Lone Scout: Picking your All Stars lineup
Toyota All Stars Dream Team gives you a great chance of winning a cool $5000 – simply by picking six players from either the NRL All Stars or Indigenous All Stars lineup.
First things first – three players have already pulled out of the game, so if you've picked your six guys already you may need to tweak things. NRL All Stars Cameron Smith, Ben Hornby and Tony Williams are out, and have been replaced by Aaron Payne, Nathan Fien and Anthony Watmough. (If you've signed up to Toyota NRL Dream Team but haven't got your All Stars team in yet, click the link towards the top left of the Dream Team page once you've signed in).
Toyota All Stars Dream Team will give you a nice early indicator of how points scoring will work in Toyota NRL Dream Team this year – but it'll only be a rough guide. The nature of the exhibition match, where entertainment matters more than the result, means that the scores won't necessarily reflect those of a regular NRL in-season match.
For one thing, defence takes a back seat in the All Stars game. Players who are usually 100% committed to their team's cause may not be so worried about missing a tackle or two in this game. And don't expect the hard-working forwards in both lineups to play for the full 80 minutes in an exhibition match on a warm day in February.
So, what kind of players will score well in the All Stars game, according to the new-look Dream Team points system?
Well, let's take a look at last year's game.
I've done a bit of homework and put together an approximation of what each player would have scored in the 2011 All Stars game under Dream Team rules. Although the odd stat (like "ineffective tackles") was missing, you still get a clear picture of which players would have dominated the game, in Dream Team terms.
The highest scoring player for 2011? That would have been NRL All Stars fullback Josh Dugan, who coincidentally picked up the Preston Campbell medal as Man of the Match.
Dugan's tally of 170+ running metres, 13 tackle breaks, three line breaks and a try would have earned him around 75 points in Toyota All Stars Dream Team.
Broncos prop Ben Hannant was last year's next best, with 61 points, followed by Sharks worhorse Paul Gallen, Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, and Knights winger Akuila Uate.
Note that all these players made plenty of tackle breaks – which looks like the key stat for this game in the absence of any big tackle counts.
Cameron Smith, predictably, made the most tackles with 32, followed by Nathan Hindmarsh with 29. But both those players would make close to 50 in a regular NRL game.
With so many playmakers on the field, the number of kick metres for individual players was also down on usual.
Only one player – Scott Prince – would have scored 10 points or more through kicks, with seven different players taking on kicking duties at some point in the game. Even the goalkicking was shared between five players.
So, who should you pick in your team this year?
Firstly, look for players who are likely to get plenty of minutes.
The benches of both teams can help you here – if one team boasts a couple of players in the same position, then playing time is likely to be split between the two. For example, Dugan is the lone specialist fullback for the NRL All Stars, while the Indigenous All Stars have both Matt Bowen and Ben Barba. While Dugan can expect a full 80 at the back, Bowen and Barba may get reduced game time.
Secondly, ditch the workhorses and look for the gamebreakers. In a game when missed tackles are likely to be higher than usual, some players will surely notch up a few tackle busts and line breaks. These are the guys you want in your team.
And finally, feel free to take a few risks. A winger who scores a hat-trick could be the most valuable player on the park. A Dream Team regular could end up with little to do (if my calculations are correct, Dragons star Jamie Soward would have ended up with negative points from last year's game).
So good luck, get your team in before Saturday night's kickoff and who knows, you could be $5000 richer next week!