The end of the third round already, time certainly flies. A lot of quality performances as usual by players and some surprise performances also, as several players produced some of their best games in recent memory.
So, without further adieu, here is the Team of the Week:
1. Reece Robinson – There were some Eels fans that had doubts about whether Robinson could make a smooth transition into their side and after three rounds, he has shown that is a talented player that can make a difference. Lightning quick on the edges, his speed was on display this past week with a blistering run down the sideline that led to points. With accurate goal-kicking to boot, his play and experience on the wing is crucial for the Eels.
2. Josh Mansour – It was a rough start to the season for Mansour but as the season wears on, he is slowly finding his feet once more. Whilst not back to his usual, consistent best just yet – due to the shoulder injury he required surgery on – there were glimpses of his potent ability on show last night. Aerial leaps – one of which led to a try for Jamal Idris – the tackle breaks at will and the sheer determination to run and play as hard as possible. Sometime soon, he will be back to his best.
3. Blake Ferguson – His story has been well-documented and some were willing to see him given one final chance whilst others believed he should have been banished from the NRL forever. Regardless of your feelings on him, last night marked the first lot of tries Ferguson has scored since his return to the NRL and the jubilation and happiness on his face showed. He will also continue to get better, with the Roosters fans hopeful he can return to the consistent form before his issues arised.
4. Dylan Walker – Playing with any injury is painful but to do so with a suspected fractured hand that is taped up for protection, is inspirational. Walker overcame the pain barrier, stayed on the field and defied the odds, despite being unable to use his left hand for anything. Despite the ailment, he scored two tries and showed commitment to himself, his club and his team-mates. If form is anything to go by, Walker would be regarded as an elite centre in the game right now.
5. Euan Aitken – Even before the season started, Dragons fans aplenty were calling out to the club to start one particular youngster – Euan Aitken. In Rd 1, no start. In Rd 2, no start. But come this past week in Rd 3, he started, and what an impact he made. As far as debuts go, it would definitely be up there as one of the best you will see, as Dragons fans and NRL fans alike were able to sit, watch and admire the tenacity and confidence of a young player who has excelled in all previous grades.
6. Moses Mbye – Thrust into the side due to the absence of the injured Josh Reynolds, Mbye is a player that has the ability to perform and probably deserves to play more first-grade than he does. A handy player to come into a side when there is an injury, Mbye is finding his feet as a 5/8 in first-grade and forming solid partnerships with team-mates and linking up well. When Reynolds returns, is there a spot for him in the side?
7. Chad Townsend – Most teams have one superstar half and one lesser known half who goes about their business with dignity and aplomb. At the Warriors, that half is Chad Townsend. Rarely do you see the lesser known half out perform his superstar half team-mate but Townsend did just that. In what has been a stellar start to the season for him, Townsend is enjoying a slew of success with try assists, line-break assists and great overall play.
8. Aaron Woods – If you had one forward that could run all day and give you 100% in every hit-up, tackle or run, Woodsy is your man. Somehow, consistently, he averages astronomically high meterage counts because of a sheer desire to get as much go-forward as possible for his side. Having tasted Origin in the past, with the form he is in and the desire he has in all facets of his game, another opportunity may not be too far away.
9. Mitch Rein – Exploding onto the first grade scene a few years back, big things were expected of Mitch Rein. In past years, he was not able to go on with the job and at some points, it prompted calls by Dragons fans to play another hooker at the club in his place. To Rein’s credit, he dug deep and after being on the receiving end of a lashing from Dragons coach Paul McGregor, Rein found new life and energy and scored the match-winner for the Dragons. If he harnesses his talent, Dragons fans will be pleased.
10. Jordan McLean – Getting solid go-forward from any young player let alone a whole team can at times, be difficult depending on the situation. For young Jordan McLean, since he has been given an opportunity to start, he has taken it with both hands. A hard-running, bruising forward, his work-rate and work ethic are just two aspects that have pleased coach Craig Bellamy. To start over more experienced players is a testament to McLean’s ability, form and desire.
11. Iosia Soliola – At this point in the season – although it is early on – an argument could be made for Soliola as the best buy of the season so far. Returning to the NRL after a lengthy stint in the Super League, Soliola has come out all guns blazing and produced quality displays for the first three weeks of the season. It is clear that the Super League experience helped him become a better player and person and it is now showing on the field in his second-coming.
12. Ethan Lowe – Perhaps one of the surprise packets of the NRL season in more ways than one, Ethan Lowe is fast becoming the unsung hero of the Cowboys forward pack. You could argue that so far after three rounds, despite dismal club results, that Lowe has been the best forward in the Cowboys pack by a country mile. He runs hard and works tirelessly to get the best out of himself and it is showing in his form, with coach Paul Green showing faith in him and having him play 80 minutes every week so far.
13. Corey Parker – The man, the legend, the GOD. He returned this week and put on a vintage display we all expected to see from Corey Parker for some time. If he was not offloading, he was scoring tries. If he was not tackling like a man possessed, he was hitting the line up with vigour and confidence. If he was not setting tries up, he was doing what he does best – playing well and scoring Supercoach points to please the masses. GOD is back and you better believe it.
14. Trent Merrin – His recent plight at the Dragons has been well documented and it has left a bitter taste in the mouth of Dragons’ fans. Despite that and despite the nature in which the situation went down, Trent Merrin has shown that he is willing to work hard and play hard as long as he is in Dragons colours. The criticism from fans has come left, right and centre but Merrin is good enough to overcome that and do what is important – and that is, to play footy.
15. Tohu Harris – Sometimes you watch a player and just know that they are going to be an immediate success in the game and for a lot of Storm fans, that player was Tohu Harris. In his first full year as an NRL starter, Harris has done nothing but impress and this past week in particular was truly remarkable. He scored two tries and showed the Storm fans and the entire NRL why he is the player that has taken over the role of the 80-minute back-rower since the departure of Hoffman. Scary thing is, he will only get better.
16. Tim Lafai – With all the recent talk at the Bulldogs about the Morris brothers and their desire to play alongside each other once more, the efforts of a player like Tim Lafai might have gone unnoticed. A quality finisher and a brilliant hole-runner, Lafai has had a solid start to the season at centre and has finally managed to hold down the spot moving forward. His link-up play has always been tremendous and his ability is never in question.
17. Sio Siua Taukeiaho – Every club wants raw power off the bench and gee whiz, did Taukeiaho provid that last night. He runs with venom in every carry, like his life depends on making as many metres as possible. He ran hard, fast, and caused all sorts of problems for the Penrith defence. With runs like that, it is no wonder as to why Roosters fans are starting to warm to him as a player. He too will only get better and improve as he gets more experience.
Player of the Week: Corey Parker.