Another week of games over and it’s that time of the week again, the Team of the Week. Just 8 teams playing this week, so I’ll add in additional players that performed well outside of the points system used as the criteria to make out the numbers.
1. Ben Barba – Although not quite yet at the heights that saw him produce electrifying footy in 2012, Ben Barba is slowly getting back to that level of play and put in perhaps his best performance of the year. Linking up well and producing his usual blistering runs from the backfield, Barba was too hot to handle and Dogs fans will be hoping that continues heading into the next few rounds.
2. Michael Gordon – For some time now, the big question on Michael Gordon was – when would he return? Well, he did this week and it was important that he did, as the Sharks hung on for a win in Gordon’s return game, with the fullback making a successful return to the game, producing a solid display. With the run into the finals so important, the Sharks and their fans will be hoping that Gordon can once again fire consistently and stay on the field long enough, to mount a serious threat for the premiership.
3. Tim Lafai – Only given a chance to play when Josh Morris is away on Origin duties, Tim Lafai is the sort of player that should be playing more often in first-grade, there just isn’t a chance for him to do so. The star of the show in the Dogs big win, it’s the sort of performance that Lafai produces every game and continually shows Dogs coach Des Hasler just how good he is and what he can do.
4. David Simmons – One of the in-form backs of the competition right now, there was a time at the start of the year where Simmons and perhaps Panthers fans wondered whether he’d be at the club beyond this year. Fast forward 18 rounds into the season, however and with a contract extension to his name, Simmons has continued to produce the solid footy that saw him awarded with that extension.
5. Jorge Taufua – When you think of form wingers in the competition, if Jorge Taufua’s name doesn’t come into your head, you may have to watch his and Manly games again. In blistering form this season – especially in attack – Taufua is firing on all cylinders as he slices through opposition defenders with speed, strength and power, before scoring tries galore for fun. If you ask some, he was perhaps unlucky to miss out on Origin selection for NSW.
6. Brett Stewart – A fullback stuck in a play-maker’s body, Stewart has the ball skills required to play here (even if he doesn’t do so regularly) as he too was a key factor in the win for the Sea Eagles. With a second half blitz the difference, the veteran fullback chimed in from the back brilliantly, knowing when to run with the ball and when to pass it. With no Origin for him this year, that has only been a boost for Manly.
7. Todd Carney – With no selection in Orign this year, it seems to have affected Todd Carney in a positive manner, as his game continues to grow and take shape moving forward. A key performer for the Sharks in their win this past week, his awareness and ability to know when to run and when to pass, has seen him become a consistent half in the NRL. With form like this, come 2014, he may well get another NSW opportunity.
8. Darcy Lussick – A prop by trade and the position he has played most of his footy in, a recent move to lock for Darcy Lussick has seen him produce perhaps some of the best performances of his career. A hard-nosed and bruising type forward, Lussick has been a shining light in recent weeks for the languishing Parramatta Eels side, as he’ll look to continue his recent solid run of form with another top-notch performance at lock.
9. Kevin Kingston – Another player likely to depart the Panthers as their transitional period continues, the veteran and captain of the side whilst criticised, as produced some solid performances in his time with the club. Not the quickest hooker anymore Buy Viagra, what he lacks in speed, Kingston makes up for him great game awareness, a cool and collected head when under pressure and experience. His defensive work makes him one of the top defensive hookers in the game.
10. Josh McGuire – Given the task of defensive workhorse in the absence of some of the Broncos forwards due to Origin, McGuire held his own well and produced a whopping 62 tackles in an 80-minute performance. Playing as long as he did due to several players being out, McGuire is slowly turning into the big bopper and game-changing player that Broncos fans have wanted him to be for so long. A big, mobile and aggressive forward, McGuire is destined for big things in the NRL.
11. Corey Oates – A talented young player can at times, take time to find their feet in the NRL, but if you ask Corey Oates just how he feels and how he’s going, he’ll tell you that he’s having a ripper of a time. Thrust in due to injuries, Oates has performed well in his few games this season and is shaping up as a player of the future for not only the Broncos, but potentially for QLD.
12. Tony Williams – Heavily criticised this year, the form of T-Rex has been well documented since Rd 1, but with a performance like his against the Storm, Dogs fans will be hoping that that is the Williams they see every week. When his head is in the game, he’s a powerhouse and can affect the course of the game with game-breaking ability. When his head is out of the game, he becomes lazy and lethargic, unable to produce solid form or do what is required of him. With the signs ominous, if his head remains in the game, opposition teams – watch out.
13. Tyrone Peachey – Seeing increased minutes this past week due to an injury for Wade Graham, the Penrith-bound back-rower made the most of it, producing a solid display off the bench. Not the biggest forward on the fringes, Peachey doesn’t let that faze him nor stop him, as he hits the line up hard and is stronger and tougher than you would perhaps expect. With a talented player through the Sharks ranks hitting his straps, the decision to let him go might be one that haunts them down the track.
14. Luke Walsh – Departing at the end of the year, Walsh is determined to leave the Panthers on a high and in good form, as he again produced a solid display in his side’s win. With a kicking game as deft and accurate as his and a passing game as crisp as any other, Walsh has turned heads in recent weeks, with consistent performances that have not always been a trait of his game in the past.
15. Tim Mannah – When you think of heart and soul at a club, you don’t have to look any further than Tim Mannah and what he brings to the table for the Eels. When required, Mannah steps up and puts in the hard yards, putting his hand up to get through the dirty work for the club. In an ailing season for his club, the club captain epitomises what it means to represent the Eels and is an important piece to their side.
16. Brent Kite – Another departing player headed to Penrith next year, the veteran prop can often go under the radar with his performances, but Kite put in perhaps his best performance of notoriety, hitting the ball up with venom. An experienced prop at the NRL level, a new challenge awaits Kite in 2014, as he heads West to the Penrith Panthers for the next chapter in his career.
17. Richie Fa’aoso – Serving a long suspension is enough to have any player itching to play and for Fa’aoso, you could tell he was waiting for that chance as he got stuck in and carved up a Cowboys side. With a killer run to set up Jamie Lyon’s try and with Manly crying out for both a win and big impact off the bench, they got both. As the season wears on, Fa’aoso’s energy, aggression and increased tempo from the bench could see him become one of the NRL’s most damaging bench forwards.
Player of the Week: Tim Lafai.