My, my, my – how fast the year has gone. It’s incredible. Almost the end of another regular season and here we are with another team of the week, this time for Rd 23.
Without further adieu, here’s the side.
1. Greg Inglis – There were calls galore for a move to fullback for GI for some time and when it happened, fans were left stunned as he blew rival teams off the park. Speed, strength, power, just some of the traits he exuded as he wreaked havoc. Returning from injury, he made an immediate impact, one that helped keep Souths in the minor premiership race and one that got them a much needed win.
2. Josh Hoffman – Although he is now playing fullback, he occupied wing for quite some time this season and is in the form of his life. Linking up well from the back and in the fringes, Hoffman seems to have found his home at the back. Whether that is for long, though, remains to be seen, particularly with talk that Ben Barba and Anthony Milford are headed to Brisbane.
3. Josh Morris – Perhaps not the initial first choice by fans to play fullback in the absence of Ben Barba, Morris showed that there is life after Barba, putting on a show from the back. Whether it was scoring a try, setting a try up, producing a killer offload or just running back with intensity, it all contributed to Morris’ stellar game and might have Dogs fans breathing a little bit easier.
4. Josh Mansour – Adept at filling in at any position in the back-line, Mansour enjoyed perhaps his best game of the season. Making line-breaks for fun and proving a hard man to bring down and tackle, it’s the sort of form Panthers fans have wanted from the young utility back. A catalyst in their come-from-behind win, continuing that form will go a long way in Mansour retaining his spot in first-grade.
5. Brett Morris – It should be no surprise to see the second Morris brother here also, as he too enjoyed a stellar game in what was been a golden run of form for him over the last 6 weeks or so. A slow start to the season – uncharacteristic for Morris – had some fans worried, but he has since turned on the switch and shown his blistering skill, pace and all-round great game, despite the Dragons recent losses.
6. Johnathan Thurston – When he is firing and on song, it’s safe to say that there is no better half in the game than Thurston. You watch him play and at times, you think he has the ball on a string or that he has it under a spell of some sorts, dictating the play with ease. Throw in one of the best passing and kicking games in the NRL and you have just about the complete half. A true superstar on and off the field.
7. Mitch Pearce – He cops his fair share of criticism and rightfully so at times, though when in form at club level and firing on all cylinders, he is a wonderful, young half to watch. The landslide Roosters victory saw Pearce nab two tries and it seemed like he was involved in everything, a sign that he is starting to mature more as a player and take on more of a responsibility during the game.
8. Andrew Fifita – At the start of the year, very few would have had Fifita slated as one of the best props in the game. Fast forward to Rd 23, however and here we are – he is. Some blistering form for the last several months, form that saw him rewarded with an Origin jersey is the reason why he is perhaps the most destructive prop in the game right now. Scary thing is, he does it every week.
9. Cam Smith – Some will say he is, others will say he isn’t – but the general consensus is that when it comes to the game’s best players, Cam Smith is number one on that Buy Cialis list. The way he can control a game or dictate the play single handedly is perhaps unrivalled in the NRL, something that many-a-fan would have been witness to. Just when you think the Storm are down and out, Smith flicks the switch and controls the tempo of the game and leads the Storm to victory.
10. Tim Mannah – In what has been a disappointing season for the Eels, one constant and one player who has given it his all in every game, is Tim Mannah. Whilst he may not be the most destructive prop like Fifita, Mannah is a toiler, a hard-worker and inspires other young props at the club to give it their all. With an infectious attitude and a will to give it his all, Mannah epitomises what it means to wear your heart on your sleeve in the NRL.
11. Anthony Watmough – Often coined as a player that some fans may not like for various reasons, there is no denying the fact that Watmough is one of the elite back-rowers in rugby league. Whilst having a bit of an up and down season this year, his vast array of talents are on show and moving forward, he will remain a key facet for the Manly club moving forward, as the finals approach fast.
12. Jeff Lima – With all the talk surrounding his leg pull – one that has seen him suspended – it has taken away from the decent game that Jeff Lima had on the field. A slow start to the season and one that saw him miss some games, Lima has taken it all in his stride and has now cemented that spot of his – minus this week with suspension – as he looks to continue his solid form moving forward.
13. Brad Takairangi – The one thing that strikes you about Brad Takairangi? Versatility. Adept at filling in at centre – a position he’s playing in for the Titans – or comfortable in the back-row, his work and work-rate are what has made him a favourite of some Titans fans. With their quest to push hard to make the finals, Takairangi’s work in the back-line may prove to be a big part of any chances they have to do so.
14. Daniel Mortimer – Sometimes, all it takes is a change of club and scenery for a player to realise their true potential and this is true in the case of Mortimer. Cast asunder by the Eels a couple of years back, hard work has seen the live-wire utility cement a spot in the rampant Roosters side, with his effectiveness and exciting play off the bench offering the club an additional play-maker.
15. Sam Moa – Another player whose stint elsewhere has turned him into a better player, as Moa goes from strength to strength as an NRL player. He started the year well and was in form, but injury prevented him from playing some games in the middle of the season. Now, however, since his return, Moa has taken his game to another level and continually lays the platform for his team-mates to attack.
16. Bryan Norrie – Perhaps one of the unheralded cogs in the Storm system, Norrie exudes hard work and determination when he plays. Just a few years ago, he was on the scrapheap and without an NRL club, before Bellamy and the Storm came knocking. Since then, he has become a solid prop and his consistency in the Storm forward pack is a credit to him, as he sticks with the Storm for a while yet.
17. Josh McGuire – If there was a most improved player award, the argument could be made that it should go to McGuire. A bit erratic early in his career and perhaps not afforded huge opportunity to shine, he has taken his chances splendidly in 2013 and has become a bona-fide tackling machine and all-round workhorse. Stepping up in the absence of the Origin stars and continuing that form even now, he has definitely come a long way as a player.
Player of the Week: Josh Morris.