Lone Scout's Dream Team Q&A: Round 2

So how are we all faring Dreamers? Has trade rage taken hold already? Or are you quietly confident with the squad you've assembled so far?

For those who haven't joined the greatest online rugby league game in town, there's still plenty of time. Toyota NRL Dream Team head-to-head competitions – where you can take on 15 mates, or random players, or even yours truly – begin in Round 4, so there's still time to set up your league.

(Just make sure all your mates sign up and join your league in the same week, otherwise your league will be auto-filled with other Dream Teams when the next round begins. It's a rule to prevent DT coaches from creating a team in Round 4 and having an unfair advantage against other teams in their league who began in Round 1.)

I'll get to this week's big questions shortly, but first I'll just make a few early observations of how Toyota NRL Dream Team is looking in 2012.

Last week's scores showed there will be a big difference between the best and worst performers in any given week. When a solid second-rower like Tony Williams makes, say, 11 tackle breaks, 150 run metres, 20 tackles, four offloads and scores a try, he'll score a slightly staggering 82 points. When Australia's best playmaker Johnathan Thurston does barely any kicking, makes just nine tackles, doesn't create any try assists and makes six handling errors, he'll score an unbelievably low 3 points.

It means, among other things, that the Dream Team Eliminator and weekly cash prizes will be wide open this year – if you happen to get the right combination right on any given week you could post a huge score. You won't necessarily need to have one of the top teams in the competition to be in the running to take out those prizes.

The somewhat random nature of scores in Round 1 happened for a few reasons. One, we're not yet used to the new points system, which gives more reward for attacking plays. Two, there are half a dozen new coaches at NRL clubs this year, changing how certain players are used (see David Stagg getting just 35 minutes for the Bulldogs last week, for example). Three, the first week of the season is when players are at their most rusty – a lack of match practice means that there were plenty of handling mistakes last week, something that will start to change as the season continues (I'm almost certain that JT will hit double figures this week).

So don't rush to judge players based on one-off games, or at least take a closer look at their stats before you do. A star playmaker won't make half a dozen errors every week, and a hulking forward won't score a try every week. Try to discount those factors when determining whether a players' Round 1 score is a good indication of what his "average" score will be this season.

Before I get to this week's questions, a general point about  switching dual-position players when making a trade (I've had a few questions on this). You can only do this once per trade. So, for example, you can select a centre to trade out, then move, say, Tony Williams from your second row to your centres, then bring in a second-rower. That's it. You aren't able to rotate all your DPPs around your squad just so you can trade out a fullback and bring in a hooker in one trade. (And anyway, the game would get too easy if you could do that, right?)

Now, onto some of this week's questions.

From Alex Thalis
Hey LS I have three questions for you.

With Tedesco's injury I think everyone will want to know who the best cheap replacement for him is. Who do you reckon? I can afford to upgrade to Jordan Rankin, do you think he is a good option?

I have Tolman and Nathan Friend. They, like some other potential guns (Stagg, Maloney, Thurston etc), did terribly this round. Should I be looking to trade them out before the prices change or are you going to stick to your dictum "class will out"?

Who do you think is the best option for captain? C. Smith? Parker? Fensom? Or are the halves going to be the gun position this year?

Should I choose Carney or Cronk?

That's at least four questions Alex, but I'll take a stab at them.

1. You shouldn't judge too much from a single game (see the Johnathan Thurston fiasco) but Jordan Rankin looks like a very good option at this stage. He got some work done in defence, and split the general kicking duties with Scott Prince, so should be a very solid scorer at his price. There are a handful of other decent options at less than $200,000, while Konrad Hurrell looks great as a $77,100 rookie if he's not in your squad already, Tom Humble will take Tedesco's spot at the Tigers and is only a little more expensive, and new Raiders winger Jack Wighton is also at the rookie price if you're after a roughie.

Of course, the other option you have with Tedesco is to keep him in your squad for another week at least, especially if you're not planning on bringing in a long-term keeper (ie. if your squad already includes three or four other winger/fullbacks who can play in your top 17). It may seem odd, but the two trades you could save by not bringing in and later trading out a cash cow might be worth more in the long run than the extra cash or points you would make by scrapping Tedesco. As it is, Tedesco is already using up the least possible amount of your salary cap, so it's worth considering if you should save a trade and just leave him there (again, depending on the depth in your squad, and what other trades you need to make). At the least, try to wait another week to get a better look at the other options out there.

2. I'd lean towards keeping the faith with Tolman and N. Friend (although I was wary of Tolman at the start of the year as he'll have extra competition for minutes from James Graham all season). Don't judge the seasoned Dream Team stars off a single game – particularly with the new points system.

If you're looking at a trade, try to work out whether a players' low score could be the start of a trend (eg. someone like Stagg getting reduced minutes under a new coach) or a one-off (eg. Johnathan Thurston making six mistakes and the Cowboys in general playing so badly). Only trade if you think a player's poor scores will continue all season. So I'd suggest keeping both those guys, for another week at least.

3. Parker and Smith are still the most reliable options for captain. Fensom's score last week was boosted by a rare try. Parker and Smith are safe bets because they score in multiple ways (tackles, run metres, tackle breaks, goals) but there are certainly plenty of other options out there if you want to make a gamble (Todd Carney and Tony Williams would have been great choices last week, but don't expect those kind of scores every round).

4. Carney's cheaper, Cronk may be more reliable. Carney's value gives him the edge.

From Daniel Klein
Currently I have Robbie Farah and Nathan Friend as my hookers. Both seriously underperformed on the weekend. I want to downgrade one of them and use the cash elsewhere.

1. Which one would you sell?

2. Would you downgrade to someone like Buttriss or Waddell?

Cheers mate, love your work.

A few Dream Teams have this combination by the sound of things. I wouldn't necessarily rush into a trade with either of those two players.

Farah's in my team and I'm still planning on keeping him, preferably for the whole season. He can bust tackles, and get through a fair bit of defence, plus should share more of the kicking duties with Marshall during the year. He was playing in hot, muggy conditions on Sunday so probably didn't get through the work he'd expect to once the season really gets going. He also filled in at halfback for a stint while Tim Moltzen was off the field. Nathan Friend played 68 minutes and didn't get through his usual defensive workload, but remember it's his first game after a long injury lay-off.

I still think both have the potential to actually make you money if they get back to the way they can play. As I've said, one thing to take from this week is that there's a big difference between a player's best and worse scores, so it's probably worth being a bit patient with those established players.

If you are particularly keen to scrap one of them, presumably to make some more money elsewhere, then certainly Buttriss or Waddell (or guys like Danny Buderus or Josh Reynolds) are good places to look as cash cows. If your heart is set on trading one of them out, go Friend.

From Damien Murdocca

Hi Lone Scout! I know you are going to be bombarded with questions about Tony Williams... But do you think he will get 80 mins every week, because if he does he is potentially the best buy the season. Thoughts?

I think there's a good chance he will Damien. He started to play the full 80 last year and obviously had a bit of a blinder on the weekend, so there's no real reason for them to change things. He's in my team and I'm considering him a definite keeper.

From Billy (via Twitter)

If I can get your thoughts on Aubusson and Adam Blair that would be great!

I left both of these guys out of my squad at the start of the year. Aubusson is a great DT option in your centres when he is playing big minutes in the Roosters forward pack, but he's not such good value when he actually plays in the centres. He's in the backline covering for Tautau Moga and/or Shaun Kenny-Dowall at the moment, and there's no guarantee when he will return to the second row. When he does he'll be a good option again. If you've already got him, it's probably wise to stay patient and take the hit until he returns to the pack. (Although Rob Bruns has identified Aubusson as a player to cut - and he's a Roosters fan. See his suggestions for the good buys and the players to scrap in the video above.)

Blair is a terrific player, but was never really a strong Dream Team scorer at the Storm. There's no big reason why that will change significantly at the Tigers. At $183,100, he needs to average mid-30s to get much of a price rise. It's early days but Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, David Shillington, Jeremy Latimore, Bryan Norrie, Tinirau Arona and possibly Aaron Woods look to be better options at a similar price.