, thanks to his long term injury, but his replacement as the Raiders' chief playmaker – Matt Orford – could be a value buy.
Speaking of which....
FIND THE BARGAINS
Orford's return to the NRL from England this season could mean he comes with a cheap price tag. Keep an eye on players who missed out on the NRL last season who may also be value buys.
Last year, the Roosters' Todd Carney and Wests' Liam Fulton were real bargains at the start of the season due to them not playing in the NRL in 2009. Rabbitoh Sam Burgess was also a cheapie in his first year in the league after heading south from England, and became Dream Team's most-picked player.
Not only do these guys take up little room in the all-important salary cap, their value can also rise significantly – allowing you to sell them off later and bring in a few genuine Dream Team superstars.
Other young players will also be undervalued at the start of the year, based on their performances last season. In 2010, Manly half Trent Hodkinson and Canberra back-rower Shaun Fensom became must-have players as their values ballooned – Hodkinson's price more than tripled as the season went on. These players can obviously be hard to spot before the season begins, but keen your eyes peeled in the early weeks to make sure you spot the value men before they get too expensive.
LOOK FOR VERSATILITY
Just like the real game, it can be very handy to have players who can play multiple positions in your team. To put it bluntly, some positions score more points than others – hookers and back-rowers score a lot, while outside backs and fullbacks score relatively poorly due to a lack of tackling.
So, keep an eye out for players who can are versatile. Centres who double as back-rowers are the most obvious type – you should try to fill out your centres/wingers spots with as many of these as possible. Guys like Mitchell Aubusson, Ben Lowe, Ben Smith, Beau Scott and Luke Lewis make far more tackles than the average centre, let alone winger.
There's also playmakers who can play fullback, like Todd Carney did in 2010 (but not this year). He spent a lot of time in the halves last season – making more tackles and kick-metres than the usual fullback. It was no surprised when he finished the season as Dream Team's most valuable No.1.
You can't have star performers everywhere and stay under the salary cap (just ask the Storm). So where can you save money? I'd suggest looking to your reserve outside backs. Players in those positions come relatively cheap anyway, and there are always a few rookies who cost next to nothing and may grab a few handy points during the season. But remember – squad depth will be a key factor if injuries start to take their toll, so make sure you do have someone on the bench in each position capable of doing a job for your team.
That's it for this week. I'll be posting more Dream Team guides in the coming weeks, taking a more in-depth look at must-have players, trading tactics and season plans. In the meantime, don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Stay tuned to NRL.com for next week, where I will unveil my handy hints on how to find DT11 bargains!