Ricky Ricardo’s Team of the Year

Well it’s finally upon us.
The time when you name the Team of the Year. I hear a lot of you saying ‘Oh, but it’s only the second last round of the season, why are you doing a Team of the Year.’ The answer is simple. I know exactly who is going in each respective position, and I’ve seen enough of them to believe that they belong in this team.

What I’m looking for is consistency from these respective players, the impact they’ve had for their respective teams whether they are in the finals or not, but most importantly, I’m looking for players that will only continue to get better and build on their form from this year.

So without further a due here is RickyRicardo’s Team of the Year. See how many would be in your Team of the Year. Do you agree with him?

1. Josh Dugan – Exhilarating, electrifying, a machine. So many words can describe this phenomenal talent that only burst onto the scene last year with some breathtaking individual brilliance. He’s only going to get better, that’s for sure, but he has already blended in well with a Raiders side building towards a possible dynasty over the next few years. It’s only a matter of time before he plays Origin in some capacity for NSW, whether that’s at fullback or on the wing remains to be seen. Having won the Mal Meninga Medal, it was easy to see that this young kid from Tuggeranong is destined to become a fantastic footballer over the next few years.

2. Akuila Uate – If you’ve never seen this man running in full-flight before, then you don’t know what you’re missing. He would have to be the fastest NRL player in the game right now. He’s been recorded running the 100m in about 10 seconds which is amazing. Goes to show his levels of stamina, endurance and fitness are at all-time highs, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to stop. Uate is a beast in every sense though. He’s 96 kg but has a stocky figure and a good fend, making him hard to tackle. Only player to score three hat-tricks this year, and he leads the NRL Try Scoring List and deservedly so, after some Man-of-the-Match performances for Newcastle over the year. Imagine Uate in a NSW jersey. Look out QLD! Hehe.

3. Shaun Kenny-Dowall – What a difference a move from the wing to the centres can make. Close to losing his spot at the end of last year due to a shocking year in defence, the man more commonly known as SKD was given a life-line by coach Brian Smith and was shifted to the centres at the start of this year. Whilst all didn’t start well, he has turned into a valuable asset for the Roosters with some barnstorming runs and an improved defensive performance on every account. He’s guaranteed his spot in the Roosters back-line, and will be looking for a chance to play for NZ in the Tri-Nations.

4. Jamie Lyon – I don’t know whether it’s the water at Manly, or whether he has ants in his pants every week, but Lyon is playing like a man possessed. Possessed to win that is.  Is without a doubt, the form centre of the competition, and with the kind of form he is in, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the starting side for Australia at the Tri-Nations. Lyon has been consistently good throughout his career, but its really only been this year, that he has taken his game to another level. Whether or not he alone can lead the Sea Eagles into another top 8 berth remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, Lyon is in the form of his life, and he’s only going to get even better.

5. Michael Gordon – The man nicknamed ‘Flash’ (a bit ironic as he isn’t the fastest player at the Panthers), is also having the season of his career. Whether he got a kick up the backside from Elliott, or whether it’s simply a case of him taking his chance and proving his worth, who knows? The fact is though is that he too is on fire scoring both tries and kicking goals. He was rewarded with his efforts this year with a debut Origin berth, and didn’t do too badly, but will have to do more to impress selectors in my books. One of the more under-rated Panthers, but a key figure in their side nonetheless.

6. Darren Lockyer- Yes the Broncos aren’t in the top quartet of the 8, but you can’t deny that Lockyer is still up there as one of the games most exciting players to watch. He seems to get better and better with age, and he doesn’t look like slowing down. Whilst he’s lost a bit of his pace over the years, he more than makes up for it with his fine displays of craft and creativity, causing havoc with a whole range of plays for the Broncos. Many people want him to play for a few years yet, but it’s whether or not the old legs can keep up with the increasingly frenetic pace of the NRL. The big question however, is will Locky play Origin? My guess is he will, as he still has the touch, but more importantly, he still has the desire.

7. James Maloney – This might turn a few heads, but this is after all about my team of the week. I think James Maloney has been up there with one of the best halfbacks of the year, and he’s been fairly consistent during that time as well. often labelled as the ‘Journeyman of the NRL’ he finally seems to have found a home at the Warriors after having stints at the Eels, Sea Eagles and Storm, before moving to the Warriors last year. He hasn’t let them down putting in stellar performances as the Warriors look to keep their finals hopes alive. A very under-rated player, and on his day, he is capable of some magic that can swing the game the Warriors way.

8. Tim Mannah – If there was an award for man most likely to have their butt crack appear, Timmy would be the man that would come close to winning it. Nathan Hindmarsh might just win out on that one though. Doesn’t deter from their scintillating work at the club though. Tim Mannah has in my books, been one of the most improved players of the year. Making his debut last year, he showed glimpses of what he can do, but it’s this year that he has really taken off. Starting mainly off the bench hasn’t deterred him from putting up huge numbers in the metreage department in particular, and on many occasion this year, he has been the Eels best player despite coming off the bench. He was rewarded with an Origin berth this year, but played limited minutes which was a shame. If he continues this form, he’ll be almost guaranteed a starting spot.

9. Robbie Farah – He was unlucky to miss out on Origin this year, as he seemed to be the leading contender for NSW at Hooker ahead of Michael Ennis, but he ultimately missed out. Has had his best season in some time, and seems to be linking well with Marshall as the Tigers surge to the finals. He has a dynamic running game, perhaps one of the best in the NRL, and it complements his passing game perfectly, as Farah has a great all-round game, that has helped the Tigers to a finals berth. Should be NSW hooker next year, as he is in better form than Ennis.

10. Petero Civoniceva – In my opinion, despite his age, he is the best prop in the competition. In fact, he is only getting better with age and still has a few years left in him to get even better. Isn’t afraid to take the line on, and you know that every time he carries the ball he is going to make a huge amount of metres, due to his body shape, the difficulty in which to tackle him, and the leg drive that he uses to get those extra few metres. Still going strong for both QLD and Australia as well, and is showing no signs of slowing down in any shape or form at club level or at representative level. He will go down as one of the great players in QLD and Australian history.

11. Sam Burgess – In only his first year, he has proved many doubters, including myself that he has what it takes to match it with the very best players in the NRL. He is a huge man, who makes a ton of tackles, as well as making a large number of metres. He is very Paul Gallen like in the way that he plays and his approach to the game, as well as the general style of play. He is very aggressive in the way that he plays and has pull off some huge hits this year, a few of which are contenders for hit of the year. He will only get better as his career goes on, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a game-breaker for the Bunnies in the next few years.

12. Mitchell Aubusson – Who would have thought that a successful transition could be made from centre to second-row? Only a few players can pull it off with such great success, and Mitch Aubusson is one of them without a doubt. He has only gotten better since his move to the second-row, and he will undoubtedly continue to get better over the years. He has had a stilted season with a few niggling injuries, but all in all, he has proved his worth playing in the second rows. He makes a mountain of tackles, and despite moving to the second row, he still finds a way to get over the line just as regularly. One of the most under-rated players in the NRL, and I think if he can keep it up, he cna be a smokey for an Origin spot.

13. Paul Gallen – Controversial? Of course, but there’s no doubting the skill that Gallen possesses. Whilst he might give away a ton of penalties at the wrong time, and thus cost his team the game, in the attacking sense, he is one of the best players that you will ever see as he is fantastic in gaining metres, and he has some good ball-playing skills to alleviate some of the pressure off of the halves at times. His running game is also very good, and he has the ability to penetrate the line with his size and strength, and create opportunities. Whilst many may not think it, he is definitely one of the best locks in the game, if not the best.
Now, given that the centres, wingers, props and second rowers have two positions, I’ll narrow it down to just one, as to determine who my pick for that particular position would be.

Out of Akuila Uate and Michael Gordon, I would give Winger of the Year to Uate for the reasons mentioned above.
Centre of the Year would go to Jamie Lyon, as he has having the best season of his career.

Prop of the Year would go to Tim Mannah given that he has come an incredibly long way since his debut last year.
Second rower of the year would go to Sam Burgess for making such a huge impact in his first NRL season.

An honourable mention goes out to Jason Nightingale at winger for grabbing the bull by the horns and showing what he can do, Todd Carney at five-eighth for bouncing back from a few years of turmoil, Matt Scott at prop for being the most consistent prop for the Cowboys, and one of the players of the series for QLD and Sam Thaiday in the second row for being a terrier, and always putting up consistent numbers.

Overall, my player of the year is *drum roll*.

Sam Burgess.

Bulldogs lose as they farewell Noddy and The General

The Penrith Panthers have won a thrilling encounter against the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, scoring a try after the final siren to win the game 24-18.

The Panthers win was soured by the first send-off of the season to Petero Civoniceva following a swinging arm on Bulldogs prop Gary Warburton.

Civoniceva was given his marching orders with 10 minutes remaining in the game, and he faces a possible 4 game ban, thus ending his season for 2010.

The one saving grace for Petero however, is that he might still get off or get a lighter sentence given his good record as he hasn’t been charged by the NRL Match Review Committee since 2006.

“I am not going to articulate my thoughts at the moment and we will go through the processes we have to,” Elliott said.

“I guess I am concerned but I am shooting off the hip here, I haven’t had a close look at the circumstances around it and we will deal with it.

“Petero’s record is pretty good and I think his credibility in the game runs before him as well … I don’t think he has had an issue for some time.

In another major blow for the Panthers, halfback Luke Walsh limped off when the Panthers were trailing 16-0 with a suspected ankle injury. Scans today will reveal the extent of the injury.

“The medical staff will look at him and those medical machines that go ‘bing’ and stand around with masks and green coats and we will know more tomorrow,” Elliott said.

“Hopefully it is not too serious, but we will know then.”

A Michael Jennings try six seconds from time sealed the thrilling win for the Panthers, after an attempted field goal from retiring legend Brett Kimmorley was charged down by make-shift halfback Travis Burns.

Kimmorley was at his scintillating best, as both he and Luke Patten farewell the club, with Patten heading to ESL club Salford.

“I thought the script was there for Noddy to score the field goal, but maybe we didn’t get it to him quick enough, it’s probably the story of our season,” said coach Kevin Moore.

Kimmorley added: “When I turned around at saw it go the other way it was obviously very disappointing … it could have been a fairy tale, but I have learnt from a long football career you don’t always get the send off you deserve.

“It would have been nice to have a picture of the ball sailing over, but it wasn’t to be.

Kenny-Dowall screamer downs Manly

In what was a controversial game between the Roosters and the Sea Eagles, Manly coach Des Hasler refused to blame a contentious 8-point-try for Manly’s poor performance at the Sydney Football Stadium.

It was SKD who stole the show though, scoring a hat-trick of tries, including an 85 metre intercept pass. The try had some controversy though, with Manly centre Steve Matai possibly held back by a Roosters player.

The controversial 8-point-try came when Jamie Lyon flopped on SKD after he had grounded the ball, making contact with the players’ head.

Lyon was put on report for the incident, and Carney converted the try to tie the game at 14-14 all after the Sea Eagles had stormed out to a 14-0 lead.

Despite all the controversy though, Hasler wasn’t in the mood to criticise the referees as we have seen him do so before.

“It could’ve gone either way couldn’t it? Was there a penalty in Matai being taken off the ball? Possibly.”

Lyon however, disagreed with the decision as a whole.

“I thought it should’ve been a penalty to Matai,” he said.

“He got tackled without the ball and he was trying to go for the ball, I suppose I probably shouldn’t have tried to tackle him but i dint think it was worthy of an eight-point try that’s for sure.”

Despite the controversy, the Roosters won on the back of a fantastic second half performance, perhaps their best of the year.

The Roosters managed to score three quick tries in a 10 minute period either side of half-time to give them all the momentum and the two competition points.

Roosters coach Brian Smith was shell-shocked at just how resilient his young side could be, who did well to recover after being physically man-handled for the first 35 minutes of the game.

“It wouldn’t have surprised us if Manly had punched us to death today,” Smith said.

“They’re a really physical team and we haven’t stood up to that this year.

“I thought they really turned it on (and) if our guys hadn’t done something about it could’ve got butt-ugly.”

Marshall magic guides Tigers to win over Storm

Benji Marshall was back to his electrifying best scoring a hat-trick in the Tigers 26-14 win over the Melbourne Storm at a sold-out Leichhardt Oval.

It all started with a trademark flick pass as Tigers five-eighth Marshall guided the Tigers to a win over a Melbourne Storm side feeling the effects of not playing for points.

Despite Marshall’s strong performance however, Tim Sheens has lingering concerns about the Tigers casualty ward that is increasing every week.

The player in the most strife from injury is boom centre Chris Lawrence, who left the field with a broken jaw late on in the game.

Nursing an already weakened jaw from an incident earlier in the season, the fresh hit only made matters worse for Lawrence, and the culprit, Jeff Lima wasn’t placed on report for what appeared to be a somewhat innocuous hit.

“They’re operating on him tonight (Sunday) at six o’clock and if we’re still there in a month he’ll be back,” Sheens said.

“I’d like to hope the boys play well enough to give him another opportunity.

Veteran John Skandalis was also injured in the game, suffering a nasty buttocks injury, that has all but ended his season. To make matters worse, fullback Wade McKinnon will miss out next week with a re-occurrence of his hamstring injury.

The news doesn’t get better for the Tigers on the injury front with Bryce Gibbs suffering a knee injury, Liam Fulton a calf problem, and in-form second rower Gareth Ellis, suffering a nasty cork. Ellis is the only man in with a chance of playing next week.

“Luckily it’s not the first semi,” Sheens said.

“But look, we’ve been a strong club this year, we’ve made the semis at Wests and with Balmain in the (NSW Cup) and I think we’re one game off in the 20’s.

It wasn’t all roses for the Tigers though with coach Tim Sheens giving them a major spray after an inconsistent first-half.

Despite the loss, Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy praised the efforts of his players, and they now turn their attentions to a big send-off for the fans at home next week.

“We had the gastric (bug) go through our place during the week and Adam Blair, I don’t think he trained, Dane Nielsen missed a fair bit and Greg (Inglis) didn’t end up playing today he was that crook .. so it wasn’t an ideal week,” said Bellamy.

Raiders finals hopes lie in the hands of their destiny

The Canberra Raiders have romped to an easy 48-4 win over the North Queensland Cowboys as they move into the top 8 with one round remaining.

The Raiders who seem to be the form team of the competition scored 9 tries to 1, and are now just one win away from guaranteeing themselves a top 8 spot.

The man-of-the-match came from an unlikely source with late call-up Reece Robinson scoring a phenomenal 4 tries.

Taking the place of Adam Mogg, who was injured in the warm-up, Robinson took the bull by the horns and played the game of his life.

“I think I was just on the end of things, I just popped up when I had to pop up really,” he said, adding he hoped to make many more first-grade appearances for the green machine.

The Raiders simply proved to be far too good for a poor Cowboys side, no doubt missing the leadership of inspirational halfback Jonathon Thurston.

The loss was the Cowboys fifth successive loss of the season, and had it not been for the Storm’s salary cap breach, they would have finished last, thus handing them the wooden spoon.

Canberra coach David Furner said that his team was confident that they could come away with the win.

“We did have some milestones, 200 games there for (co-captain Alan Tongue), we had some guys that were leaving, we had our last home game and a must-win game,” he said.

“You could just tell during the week that the players were looking forward to the game.”

There was a few sore points for the Raiders though with both Joe Picker and Alan Tounge picking up injuries that could see them miss next week’s game.

North Queensland coach Neil Henry agreed that his side was beaten fair and square.

“It has been a tough year,” he said.

“We’re disappointed that we couldn’t defend with a lot more intensity and they rolled through us and we couldn’t stop the points.”

Dragons secure second successive minor premiership

JSt George have won their second straight minor premiership under coach Wayne Bennett after a hard-fought 26-18 win over the Newcastle Knights at Energy Australia Stadium.

The Dragons burst out of the blocks taking a 22-0 lead just after the restart, only to see the Knights slowly claw their way back to make the score 22-18 at one stage with over 20 minutes to go.

As the Knights looked for the try that would put them in the lead, it was an unlikely source that scored the winning try in five-eighth Jamie Soward who has been relatively quiet over the course of the year.

The game was a sell-out as Newcastle fans wanted to pay tribute to retiring skipper and Knights legend Steve Simpson in his final game at Energy Australia Stadium.

With the Knights needing to win to keep their very slim finals hopes alive, they played some brilliant footy and some fantastic conversions from the sideline by skipper Kurt Gidley was the key in bringing them closer to the Dragons score, only to have it snatched away at the death.

Despite the poor second half, Dragons coach Wayne Bennett wasn’t worried as in the end, his team secured the minor premiership.

“It is great honour and recognition for the players for their efforts to win minor premierships in back to back years,” Bennett said.

“They lost their way a bit in the second half and (we) took our eye off it, before getting the momentum back in the last 10 minutes.

“I am not too worried about the second half, the Knights played pretty well and didn’t deserve to be behind 22-0, but we gave them some possession and made some silly errors but I was pleased with the way we closed the game out.”

Newcastle coach Rick Stone was adamant his side would come out victorious under their near comeback as the crowd willed the Knights on.

“I thought we were going to go on and score another but after getting back into it we just lacked a little bit of patience,” Stone said.

Titans top 4 hopes in jeopardy after shock loss

Despite being out of finals contention, the Cronulla Sharks continue to be the giant-killers of the 2010 season upsetting the Gold Coast Titans 30-16 at Toyota Stadium.

Despite the loss however, the Titans still believe they can make the top 4,  with a win over the Wests Tigers next week all but cementing a top for spot for the club.

It was the player deemed as the NRL’s slowest winger, Luke Covell who opened the scoring in his last game for the Sharks at Toyota Stadium, with a 45 metre dash just put-running Titans half Scott Prince.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was delighted with his side’s victory, but he wasn’t sure if Covell would score the try that he did.

“I was up in the box and there were some people cheering and my first thought was he won’t get there but it was great for him to score,” Flanagan said of Covell taking the loose pass from Titans captain Scott Prince, and then fending the halfback off to get over the line.

In what was an emotional game for the Sharks with two of their favourite sons leaving in Trent Barrett and Luke Covell, the win was the perfect send-off for the two men, both of which were accompanied by their kids onto the field before the start of the game.

The major talking point out of this game though was Greg Bird’s return to the shire.

The downfall for the Titans though was a poor game from half Scott Prince who seemed to be out of sync and not playing as well as we have seen him play in the past.

“It wasn’t really the desired result but that was only a small blimp on the matches that are going to be coming up in the next few weeks for us,” said Bird, who only got a few boos from fans and spent plenty of time in the Sharks sheds after the match.

There were injury concerns for both teams however with Mat Rogers suffering a hip flexor injury, and Anthony Tupou suffering a thigh injury.

The shining light for the Titans was a two-try performance from young forward Bodene Thompson who scored two tries , both from bombs.

Bunnies keep finals hopes alive as Eels look to 2011

South Sydney’s spirit lives on, after they put the nail into the coffin on Parramatta’s poor 2011 season with a 24-16 win at ANZ Stadium.

In what was touted as a game of survival, with the losing team all but out of finals contention, it was the Rabbitohs who were the better side, and with the win, they jump over Brisbane into the top 8.

In what was a lacklustre first-half that ended in a 0-0 slug-out, testing many fans patience, the deadlock was finally broken when Rhys Wesser darted through to score the opening try.

The Eels looked as if they might have been staging a late resurgence when Justin Horo went over, before outgoing lock Feleti Mateo threw an offload that didn’t have to be thrown, and the Bunnies got a penalty that led to them scoring.

Several players were put on report, with Mateo the main culprit after engaging in a fight with Bunnies make-shift second rower Jaiman Lowe. He was unlucky not to be sin-binned or sent off after he started the fight.

Bunnies halfback Chris Sandow will also come under scrutiny for a dangerous throw on Justin Horo, that is sure to catch the eye of the NRL Match Review Committee.

Whilst over the moon that his players had kept Souths season alive, coach John Lang said that there was no point relying on other results to go their way.

“It would be great to be going down there and playing (the Dragons) for a spot in the final, but that’s out of our control now,” Lang said.

“There’s no point in doing all that (trying to work out possibilities), we’re in a situation where it can be good, it can be bad … we’ll know where we stand, we’ll just have to sit back and wait.

Eels coach Daniel Anderson acknowledged that his side lacked the creativity to score points and penetrate the Bunnies defence.

“That pretty much typified our season,” he said of the performance.

“There’s a few upset boys in there obviously … we’re out of our misery as far as September footy.

“We’ve had difficulty in our halves this year in establishing a confident pairing – we have to improve that area.”

Warriors secure finals spot as Broncos struggle

The New Zealand Warriors have all but guaranteed themselves a finals berth in 2010 after a comfortable 36-4 win over a poor Brisbane Broncos side at Mt Smart Stadium.

The Broncos just never seemed to be in the game, and it was effectively over at the end of the first half, when the Warriors were leading 24-0 after scoring five unanswered tries.

The Broncos missed an incredible 19 tackles in a sloppy first-half performance, and this would be their downfall as the Warriors made them pay with some brilliant attacking football.

In the absence of injured workhorse Micheal Luck, back-rower Lewis Brown and utility Lance Hohaia who was playing fullback stepped up and scored two tries each.

“I didn’t really anticipate the score to be that big,” a delighted Warriors coach Ivan Cleary said.

“I certainly sensed during the week that the boys were up for a big one.

“Once we got into the game and could build a bit of pressure then the points came.

The loss means that the Broncos not only have to beat the Raiders next week, but they must rely on several other results to go their way. Leaving your fate in the hands of other teams never quite goes according to plans though.

Broncos coach admits that he side was overwhelmed by a strong Warriors side.

“Some of the finishes to our sets weren’t great either, the Warriors completed their sets really well and put together some good passages of play”, says coach Ivan Henjak.

“They played very good, they were full of energy and really went about their work with a real professionalism. We were totally outplayed.”

“We’ve just got to regroup, keep ourselves positive and give it a real good crack next week.”

Most under-rated players in the NRL

Whilst the highest accolade for players is to play for their state and country, there are a mountain of players out there in the NRL who are yet to have the chance to play for their respective states and/or countries.
Here is an article that is dedicated to naming the most under-rated players in their respective positions, including the usual 4-man bench of players who were unlucky to miss out.

Fullback – Lachlan Coote – You ask why Coote and not Dugan? Well, it would seem that Dugan is the better prospect judging by the media’s expectation of him, and the fact that they for so long touted him as a possible dark-horse for the NSW fullback spot. Coote on the other hand hasn’t been touted in such a way, and so flies under the radar as a possible future NSW fullback.

Winger – Joel Reddy – Perhaps not so much this season, but definitely last, Joel Reddy showed the potential that had been placed on him a few years ago with some stellar performances in both attack and defence. The son of former Dragons great Rod ‘Rocket’ Reddy, he has many similar traits to his old man, and Reddy has perhaps been unlucky in the past to not get a spot in rep football. He’s come close being named in an extended Kangaroos squad in 2009, but wasn’t selected.

Centre: Chris Lawrence – For some time, this exciting young prospect has come agonisingly close to making the NSW side for the past 2 years, and perhaps has been unlucky to not make the NSW side in those years. Playing perhaps the best football of his career, should he be able to continue such good form, there is no doubt that he will feature in the NSW side next year and he could even be a smokey for this year’s end of season Kangaroos tour in the Tri-Nations.

Centre: Simon Mannering – Perhaps one of the unheralded players at the Warriors club, this man is the heart and soul of the Warriors football team. Having the uncanny knack to play both second row and centre, he has moulded himself into a fantastic player, who hasn’t really been given a huge chance to showcase his skills on the rep level.  He has represented NZ, but with his heart, soul and general play, he deserves many more chances to do so. Taking over the captaincy in the absence and now retirement of former captain Steve Price, he has really stepped up and led the Warriors team around the park as well as improving his game in general.

Winger: Josh Dugan – Whilst he has been in the news for some of his exploits for Canberra, he has yet to be recognised for his potential chance to crack into the NSW side. Arguably one of the best fullbacks in the NRL, he has come leaps and bounds since he made his debut as the skinny kid with the headgear. Sporting a headgear-less look now, he has had his best season of his career, and has been a catalyst behind the Raiders charge to the finals. He has perhaps been unlucky not to play Origin as of yet, but that will eventually come with time, perhaps even as close as next year.

Five-Eighth: Preston Campbell – The little master has been one of the most consistent players you will ever see over the last 10 years. Whether he was playing for the Sharks, the Panthers or the Titans, he pours his heart and soul into every game, and always reaps the benefits of it. Perhaps the unluckiest player to not play Origin as he has many a good year over the years, but has never been rewarded for it. To this day, still has one of the greatest tries in NRL history, evading around 6 players in his own in-goal before racing away to score whilst playing for the Panthers. One of my favourite current players.

Halfback: Terry Campese – Whilst traditionally, he’s a five-eighth, he has been known to play a halfback type role, and with most current halfbacks already well-known in the media and representative world, so that really only leaves someone like Campese who has perhaps been unlucky not to represent his native state of NSW on more occasions. Awarded with one chance, he had a decent game, but due to NSW’s loss, he was dumped from the side, and ultimately never got another chance to represent NSW. Has a great mix of skill and strength, which is unusual for a halfback, and links well with the other experienced players in the Canberra line-up. Would be the first five-eighth picked in my NSW side.

Prop: Luke Stuart – Another player who has poured his heart and soul into a club, this time the Rabbitohs. Having been with them for quite a few years now, he is the most experienced player in their forward pack and leads by example every game. Another player who has been unlucky not to play a lot of Origin games. Whilst his career may be nearing the end, he is a player that has only gotten better with age, and he acts as a great mentor for the young forwards in Taylor, Burgess and Pettybourne all coming through the ranks at Souths. An influential player, and whilst he may not be captain all the time, he has that same spiritual effect that Hindmarsh has to the Eels.

Hooker: Kevin Kingston – Perhaps one of the best hookers in the NRL behind Cameron Smith and Robbie Farah, Kingston is yet to represent QLD due to the fact that there are several players in front of him including Cameron Smith, Nathan Friend and Matt Ballin. He has an uncanny knack of being able to wreak havoc from dummy half and he has a good burst of speed from dummy half. Showed what he can do for the Eels in their charge to the finals in 2009, and is doing more of the same this year for the Panthers. In my books, he is perhaps the most under-rated player in the NRL.

Prop: Tim Grant – The young Penrith prop has perhaps been unlucky not to represent NSW in Origin as he is currently in career-best form at a young age. He is only going to get better with time, and I have no doubt that in a few years, he will be in the NSW front row with Tim Mannah. These two are arguably, the two biggest forward prospects coming out of NSW for the future. Just as he was hitting his straps, he was injured, but he has worked incredibly hard to get back to the stage that he was at before, and he has a great mentor by his side in Petero Civoniceva, and the great one is only going to make him a better player in the future.

Second Row: David Stagg – Has to consider himself unlucky not to have been awarded more Origin opportunities. He has been one of the most consistent second-rowers for some time, and is in that Hindmarsh mold in relation to the amount of tackles that he makes consistently. Playing in a team that hasn’t had the best of years probably didn’t help his cause, but he has the talent to be able to succeed in Origin given his good club form over the years. Most people don’t know that he is actually quite versatile in his play, and that he can quite easily slot into the five-eighth role in particular, having played there several times before as well as having a pretty decent passing game for a second-rower. A valuable asset to have heading into a possible Origin selection.

Second Row: Alan Tounge – In my view, if there was ever any player currently playing in the NRL that is under-rated, it is this man, Alan Tounge. For quite a number of years now, he has busted his gut and poured his heart and soul tirelessly on a regular basis in order to give the Raiders any edge where possible. Whilst it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the Raiders over the years, as of late, under Tounge’s leadership, they are surging towards a possible finals berth. His consistency is second to none and he regularly tops tackles counts, and is perhaps the best spiritual leader in the NRL, as well as having the ability to motivate players in a ton of different ways. Hard to see how he hasn’t been selected for NSW given that he has been a exceptional player over the years. He would definitely be in my NSW team for 2011.

Lock: Micheal Luck – Another player that has been incredibly unlucky to not have the chance to show his skills on the representative level. Has been perhaps the Warriors most consistent player for the last few years, and is a tackling machine, something that QLD will look for as they aim to continue their hot streak in Origin. Sporting a new headband every game, don’t let this faze you as Luck gets through the work that he has to do with a mix of grit, determination, passion and aplomb. He never backs down from anything in the NRL, and is destined to go down as one of the greats in the history of the New Zealand Rugby League.

Overall, there are plenty of under-rated players around the NRL, and all of them bring something different to the table, but it is these 13 guys that I think, are the most under-rated with Alan Tounge taking out the honours for the most under-rated.