Another week of rounds has gone by and we again find ourselves at that time of the week – the team of the week. A big round this one, with some shocks and some great performances.
Who would you have in the side? So, without further adieu, here’s this week’s Team of the Week:
1. David Mead – Filling in at fullback for the Titans in the absence of Will Zillman, Mead’s game has gone to another level, as teams struggle with his speed, acceleration and ability when he returns the ball from the back. Dubbed as one of the fastest in the game, Mead’s skills were on show in attack as he made several monster runs from the back, all of which put the Titans in field position to score.
2. Vai Toutai – One of the most highly rated Eels juniors to emerge in recent years, Toutai’s ability and versatility are tremendous assets. Able to play centre and wing, the young gun is in the mold of current new kids on the block for a back – big, fast, speedy and he utilises these to run over defenders, shrug them off and score tries. His try against Penrith where he beat 7-8 defenders is still widely talked about by Eels fans.
3. Dane Gagai – He had a tough start to the year because of injury and somewhat of a dip in form, but since the Knights have found their feet and Gagai has found his mojo again, Gagai is back and playing some of his best footy. Linking up well with his inside and outside men, Gagai’s a deceptive player for defenders to handle and with this sort of form and having re-signed with the club, he may well be a feature of the side for years to come.
4. Justin O’Neill – Another very talented outside back, O’Neill is often dubbed as the Ferrari, given he well and truly has speed to burn on the field. Although he is more of a winger than a centre, the form of current Storm wingers has forced his move inside to the centres, though it is one that he’s taken in his stride and one that has seen him emerge as a valuable asset moving forward for the Storm.
5. David Williams – Perhaps more well-known and recognised for his beard and cult-figure status at the Sea Eagles, hence his nickname of ‘Wolfman’, Williams is a talented footballer on top of that and has a great finishing ability that was on show over the weekend. With a hat-trick to his name, there was no stopping him, and it’s the sort of form that players need heading into the finals and form that Manly fans hope he continues moving forward.
6. James Maloney – Another week and another top-notch performance by the Roosters pivot. Widely regarded as the best hole-runner in the NRL, Maloney’s ability to sniff out a gap either by his doing or feeding off the offloads from his team-mates, is what etches him closer and closer to the elite half category. With the Roosters travelling so well, Maloney is a big part of that and seems to be involved in every try and play they put together.
7. Johnathan Thurston – Although he has had somewhat of an inconsistent season so far by his own standards, the business end of the season is when Thurston is starting to come good this year, as he continues to guide his Cowboys side to victories – now back-to-back. With his form ominous, Thurston is justifying why he is widely regarded as the best half in the game, in a worrying sign for other teams moving forward.
8. Ben Hannant – Injury hasn’t necessarily been kind to Hannant this year and has seen him in and out of the Broncos side, but when he’s in, he puts in 100% and gives it his all and was a key player for the Broncos in their narrow win this week. Regarded as a big bopper by NRL standards, Hannant was in everything as he hit the ball up at pace and often caused trouble for the Dragons defenders.
9. Ray Thompson – The utility value of Ray Thompson over the last couple of seasons has well and truly reverse phone lookup number been on show, with his versatility seeing him play five-eighth, halfback and hooker. He may have found his niche hooker, however, as he scored three tries on the back of lovely work from Thurston, showing how good he is at backing up and supporting the play. With this sort of form, Thompson has a lock-down on the hooker position moving forward for the Cowboys.
10. Andrew Fifita – Is there anything Fifita cannot do? He runs hard and is hard to tackle, he makes tackle breaks at will, he shrugs off defenders as if they’re standing still and he makes the breaks to score tries. With this sort of form, it’s almost a given that the barn-storming prop will be given a chance to make his debut for Australia and the Rugby League World Cup.
11. Daniel Vidot – Perhaps one of the biggest centres currently in the game, Vidot’s ability and versatility is second to none. With the Dragons needing some presence and size in their backs in the absence of several players, Vidot has stepped up and shown he can perform at the NRL level, with what was perhaps his best game of the season and one that very nearly got the Dragons over the line.
12. Greg Bird – Whilst he may not be one of the first back-rowers chosen by fans to be in their team, he is one of the elite back-rowers in the NRL and he showed why for the Titans this week. His ability to make a play out of nothing and his desire to succeed and perform well, saw him emerge as a key reason behind the Titans win. He isn’t the biggest player but he is hard to tackle and his gem of an offload for Kevin Gordon was a sight to see.
13. Glenn Stewart – Injury meant that Gift didn’t start out the season and upon his return, he was still finding his feet. Fast forward to Manly’s win this week, however, and he had perhaps his best game of the season and in recent memory. There was just no stopping him as he appeared to be in everything and was getting involved and setting tries up at will for his outside men. His form looks ominous as the finals get closer.
14. Ben Roberts – Widely criticised by Eels fans and many others fans for his inconsistencies – and at times, rightfully so – his form in recent weeks has actually seen him show that he can be consistent and that he can be among the Eels best players. Whilst playing in the centres was something new to him, it seemed to be a role he excelled in and performed well at, providing the right link-up play for his team-mates with his ball-playing ability.
15. Andrew McCullough – Although it hasn’t necessarily been his best season so far, he is one of the bright sparks for the Broncos moving forward and in what was a tough contest, McCullough played in perhaps his best game of the year and scored a lovely, darting try when the team needed it. With a chance at the finals still alive, the Broncos will need McCullough’s form of old to return if they’re to have a chance.
16. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – Another prop who continues to go from strength to strength, as it looks like there is just no stopping him. Another big, big body in the middle of the park for the Roosters, controlled aggression of late has seen JWH become an even better player. It’s the sort of form that has him in line for a call-up for the Kiwis at the World Cup and no-one can deny him of that chance.
17. Jesse Bromwich – Another Kiwi prop excelling for the Storm and doing so all season despite some patchy results for the club earlier in the season. He’s your typical prop – hard-nosed, no-nonsense, hard-running and hard-hitting big bopper that all clubs need. He may not get as many kudos or praises as some of the big 3 or 4 players do, but he is an integral part of the Storm side. His metreage and form are often what lays the platform for the Storm’s main attacks.
Player of the Week: Glenn Stewart