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.Â 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.