Another week has passed and yet another week of strong performances by numerous individuals. Some are unsung heroes of their sides whilst others are the everyday superstars. Regardless of which category they fall into, all the players here – for this week at least – deserve to be in a Team of the Week.
So, without further adieu, here is the team of the week for Rd 7:
1. Lachlan Coote – Knee injuries have been the Achilles heel for Coote throughout his career. He was close to debuting for the Cowboys before he injured his knee. In 2015, with a full pre-season behind him, he’s making the most of his chance. Playing at fullback for the Cowboys, Coote is chiming in brilliantly from the back as an additional half and his link-up play with the forwards and with Thurston is a joy to watch. Could be the missing puzzle piece for the Cowboys.
2. Josh Hoffman – Is he a fullback, a centre or a winger? Hoffman will tell you that he will play where he has to at the Titans but fans hold the belief that fullback or wing is where he belongs. After a steady run of wins for the Titans in recent weeks, Hoffman has been an unsung hero in the side, as he starts to form crucial partnerships with his new team-mates during attacking opportunities. He’ll only gel and mesh with his team-mates more as the season wears on.
3. Solomone Kata – At the start of the season, very few would have expected Kata to be picked in first-grade, let-alone cement a spot for so long. But the selection has been more than justified, as the talented Warriors winger shows that he has speed, power, strength and skill, as he scores tries and makes breaks for fun. To keep out some more experienced players in the back-line is a testament to Kata.
4. Dane Gagai – Some of the form from Gagai over the last 18 months has been phenomenal and it has continued into the 2015 season. One of the Knights key players, Gagai has excelled and it could be said that he is currently in the best form of his life. Playing like he is, a potential opportunity to play Origin for Queensland may not be too far away and although the last few weeks have been tough for the Knights, the form of the centre has only gotten better.
5. Jordan Rapana – A jack of all trades type player across the back-line, Rapana has seen good, consistent form rewarded. He might not be the name you expect to see on the Raiders team-sheet but he has been a consistent player this year and has played better than many thought. Currently on the wing, he plays with heart and commitment and has cemented his spot in the Raiders line-up for weeks to come.
6. Josh Reynolds – By his own standards and by that of fans, the season has been a slow, tough one for Reynolds. Bit of injury, bit of suspension, some poor form. That all changed the past week when he proved how good of a player he is and how he can spark an attack with heavy involvement in at least three of the Bulldogs tries. With uncertainty over the NSW halves, can he continue the form and retain his spot for this years series?
7. Kane Elgey – For any budding watcher of the Holden Cup competition, Kane Elgey would have been a player on the tip of your tongue for the last couple of years. He’s creative, skilful, nippy, has great awareness for his age and is mature beyond his years, and it is showing in first-grade every week. The young kid has shown what he is capable of and that is more than adept at playing alongside Titans recruit DCE come 2016. NRL, look out.
8. Mike Cooper – Some Englishman have more success in the NRL than others and one that has flown under the radar somewhat is Cooper. In and out of the team somewhat last year, he has cemented a spot in the Dragons starting front-row this year and he has certainly made the most of his chances. He runs hard, hits hard and is a committed player that puts his body on the line when he has to. His form has him highly rated by many Dragons fans.
9. Nathan Peats – Tenacious, dogged and determined. Those three words sum up the play and attitude of Nathan Peats. He is not a big man by any means but he will defend, attack and run until he cannot do so anymore. His resolve across the park and his willingness to put his body on the line are what helped him score two tries and set the platform in the ruck for the Eels win. He is a crucial cog in the Eels spine this season.
10. Felise Kaufusi – Not the first name you would expect to see in any team-list but after being a surprise inclusion on the bench in recent weeks, Kaufusi has taken the opportunity with open hands. A young, determined player, Kaufusi has shown that he has solid impact off the bench and that he can add some go-forward and spark as a result. For his efforts, he has two tries this season.
11. Sam Thaiday – Fans and the club were critical of Sam Thaiday when he started the season. Statements like, ‘he should go, drop him, he’s hopelessly out of form,’ but when named to start from the bench, it galvanised Thaiday and he has since enjoyed a tremendous run of form. The bench stint basically re-energised him, as he excels on every level now and has done for the past few weeks. His name will be one you expect to see come Origin time for Queensland.
12. Luke Lewis – Last year was tough on Lewis. He joined the Sharks with much fanfare but was continually injured and struggled to get back onto the field. This year, however, the veteran has enjoyed a prolonged stint in first-grade to date and he is leading from the front. Age is only a number and sometimes, you would think that Lewis plays like he is 25 with the way he hits the ball up and tackles. His experience is crucial for the Sharks this season.
13. Ryan Hinchcliffe – Perhaps one of the most versatile players in the NRL, Hinchcliffe is a player that does what is required of him and what is best for the team. So, when asked to start from the bench to accommodate the signing of Dale Finucane, Hinchcliffe obliged. And in doing so, it still has not affected his form with his unique play and partnerships with team-mates over the years shining strong on a weekly basis.
14. Reagan Campbell-Gillard – Coming through the ranks, RCG excelled. Now playing in first-grade, his impact is profound as the talented young forward shows that he will be a quality player moving forward with great runs, great impact and sheer heart. He is a player the Panthers and their fans have had wraps on for years and a player that is living up to the billing as a promising, local junior.
15. Jake Granville – Touted as one of the buys of the season, Granville joined the Cowboys after limited opportunity at the Broncos. Since starting as hooker in recent weeks for the Cowboys, Granville has added spark to their attack and he knows how to chime in when required as he muscled, weasled and raced his way across the line to score a rare hat-trick. Along with Coote, he could be the missing puzzle piece for the Cowboys this season.
16. Mitch Aubusson – Mr Fix-It. For some years at the Roosters, whenever there has been a plug to fill a gap to cover because of injury or suspension, Aubusson has been the man to fix it. And each time he has done so, he has excelled. With the firepower and star quality in the Roosters side, the consistent efforts of Aubusson often go unnoticed by some. Though when push comes to shove, he can play with the best of them.
17. Michael Ennis – Changing clubs can either take a player time to adjust or they can excel straight away. For Ennis, he has excelled. The last couple of weeks especially and on the back of some recent wins by the Sharks, Ennis has been a catalyst in attack and defence. His deft play and astute kicking out of dummy half has set the platform and his work to link-up the play in attack is providing numerous quality attacking raids.
Player of the Week: Jake Granville.