Dream Team: State of Origin survival guide

Just like Ivan Henjak at the Brisbane Broncos and Craig Bellamy at the Melbourne Storm, any good NRL Dream Team coach will be adversely affected by the representative season.<br><br>Some damage is virtually inevitable, but the good news is, most of the potential harm can be minimised.<br><br>Many ardent Dream Team coaches would have started preparing for the rep season weeks, or maybe even months ago, but it's still not too late to field a competitive side.<br><br>Some clever trades and inspired selections can provide you with some impressive gains at a time when most teams are battling to just keep their heads above water.<br><br>Starting this weekend (Round 12), all Origin players will be missing in the round prior to the Origin game. It's a similar scenario in rounds 15 and 18.<br><br>There's also a number of rounds that feature byes (Rounds 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19).<br><br>As a result, Rounds 12, 15 and 18 are particularly tough as the Origin games clash with bye rounds.<br><br>It will be virtually impossible to field a full side in these rounds, but don't worry, everyone is in the same boat. <br><br>Fortunately, Rounds 12, 15 and 18 are Dream Team byes, so if your main focus is winning the head-to-head matches in a private league, there's no need to make trades in these rounds.<br><br>But if you want to maintain or improve your overall ranking during this time, then there's work to be done.<br><br>With both Origin sides now named, you know exactly who will be missing this weekend, and who'll have to back up next weekend (remember the Anthony Laffranchi and Matt Scott will both be missing because they are 18th man for the Blues and Maroons respectively).<br><br>With regards to trades, DON'T trade for the short-term. ie. Getting rid of Johnathan Thurston this week, only to bring him back in next week when he returns for the Cowboys. <br><br>You'll need as many trades as possible in the back end of the season, so such trading is a suicidal strategy. <br><br>There's plenty of non-rep players going around this weekend that can provide you with some solid scores moving forward. <br><br>Here's the cream of the available crop (in my opinion):<br><br><b>Fullbacks</b><br>Joel Reddy (Eels) - Played five-eighth last week and got through plenty of work<br>Ben Hornby (Dragons) - Should step up in the absence of a host of rep stars.<br><br><b>Centres/Wingers</b><br>Darryl Millard (Bulldogs) - Has been rock-solid since coming in for the Bulldogs - even kept Jamal Idris in Toyota Cup for a few weeks.<br>Junior Sau (Knights) - Cheap and often scores solidly.<br><br><b>Five-eighths</b><br>Chris Bailey (Sea Eagles) - A back who gets through the work of a forward<br>Jarrod Mullen (Knights) - Expect him to take on a lot more responsibility for Newcastle in the absence of Kurt Gidley<br><br><b>Halfbacks</b><br>Jamie Soward (Dragons) - In as good a form as any five-eighth in the league, but won't figure in Origin.<br>Luke Walsh (Panthers) - Signed mid-season after playing minimal first grade at Newcastle and is very affordable.<br><br><b>Back Row</b><br>Zeb Taia (Knights) - one word, underrated.<br>Anthony Topou (Sharks) - Really starting to get involved more and finding his best form.<br>Andrew Ryan (Bulldogs)&nbsp; - Even put up scores last year when the Dogs were the NRL's laughing stock.<br>Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) - Expensive but won't play rep footy and still puts up phenomenal numbers each week<br>Micheal Luck (Warriors) - Gets through plenty of work in defence.<br>Matt Prior (Dragons) - Good young player improving every week.<br><br><b>Front Row</b><br>Bronson Harrison (Raiders) - He's a Kiwi so there's no issue with rep footy.<br>Luke Douglas (Sharks) - Solid contributor in a beaten team each week.<br>Luke Stuart (Rabbitohs) - Rock solid.<br>Russell Packer (Warriors) - Will step up in the absence of Steve Price<br>Chris Houston (Knights) - Workhorse who can sniff out a try<br><br>You'll notice that with a few players I've made the comment that I expect them to step up and shoulder more responsibility in the absence of their team's rep stars.<br><br>Admittedly, this is a subjective thing, but I do think several of these players (Mullen, Packer, Hornby, Topou) can provide a rep-season stat spike while their teams are undermanned during the rep season.<br><br>Use your own judgement, you can probably find more examples of such players.<br><br>Another important thing to keep in mind for next week is the back-up factor. <br><br>Some rep players always back-up and perform admirably for their club side, other players virtually never play after rep clashes.<br><br>Darren Lockyer finds it hard to back up these days, Justin Hodges always struggles as well (he hasn't played since the Trans-Tasman Test when he injured a hamstring)<br><br>Conversely, players like Cameron Smith and Dallas Johnson virtually always back up and produce the same consistent performance.<br><br>Players already carrying an injury into Origin (Gidley - knee, Gallen - shoulder, Hodges - hammy) will struggle to back up, and in the case that they do, it's highly unlikely they'll put up prolific numbers after what's sure to be a torrid battle on Wednesday.<br><br>I'm not saying don't play these guys, more that you can't expect them to register the scores they usually do.<br><br>As a result, look to a fresh player for your captaincy and vice-captaincy selections.<br><br>If you're fair dinkum, use the NRL draw to plan you trades for the remainder of the rep season.<br><br>Remember, you can't win the comp if you don't have the cattle.<br><br>So good luck, and more importantly, good coaching.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/FanZone/ToyotaNRLDreamTeam/tabid/10413/Default.aspx">Need to manage your Toyota Dream Team? 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