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So, this is it. The final week of the 2012 Toyota NRL Dream Team season. Have you made it through to your league's grand final? Or have you already moved on from defeat and are focusing on the upcoming Toyota NRL Dream Team Finals game?

First up, commiserations if I happened to knock you out of your league last week. If that was the case then rest assured you weren't alone. I'm in 9268 head-to-head leagues this year, and I've made the grand final in 6571 of those (about 71%), with plenty of help from Greg Inglis's 96-point effort. Still, I was knocked out in 2665 leagues on the weekend, while I'd already crashed out of the other 32 leagues before Week 3 of the finals series.

It's yet another tricky week for those DT coaches still in action, with James Maloney, Liam Fulton and Robbie Farah among those out of action, plus the worrying suggestions from Craig Bellamy that he could rest a few Storm players.

This week I'll get to a few questions about this weekend's games, and then get to some more on the upcoming Finals game.

From Clayton Brimson
Hey Scout - any chance you will give us all a sporting chance and declare if you still have trades left, and who your captain will be in the final round?

OK Clayton, here you go: I've got one trade left, and will probably give Cam Smith the captaincy... unless I get all sentimental at the last minute and switch to Hindy. I'm still yet to make my mind up, but the doubts about Smith's minutes this week has me leaning more and more towards Hindmarsh...

From Kyle Vincent
Is it worth this week having Fensom as captain instead of Smith? More than likely Smith will get a fair rest on the sideline?

Craig Bellamy's been changing his tune with his resting policy this week, first announcing at the start of the week that he'll give a few players the week off and then saying on Wednesday afternoon that all his players are keen to play and he'd like to build some momentum heading into the finals.

That suggests Cameron Smith will at least play on Saturday night, but you're right that if the Storm build up a big lead over the Tigers then Bellamy may give his captain an early mark. On the other hand, the minor premiership will still be up for grabs for Melbourne if the Bulldogs lose in the other 7.30pm game, so if the Tigers-Storm game is a close one and the Dogs are losing then Bellamy will want his full-strength team on the park for as long as possible.

It's a tough one. Switching your captain to someone like Fensom or Hindmarsh could in fact be the safe move (they're pretty much guaranteed a decent score at least) but Smith is still the highest-scoring player in the game when he plays the full 80. It's really one of those "go with your gut" decisions.

From Mark Siebuhr
Hey Scout. I have 2 trades and no money to spend. I'm going to sell Hurrell for a cheapie. Then upgrade Mansour for Inglis or McGuire for either Merrin or Woods. What do you think?

I like it. Go Woods for a reliable 50+ points or Inglis for the chance to hit 90 (or a quiet 30). As usual, it depends on whether you're the frontrunner this week or if you need to take some risks.

From Shane Reimer
While we saw the introduction of new point-scoring plays and changes to old scoring plays in season 2012, do you believe that 3 points for a tackle bust is excessive? Are there any other plays you think may need their score increased/reduced?

There will most likely be some tweaking to the scoring system again in 2013, with tackle breaks being dropped to 2 points a very popular move. The new system has made players in all positions capable of scoring big points – which is a major improvement – so if tackle breaks go down in value I'd like to see other attacking stats (line breaks, try assists, etc) go up, in order to keep the balance as it is. I'll take suggestions for any other scoring changes in the next few weeks.


And now for some Toyota NRL Dream Team Finals questions...

From Albert Odendaal
In regards the DT finals comp, is it better to have a stack of mid-range players or have a couple of DT guns and then wear the cost of having a few cheaper ones?

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I like the option of getting a couple of guns into your finals Dream Team if you can. The main reason for this is the fact that in Finals DT (like Origin and All Stars Dream Team), your captain will get triple points and your vice captain will get double points. So it's best to have a couple of quality players in those positions to make the most of those bonus points. Fitting the big names into your 13-man team is no easy task, of course, as you still want all your players to contribute solid scores.

Your other option could be to gamble by giving the captaincy to a backline player who doesn't have a huge average but is capable of hitting a monster score on his day, and then hoping for the best. That way you can have a more balanced squad across the park. As I say, it's a risk, but if you're the gambling type it could well pay off.

From Paul Baker
I'm considering having a non-player so I can save cash and have better options elsewhere. Do you reckon this could be an option? Or are there basement priced players actually available?

There aren't too many dirt cheap options out there, but I'd still strongly suggest picking 13 players who will score some points in Week 1 of the Finals. Even low-range players have the ability to post a decent score if they manage to grab a try. By picking a non-player, you're really relying on your stronger players to post huge scores, which could put you behind the eight ball from the start.

If the Tigers make it, winger Marika Koroibete is almost a must because of his $70,100 price tag. Other cheapies with the potential to score big include Cenberra winger Sandor Earl ($122,200), rookie Bulldogs forward Josh Jackson ($129,300), Souths forward Chris McQueen ($147,400 and still available in the backline), and Rabbitohs prop Roy Asotasi ($128,800).

Of course, these players are cheap for a reason – the prices are based on their Dream Team performances up to Round 22 of the season. The cheaper players will also be risks – there are no guarantees wingers like Earl will find the tryline, or that the likes of Jackson and McQueen will get decent game time. But with salary cap space very tight when picking your Week 1 team, they're the kind of risks you'll need to take.

From Glenn O'Callahan
Looking through the lists, where do you think there is the most value to be saved? i.e. FRF or HOK? who do you think is the most undervalued with the new prices?

You can save a lot of money at hooker by not picking Cameron Smith, and there's probably good value in the front row if only because the gap between the good and average scorers in that position isn't huge, but generally I'd say the spread across the positions is pretty even.

There are different tactics you can take – do you go with some trusty tackle-hungry forwards in your pack and take risks on a few cheaper backline players who could have a big game? Or do you spend big on halves and try-scoring machines in the backs and fill out your pack with solid 35-point players?

The team I've picked at the moment is pretty balanced across the park, including seven players worth between $200K and $251K across five of the six positions, plus five players worth between $128K and $190K, and one $316K hooker.

The real key will be seeing how the Finals Week 1 match-ups are looking after this weekend, and then picking the players who could score big against that week's opponent. I'll take a closer look at these match-ups next week.


That's it for now. Good luck with your scores this weekend (unless you're up against me in the grand final) and enjoy fine-tuning your Finals Dream Team – make sure you get a team together, there's $5000 in prizemoney up for grabs.

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