Now that the season has begun, I figure there's no harm in explaining my reasoning for selecting my initial 25-man squad – and only a small chance I'll get harassed by the hardcore DT players for mentioning names – as it may provide some insight for the Dream Team novices as they set-up for the head-to-head showdown.
Do keep in mind this squad was selected prior to the start of Round 1, and my stated aim is to take out as many private league titles as I can. (You can see how I scored by searching for 'Lone Scout' on the Dream Team Rankings page.)
As a general rule my initial strategy is threefold:
- Go hard at the cash-cow money gain;
- Do it without compromising weekly points too badly; and
- Keep as much flexibility as possible.
So, with that in mind, here's who I've picked and why.
No surprises here really. One definite starter who should go up in value while posting decent weekly points, and a young cash cow who should provide a boost to the squad salary cap by mid-season.
Gareth Widdop – Looks the obvious choice as starter. Will be in the action at 5/8 & should play enough games to get some price rise. Hopefully, he goes so strongly I don't need to trade up to a Hayne or Gidley type.
Dane Gagai – A cash cow who should get plenty of game-time during the season. Started in the season opener – albeit on the wing – and may find himself at fullback or in the halves if the Broncos run into injury trouble.
With four blokes on the paddock and a total of seven centre-wingers in the 25-man squad, these guys are critical to DT success. Having game-time close to the action rules in DT, so normally I'd be all over the top combo players (2RF/CTW), but this year there are fewer choices and some of the obvious guys are under injury or selection clouds.
So, I'm gambling a bit here and selecting only one dead-cert scorer, two reasonables, a novice with potential and three cash cows I reckon will score okay. If I've done it right I will score decent points while also making some dollars in the early rounds. If not I can always make a change next week for a proper 2RF/CTW type.
The first four below started in my team for Round 1.
Mitchell Aubusson – Now a fulltime backrower (barring major injuries in the Roosters camp) who will play if fit (fingers crossed the shoulder has come good). I don't expect his scoring to be any less than in 2010, so Mitchell is my mainstay for 2011.
Jarrod Croker – Showed he can play and score after returning to the Raiders side late last year. Will be Canberra's kicker again this year (and he's a good 'un) and is classy enough to hold his position.
Alex Glenn – Mr Versatile at the Broncos is good value at this price ($166,100). Started the season in the back row (where he plays and scores best), but can also cover in the centres – meaning he will get game time. Has matured since his 2009 debut and if you were around then, you'll know he scores DT points if out on the paddock.
Dylan Farrell - The RLPA NYC Player of the Year in 2010, Farrell is now the No.1 choice as partner for GI. Farrell started in Round 1 and should get at least six weeks to prove he deserves his spot. He is a big ball-player with an excellent running game who can also kick goals. Great cover if one of the starting four centres is out. Will make me money.
Tony Williams – Manly have named the massive unit in the centres and talked him up as a likely backrow option. I have a good feeling that 2011 could be a breakout year for Big Tony, so I'm getting on board as all he needs is to play closer to the action consistently for his price to go up.
Ben Jones – Is another versatile player who should get more game-time after his move to the North. What's attractive is it looks like he will come into the back-up hooking role (and an injury to Aaron Payne would see him starting hooker). Of the many cash cow options available he seemed to have the most upside.
Sam Tagatese – Another controversial choice that I agonised over. Sam's got the potential and the coach seems to like him, but he is very inconsistent. He gets a run as he's very cheap for a backrow reserve and should score enough to creep up in value.
Critical position, but I'm taking a few risks here in an effort get both week-on-week points and salary-cap increases.
Usually I think three first-choice selections are a must, with one cheapie – who can play and may get minutes later in the season – to pad out the four, but this year I've mixed it up as there are at least three cash cows who should get a solid crack at cementing a regular spot in their teams. So to start this DT season I've gone for one gun, two cash cows that will (hopefully) score decent points from the off, and one utility who will also get plenty of minutes, often in the pack.
Cooper Cronk – Is a quality, consistent performer, solid DT scorer and one of the first on the Storm team sheet. In my view he had an off year in 2010, but will rebound in 2011, meaning he's now undervalued. If I'm right he will still be in this position on the Lone Scout squad come Round 26.
Daly Cherry-Evans – A must-have player at his price. Has first go at making the Sea Eagles No. 7 his own and should be up to the task. Is the Trent Hodkinson of 2011 right down to the details; Cherry-Evans was named Queensland Cup Player of the Year in 2010, mirroring Hodkinson's win in 2009, and we all know how well Hodkinson served DT coaches in 2010.
Beau Henry – This highly-rated former Dragon has an excellent all-round game. Indeed his game was so good he was voted Toyota Cup Player of the Year in 2009. Is not a strong defender, but his general involvement should counter any lost points here and we're not looking for super scores, just enough to get his value up by a $100K or so. If Jarrod Mullen or Ben Rogers go down Henry could be in for an extended run.
Nathan Fien – A lively sort, Fien was injured for most of 2010, but his return to spark the premiership run is illustration he will see plenty of action in 2011. With Priddis gone and future hooking star Cameron King out for a decent spell, he may even end up between the bookends for a while. Great value at this price.
Apart from the centres, this is the position that gave me most grief. In the end I went back to the general rules I'd made and picked three scorers and a cash cow who I feel represent value, decent points and flexibility (two are combo players).
In the end flexibility was the key as some of my preferred choices are not playing, and I can't be certain they will for a while. Also there are big question marks over the frontrows of many teams, so I want some look-see time before committing. That said, I need points now too.
Aidan Tolman – Is a gun who is undervalued due to minimised game-time in 2010. Tolman is now the No.1 prop at the revamped Dogs and he will go all day, if asked to. Has already started the season with a bang, and I expect him to blossom as the year goes on. Will also make a bit of dosh.
Bodene Thompson – Picked on potential (the Titans keep talking him up and he showed a bit late into 2010), plus the fact he will start in the backrow and has flexibility as a combo player (2RF/FRF). I hope he goes well and becomes a regular for the Titans. If not I can trade him out soonish.
Glenn Hall – Also selected for the reasons Thompson is. As he was selected for the Cowboys' first game I assume they didn't pick him up as filler and intend to see what he's got. I do too. Better perform or he's getting upgraded first.
Sam Kasiano – There are whispers everywhere that this guy has a big future. He is big, is a ball-player, gets a start first-up and is cheap as. Let's get on that.
Major points on offer here. The ultimate goal is to have two guns, but the cap means I will have to start the season with one and a solid back-up that can be a reserve if required.
Robbie Farah – One of my (everyone's?) favourite super hooking duo, Farah will feel this is his year to lead the Tigers to the top. Always in the game, he scores big points consistently and will play the full 80 if fit. Fingers crossed he misses out on Origin to Ennis. Regardless Robbie is a keeper and my captain (for now).
Jamie Buhrer – Did you see that coming? Perpetual bench warmer for the Eagles in 2010, I reckon this young gun will get a decent amount more game-time in 2011. When he does play he will slip into the backrow for a bit and should go like the energiser bunny. Buhrer is cheap and will increase contributing to the purchase of his inevitable replacement later on.
Would love to start (and finish) with six DT guns, but budget constraints mean I'll have to settle for three, plus a good-value up-and-comer, and two bargains who should outscore their starting value.
Backrowers are a Dream Teamer's bread and butter, so I'm after the perfect mix of consistent points and profit potential. There are many possible combinations here, so that's not at all easy.
Paul Gallen – The rock on which the Sharks are built. Gallen is in the thick of it for 80 minutes. Tackles, hit-ups and offloads make him a star DT performer and my choice as the go-to backrower in 2011. Consistency and the feeling 2011 is his year make Gallen my backrow rock and my starting VC.
Shaun Fensom – I need a second point machine and have decided Shaun is my man for now. Will score heavily if he plays and should play heaps as the tackling dynamo of the massive Raiders pack. Has the potential to be a DT superstar of Hindmarsh proportions, yet is about $50K+ cheaper.
Dallas Johnson – a DT supremo before slipping off to France, Johnson starts 2011 with a nice discount in price. May not reach the heights of 2009 first-up, but will eventually be another of my regular 50+ guys. If I'm lucky he goes gangbusters, but not enough to put him on the Maroons' radar.
Justin Horo – Recent player movements at the Eels should give Horo plenty of opportunity and he showed me enough late last year to convince me he can become a 40-a-week guy. If not I still think he will score okay, and his price will definitely go up.
Chris Houston – It's no secret Houston is another must have for starting 2011. Will play – hopefully the full 80 when he finds his match fitness – will score and will start to accrue value.
Mitchell Allgood – Impressed the new coach during the pre-season, winning a first-up start, which bodes well for future selection. Is a combo (2RF/FRF) meaning I have extra options for trade out if he proves a dud (unlikely) or when his value peaks.
That leaves a healthy balance of $46,500 in the bank as cushion money. Hopefully I don't need to use it for weeks, but if I must trade I have a bit of room to manoeuvre.
You'll be pleased to know sitting at the selection table wasn't easy and I had to let some very decent players down lightly. First-rounditis hit the Lone Scout team and Johnathan Thurston, for one, made me look a fool for transferring him out late, but in general I'm sitting okay. All my boys came through unscathed and scored points (two more games and we're on for an interest payment), so I won't need to make an enforced trade and likely won't make a trade by choice ... Dylan Farrell you're on thin ice.
Which begs the question: do you trade after week one? My opinion is only if you have to. There have been plenty of significant injuries in the first week. If you have Neville Costigan you will need to cover for him, but can you bench him for Round 2 and wait an extra week to see who's really in fine DT form?
With trading now front of mind, the folk at NRL.com have asked me to answer your trade questions throughout the season. So, get typing if you've got a burning question that needs answering. I'll do my best to answer the more interesting and intelligent queries.
Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org, with subject line 'Help me Lone Scout', and remember to include your DT team name and the amount of money you have in the bank.