G'day dreamers and welcome to the penultimate Lone Scout article of the year.

The private leagues are down to the last four, the race for the car is hotter than it's been all year and the Eliminator is also down to four. With so much at stake now is the time to get your team selection right and make best use of any trade you still have.

The pressure is high, but the decision-making is really no different to any round (except that there is no point saving trades or looking for cash cows) even though it may feel that way.

For example, here's a query I got on my Facebook wall last week from someone I'll call Matt O:

"OK LS ... No pressure ... If you had to choose between playing Ben Ross or Paul Gallen under the circumstances (life or death) who would you go?"

The answer I gave is (I hope) a neat summation of how you should answer such a question (remembering that Gallen was said to be about 60:40 to play). Thankfully I didn't have to make that choice, but basically I'd recommend following this line of thinking to make a decision:

"Do I need only about 35 to win this weekend? If so, choose Ross. Do I need about 50-60 to win? If so, punt on Gal. Plus (because he's a DT special) I also factor in that if I have to gamble on anyone, Gal is a good bet. So if it's 40 to 50 to win I'm going to roll the dice on Gallen."

This is pretty much the way I go about solving each this-guy-or-that-guy question.

I got a similar question today from someone I'll call Gareth L.

"Hey LS! Now is the real pointy end of the season, so a quick coaching question for you if you are available? If you had a rough idea of what your opponent is going to field, and the averages were roughly the same, is it better to go as similar to them as possible and try and just cheer on the few point-of-differences you have, or if you have a bit of depth do you throw caution to the wind now and use players they don't have?"

The question got some other replies and included amongst these was one from Adan S, "... LS is normally conservative isn't he? He would say play your best team, no matter what (I'm guessing!?!)". Clearly he hasn't been reading my articles.

What LS says is play conservative if it is your best chance of winning, but LS also says the No.1 rule is make sure you give yourself a chance of winning. So you need to ask yourself which strategy has more potential for you to bring home the bacon: matching up and hoping the one or two points of difference will pay off? Or working another angle, even if it is more risky? Normally, the answer would depend on which players you are considering, like whether you gamble on Soward coming good again this week or bank on Glenn Stewart scoring big because he should play the full 80 at speed against the Storm. The answer can never be definitive, rather it is more a recommendation to choose the path with the most 'up-side'.

So we come back to last week's musings; the four rules for solving trade dilemmas. Both answers are based on applying these rules to the problem:

1. Play what's in front of you.
2. Class will out.
3. Err on the side of caution.
4. When all else fails, go with your gut.

Applying these to the questions listed above, the answer to Matt O's Ross v Gallen question is referencing rules 2, 3 & 4, while Gareth L needs to start at rule 1 and work his way down, with rule 4 equating to "throwing caution to the wind".

--------------------------------------

Sticking with my rules for trading, here's a quick rundown of the selection issues I have this week and a small rationale for my choices.

- Elijah Taylor or Lewis Brown: Err on the side of caution gets applied here and Taylor starts for the Scouts. Why? Because Brown is named for the Vulcans and Luck looks likely to play, so Taylor is the most advantageous choice.

- Sam Tagatese or Lewis Brown: Again, I go err on the side of caution. Whilst I could gamble on Brown getting a run (and no doubt scoring more than Taga) the chances are he won't, so I'd be left with an auto-emergency from my reserves. That could well be Taga anyway (so I'd gamble on Brown if that were the case), but I also have Ryan Morgan in my squad and he is scoring very poorly, so I can't risk getting a half-dozen or less.

- Jamie Soward or Shaun Johnson: I'm going for class on this one and backing Soward to come good. All he needs is to start kicking a bit more and for the Dragons to improve (something I hope they started last week). Johnson is capable of a decent score, but is too erratic and may only get to Soward on a bad day, if he goes well.

- Aiden Tolman or Mitchell Allgood: The late mail has raised some concerns, but I expect Tolman to play so I'm choosing simply on potential to score. Class will out, so Tolman is in.

- Cam Smith or Corey Parker for captain: I takes a lot for me to veto Mr Smith as my captain, but this week I'm going to. No doubt Smith will score well in the top-of-the-table clash, but I am employing the 'play what's in front of you' rule and choosing Parker. My Dream Team world is different from yours as I have many opponents, but I too have a league match-up with workmates and friends that I want to win most, so I'm looking for an edge. Parker has scored 67 & 70 in his last two encounters with the Rabbitohs and I'm banking on him going there again in a high-scoring game.

That should give you more of a feel for decision-making here at LS central and (hopefully) assist you to solve your selection issues.

Don't forget to read the late mail before making your team selections. If you want some extra thoughts or just need to catch-up on the lay of the DT land, you should also have a read of this DT overview ... and no, the author is not me!

Or you can just digest this random thought to mess with your head – if the Sea Eagles beat the Storm, the Broncos have no real chance of reaching second spot and have third already sewn up. Makes you wonder if their coach, who likes to rest players, might do just that on Sunday? Alex Glenn and Sam Thaiday are carrying long-term injuries ...

--------------------------------------

Heading back to the top of the rankings for a moment (and you should check it out because there is a real battle happening there), I thought it worth mentioning that there are only 132 points between first and tenth on the overall list. All but one of these sides scored over 885 last round (and the odd one out managed 859) and are charging home.

My money is on the Highlanders. Gareth's team is having plenty of luck with the injuries (or is it just good at trade management), scoring massive each week and must now be favourite to continue his recent run up the ladder to the very top.

---------------------------------------

Which brings me to my side and its battle with the imaginary Reset Scouts.

Round 24 was a decisive win for the Resets (903) to the Scouts (849) with both sides suffering from Dene Halatau's injury withdrawal and Sam Tagatese's single-figure shocker. The Resets also had Trent Hodkinson only score for half a game, so really they are looking good (a score of 950+ was not unreasonable had all players done their best).

Hopefully, the Reset's growing numbers are convincing you to keep some trades for the final rounds next year.

This week, the Resets again get to deal with the injury/selection problems, whilst the Scouts do not. Trades this week are: Gasnier in for Halatau and Maloney in for Hodkinson (no need to risk it), leaving $15.4k in the bank and a strong team captained by Cam Smith (just to be different):

The Resets for Rd 25 are: Hayne, N Smith, Glenn, Gasnier, J Thompson, Maloney, DCE, Srama, Tolman, McGuire, C Smith (c), Farah, Hindmarsh, Fensom, Parker, D Johnson, Mannering. Reserves: Gagai, Croker, Jones, Tagataese, Henry, Taupau, Myles, O'Donnell.

Finally, despite the inability to trade in the finals, the Scouts are still alive in over 85% of private leagues. I expect the luck to run out this week ...

Good luck to all. Keep dreaming.