After much research and debate, the powers-that-be in the NRL fantasy world (me included) have come up with a few exciting new elements that will be introduced to Toyota NRL Dream Team in 2012.
Rest assured Dreamers, these changes will not alter the dynamics of the competition next season. The official fantasy league of the NRL gets only a small upgrade, so neither newbies nor veterans will be disadvantaged by any of the adjustments.
I'll cover some of these new developments in more detail in the weeks to come before Dream Team launches on January 25, but the basic rundown of the new improvements are below.
Changes to the points system
The point-scoring system has been adjusted to bring better returns for the NRL's game-breakers. We've altered the points attribution for the scoring stats from previous years, as well as adding a few extras like one-on-one tackles.
In 2012, the new point values will be: try (8 points), goal (2), field goal (5), tackle break (3), line break (4), 40/20 (4), try assist (5), offload (2), line break assist (2), tackle (1), one-on-one tackle (1), ineffective tackle (-1), missed tackle (-2), run metres (1 point per 10 metres), kick metres (1 point per 20 metres), penalty conceded (-2), error (-3), sin-bin (-5) and send-off (-10).
In case you're concerned, we've done some hard work on the stats make-up to come up with these numbers. Your previous favourites will continue to score highly in 2012, but so will some of the other NRL guns like Billy Slater and Matt Bowen. (I'll have a more detailed run through of how the scoring changes will affect the game in my next column.)
Squad structure changes
The structure of your 25-man Dream Team squad will be changed slightly with a tweak to the backline positions. In 2012 wingers will be grouped with fullbacks rather than centres, giving coaches a squad with four centres (two playing and two reserves) and five fullbacks/wingers (three playing and two reserves).
By moving to a back three formation we're giving you more opportunity to utilise the game's attacking stars, while shifting some of the emphasis away from dual-position centres/backrowers.
A more flexible game
In 2012, Toyota NRL Dream Team coaches will also have improved functionality to play with. Amongst the significant improvements are:
(1) A new trading wizard that will allow two trades to be completed at the same time, giving Dreamers more flexibility and opportunity with trades, especially with dual-position players.
For example, say you have a dual position second-rower/half in your second row (Greg Bird, for example), and want to trade out a half. You can now remove the half from your squad, switch Bird from the second row into the halves, and then trade in another secondrower. This change provides much more flexibility and makes utility players all the more valuable.
(2) A 'reverse' button that will provide a safety net for all the Monday morning trade compulsives. Any trades you make during the week can be undone, right up until lockout. This will be particularly handy when any surprise injury news arrives on a Friday afternoon.
(3) A new look for the Dream Team site with a more streamlined interface for better accessibility and more opportunity to share scores, ranks and league data via Facebook and Twitter.
(4) A fully revamped Assistant Coach complete with trade wizard, team analyser, player research centre and player ratings data.
These changes will make the official fantasy league of the NRL even more enjoyable and easier to use, so get the family lined up for next year.
I too am not immune from change, so the Lone Scout's online activities will also undergo some adjustments in 2012.
To keep me from suffering at the hands of the keyboard cowboys and to allow me to keep an eye on those that should be sin binned, my Facebook page will be updated regularly, but comments from the punters will be restricted to Tuesdays (team lists) and Fridays (late mail).
I will be using my Twitter feed more in 2012 (so it's time to start following along) and will also be answering your questions via the nrl.com website (more on that in due course).
Speaking of Twitter, you will be able to link up your Twitter account for single click sign-in to Toyota NRL Dream Team in 2012. In addition, everyone who you follow on Twitter and has also connected their Twitter account will be automatically placed in your "Twitter League".
So plenty of new features to get your head around for next season. Dream on, dream believers ... Toyota NRL Dream Team 2012 is closing in fast.
Follow Lone Scout on Twitter at @lone_scout.
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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NRL or its clubs.