Just which players have drastically improved their form from last year, and who will make the cut for the top 17 players. Here’s NRL tragic RickyRicardo with his top 13 improved players complete with explanation as to why he thinks so.
Every year, there’s always players from the past year that improve their game in leaps and bounds and this year is no different. Whether it’s a back, a forward or a half, all the positions are filled, and all the players I’m about to mention have in some way improved on their form from last year.
So without further hesitation, here’s the top 13 most improved players in their respective positions.
Fullback: Lachlan Coote – This young man was always destined to have a great career making an impact almost straight away, but it’s this year that he has really excelled. He’s adapted his style of play into a roving type of role, allowing him to get his hands on the ball a bit more, thus causing some problems for the defence. He has a good turn of speed, and is only to get better as he gets older. One to watch for an Origin berth.
Winger: Akuila Uate – Just last year, the rumours were out and about that Uate would be forced out of the Knights and forced to look overseas, but those rumours were quashed and what a form reversal for the Fijian. He is currently the leading try scorer in the NRL and will be looking to break Tahu’s record of 21 for most tries scored in a season for Newcastle. The mix of speed, strength and finesse are what make Uate so good with some teams just not able to contain him. For a man of his size, he also has very good hands as well. Made a plea to the ARL to play for NSW for 2011. Will it work?
Centre: Shaun Kenny-Dowall – Only last year, he was set to be dropped back to the NSW Cup because of his poor ball-handling skills and poor defensive skills. What a difference one year makes though. One of the unsung heroes of the Roosters charge to the NRL finals, the NZ’er has worked hard during the off-season and over the course of the season to improve his ball-handling skills, his defence, as well as his ability to get over the try-line at crucial times. He has achieved his goals in all three departments, and is currently in career best form.
Centre: Beau Champion – Whilst Champion has been a decent player for most of his career, it’s only this year that his career has really begun to take off. Starting with the Indigenous All-Stars game, he has steadily gotten better with each game and has continually worked on his individual game to make sure that he can form the best possible combinations with his halves. He will only get better and stronger as his career goes on, and he is a valuable asset to the Bunnies side.
Winger: Michael Gordon – The man nicknamed ‘Flash’ is having a career best year with the Panthers and was rewarded for his efforts with a State of Origin berth. Has worked hard to improve many facets of his game and is currently one of the NRL’s best goal-kickers with an incredibly high percentage of goals kicked.
Five-Eighth: Brett Finch – Perhaps a controversial decision yes, but he is well and truly the unsung hero of the Storm side. Links up well with Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith and has an uncanny knack in being able to find a gap whether it’s big or small and put a player through it. Has one of the best passing games in the NRL for a five-eighth and uses that to good effect. Shame he could be headed out of the NRL.
Halfback: Mitchelll Pearce – Every year, he has gotten better and better in every facet of his game from his kicking game, to his passing game, to his running game, his general awareness of the play and his team-work. Is perhaps the form halfback of the competition right now, and is towards the top in most of the halfback related statistics such as kick metres, try assists and line-break assists. Has combined well with Carney and co. to wreak havoc for opposition defences and will be looking to continue it.
Prop: Tim Mannah – Arguably the form prop of the game alongside Civo. It’s hard to believe that Mannah who starts off the bench for Parramatta is actually averaging more metres per game than most forwards who start for both his team and the rest of the competition. Goes to show just how committed the guy is, and just how good he has become in a short period of time. Was rewarded for a fantastic season this year by being selected for Origin where he made 44 metres off just 4 runs, so you would think he has to be one of the incumbent props with his consistency in metres made.
Hooker: Isaac Luke – Another player who has developed in leaps and bounds to become probably the second best hooker behind Cameron Smith. Initially heavily criticised for being too immature on the field and not stepping up, he has changed his game and nature completely to become a mature and level-headed spearhead for the Souths team in their quest for the finals. Is perhaps the most deadly dummy half runner in the game, as he looks for any gap in and around the ruck to exploit with his quickness. He’ll be a valuable player in the long-run for both Souths and NZ.
Prop: Kade Snowden – The young prop is overshadowing his older Shark team-mates and is fast becoming one of NSW’s premier props. He was rewarded for a stellar season with the Sharks by grabbing a NSW berth. Is very hard to tackle because of the way he runs the ball, and he leads the props at the Sharks in virtually every statistic. He is only going to get better as he gets older, and he’ll be looking to continue his good form for the Sharks for years to come and he will also be looking to ensure that he plays for NSW again sometime in the future.
Second Row: Mitchell Aubusson – Making the transition from centre to second-row under Brian Smith at the start of the year, he has excelled in the position pretty much since moving there. A defensive workhorse, the transition was bound to come eventually. Very much a Hindmarsh type player in the way they defend, and ensure that they always do what they can to get back and cover their players and stop any effort. Also has a very good attacking game for a big man, and is deadly down the right hand flank with SKD and Perrett. A contender for second-rower of the year with the form that he is in.
Second Row: Willie Mason – Who would have thought that after all the media scrutiny surrounding his exit from the Roosters that he would bounce back? Come on, be honest. Did you genuinely think that he would have such a big impact for the Cowboys. He is without a doubt in career best form causing havoc for opposition defences with his size and strength, and is linking well off the fringes of the ruck with Matthew Bowen and JT. He was unlucky not be awarded with an Origin berth as he was probably one of NSW’s best second-rowers in the first half of the season. Has continued the good form and will be looking to bounce back with a strong Cowboys side in 2011.
Lock: Liam Fulton – Always regarded as merely an average player, he’s removed that tag off of his body and been given a tag of simply amazing player. Whether it was his time in England, or whether it’s the bald head that is making the difference, who knows? One thing is for certain though, and that’s the fact that Fulton is in career best form with the Tigers. He makes the metres, makes the tackles, scores the tries and does just about everything you would want a player to do. Fantastic player and is still relatively young as well.
That’d be my top 13 improved players.
Feel free to comment on it if you disagree or comment on it if you agree as well.