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.Â 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*.