Lone Scout: 2013 Dream Team rookies
First up, congrats to Amelia's team 'Bombers Dropkicks' for taking out the All Stars Dream Team competition and the big $5000 prize.
But there's a lot more prize money still to be won this season, and to take out the cash in NRL Dream Team Classic you're going to have to know your young guns.
Rookies are a crucial part of Dream Team – they are the cash cows who will make you the most money to spend on big guns down the track, and occasionally (in the cases of Adam Reynolds and Daly Cherry-Evans in recent years) they can become Dream Team guns in their own right.
Below are eight of the best options available in 2013. There are others around as well, so don't ignore a potential cash cow just because he's not on this list.
When you're looking to buy a cash cow, you've got to consider not just how good the player is, but also what his chances are of holding down a long-term spot in the NRL. For example, young Raiders halfback Anthony Milford is getting some big wraps, but he's at long odds to play any first grade at Canberra this season with fellow halves Josh McCrone, Terry Campese and Sam Williams in his way.
But for other rookies, a long-term NRL spot might just open up this season. Rookies like...
Josh Drinkwater (Dragons half, $101,600)
Pros: Drinkwater topped the try assists charts in the under-20s last season while playing for Manly and after switching to the Dragons he's got a very good chance of getting a decent run in first grade following Ben Hornby's retirement. Fellow rookie halfbacks Adam Reynolds and Daly Cherry-Evans have been Dream Team must-haves in the past two seasons.
Cons: With Jamie Soward presumably doing the bulk of kicking duties for the Dragons, it's unlikely Drinkwater would have the same scoring impact as Reynolds or Cherry-Evans. And that's if he makes the top team at all - Dragons coach Steve Price has said that Nathan Fien will start at halfback alongside Soward.
David Klemmer (Bulldogs prop, $101,600)
Pros: Last season's under-20s player of the year made a mountain of running metres and produces plenty of tackle breaks and offloads as well. Can also play long minutes. With James Graham suspended for the first 12 games of the season, Klemmer could get a sustainted run in the top grade.
Cons: Martin Taupau and Dale Finucane could be ahead of Klemmer in the pecking order. Aiden Tolman and James Graham (when he returns) are likely to be the big-minute props at the Bulldogs, meaning Klemmer could have a limited impact.
Jacob Miller (Wests Tigers half, $127,700)
Pros: Not quite a rookie but still cheap at $127,700, Miller might turn out to be one of the safest cash cows of the season. New Tigers coach Mick Potter has suggested Miller, who won last year's Toyota Cup grand final with the Tigers, could get the nod at halfback this year. The Tigers have been searching for a long-term halves partner for Benji Marshall so could show patience with the youngster and give him a sustained run in the top grade even if the team struggles early on. Marshall prefers to play five-eighth than halfback, and Miller is the club's next best specialist No.7.
Cons: Wests have also recruited Braith Anasta from the Roosters, who would provide much more experience in the halves at five-eighth, with Marshall playing in the 7. Curtis Sironen also impressed at pivot last year and is another contender for a halves spot. Even if Miller does play, Marshall will remain the dominant playmaker and is likely to prevent Miller from being a big Dream Team scorer.
Kane Evans (Roosters prop, $101,600)
Pros: One of the stars for NSW in last year's under20s State of Origin match, Evans is a 200cm, 116kg giant who should get a spot on the Roosters bench this year behind fellow props Jared Warea-Hargreaves and Martin Kennedy. Can produce tackle breaks, which are vital for big-scoring Dream Team props.
Cons: Like all rookies there are no guarantees he'll get a run, and young bench props have a habit of posting low Dream Team scores (see Matt '17-points-a-week' Groat last year).
Michael Chee Kam (Sea Eagles second rower and centre, $101,600)
Pros:Chee Kam was a gun for Canberra's under-20s side last year and was snapped up by Manly on a three-year deal. A similar style of player to Tony Williams, who can make an impact in attack and also fill a role in the centres.
Cons: Manly have a very strong starting pack, even after having lost Williams to the Bulldogs, meaning Chee Kam is unlikely to get big minutes - if he gets a run at all this season.
Evander Cummins (Dragons winger/fullback, $101,600)
Pros: He was named fullback in the 2012 under-20s team of the year and was a lethal ball-runner in that competition. At 175cm and 83kg he's not the biggest player going around, but little guys with quick feet can still light up the NRL (just ask Ben Barba). Could post a ton of tackle breaks if he gets a shot at the Dragons fullback spot.
Cons: His lack of size and some question marks over his defence could keep him out of the top grade for now, with new recruit Gerard Beale likely to start the season in the Dragons No.1. Jason Nightingale and Brett Morris are two other very safe fullback options. Even if Cummins gets his chance there are no guarantees he'll hold down a first-grade spot for the long-term.
Korbin Sims (Knights second rower, $101,600)
Pros: The next towering forward off the Sims production line is training with the Knights' first-grade squad after impressing with the under-20s last year. A hard-working metre-eater in the centre of the park, Sims could get his chance this year with Wayne Bennett looking to change things up after a disappointing 2012 campaign.
Cons: Bennett has already moved to strengthen his forward pack with experience, bringing in the likes of Beau Scott, Jeremy Smith and David Fa'aologo. That could limit Sims's game-time.
Caleb Timu (Broncos second rower and front rower, $101,600)
Pros: The next Gordon Tallis? Timu was the star for Queensland in last year's under-20s Origin match, with two second-half tries. A wide-running big-man who can make a big impact in attack, Timu could be a decent scorer even off the bench for the Broncos this season. Should get a run during the Origin period at least when Brisbane's big guns are away on Maroons duty.
Cons: Even with Petero Civoniceva's retirement, the Broncos still have a lot of strong forwards (Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker, Matt Gillett, David Stagg, Ben Hannant, Josh McGuire, etc) meaning Timu is unlikely to get much game time for the bulk of the season.
So there you go, eight potential cash cow rookies to start with. There's no guarantee that all (or any) of them will be Dream Team stars, and there are plenty of other rookies out there also aiming for a good run in the NRL this season. So keep your eyes peeled, check out which players perform well in the trials, and – most importantly – take a good close look at all the Round 1 team lists when they arrive in the first week of March.
Happy Dream Teaming,