Leading NRL commentator Ricky Ricardo is back with his team of the week for Round 1. With some assistance from new journo Scrappy Coco, here are the best players from the first weeks Rugby League action:
RickyRicardoâ€™s Team of the Week Rd 1:
Fullback – Todd Carney â€“ Playing in his first game bar trials in 18 months, Carney proved to be worth the buy for the Roosters starring in their annihilation of the Bunnies. Involved in almost every play and is already combining well with halves Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce. Get your money on him for Dally M.
Winger – Manu Vatuvei: The Beast is back baby!! Manu has struggled over the last few years with some niggling injuries and poor form, but heâ€™s gotten off to a flyer in 2010 scoring two tries in a gusty effort during the Warriors narrow loss to the Titans. Not a bad bet for leading try scorer at this rate.
Centre – Shaun Kenny-Dowall: Moved to the centres by coach Brian Smith to give him some more confidence, he certainly showed it, scoring two tries as well as having improved defence in the Roosters crushing win over the Bunnies. Whether or not he can maintain his defensive efforts remains to be seen though.
Centre – Cooper Vuna: The versatile Knights forward was a lynchpin for the Knights upset win over the Dogs. Despite all of the controversies surrounding the club, Vuna, one of the more experienced bunch, stepped up in light of Gidleyâ€™s absence and played out of his skins. He was rewarded with a try for his efforts and will score plenty more.
Winger – Lote Tuqiri: Considering the man played with only one training session under his belt, he did well to play as well as he did. Scored a try in his first game back and looks as fresh as ever. But will he his old legs get the better of him, or is there plenty more juice left in the tank for this warhorse?
Five-Eighth – Benji Marshall: Heâ€™s back!! Weâ€™ve seen what Benji can do when he is on fire, but can he maintain it? Quite simply, he was man of the match in the Tigers narrow win over the Sea Eagles and he could be a Dally M winner if he continues. Still question marks over his fitness, but he seems to be putting those aside for the time being.
Halfback – Jonathon Thurston: Quite simply, there is no better halfback in the game right now. Almost single-handedly orchestrated a come-from-behind win for the Cowboys in the second half against the Broncos. They fell just short, but Thurston was very close to being MOM in a losing side. Another contender for Dally M.
Prop: Aiden Tolman – This man is the future of the NSW Front Row stocks for many years to come. Still very young, he has shown for the past 2 seasons, just what he is capable of and he showed it again with some strong carries, and a fantastic general awareness of the play for a forward. Could be a bolter this year for SOO.
Hooker: Kevin Kingston: Known in the NRL as â€˜The Journeymanâ€™, Kingston seems to have found his feet at his new club Penrith with a strong performance in the Panthers easy win over the Raiders. His speed and creativity out of dummy half added another dimension to their play and will be a nuisance for opposition defences.
Prop – Dan Hunt: Granted a starting berth by coach Wayne Bennett, the Dragons man showed that the selection was warranted with a barnstorming performance against the Eels. His runs were phenomenal and he made solid metres on almost every carry. Very promising future for the prop.
Second Row – Nate Myles: Had without a doubt, his best game in several seasons. He seems lighter and fitter than he has in previous years, yet still plays with the same strength and power as if were the same. Perhaps the highlight of his performance was chasing down Nathan Merritt in perhaps the try-saving tackle of the year even though weâ€™re only in Rd 1. QLD starter guaranteed.
Second Row – Paul Gallen: Yet again showed just how much he means to the Sharks team with a whopping 147 m, 36 tackle effort in a spirited performance from the Sharks in their loss to the Storm. Almost guaranteed a starting spot in the second row for NSW, and should continue his strong numbers in the weeks to come.
Corey Parker: Perhaps one of the most under-rated second rowers in the competition, Parker has been one of the key backstage figures of the Broncos side. With the focus mainly on Lockyer and Hodges, Parker has taken a back-seat from the spotlight, yet still played brilliantly highlighted by his meterage, tackle count and kicking duties. With DJ now overseas, he could be playing SOO for QLD this year.
14. Luke Burt â€“ Perhaps best on ground for the Eels in their narrow loss to the Dragons. Scored a brilliant try down the left hand side, whereby he over-ran the ball, yet still managed to claw the ball in with a one-handed catch before running several metres to score.
15. Mitchell Pearce â€“ Looks like the young halfback is really starting to come of age, even though he has been in the NRL for several years already. Got on the scoresheet and seems to be linking well with prize recruit Todd Carney already. A darkhorse for NSW.
16. Corey Norman â€“ The young Brisbane forward plucked from obscurity played tremendously well for his first game. Showed no signs of pressure or of faltering, and was a key figure in the Broncos narrow win over the Cowboys. Looks to have secured the fullback role with just one performance.
17. Preston Campbell â€“ The little maestro does it again. Despite not being the youngest apple in the tree, Campbell still plays with the same passion and determination that he did 6 years ago and beyond. Great effort.
Player of the Week: Todd Carney.