With less than a week remaining until the start of the NRL season, I thought I'd tackle some of your Toyota NRL Dream Team questions. These queries have come in in the last week or so through email or my Facebook or Twitter pages (I've tidied some questions up a little for the sake of clarity).
I'll run through a few more questions in Part 2 next week, so if you want something answered get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you need a few teams to fill out your head-to-head league, why not add me, Brad Fittler, Trent Barrett and a few other celebs? League administrators can now add those teams to leagues.
Now, onto this week's questions...
From Bailey White:
I was just wondering after reading your latest article, what five or six players would you choose at the start of the season to be your "keepers" and why?
I'm not going to give away my team just yet Bailey (you'll have to wait until after Round 1 for that) but there are a whole range of potential "keepers" out there. Basically a keeper is a player who you think will be either the best or close to the best in their position all season.
So Cameron Smith and Corey Parker are obvious ones (although it's not easy to afford them both at the start of the year), while guys like Paul Gallen, Aiden Tolman and a whole bunch of halves (Soward, Cronk, Thurston, Prince, Gidley, Maloney, etc) all come into consideration. These guys won't necessarily rise in value during the season, but they should be consistent high scorers all year.
Other players could move from the "cash cow" category to the "keepers" category during the season, like Daly Cherry-Evans did last year. Terry Campese (if he stays fit) and Sam Burgess (likewise) are a couple of examples.
From Brandon Saunders:
I have a question about Danny Buderus. As a well known Origin player he seems to be pretty cheap.
I don't think he will be a Matt Orford this year, from what I know he is still pretty fit and a dangerous player on the field. Is there a catch to him? I want him as a maybe reserve hooker because he is cheap for what I know he could be worth.
Anyway let me know what your thoughts are because I would be very interested on your opinion.
Buderus is a tricky one. I love him as a player. I'm almost certain he won't be this year's Matt Orford. He's just won the Super League with Leeds, and has played well in the trials for the Knights.
But I also have serious doubts about having him in my team at the start of the year. Why? The guy's 34, and it's very hard to see him putting in 80-minute performances every week like he used to. He didn't play the 80 last season for Leeds and the NRL is a few notches up in tempo – so expect him to play 50 or 60 at best. I certainly don't think he's bad value at $186,500 (that's the price of somebody scoring low-30s each week) but I can't be certain how much his price will jump. Under the new scoring system he would have been a solid mid-40s player in his last NRL season in 2008, but that was four years ago.
He could be a handy mid-level cash cow, but is probably too much of a risk for me.
From Trent Griffiths:
Just one quick question. With the split lockout for Round 1, I know all Dragons and Knights players will be locked out on Thursday night. But are we able to keep trading players from the other teams, or are we just able to change the line-up/reserves up until Friday night?
Yes for those who have missed it, there is a partial lockout in Round 1 (and in Round 8 when there is another mid-week game). It means that only Knights and Dragons players will be locked out of trading action in Dream Team on Thursday night, and that you can continue to make unlimited trades involving players from other clubs right up to the usual lockout time on Friday night.
From Clayton Brimson
Lone Scout, every player will be subjected to the essential question – my player is out for three weeks; do I trade him out or hold on? What is the best tactic here? Are there any hard and fast rules you live by? Obviously it is tougher to part with a Gallen or Parker, but what about a mid-range player? When does a trade become cost effective?
Great question Clayton, and a tricky one. The answer depends on a few things. Had you planned for that player to be a keeper for your team? Has his form been strong enough to keep the faith? Is he a cash cow (and if so, will he make more cash for you down the track)? Do you have depth to cover him for those weeks?
As a rule, I'd lean towards holding on to a player who will only be out for three weeks or less. Four weeks is the point where I'd lean towards trading them out (unless they are a cash cow who I can afford to leave out of my 17 anyway). Depth is obviously a key here – starting the season with 25 players in action each week will give you more flexibility to handle these situations, and keep more trades up your sleeve.
And try to avoid trading out a player who you are planning to trade back in later – you can get away with it, but it will cost you two precious trades for only a short-term gain.
There are a lot of players who may miss Round 1. I am wondering your thoughts on whether they should be in your Round 1 squad as a non-playing reserve or whether it is best to leave them out and trade them in when fit, but use a trade doing so?
Shaun ‘Renegade' O’Neill
Thanks for the love Shaun. This is an easier question than Clayton's, particularly if you're talking about regular NRL stars. Petero Civoniceva and Issac Luke are both out suspended for Round 1, while Jarryd Hayne is among those on the injured list. There was also some doubt about Corey Parker starting the season for the Broncos (although it now looks pretty certain he'll play).
If you're desperate to have those guys in your team in the long run, get them in now anyway. This is a much simpler call if you're only chasing head-to-head glory (because the first three rounds don't count) but even if not, it's probably worth picking them in your initial squad.
Say you're confident Issac Luke will kick goals for the Rabbitohs and so want him as one of your hookers. Picking him now will mean you'll go without his 50-or-so points in Round 1, but the trade you will save is surely worth more than that over the course of the season (plus, whoever you have to cover for him in your 17 should be able to score a few handy points).
If you know they'll be back in Round 2, it's not a huge sacrifice to make. (Of course, you could argue that there are better options than Luke, Hayne and Civoniceva out there anyway...)
From Anthony Beaton (via Facebook)
Can someone confirm the new tackle points for me, they seem ambiguous. 1 on 1 tackle = 1 point, and tackle = 1 point. So do you essentially get 2 points for a 1 on 1 tackle; one for the tackle itself and one for a 1 on 1?
That's correct - it's essentially 1 point for a regular tackle and 2 for a one-on-one tackle.
From Benjamin Ling (via Twitter)
What's Ken Sio's story? I haven't heard much about him but seeing a lot of DT teams including him.
Ken Sio's a promising winger who was Parramatta's leading try-scorer in the Toyota Cup in 2010, before missing most of last season after a shoulder reconstruction. He did get an NRL game to his name in Round 26 last year (which is why he comes in at just above the $77,100 rookie price) and he scored a try in that game. He's a chance of getting a start on the right wing for the Eels, in which case he will be a handy cash cow – particularly if he makes a habit of getting to the tryline. Keep an eye on the team lists on Tuesday.
From Joe Adams
I have been having a bit of an argument with a work colleague. He thinks you need to have the cash cows in your team from week 1 even if they aren't named in their team's 17.
I think you need to wait until they get a run (a good example is Wests Tiger James Tedesco, if he doesn't start at fullback in round 1). Build a different player up then sell him off for that player when he eventually runs on.
Please tell us the best option.
It's always a gamble to include players in your team who don't play round 1. It means you have to be confident he will slot into first grade at some stage early in the year. And as you say, while you're waiting for him to get game time you could be profiting from another cash cow.
On the other hand, that gamble could pay off. Tariq Sims had huge wraps on him at the start of last season (Toyota Cup Player of the Year, etc) only to be left out of the Cowboys' Round 1 squad. But he was included in Round 2, and went on to play 20 games and become an excellent Dream Team player.
On the other side of the coin was Jack Bosden, who got plenty of praise for his Charity Shield performance in 2011, but didn't play first grade until Round 9 and only played four games all season.
So it's a risk. The safe option is to wait it out – but you could save a valuable trade by making the leap of faith straight up. Guys like Konrad Hurrell and Tautau Moga are getting plenty of hype at the Warriors and Roosters, so could be worth a shot in your starting squad even if their coaches try to ease the pressure on them by leaving them out in Round 1 (Moga is also an injury doubt for the start of the season). But certainly if there are other cash cow options in their position who will be guaranteed game time, jump on them first.
From "Dragons fan":
The new scoring changes leave a lot of food for thought when it comes to player selections. Do I spend my money on the old school guns like Cam Smith, Parker, Fensom or Hindmarsh, then buy 150k centers/wingers who average a bit under 30? Or should I balance my side more this year, with the likes of a Barba, Uate or a Slater in the backs?
How consistent will backs be? Generally if their team goes bad, they won't get as many points for tries/linebreaks, though with the loss of points for missed tackles, will the second rowers not score so well? What is your opinion on a good team formula for this year?
As I've pointed out before, the new scoring system will boost the backline stars, but the top players are again likely to be the usual suspects in the forward pack (it's no coincidence that Parker, Smith, Paul Gallen and Hindmarsh are four of the five most expensive players in the game). The increased points for missed tackles won't necessarily hurt the big men that much, as the busy defenders are also more likely to make one-on-one tackles as well.
I think a lot of the outside backs will be inconsistent scorers – they will be able to post some very big scores if they score a few tries one week (which would also mean points for tackle busts, line breaks and run metres) but are still likely to have low-scoring quiet weeks. At the least, a quality outside back will be a good "secret weapon" to have up your sleeve when you take on a stronger-looking team in a head-to-head league.
So, after making sure you snap up a few bargains at the start of the year, I'd suggest you try to sure up your forward pack and then spend what you can to strengthen your backline.
Final thought – particularly for the Dream Team newbies. The most crucial day for picking your initial squad will be next Tuesday, when all the Round 1 team lists are revealed throughout the day. Get them first at NRL.com; they're likely to force a few changes to your squad before the season kicks off on Thursday night. (As a special treat, Wayne Bennett has named his Round 1 Knights lineup already).
And remember, fire any more DT questions to email@example.com and I'll answer the best of them next week.