THE 2012 Toyota AFL Dream Team competition is the most fun you can have in footy beyond watching your team win.
The idea is simple: you're an AFL coach with a squad of 30 players at your disposal. Each week, you choose your best 22 to take on an opponent.
You're competing against 17 other teams in your Dream Team league. So gather your mates and prepare to duke it out all season to see who has the sharpest football brain.
Below are frequently asked questions about Dream Team, and some hints to get you started.
So come on! Sign up for the official fantasy game of the AFL players and coaches when Dream Team begins on 1 February
PICKING YOUR TEAM
Number of players
Your 2012 season starts with picking your squad of 30 players (down from 33 last season). In Toyota AFL Dream Team, every player from every AFL club is available to everyone taking part. They're ranked by their virtual salary, based on a number of factors including previous form and projected performance this season. You start with a salary cap of $8,780,000 but need to have 30 players before round one.
Type of players
You have to pick a starting line-up of 22 (seven backs, six midfielders, two rucks and seven forwards) as well as eight reserves. If you need help you can press the 'auto-fill' button, which selects your team according to how much you have left in your budget.
Each player costs a certain amount of money based on recent form and your only restriction is keeping within the $8,780,000 salary cap - the same as real AFL clubs.
There are many selection strategies, but one of the most common is to fill half your squad with star Dream Team players and the other half with cheaper options who are set to rise in value across the season. Finding a balance with your squad is important.
Injury and form
Dream Team relies on the real-world workings of football, so that scores are assessed according to the actual match statistics of individual players. But this also means that suspended or injured players are, therefore, unavailable for Dream Team.
Once you've picked your squad, all you have to do is check back with your team every week to make sure your players are in form and not injured or sidelined by the tribunal. You can spend as much or as little time as you want every week on the make-up of your team and the changes you want to make.
You can swap your reserves in and out of your starting 22 week-by-week, and even nominate three emergencies, in case some of your first-choice players don't end up taking to the field. Unlike an actual AFL coach, you can even trade players in and out of your squad (more below).
Each member of your Dream Team will score a certain amount of points depending on the number of possessions he gets.
The more possessions, goals, tackles and free kicks your players get each week, the higher your team scores.
Points are awarded as follows:
Free kicks for:
Free kicks against:
Captain and vice-captain
Your nominated captain scores double points, so finding the right skipper is paramount. You also choose a vice-captain who will become captain, and score double points if your nominated captain doesn't play.
Live score checks
You can stay in touch with how your players are scoring by logging on to the Match Centre on AFL.com.au
and watching their Dream Team scores update live over the weekend.
CHANGING YOUR TEAM
Part of any good Toyota AFL Dream Team strategy is managing your list of players during the season through trading. If a player suffers a long-term injury or loses form, you can trade him out and bring in a replacement before the next round (and before your outgoing player's value starts to drop too far).
A great trading strategy is using your playing list like a stock portfolio - buy inexpensive players on the rise, and then trade them later when their value skyrockets.
If a player's price goes up while they're on your list, the extra value they earn goes into your salary cap to spend if you trade them. So you may be able to buy a promising rookie at the beginning of the year, watch his stats and value improve through the season, and then trade him later for one of the game's superstars.
On the other hand, players can also lose value if their form drops away. So choose your players wisely, especially those worth a significant portion of your salary cap.
Be careful with your trades. While you can trade up to two players between each round, you only get a maximum of 24 trades for the season. In rounds 11, 12 and 13, Dream Team coaches will be allowed to make three trades a week, rather than two. This year, trades can be reversed up until each week's lockout, meaning you can change your mind on a trade or make a different move if injury strikes one of your players late in the week.
WHO AM I PLAYING AGAINST?
Just like every other footy club, your Dream Team will be battling it out for the premiership in your very own league. You and 17 of your mates will have a fixture, ladder and top-eight finals series. The head-to-head match-ups begin from round three, with the Toyota AFL Dream Team finals series running from round 20 to round 23. You can be in up to five different leagues, so you can compete against friends, workmates and family members in different competitions, all with a single team entry.
On top of playing against your mates, you'll be pitting your Dream Team against hundreds of thousands of other competitors in the competition for the major prizes. Here it doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's a simple race to the top - your weekly scores (starting in round one) are added together and the highest total at the end of round 23 wins.
The first 262,144 entrants will be put into a giant tennis tournament-style draw of head-to-head knockout Dream Team combat. Score more than your opponent for the round and you're through to the next round. Score less than them and you're out of the Eliminator. This continues until there's one person left standing.
Play on your phone
Toyota AFL Dream Team is fully accessible anywhere you go. Make trades, follow your progress in real-time and never miss the action on the official Toyota AFL Dream Team mobile site. Type http://m.dreamteam.afl.com.au into your mobile browser to access the official website.
There are also iPhone and Android apps for Toyota AFL Dream Team. Check out the Dream Team site
for more details.
The major prize
There are some massive prizes on offer in 2012 with Toyota giving the major competition winner a brand new Toyota FJ Cruiser, worth $50,000.
Win $500 a week
Each week $500 cash is on offer for the best-performing Dream Team each round. The highest weekly score posted throughout the season will also score $2000 cash, meaning anyone can post the highest score of the season in any week and by doing so will make themselves $2000 cash (plus the
$500 for being the weekly winner.)
Eliminator and League prizes
The Eliminator provides an extra incentive to keep your tactical brain in gear all year, with $2000 up for grabs for the winner. Plus there's 10 random cash prizes of $1000 each for players who organise a full 18-team league before the season begins on March 24.
Theme Round prizes
The four themed rounds of the AFL season will feature bonus prizes for the two top weekly scorers, with two tickets to a corporate box for one AFL match, determined by the AFL, including flights and one-night twin share accommodation if required. These prizes are up for grabs for the Anzac Day Round, Indigenous Round, Multicultural Round and Women's Round (for top female scorers only).
Almost $20,000 in prizes will be available for school students around Australia competing for being the best player in their school in the Toyota AFL Schools Dream Team competition. Top students will represent their schools in the Dream Team finals to determine the best student Dream Team player in the country. All Dream Team players of school age will be given the option to join the schools competition automatically.
Following my Dream Team
is the home of Toyota AFL Dream Team, and the only place to access your team, league, scores and results. Follow the Toyota AFL Dream Team links on the homepage, or go directly via http://dreamteam.afl.com.au
Each week there will be live scores for your own team (as well as the rest of your league) as the round unfolds over the course of the weekend.
You can also follow me on Twitter (Follow Dr Dream Team on Twitter at @DrDreamTeam)
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs