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.

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