NATHAN BRACKEN spent painstaking hours planning traps to dismiss international cricket's top batsmen during his reign as the world's No.1 limited-overs bowler, but he described selecting his five ''must have'' Toyota NRL Dream Team players for the final premiership round as a ''brain-buster''.
Bracken, a Parramatta tragic, said his assignment to nominate the big five became a challenge when he realised some coaches had good reason to keep their line-ups for this weekend a secret.
''I was going to suggest [Melbourne's] Billy Slater because he can cover a lot of territory,'' said Bracken, who retired from all forms of cricket last summer.
''He isn't a fullback who'd normally need to make a lot of tackles, but he still has [Dream Team] point-scoring ability. He might score two or three tries, he chimes in with try assists and he can cover 200 metres a game.
''However, I scratched him because it's possible [coach] Craig Bellamy will restrict his time on the field. It's the same with Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, and with a few players at other top-eight clubs. Their coaches might want to freshen them up for the finals.
''While Cronk is due to return from an ankle injury, I doubt he'll get much game time for Melbourne against the Roosters, if any at all.''
Here is Bracken's top five. His first selection comes as no surprise.
1. Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels)
DT value: $369,400; average DT points: 56.74
''You need players who'll plough through work and that's Hindmarsh. Anyone who picks him knows what they're getting - a wholehearted performer . The Eels conditioner, Hayden Knowles, raves about Nathan's 'motor' and 'determination' and it's been reflected in his Dream Team scores this season. It's a tribute to Hindmarsh that his workrate has made him the second-best-placed player in the fantasy footy league, despite Parramatta's place on the ladder. Captains get double DT points, so he'd be my skipper.''
2. Benji Marshall (Tigers)
DT value: $232,800; ave points 37.18
''Players are rewarded for try assists and I reckon Benji will be in the thick of it against Cronulla. We saw how good he was last weekend against the Titans when he had his hand in everything. Another huge advantage is he's a goalkicker, and while Tim Sheens was criticised for sticking with him in that role last season, Benji has more than rewarded his faith.''
3. Paul Gallen (Sharks)
DT value: $290,700; ave points 48.37.
''There have been issues about his fitness, but Gallen is an inspirational leader and I expect he'll make plenty of tackles against the Wests Tigers. It's Cronulla's last game and he'll give his all to end the season on a positive note.''
4. Corey Parker (Broncos)
DT value: $394,300; ave points: 63.05
''He's long been regarded as a Dream Team superstar. Like Hindmarsh, Parker has a huge workrate but an added advantage is he's also the Broncos' goalkicker.''
5. James Maloney (Warriors)
DT value $292,200; ave points: 47.86
''Mark Geyer has called for him to be included in Australia's Four Nations squad and I agree. The Warriors have a lot of big guys who run at holes very well and that allows for creative play. Maloney is running off a massive forward pack and if they're on their game against North Queensland, he'll have room to move.''