Former Warrior forced to hang up the boots

Lance Hohaia

Not being able to go out on your own terms in rugby league can be tough on some players but sometimes, it is necessary to avoid further injury.

So for former New Zealand Warrior Lance Hohaia – who recently played with Super League side St Helens – he had no other choice.

In his case, it is the recurring effects of concussion and Hohaia has sought the opinion of professional medical staff to determine the damage and where he stands in life.

Hohaia wants to understand the nature of it all and the intricacies involved but was grateful to both the Warriors and St Helens for providing him with opportunity and playing time.

“I am currently seeking expert medical advice to understand any potential effects to my long-term health.

“However, in the meantime I would like to say that I am extremely grateful for the career I have had and the opportunity to play for my country and such prestigious clubs as St Helens and the New Zealand Warriors.

“I would also like to sincerely thank all those who have supported me throughout my career and during this difficult time”.

His current club St Helens commented on the matter and released the following statement:

ST.HELENS announce that Lance Hohaia has informed us of his retirement from rugby league and will therefore not play for the Club again.

Lance has been a valued and integral member of the squad for the last three-and-a-half years and we thank him for his service.

We wish him and his family well in their life after rugby league with St Helens.

St Helens will make no further comment on this matter.

Tipping Point’s View: Representative Round Tipping

No NRL club games this week but still a chance to tip in some competitions, with the representative round of fixtures on this weekend. Some potentially entertaining clashes and some players with something to prove, so the fans should be in for a treat. Here are the tips for this weekend from the Tipping guru, Tipping Point.

Round eight of the NRL was another tipping nightmare, with six underdogs getting up, including a win for the bottom-ranked Sea Eagles, and two points for the injury-ravaged Panthers. The Dragons also got up, claiming their sixth-straight win for the season – amazingly, they were rank outsiders in the betting despite coming up against a Roosters side short on form and wins. They just keep on winning. The Bunnies also lost their third-straight game, this time at the hands of the improving Raiders who claimed their fourth away win this season – which equals their total away wins in 2014. With no NRL games it’s a chance to look back over the opening two months of the competition, and I have to say it’s been tough going: overall, 33 of the 64 fixtures to date have been won by the underdog, which is just crazy. The unusual results will continue as we enter the rep season, where the better teams are usually decimated by player-drain which gives some of the lesser sides a chance to make inroads on the ladder. In short, things aren’t going to get any easier anytime soon.

I’ve included my selections for the four international fixtures this weekend as some tipping comps require these selections. In my opinion, the more games to tip the merrier!

Season: 35/64 (55%) – Last week: 3/8 – Stand-outs: 3/8

At a glance: Australia, Fiji, Samoa, City

Stand-out: Australia

Australia v New Zealand, Suncorp Stadium

This ought to be an absolute belter. The Kiwis are reigning Four Nations champions and will be desperate to make it three straight wins over the Kangaroos. The Kangaroos will be equally motivated after a fairly uninspiring Four Nations campaign last year. They’ll be boosted by the return of some key personnel including Thurston and Matt Scott who missed last year’s tournament and overall their squad looks a lot more solid. The Kangaroos have a phenomenal record in mid-season test matches having won 15 straight: they’ll get the job done but the Kiwis, as always, will make a good game of it.

Tip: Australia

Fiji v Papua New Guinea, Cbus Super Stadium

The remaining three games are all tough to call, especially in matches which are as free-flowing, unpredictable and entertaining as those contested by the Pacific nations. Overall I’m basing my tip in this game on the fact that Fiji have a number of NRL players in their squad and have a slightly better international record, having made the semi-finals in consecutive World Cups. PNG shouldn’t be underestimated, and shouldn’t be as wide in betting given the fact so many of their players regularly play in the Queensland Cup for the PNG Hunters side. Fiji should get home, though.

Tip: Fiji

Samoa v Tonga, Cbus Super Stadium

This grudge-match will be an absolute humdinger, and I’m really looking forward to it. Samoa really were the surprise packets of last year’s Four Nations and came within a whisker of knocking off both England and eventual champions New Zealand. Looking at the two squads there is plenty of NRL experience and talent in both sides through the likes of Hurrell, Kata and Sika Manu for Tonga and Ah Mau, Leilua and Pat Mata’utia for Samoa. Based purely on their thrilling performances in last year’s four nations, I think you have to take Samoa here but it really could go either way.

Tip: Samoa

City v Country, Wagga Wagga

I dread this tip each year because it is the ultimate coin flip: two squads are brought together with limited preparation and few opportunities to develop meaningful combinations beyond what exists at club level. The result: anyone’s guess. Looking at the two line-ups I actually lean to City on the back of their superior forward pack (Fifita and Klemmer will be primed for big games after serving suspensions) and super-slick backline (Moylan, Tedesco and Roberts is almost too much excitement for one team). They’re probably due for a win too, having only won one of the last five fixtures. But it’s a coin toss – let’s just hope for some luck.

Tip: City

Follow Tipping Point on Twitter: @tpoint1908

Titans rookie rejects overtures and re-signs with the club

Kane Elgey

For a long while, it looked like the Manly Sea Eagles would be a new home for Kane Elgey. Though that has changed, with the youngster agreeing to remain with the Gold Coast Titans for a further two seasons.

With just five first-grade games to his name so far, Elgey has shown that he has the ability and effort to cut it in the top-grade. A local junior of the Gold Coast system, Elgey was hands down the best half in the Holden Cup competition in 2014 and now has a chance to extend that to first-grade.

Although the lure of Manly was strong especially given the chance to work under a former great half like Andrew Johns, home is where the heart is and that rings true for Elgey.

“In the end I wanted to stay on the Gold Coast with my family and friends around me and with my teammates and coaching staff I have a lot of respect for, even though it was a very tempting opportunity presented by Manly,” Elgey said.

“Definitely the chance to play under probably the greatest halfback of all time in Andrew Johns, who is assistant coach at Manly, was a big consideration in developing my game.

“But I’m happy here and Neil Henry gave me my opportunity in the NRL and is a great coach and I’m just relieved I have made the decision and can now get on with my football.”

Grateful for all they have done for him and for the way the club developed him through the ranks, he felt he owed it to them to stay. He also looks forward to playing alongside Daly Cherry-Evans.

“And I’m excited to hopefully be able to play with Daly Cherry Evans too,” said Elgey.

“I’m really proud that I’m a local junior who has come through the Titans ranks and a lot of people have supported me here. I want to repay them and be part of a successful side on Gold Coast.”

The Tugun Seahawks local represented the Australian Schoolboys side and for the club themeselves, retaining a core player like Elgey does wonders both on and off the field.

“We are absolutely delighted Kane has decided to commit not only to the Titans but also the local community where he has learned his football,” said Gold Coast Titans CEO, Graham Annesley.

“Hopefully it will inspire a whole new generation of local talent hoping to follow in his footsteps.”

Manly re-sign junior trio

Jake Trbojevic

With a vast talent pool to choose from across the Manly and Northern Beaches area, the Manly Sea Eagles have produced some talents over the years.

With that pool, comes the ability to blood players and give them opportunity and for young Manly trio Clinton Gutherson, Tom Trbojevic and Jake Trbojevic, that convinced them to stay among other factors. The trio have re-signed until the end of 2017.

Jake and Tom, both brothers, are Mona Vale Raiders juniors and for both of them, Manly is the club they know and love.

“Manly are a great Club and I’m extremely proud to be playing my footy here over the next few seasons,” Jake said.

“Tom and I have grown up in Mona Vale, knowing nothing else than Manly being one of the best teams in the NRL. It’s a privilege to play for our local Club.”

Having made his debut earlier this year and excelling from the get-go, Tom is also excited about what lies ahead.

“I recently got a taste of what to expect as a NRL player and it was just as exhilarating as Jake had told me,” 18-year old Tom added.

“The opportunity to play alongside my brother in the maroon and white was something I just couldn’t turn down.”

Tom Trbojevic

Although Gutherson is currently injured after damaging his ACL earlier this year, the new deal will push him and motivate him to earn a spot in 2016.

“It’s a great feeling to have recommitted. I’d like to thank the Club for giving me the opportunity to continue my career for the team I have always supported,” Gutherson said.

“My immediate focus is recovering from my knee injury as quickly as possible, so that I can get back on the field and repay the faith the Club has shown in me,” he added.

Knowing the importance of retaining strong local talent, Manly CEO Joe Kelly is pleased to have retained the trio.

“A key part of our strategy is to recruit and retain local talent. Clinton, Jake and Tom are all exciting, home-grown juniors with bright futures and we’re delighted that they’re committed to the Sea Eagles,” Kelly said.

“I’m excited that the Sea Eagles Members, supporters and local community will have the opportunity to watch this trio in their backyard of Brookvale Oval,” added Kelly.

Having seen all three come through the ranks and emerge as future stars, Manly coach Geoff Toovey is pleased to see them re-sign, following on from the re-signings of other juniors in the past.

“We’ve had a number of great local juniors represent this Club over the years and it’s refreshing to see another three coming through now,” Toovey said.

“They are all fantastic young athletes, who have already had a taste of NRL and have proven that they are ready to embark on lengthy careers at the Club.

Now that their immediate future is sorted, they can continue their learning on the job.”

Clinton Gutherson

VB NSW Cup Wrap-Up Rd 8

A topsy-turvy round of NSW Cup this week. A streak was broken, some stars were born, some players continued their solid try-scoring form and some teams still crave overall consistency.

Just who won and starred, you will soon find out. Here is the wrap-up of Rd 8 of the VB NSW Cup:

NZ Warriors 44 (K Maumalo 2, P Ulberg 2, K Hurrell, A Pewhairangi, S Matagi, S Havili, D Bhana tries; Pewhairangi 4 goals) bt Newtown Jets 18 (M Brown, S Sauiluma, P Politoni tries; T Murphy 3 goals).
Ricky’s View: The Warriors came to play and ran away with the game in the end. Very little troubled them as they overpowered the Jets side. It was the experienced half in Api Pewhairangi that led the side in attack and the win consolidates the Warriors spot in the top eight.

Illawarra Cutters 22 (K Glymin 2, S Moceidreke, S Crook tries: Crook 3 goals) bt Wyong Roos 14 (B Molan, A Papalii tries; Nathan Stapleton 3 goals).
Ricky’s View: Just two weeks ago, the Cutters lost to the Roos. This week, fortunes were reversed. The game was a tense affair right up to the final minutes, before a late Cutters try cemented the win. Yet again, Yaw Kiti Glymin showed his worth with two tries and some great touches.

Penrith Panthers 16 (R Jennings, T Eisenhuth, B Attwood tries; L Latu 2 goals) bt Mounties 10 (M Barnett, B Tupou tries; M Cornish goal).
Ricky’s View: It was wet, it was wild, but the players got stuck in. Another tense affair in what was some shocking weather, with a late penalty goal sealing the win. It ends Mounties undefeated run to start the season.

Manly Sea Eagles 38 (B Leary 2, D Reardon, T Satini, D Kelly, M Chee Kam tries; K Aldridge 7 goals) bt North Sydney Bears 22 (S Manuleleua 2, J Olive, D Nicholls tries; Nicholls 3 goals).
Ricky’s View: It was two wins on the trot for Manly, and a much-needed confidence boost. The second half is where the bulk of the action occurred, as Manly’s big guns stepped up when it mattered most. The young brigade also chimed in, as Manly build some well-earned momentum.

Wests Tigers 29 (K Rowe 2, K Lulia, N Milone, J Drinkwater tries; Drinkwater 4 goals; Drinkwater field goal) bt Wentworthville Magpies 28 (R Morgan, V Toutai, F Goodall, S Gorman T Moeroa tries; L Kelly 4 goals).
Ricyk’s View: The match was Wentworthville’s to win and there for the taking but at the final hurdle, they faltered. Leading comfortably at one point, they let the Tigers back in the game and ultimately, it saw them win the game. The Tigers resolve and resilience to get back into the contest led to a game-winning field goal for Josh Drinkwater. The Magpies languish near the bottom of the ladder.

Newcastle Knights 20 (P Mata’utia 2, C Mata’utia, H Tuha tries; D Kerr 2 goals) bt Canterbury Bulldogs 12 (J Loko, V Rennie tries; L Dodd, D Chisholm goals).
Ricky’s View: A very tense, bitter affair among the players for some periods of the game. In some rather damp, rain-affected conditions, the Knights made better use of the ball and came away with the win.

Cowboys bounce back from injuries to defeat Knights

Scott Bolton

Their start was not the best and it was extenuated by the loss of both Jake Granville and Jason Taumalolo but the North Queensland Cowboys bounced back and won the game.

It was a tense affair in the end with the Cowboys only just holding on, to continue their good run of form over the last few weeks.

Taumalolo’s injury is the biggest concern, with the hulking back-rower expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a medial ligament strain.

For periods, the game went back and forth, and it was the class of the Cowboys that eventually got them over the line when it mattered.

The loss continues the Knights recent run of losses, in which they have been unable to continue their good start to the season over the first four rounds.

There were plenty of chances for the Knights to win the game and late on, an opportunity presented itself before the ball was lost on the Knights behalf.

With 15 men and players forced to play longer minutes, the Cowboys somehow managed to hold on for a victory.

Usually a reliable player, there were some errors in Kurt Gidley’s game throughout the year and he has never been as disappointed in a personal game of his than today.

“I love playing team sport and I love the club but it’s one that I won’t forget for all the wrong reasons. It’s a hard one because I made multiple errors,” Gidley said post-game.

“Especially being a captain and being a leader I pride myself on leading the way, but the harder I tried the worse it got for me.

“It’s a tough one to sit in the sheds after the game and not being able to look your teammates in the eye but I can move on reasonably quick after a couple of days and I’ll look to the next game to win back my teammates respect.”

With ANZAC Day all about resiliency, courage and determination, Cowboys coach Paul Green felt that his players showed all those traits.

“It’s fitting considering the day it is, given it is Anzac Day, I thought the courage and toughness and resilience we showed was just outstanding. It was a massive effort from some of the boys there,” Green said.

“Ray Thompson came into the team, hasn’t played NRL this year and played 70-odd minutes in the middle. Scott Bolton nearly played the first half without a break so losing those guys just changes everything around and it was just a courageous effort from all of our blokes.”

Player of the Game:

3. Scott Bolton
2. Korbin Sims
1. Ray Thompson

North Queensland Cowboys 26 (Justin O’Neill 2, Scott Bolton, Lachlan Coote, Michael Morgan Tries; Johnathan Thurston 3 Goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 24 (Chris Houston, Akuila Uate, Joey Leilua, Sione Mata’utia Tries; Tyrone Roberts 4 Goals) Crowd: 15,518. Halftime: 16-6.

Titans momentum continues after thrilling win over Warriors

Kane Elgey

The Gold Coast Titans strong away record has continued, after they recorded a narrow 32-28 win over the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.

Revolutionised under Neil Henry, the Titans style of play is attractive to watch and their attacking nous was on show throughout the game.

Although they did not lead in the game until the second half, it was an exciting game to watch from both teams’ perspectives.

The Titans attacking run came on the back of Warriors back-rower Ryan Hoffman being forced off the field due to concussion and from there, the Warriors downward spiral began.

With both sides guilty of making far too many errors in games past, the points were on offer in this clash and the teams made the most of the opportunity.

The man who stepped up when it mattered was an unlikely source. Titans young gun Kane Elgey, who played perhaps the best game of his short NRL career.

Elgey was involved in everything and had the ball on a string at times, for if he was not scoring them, he was setting them up and creating opportunity at will.

It has Titans fans salivating at the possibility of retaining him and having him play alongside Daly Cherry-Evans in 2016.

For the Warriors, despite their late resurgence, there were some disappointing patches from their end. In a game at home, they should have been expected to win but the little things are what let them down in the end.

There was nothing but praise from Henry for his side’s performances, with the players receiving plaudits from him.

“It was a bit nervous at the back end when they got some quick tries, and the boys had to hang on. I think we started the second half well, we were a bit loose defensively in the first half and probably underestimated the wind advantage too,” Henry said.

“It was a pretty brave performance, there were parts of the second half where we defended our line really well.

“We sort of kicked away but they are not a side you can allow to have the ball.”

With three right centres picked by the Warriors already this season, coach Andrew McFaden admitted they are no closer to finding the right long-term option.

“Good and bad, it’s another combination and we threw him out there very hopefully,” McFadden said of Fusitu’a’s performance.

Player of the Game:

3. Kane Elgey
2. Ryan James
1. Kierran Moseley

Titans 32 (Elgey 2, Don, Moseley, Roberts, James tries; Sezer x4 goals) def. Warriors 26 (Fusitu’a, Matulino, Wright, Kata, Thompson tries; Johnson 4 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Crowd: 15,102.

Young Bulldogs prop stood down after mid-range drink driving offence

Herman Ese'ese

Promising Canterbury Bulldogs forward Herman Ese’ese made his NRL debut just last week. It was meant to be a time of joy and jubilation.

Fast forward to this week and instead, he finds himself in trouble, being stood down by the club after being charged with a mid-range drink driving offence.

It is a blow for both Ese’ese and the Dogs club, especially with a game just around the corner in Rd 8.

The Bulldogs released the following statement on the matter:

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs rookie Herman Ese’ese has been stood down until further notice by the club after being charged with mid-range drink driving today.

Ese’ese has today appeared in court and been fined $1000 and also suspended from driving for nine months.

The Bulldogs are working with the NRL Integrity Unit in regards to the matter.

The club will offer further comment once all investigations are complete.

Tipping Point’s View: Rd 8 Tips

Tipping in the NRL has never been harder and with so many upsets, tough decisions to make and inconsistent teams, finding the right balance is hard. Do not fear, our tipping guru Tipping Point is here to help. Here are his tips and analysis for Rd 8 of the NRL.

The Dragons have won five straight, Manly are favourites to claim the wooden spoon, the Bunnies and the Roosters are on losing streaks, the Raiders and the Eels are winning on the road, the Titans and the Sharks are winning at home: what is happening in the world of rugby league, people! Everything is going a bit haywire at the moment and that’s reflected in the tipping – especially mine. Last week was an absolute disaster – the less said about it the better! I’m keen to get back on track and with a few tasty 50/50s this round it shapes as weekend of massive ladder-climbing potential. It’s important to note that this is the last week before the representative weekend which means teams will be busting their guts to get the two points before having a week off. There’s also no Monday night fixture which means the round concludes on Sunday afternoon.

Season: 32/56 (57%) – Last week: 2/8 – Stand-outs: 3/7

At a glance: Tigers, Warriors, Cowboys, Roosters, Storm, Broncos, Sharks, Souths

Stand-out: Storm

Bulldogs v Tigers, ANZ Stadium

I really like the Tigers here, even though they let in 30 unanswered points against the Raiders last w. The Dogs meanwhile returned to the winner’s circle last week but I don’t think you can read too much into it: despite overpowering a dreadful Manly outfit they’re still missing plenty of stars (Josh Morris has also been ruled out) and their halves are in very dicey form. I think the Tigers will be primed for a massive game. Besides coming off a shock loss, they’ll be desperate to avenge their golden-point defeat to the Dogs back in round four. It’ll be a wet night which favours the Dogs, but the Tigers will be too slick.

Tip: Tigers

Warriors v Titans, Mt Smart Stadium

Our Anzac Day football feast kicks off in New Zealand with the Warriors taking on the improving Titans in a match between two of the most untrustworthy sides in the NRL. This is a really close call and the Titans are playing decent footy – but you just have to take the Warriors. They’ve won eight straight over the Titans and they’re pretty solid (well, as solid as they ever are) at home – they ought to get the chocolates, especially after a narrow loss to the Cowboys which should leave them fired up for a good performance.

Tip: Warriors

Knights v Cowboys, Hunter Stadium

A repeat of the round two fixture and haven’t things changed immeasurably since then? The Cowboys are just about premiership favourites with four straight wins whereas the Knights are in freefall, losing their past three including home matches against the Dragons and Eels. The Cowboys are noted poor travellers and have a bad record in Newcastle, but they are the form team in the comp and should be too good. I’ll be watching with interest to see if Beau Scott returns to the Knights squad to again ruffle JT’s feathers: I doubt Thurston’s forward pack will let him get one over their leader a second time this year.

Tip: Cowboys

Roosters v Dragons, Allianz Stadium

The Roosters have lost three in a row and I’ve backed them every week – and will again this week. They’re too good a side and the wins are going to come eventually. They were unlucky against the Storm and unlucky against the Broncos – but that will turn around. The Dragons on the other hand have strung together five wins which is an achievement, but in truth the opposition has been a mixed bag, accounting for Manly, a depleted Broncos and Bulldogs as well as the Raiders and the Knights. The Roosters will be their biggest test to date, and I predict the tri-colours will unleash some pain in this match and make it six straight wins over the Red V.

Tip: Roosters

Storm v Sea Eagles, AAMI Park

Manly are playing like deadset busteds at the moment, and I give them next-to-no chance against an ultra-clinical Storm outfit who have snuck under the radar this year to find themselves in first place. Even with Cronk in doubt, the Storm will get the job done – I reckon we’ll see Billy Slater return and stake his claims for the Kangaroos #1 jersey he has made his own in recent years. As for Manly? Well, it’s a long, long road ahead: down on troops, down on morale and down on their luck.

Tip: Storm

Broncos v Eels, Suncorp Stadium

It’s a pretty straightforward tip: you just have to take the Broncos. They’re ultra-bankable at Suncorp with eight wins from their last ten matches and it takes a pretty good team to beat them at home – I don’t think the Eels have back-to-back away wins in them just yet. In saying that, Brisbane are definitely down a few troops and this will be close game – but the Broncos should get home.

Tip: Broncos.

Panthers v Sharks, Pepper Stadium

After three straight wins over decent opposition, are the Sharkies back? With an injury toll that may see Brandy Alexander recalled, are the Panthers done and dusted in 2015? I really feel for the Panthers: they were among the heavyweights in pre-season, but they seem to lose front-liners to long-term injuries every week; Kite and Mansour are the latest to join a pretty talented recovery ward (and there’s plenty of conjecture around Segeyaro’s availability this weekend). The Panthers always play above themselves, but they simply do not have the troops available to compete for 80 minutes against a Sharkies outfit starting to believe that better times could be ahead.

Tip: Sharks

Rabbitohs v Raiders, Barlow Park (Cairns)

Now I might be a bit biased, but I reckon the Raiders are the most underrated team in the comp. Besides a blow-out against the Roosters in round four, the Green Machine have been thereabouts in every match this year, and were unlucky to lose to the Dragons and the Storm at home. With their massive forward pack I give them plenty of hope against the Bunnies who look all at sea without Adam Reynolds and have lost three of their last four. I’d love to be one-eyed and tip the Raiders, but I think the Bunnies are due to come good and GI might just prove the difference in what should be a close game.

Tip: Souths

Follow Tipping Point on Twitter: @tpoint1908

Ricky’s View: The 10 best buys of the season

Blake Austin

Every team looks to strengthen their squad heading into a new season. Some players excel whilst others struggle to find their feet. This article will focus on the players that have made a successful transition into their new side and have cemented their spot within the team, and are currently excelling as a result.

There is no order or rank in terms of the selected players. The list will simply highlight the ten players that the writer believes have made the most successful transition into a new side.

So, without further adieu, here is the list of 10 players that have been the buys of the season:

1. Jake Granville (North Queensland Cowboys) – In search of greener pastures and a new opportunity after limited game time at the Brisbane Broncos, a rival QLD side came calling to sign Granville. That side, was the North Queensland Cowboys. His talents were always well known and there were signs and glimpses in his limited game time at the Broncos but he was always destined for bigger things. Biding his time on the Cowboys bench to begin the season, he slowly found his feet and form and earned a starting spot. In that time, he has offered spark, dynamism and a fluidity in attack to the Cowboys side, who have been crying out for a player to complement half Johnathan Thurston from the hooker role. They have now found their man and with the form he is, opposition teams better watch out.

2. Marika Koroibete (Melbourne Storm) – One of many Fijian flyers in the league, Koroibete was put on the scrapheap to some extent by the Wests Tigers before the Melbourne Storm pounced to sign him. Rarely do you see a player with such raw power and strength possessing speed and acceleration. Koroibete has all those attributes and when he runs towards you like a steam train at 100 kilometres an hour and with the gracefulness of a gazelle at the same time, it is a scary sight. His form has been so good that as it stands, he is a form winger of the competition. Very few teams have been able to stop him this season, as he continues to impress every week and get better all the time. Speedsters, look out. Marika is coming for you.

3. Blake Green (Melbourne Storm) – Green is no stranger to the NRL level having played for a few years before a stint in Super League but that time overseas has molded him into a better, more promising player. With the Storm crying out for a player to fill the void left by Gareth Widdop a couple of years ago, the form Green has shown has help propel the club into a promising position so far. His experience as a player and his relaxed approach complements the more direct style of halves partner Cooper Cronk, and the two have achieved a fine balance across the board when in attack and creating opportunities. His work and play have been a big reason behind the Storm’s success so far this season.

4. Blake Austin (Canberra Raiders) – A player goes to a team and often finds his true calling and that is the case for Blake Austin. After limited success at both the Penrith Panthers and the Wests Tigers, Austin has found a home to excel in – down in the nation’s capital of Canberra. He has been everywhere in attack for the Raiders in 2015 and has surprised a lot of people, none more so than the Raiders fans themselves. His form, creative play, awareness and running ability have impressed most, with all of the aforementioned traits leading to a surprising number of line-breaks. He has made the five-eighth position his own and linked up well with his team-mates in attack on the fringes, as well as a support player. If he and halves partner Sam Williams find their groove as a halves combination, their could be danger signs all-round.

5. Brad Takairangi (Parramatta Eels) – For some time, the Eels have been crying out for a centre that can provide spark and mobility in attack to create opportunity. Brad Takairangi is their man. Some fans were hesitant with his signing at first but their doubts have been quelled, with Takairangi forming a budding, fruitful partnership with Semi Radradra to start the year. His quick-step and ability to get outside his man and create spaces and opportunity for himself and his players has been a big reason behind his strong start to the year. Having played in the back-row when he started his career at the Sydney Roosters, it has made the transition into the centres easier for Takairangi and it is showing in his form as to how valuable that back-row experience was.

6. Michael Ennis (Cronulla Sharks) – Some had their doubts about whether Michael Ennis could make an impact at the Sharks but his experience, in-game dogged ability and determination to win, have laid the benchmark for a recent Sharks resurgence. Playing with more freedom since his move to the Sharks, his form has taken some of the load and pressure off the halves with his crafty play and work from dummy half both with ball in hand and without. Perhaps a surprise packet to make this list but a deserved one in every sense.

7. Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders) – Some English players often find it hard to come into the NRL and have success from the get-go. Two that spring to mind are the recently departed Sam Burgess and Bulldogs prop James Graham. In that category, you can now add one of the Raiders new additions for the 2015, Josh Hodgson. With the Raiders crying out for a hooker that can dictate the play and tempo, they have found their man. His form has been a revelation and a godsend, as he has seemingly handled the NRL with ease to date and played consistently for the first 7 rounds of the season. His spark and energy is what the Raiders fans have missed for a while and already, he is forming valuable combinations with the halves and forwards in particular. Quality, quality buy.

8. Jack Bird (Cronulla Sharks) – A player that came to the Sharks from the Dragons and with very big wraps on him. To the point where many were expecting him to start Rd 1 after a successful Auckland Nines tournament. Whilst that did not happen, first-grade would not elude Bird for long. And gee whiz, did he make a big impact from the get-go. Sparking the Sharks attack with his energy, commitment, versatility and youthful exuberance, his team-mates have followed suite and as a result, it has catapulted the Sharks towards several successive wins. Bird is a player that has a big future ahead of him, potentially at more than one position. With consistency and form, he could be playing for NSW in a few years time.

9. – Second chance saloon is something we see often in the NRL. Players that have been involved in off-field indiscretions and return some years later, seeking redemption, a chance to fit in and a chance to prove themselves. The story and subsequent journey back for Danny Wicks was well-documented and one team took a chance on him. The Parramatta Eels. A calculated risk has now paid off, with the hard work and individual training Wicks did on his own paying dividends. Cementing a spot in the Eels line-up, Wicks’ work-rate, effort and commitment off the bench is a testament to his desire to succeed in the top-grade again and he deserves credit for the way he has come back as a player and a person.

10. Iosia Soliola (Canberra Raiders) – Sometimes, stints are not as successful as players want them to be, so a move overseas is on the cards. Whilst overseas, a player develops, plies their trade, improves and becomes a quality player before returning to NRL. This is the boat that another Raiders recruit in Iosia Soliola found himself in. A better player upon his return to the NRL form the Super League, his form has not gone unnoticed as he has cemented a spot in the Raiders back-row and shored up their defensive nous and structure. His work on the field has helped to plug the holes in a Raiders side is still finding their feet and learning as they go, particularly with a very young core/spine overall. It is the little things that Soliola does that make him so important to the side.

Best buy overall: Blake Austin.