It's not too late to get amongst the Dream Team action. You may have missed out on the main competitions, but there is still $500 on offer each week and all-important bragging rights for jagging a round win.
To show you how easy it could be, here's my specifically selected Dream Team to target winning the $500 on offer for this week's highest scorer. It's not a difficult exercise (it took me about 20 minutes and an Excel spreadsheet) and can be undertaken each round.
I've chosen this round as it is the last prime opportunity to take advantage of the absence of a number of the primary Dream Team scorers. These players are crucial to the make-up of the better-performed teams (meaning these teams are now at maximum disadvantage).
Value for money is just what you need to get around the one big disadvantage of entering a team late. The drawback of late entry of a round-specific team is working with the now-limiting initial salary cap of $4.2 million. The Origin players' absence also means the cheap fringe players are primed to be value for money, and that's where we'll start.
First into the team are the eight bench players. No big names just yet, but rather eight lots of $73.6k, the cheapest starting price a player can be. Short of one significant rule (I'll mention that later) it doesn't matter who these guys are, but we need to hold a place for them to make the squad legitimate.
The total cost of these eight players is $588.8k, meaning I have approximately $3,611k to spend on my gun 17. A quick check also shows that there is only one front-rower that is priced at minimum, so I'll have to keep that in mind; either I take an 84.1k front-rower as my second non-playing dud or I work the team around another way.
Next we grab the guns we must have, ignoring the cost. Three star second-rowers (Shaun Fensom, Nathan Hindmarsh and David Stagg), two gun centre/wingers (Ben Smith and Alex Glenn), a gun front-rower (Aiden Tolman), a gun hooker (Jake Friend) and the best-performed half we can get (Trent Hodkinson).
Now keeping price and performance in mind, let's add the secondary battery of the best value-for-money players we can to the open positions. There are two things I focussed on here: the fullback is the last choice; and the team's four reserves must come from a combination of hooker, second row and half.
Starting from the engine room, let's grab: another hooker (Matt Keating fits the bill here); another front-rower (there were a few choices - Douglas, Pettybourne, Ryles, Anderson - but I will choose Brett White as a straight-out, in-form FRF and look at Michael Hodgson as a probable 3rd FRF and reserve); another second-rower with scoring ability (Pettybourne and Waterhouse stand out, but I'm slotting in Josh Papalii as a cheaper alternative who will be a reserve); and two more halves, one to start and one to be a reserve (let's grab Chad Townsend and Ryan Stig).
Now I need two further centres and a fullback for around the $100k mark each. Dene Halatau is under $100k and starting hooker for the Dogs, so he's in. I'll also add Nathan Peats to the centre line over Wes Naiqama. it's a bit of a gamble, but he is going gangbusters at the moment and we're here to win. That leaves $100k to get a fullback, with Luke Burt getting the spot as he's playing No.1 and is the Eels' goalkicker.
Obviously there was a bit of shuffling around with these decisions to make the chosen players fit under the cap, but it didn't take too long and in the end I got a handy team.
The final process was to add the other duds, with the key strategy being they must be $73.6k and they must not be playing this weekend except for one carefully chosen player to act as the auto-emergency, should one of the chosen 17 come acropper. Ideally, the auto-emergency choice should come from the remaining second-row slots.
Those names are listed below with the full team I have 'nominally' entered into Round 17. The choice of auto-emergency was also fairly easy. There were a couple of possibles, but in the end I chose Roosters second-gamer Brad Takairangi. He cost $84.1k, but he is starting and scored a solid 30 in his previous effort.
Finally, the team needs a captain. So, let's apply the golden rule of captaincy, namely: "Cam Smith trumps all as a captaincy choice. If you don't have Smith, choose Parker if you're feeling comfortable all will go to plan, or Fensom if you think you need to gamble a bit." That's a rule to live by and there's no Smith or Parker this round, so Fensom gets the big C with Hindy as vice-captain.
I didn't spend lots of time working the angles and it's possible I could make some subtle personnel changes to get someone like Trent Waterhouse in for Brett White, for example. But that's the kind of tinkering you could do. My team looks capable and that is the point.
So, here you go, the 17 to win Round 17 (plus a few extras):
Luke Burt ($99.9K)
Ben Smith ($217.4K)
Alex Glenn ($231.9K)
Dene Halatau ($99.6K)
Nathan Peats ($134.7K)
Chad Townsend ($127K)
Trent Hodkinson ($246.7K)
Shaun Fensom ($371.9K)
Nathan Hindmarsh ($331.6K)
David Stagg ($285.3K)
Aiden Tolman ($284.3K)
Brett White ($207.9K)
Jake Friend ($322.2K)
Ryan Stig ($84.1K)
Josh Papalii ($141.2K)
Michael Hodgson ($170.9K)
Matt Keating ($242.7K)
Jordan Kahu (FLB) ($73.6K)
Karlos Fiiliga (CTW) ($73.6K)
Will Tupou (CTW) ($73.6K)
Steve Michaels (CTW) ($73.6K)
Jordan Rankin (HLF) ($73.6K)
Kyle O'Donnell (2RF) ($73.6K)
Brad Takairangi (2RF) ($84.1K - Auto Emergency)
Ben Murdoch-Masila (FRF) ($73.6K)
I'll work out this team's score and pop it into my article next week with a comparison of where they would've finished.
And one final thought for you as you rush to open a new tab and get your sister to enter this team: the terms and conditions of Dream Team clearly state that to be eligible for any prizes you must have only one team entered and you can't win the weekly prize more than once. As well, the rules for tiebreaking (I can see a few versions of this team competing this round) say the team "who registered to participate in the game on the website first in time will be ranked higher"...
So get clicking now...