After a bit of hiatus with this particular section, it’s back! Ricky’s Team of the Week. A shortened round this week given the upcoming Origin and regular bye period but still plenty of quality performances to produce a team of the week.
Who makes it into your side? Do you agree with the players selected?
Without further adieu, here’s the side:
1. Kurt Mann – A live-wire utility that was thrust into the Storm side and made immediate impact, the talented youngster continues to make his presence felt in 2014. Not the biggest or most powerful utility back, Mann has heart and sheer desire to succeed, making him a fearless competitor that puts his body on the line. His ability to break down the play and cover multiple positions mean he is perfectly suited to usurping a key role in the Storm side once the big 3 retire.
2. Charly Runciman – Forced to wait for an opportunity in 2014 with the Dragons, it finally came, and the highly rated youngster took it well and made the most of it. Like Mann, he isn’t the biggest player out there but with his speed, agility and will to play out of his skin, he doesn’t need it. Turned some heads with his performance and will have given coach McGregor some selection headaches.
3. Will Chambers – There’s a reason as to why Chambers was called into the QLD squad as cover for the centre role and you saw why against the Titans. Some great shimmies, stepping and darts that gave the defenders all sorts of issues, as he scored two tries to boot. His experience has made him a more professional player and one that the Storm have come to rely on in the fringes and especially when the big 3 are out due to Origin/injury.
4. Dean Whare – Centres are often the focal point of an attack and this rings true in the case of Whare and his role at the Panthers. Although he usually plays the role of provider, the Kiwi international scored two tries of his own and works hard to perform well. Possessing a crafty knack for providing time and space for his wingers to score, he is one of the best exponents of the in and away that allows his winger to score so many tries.
5. Jake Mamo – Only young, yet Mamo is making a big impression and fast. Although the Knights side lost the game, the youngster was out to prove that he belongs in first-grade and he put in a valiant performance. He scored his first NRL try with some great dedication and perseverance and with so many raving about him and his ability, how long is it before he becomes a mainstay in the Knights side.
6. James Maloney – Not selected into Origin due to poor form, whether it has been on Maloney’s mind is unknown, but his form over the last month or so – since the Origin side was named for Game 1 – has been doing all the talking. Coming off a scintillating performance in the win over the Knights – he put on a show and directly assisted three tries – he has been leading from the front and dictating the Roosters attack. NSW coach Laurie Daley must be keeping close watch on how well he’s been going.
7. Chris Sandow – Sandow has had his critics in the past and after a tumultuous 2013, he is back. With a vengeance. A halfback by trade, the enigmatic player was thrust into the fullback role with Jarryd Hayne absent and boy, did he excel! Running comes naturally to Sandow and on numerous occasions, his acceleration had the Dogs players back-pedalling and they had basically no answer for his quick, lively play from the back. Surprise move but it did work.
8. Jesse Bromwich – Just when you think Bromwich’s form cannot get any better, it does. A tremendous man-of-the-match performance by the Kiwi prop, leading his side to a win without their big 3. His size and physical presence is a tall order for any side to deal with and the Titans could not contain his runs. Moving with grace and ferocity at the same time, Bromwich is easily one of the best props in the game right now. If he was eligible for Origin, there’d be a tug-of-war to get him in.
9. Issac De Gois – Making a mid-season change can go sour sometimes for a player but for Issac De Gois – who joined the Eels mid-season from the Sharks – the transition was a successful one even after one game. Playing the entire game and showing the grittiness and mongrel nature he always has, the hooker wears his heart on his sleeve and gave it his all in an effort that helped the Eels to a solid win.
10. Sam Burgess – His departure will leave a gaping hole in the Souths forward pack, for he has been the heart and soul of it in 2014. The glue that has held it together. When his team-mates are struggling, you can bet Sam Burgess is the one putting in the hard yards and making it known that he means business. A power player at its finest, Burgess runs hard, hits hard and expects the best results. To replace him will be no easy feat.
11. Kyle Turner – One of the emerging players at the Bunnies, Turner is a kid who has been groomed as a back-rower primarily, but also has the ability to play at centre. Not the tallest or quickest kid, his in-game awareness is what sets him apart from some others, as he has a knack of knowing when to pop up – and he was awarded with two tries for it in Souths win last week. He has become a staple ingredient of the Souths side moving forward.
12. Pauli Pauli – Another dynamic forward and gee whiz, is he making inroads in opposition defences and turning heads. Pauli thinks he is a halfback sometimes and turns provider for tries with majestic offloads but don’t let that fool you. He runs as hard as the best of them and is a mountain of a kid to tackle. Tipping the scales at about 119kg, he runs with power, hits with power and has every desire to run over the top of anyone that gets in his way.
13. John Sutton (C) – Another player who has had his fair share of critics in the past, the veteran Souths utility is a player that almost always makes a difference for his side. Taking the line on is something he enjoys doing and nine times out of ten, he makes a half-break that can potentially lead to a chance for the Souths side. With some believing he is a better lock forward than half, will he move to and stay in the lock position for an extended period?
14. Ben Roberts – One of the most hot and cold players you will ever see. Rocks and diamonds as many refer to him. Despite that, when he is playing well, he has confidence and the live-wire utility produced a diamonds performance to step up when the Storm side needed him most. Consistency has always plagued Roberts and if given the chance again, it is an area he will have to rectify if the Storm are going to end up re-signing him beyond this season.
15. Jamie Soward – Some had their doubts above his move to Penrith and whether or not he could have the impact required to make the Panthers a premiership contender but he has so far proved a lot of the critics wrong. His impact and the influence of his a lot of his team-mates so far, has seen Soward’s form improve and skyrocket to the point where he is in discussions as one of the most in-form halves. For Penrith to maintain their current position, they’ll need him to perform consistently like he has been.
16. Reni Maitua – Playing against his former side, the Parramatta Eels, Maitua came in to the Dogs side on the back of injuries and suspension and was arguably the Dogs best player. A veteran who knows his way around the game of rugby league, his runs and link-up play on the fringes led to half-chances for the Dogs, although they could not execute for most of the game. Maitua’s had his own battles off the field but on the field, his experience shines through and he leads from the front.
17. James Graham – Win, lose or draw, Graham is going to go out there and play hard, run hard and tackle hard. That is exactly what he did for the Dogs. Since coming to the NRL, he has cemented his spot as an elite prop of the game and has shown exactly why. With good hands for a prop and chiming into back-line players, his work on and off the ball is what helps the Dogs attack gain momentum. With his form, he’ll be pushing Matt Scott all the way for prop of the year contender.
Ricky’s Player of the Week: Chris Sandow.