At a time when a new independent commission is taking charge of the NRL, it's also time to take a fresh look at how NRL Dream Team is run. Like the NRL itself, Dream Team is the best game going around, but it still has some room for improvement. With that in mind, there are plans to tweak how the game will be played in 2012.
Now I know long-time players of Dream Team will be most accustomed to the way the game works, and probably the most resistant to making any changes. But they're also the ones who will know the game's limitations.
For one thing, there is a fairly narrow group of NRL players who score serious points in Dream Team – meaning most successful teams look very similar come the end of the season. While second-rowers, hookers and halves tend to score well, the centres, wingers and fullbacks usually trail behind.
In effect, picking a successful Dream Team is about concentrating on two things – tackles and kick metres. Pack enough workhorse forwards and playmaking goal-kickers into your team and you'll do well in Dream Team.
Rugby league is about more than that. It's about tries, explosive line breaks, great passes, deft attacking kicks, tackle busts and big one-on-one hits. It's these things that a new Dream Team scoring system could reflect in 2012. Hopefully, we can find a nice balance that brings the backs more into reckoning without unduly changing the character of the NRL Dream Team you know and love.
Of course points will still be awarded for tackles, goals, run-metres and kick metres next season, and the players who dominate these areas will still probably dominate Dream Team. But a new scoring system will bring a host of new players into contention as big DT scorers. It will make the game more like the real thing.
I've asked for your thoughts on how a revamped scoring system should work, and you've answered. I'm still keen to hear from those who are closest to the action: you. So, send through your opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a brainwave or feel strongly about any of these suggestions.
Putting the best suggestions together from what I've heard so far and giving it the Lone Scout once-over, here's a scoring system I could see working well in 2012.
Tackle = 1 point.
One-on-one tackle = 2 points (ie. an extra point on top of the 1 for a tackle)
Ineffective tackle = -1 point
Missed tackle = -2 points
Try = 10 points
Try assist = 5 points
Run metres = 1 point per every 10 metres
Tackle break = 3 points
Line break = 6 points
Offload = 2 points
Line break assist = 3 points
Kick metres = 1 point per every 20 metres.
Goal = 2 points
Field goal = 5 points
40/20 = 5 points
Penalty conceded = -3 points
Error = -3 points
Sin-bin = -5 points
Send-off = -10 points
So there are a few new inclusions in there, and a significant bump in value for a few attacking stats (tries, try assists, etc). To some, the changes may seem a little drastic or even contentious. If that's you, keep it calm and send me your arguments against. They will be considered.
For example, a point of contention may well be the new value attributed to a field goal. The thinking behind boosting the value of a field goal from one point to five is that they are often critical to a team's chances of winning a game. A late field-goal is often a match-winning play, so there's a strong argument such a play should be worth more than a simple tackle, or even a conversion.
To save you all doing the spreadsheet calculations yourself, I've run the proposed 2012 scoring system across the player stats for 2011. And you'll never guess which players top the scoring list...
Unsurprisingly, Cameron Smith sits first followed by Corey Parker (these two are best-scoring players in Toyota NRL Dream Team this year). The likes of Paul Gallen, Daly Cherry-Evans, James Maloney, Shaun Fensom, Cooper Cronk, Nathan Hindmarsh and Jake Friend also score in the top 20 under both formulas.
The difference of the new system is that it brings a whole lot of other players into the mix, particularly backline stars. Michael Gordon, Benji Marhsall, Jarryd Hayne, Matt Bowen, Billy Slater, Akuila Uate, Ben Barba and Jason Nightingale would be the big improvers for this season under the new formula.
While most players' average scores go up, the tougher penalties for mistakes (errors, penalties, missed tackles, ineffective tackles) mean the scores don't shoot through the roof. For many forwards who do a lot of tackling but not much else, their scores barely change at all.
While you're stewing on that scoring system, there are another few things that could be tweaked next season. Bench players could be awarded half points, a move that would put more onus on DT coaches and allow for greater flexibility – do you still opt for high-scoring forwards on your bench, or save money on those players and beef up your starting 13?
The auto emergency scenario could also be changed in some way. A popular suggestion is to replace injured players (non-scorers) with a chosen reserve from the same position. There are a number of other ideas for the AE.
Speaking of private league GFs, the Scouts took somewhat of a hammering in the preliminary finals (thanks to Taylor, Taga and Waterhouse scoring poorly) and exited the race in about 850 leagues. Still, the boys are suiting up in over 2100 major deciders and the fingers are firmly crossed that we'll get some luck.
The Reset Scouts' Round 25 score was 795 (yes, I'm claiming the typo on my captaincy choice). Not a brilliant score, but enough to take down the Scouts and a score that would've seen me in another 500 league GFs, had I been playing with trades ... got the picture yet? Keep your trades in hand.
The last round of DT is another coach killer with injuries, doubts and potential rests all causing headaches. The Scouts can't do anything about it, but the Resets can. Dallas Johnson is out, so I'll trade out Nate Myles for Bull Bailey and make him a reserve instead. The extra dollars from that trade give me more options to cover the enforced trade for Joel Thompson and I'm opting for Lyon over Peats here.
The Resets for Round 26 are: Hayne, N Smith, Glenn, Gasnier, Lyon, Maloney, DCE, Srama, Tolman, McGuire, Bailey, C Smith, Farah, Hindmarsh (c), Fensom, Parker, Mannering. Reserves: Gagai, Croker, Jones, Tagataese, Henry, Taupau, D Johnson, O'Donnell.
Note, I've captained Hindy. It's an err on the side of caution value judgement based on my concerns that Smith and Parker may get fewer minutes, while Hindmarsh is bleeding blue and gold trying to keep the Eels off the bottom.
The choice of Bailey (plenty to play for) is also value judgement, whilst Lyon is chosen as an err on the side of caution pick. You too should be thinking only of the best way to maximise your scoring this week and that means making value-judgement calls. Got a suspicion that Gav Cooper will go off with Dallas out? Pick him over Fulton. Need a centre you might crack the high 30s or even low 40s? Have you considered Nathan Peats? You get the drift. This week is the one to follow your gut if you need points. What have you got to lose?
Good luck to everyone still going around this week. I hope it goes your way.
And, remember to check back in the post-season as we debate and announce changes to the official fantasy game of the NRL.