The Lone Scout is here to help as the weeks count down to the start of the NRL season – and the start of NRL Dream Team for 2011. This week, the art of picking the right captain.
Selecting your skipper can be one of the most vital decisions you make as a Dream Team coach – particularly in head-to-head leagues, when a few points can be the difference between a win and a loss.
First things first – your captain will score double points. You can change your captain each week. And your vice captain only picks up bonus points if your captain doesn't play in any particular week.
So, first up, be ruthless. Don't just make your favourite player your captain. And don't be blinded by loyalty to your favourite club. Your captain should be your best player for that particular week – that's all. Somebody who will score 55+ points for you when you need it.
You'll probably need one or two genuine stars in your squad if you want to make best use of the captaincy. That means splashing the cash on a couple of big names at the start of the season, even if it's tempting to fill out your 25-man squad with cheap players who are going to make you money.
On the face of it, the captaincy choice can appear pretty straightforward. Your most expensive player is the one considered most likely to score the most points over the season – and therefore the most likely to score big every week.
Unfortunately, it's not so simple. Even the best Dream Team players have the odd off week, and plenty of players have the odd high-scoring week. You need to work out who's going to be your best bet each week – and, assuming you have a few good players in your team, it won't always be the same player.
Luckily, there are ways to stay smart when choosing your captain.
Firstly, consider the kind of player they are. Essentially, there are two types of players who score big numbers in Dream Team: workhorse forwards and playmakers with a dominant kicking game.
Now consider that player's opponents that week. Some players will seemingly score points against any and every opposition. But others won't. So take a look at which team your players are facing before making your captaincy selection.
Generally, players who make lots of tackles will thrive in Dream Team when they take on the top teams – teams that make their opponents work hard in defence. Players like Nathan Hindmarsh and David Stagg, for example, will tackle all day if they have to.
On the other hand, playmakers will have more of the ball – allowing them to make more kicks in play and produce more tries and assists – when they're taking on the weaker teams. Big-scoring halves like Jamie Soward and Scott Prince, for instance, can pile on the points in these matches.
So, while it's not an exact science, consider making your best forward captain if he's taking on a team like the Dragons, and consider making your star half the skipper if he's playing against the team on the bottom of the ladder. (Goal-kickers thrive against the poorer teams, too, for obvious reasons.)
Then you've got the "all-rounders" who score through kicks, goal-kicking or run-metres as well as tackles, and can therefore score big against anyone. Guys like Cameron Smith, Robbie Farah and Corey Parker (not surprisingly, last year's top three players, and the three most expensive players in 2011).
Of course, there's plenty more to consider when naming a captain. How's his recent form? Are his numbers on the way up or down? Has he been playing 80 minutes each week? Has he scored points against this team before? Is he backing up from State of Origin?
Your captain can be the difference between victory and defeat in Dream Team. Consider the weekly decision (almost) as vital as making a trade. Get it right more often than not, and you'll find yourself among your league's premiership contenders come the end of the season.
Next week, I’ll look at how to make the smart trades when the season gets underway.