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It's back at last.

Welcome to another season of NRL Dream Team, the game that lets you live and breathe every round of the footy season. The game just gets bigger every year, with a record 127,328 Dream Teams involved last year and more players set to join this season.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is how Dream Team works in a nutshell:

-    You pick your squad of 25 players – choosing from any players contracted to an NRL club – and your team is awarded points based on how those players perform in real life in the NRL.

-    Each player is allocated a dollar value and your initial squad must stay under the $5.8 million salary cap, like a real NRL club.

-    As the season progresses, each player's price will rise or fall depending on how they perform, and you can trade players in and out of your squad during the season to build an ultimate Dream Team by the end of the year.

-    You can play for the overall $25,000 prize (and a trip to the World Cup in the UK) plus weekly cash prizes, and take on a large group of friends or family, or play in a 16-team league complete with head-to-head match-ups every week and a finals series at the end of the year.

-    Follow your team's live scores every weekend on your phone through the Dream Team mobile site or an iPhone or android app.

-    And if you get stuck for which players to pick, I'll be helping you out with hints and tips in my articles on throughout the season.

Not only is Dream Team the perfect way to make the most of your rugby league knowledge, it also changes the way you watch the game. You'll become an expert on the sport's best young guns. You'll learn the strengths and weaknesses of all 16 NRL teams. And you'll have something else to focus on if your favourite club gets thrashed on the weekend.

So that's the basics for the newbies. Here's what's new in 2013 for the veterans who have played Dream Team in the past few years:

-    The raised salary cap means player values now range from $101,600 (rookies) up to $533,200 (Cameron Smith's starting price).

-    There's now a rolling lockout, so if a player in your team is a late withdrawal, you can substitute or trade him out of your starting team. If you don't, the safety net of the auto emergency will still work the same as it has done in previous years.

-    Before each round begins, the game will now indicate which of your players have been selected to start in the weekend's games, which are on the bench and which are injured or suspended (even if you haven't bought Assistant Coach).

-    You will have four more trades up your sleeve – bringing the total number to 34 – with ability to make three trades instead of two for each of the four bye weekends during the season.

-    On top of classic NRL Dream Team, All Stars Dream Team, State of Origin Dream Team and Finals Dream Team, there is an all-new Test Match Dream Team game plus a Dream Team Draft game that is now FREE to play.

-    In Dream Team Draft, each DT coach in your league selectors one player in a pre-season draft, and no other team in your league can have that player. You can then trade players with rival teams in your league during the season.

-    You can now re-create your head-to-head leagues from 2012 with the click of a button.

-    You can also play in a group with an unlimited number teams, as well as playing in up to five 16-team head-to-head leagues.

-    There's now a bigger and better Assistant Coach product, with side-by-side player comparisons, last 3 and 5 round averages, and more accurate score predictions.

So there you go. A whole lot of changes in place this season, meaning we've put any point-scoring changes on hold for now.

The game opens first thing Friday (meaning midnight Thursday night) and then it's time for you to pick your six-man All Stars Dream Team lineup to go in the running for the $5000 prize, before putting together your squad in preparation for NRL Round 1. Make sure you get your mates and colleagues to join your leagues too.

I'll be back to offer a few hints and tips in the next few weeks, including a rundown on some of the best bets in the All Star game.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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