Another day, another supposed ‘crisis’ in the Shire as much maligned CEO Steve Noyce was yesterday removed from his position at the club in what the Sharks are referring to as a ‘restructure’.
As it stands the Sharks currently don’t have a coach, a captain, or a CEO, through a variety of reasons. The media couldn’t slap the “Sharks In Turmoil” tag on the club quickly enough.
I for one don’t believe the Sharks are in turmoil.
The Sharks, who have had two incredibly tough seasons both on and off the field, may have been in turmoil since the ‘darkest day in sport’ press conference, but with players ready to return from suspensions and with coach Shane Flanagan about a week away from returning, one could argue the light at the end of the tunnel is finally shining.
There is absolutely no doubt that drastic measures had to be taken, and I applaud the Sharks board for doing their research, deciding on a restructure, and taking action.
For too long, fans of the Sharks have been promised new dawns, only for those news dawns to become false dawns.
The election of a new board was supposed to bring success both commercially and on field, but unfortunately they have had to spend more time dealing with negative headlines than moving forward thanks to the Asada issue.
Let’s make it clear right now, although the likelihood of civil action threatens to drag the Asada saga into a third year, the majority of the damage has been done.
Players are currently serving their suspensions and will return with a clean slate.
Last season the Sharks collected the dreaded wooden spoon. To come last, by so far, in a salary cap based competition, is quite frankly unacceptable.
Something needed to change, and it looks like that is exactly what is about to be implemented … much needed change.
I have been an open critic of the Sharks last season, to support a team for life only to see them fade away they did, quite frankly hurts, but I’ve made a vow to focus on the positives going forward.
Amongst the doom and gloom of 2014 were some good signs:
- The brightest young talent to feature at the club in many years in Valentine Holmes debuted in the top grade, showed signs of incredible potential, and was re-signed to a long-term contract.
- Jacob Gagan and Nu Brown also made their top grade debuts and performed admirably. Gagan and Holmes may form a deadly combination out wide outside the aforementioned Brown.
- The club signed the Dragons most promising Holden Cup player in Junior Kangaroo Jack Bird. The potential this youngster has is downright scary.
- Top try scorer Sosaia Feki has continued to improve, also signing a new deal at the club.
-Former Origin fullback Michael Gordon played his best football in many years, possibly in his career.
- The club managed to re-sign in demand prop Andrew Fifita.
The Sharks missed out on some serious talent in the player market, but have also secured some talent. Local junior Mitch Brown returns to the club a better player than he left, whilst former NSW hooker Michael Ennis should add some much needed experience to help aid a young backline develop.
The biggest plus however, is the fact that not once last season did the Sharks field their strongest possible line up.
Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Andrew Fifita, arguably three of the best players at the club, were unable to feature consistently due to injury and suspension.
Yes, the Sharks have not had a brilliant two seasons, but moving forward, the club is moving in a brighter position.
Currently linked with superstar Ben Barba, it looks as though the club has made its ambitions clear.
With memberships set to go on sale early next month, I hope we see youngsters Gagan, Holmes and Brown front and centre of any membership brochures beside established stars Gallen and Graham.
We all know that the Sharks are yet to win a premiership. We all know the club ‘won’ the wooden spoon last season. We all know that mistakes have been made.
It’s now time to look to the future.
With a bunch of new recruits on hand, and work to be done yet during the off-season, the side should be much stronger in 2015.
Michael Ennis is the 80 minute hooker the Sharks have been looking for going on a few seasons now.
Valentine Holmes, Jacob Gagan, Nu Brown and Jack Bird are genuine prospects, the likes the Sharks haven’t had in many years.
Sharks in turmoil just as a CEO was made redundant due to a restructure? As long suffering Sharks fans will tell you … this is nothin’!
The light at the end of the tunnel may be another season, two seasons, or five seasons away, but the fact is, there is light.
Other Stories Of Interest
With 2014 done and dusted, although the party remains in full swing in Redfern, attention has turned to 2015 and beyond.
Each and every side has dipped into the transfer market, some far more so than others of course. Teams such as the Sharks, Titans and Tigers have recruited in decent numbers, reflecting their need to overhaul their rosters to achieve success.
We have decided to take a look at what we consider to be the 10 biggest transfers heading from 2014 into 2015.
To clarify, the below isn’t just down to who are the best players being transferred, but more so the importance of each transfer for the future club’s needs etc.
For the purpose of this we haven’t considered rumoured transfers that the media have ‘confirmed’ are happening, we are only going off what is officially confirmed by each side.
Please let us know if you agree, as per usual we love the feedback. If possible, please click ‘like’ on the facebook page to keep up to date with any future features.
10. Matt Allwood (Raiders to Warriors)
Matt Allwood is not the biggest name amongst the offseason player movements, having played only a handful of first grade games in the nation’s capital, but he signing is a big one for the Warrior. Having lost Kevin Locke and with Dane Nielsen seemingly forgotten, the Warriors have an unsettled position available out wide.
Their Holden Cup side again enjoyed great success, and there are no shortage of options out wide, however the Warriors laid their cards on the table when they recruited the talented Canberra youngster. Allwood showed great promise during his time in Green and very well could be the man to partner Konrad Hurrell next season.
9. Blake Green (Wigan Warriors to Storm)
Blake Green went from fringe NRL first grader to a premiership winning half in Super League in a short space of time. Although there is no comparison quality wise between the competitions, enjoying success can do wonders to a player’s career.
Green is coming home to play in the number six at the Storm after the Melbourners struggled in their attempts to partner Cooper Cronk this season. Ben Hampton has been re-signed and looks like Green’s biggest challenger but Green should get the nod. If he fires as he does for Wigan, the Storm will be far improved for it. If he fails, it could mean the number six jersey is passed around for yet another season.
8. Jack Bird (Dragons to Sharks)
This may be a little left-field considering Bird is yet to play first grade, however the wraps on the youngster are huge. Having played representative football during his junior career, Bird has been recruited to join the youth movement at the Sharks. A young back rower who will likely play centre if he plays first grade early in the season, Bird has all the tools to become a star.
Dragons fans have taken to social media to express their frustrations over allowing Bird to move to their local rivals, which is probably the best sign of a players ability. A backline consisting of young Holmes and Bird, both Junior Kangaroos in the upcoming test against the Junior Kiwis, has an exciting feel about it for those in the Shire.
7. Michael Lichaa (Sharks to Bulldogs)
The Bulldogs have arguably taken the biggest recruitment punt of all sides in allowing former NSW number nine Michael Ennis leave in order to sign an unproven, although talented, youngster. Lichaa has long been seen by Sharks fans as a player of great potential, and at times looked the goods in a struggling side in 2014.
He has been given a fairly large multi-year contract and will be expected to fit straight in come round one next season. It is a huge gamble, but there is no doubt that Lichaa has plenty of ability. Whether he can lift to the level of Michael Ennis in 2015 is a big question, and one plenty have had their say on. Could be a master stroke, could be a huge failure, but we probably won’t know for at least another 12 months.
6. Ben Hannant (Broncos to Cowboys)
This is a move that has somewhat gone under the radar. The former Origin and international prop struggled to hold down a first grade spot in 2014 for the Broncos, however his move to the Cowboys could restart his career. His addition to the squad will form a fearsome prop rotation with Kangaroo props Scott and Tamou.
A one year deal that has reportedly not broken the bank, this is a low risk, high reward move for the northern Queenslanders. As fan of the big man, I hope the move is a successful one for Hannant also. Once rated amongst the elite front rowers of the game, he is far too talented to be jumping in and out of the top grade. Big signing … literally.
5. Glenn Stewart (Sea Eagles to Rabbitohs)
Possibly the biggest name signing of the lot, as on his day, there are few more damaging out wide than Glenn Stewart. The only question is, what type of Glenn Stewart are the Rabbits getting? The Stewart who is capable of changing a game with brilliant skill, or the injury affected Glenn Stewart who spends more time in the headlines for gossip rather than footy?
The Bunnies have lost a genuine superstar in Sam Burgess, but in Stewart, they have gone a long way to replacing him. If you thought the Bunnies centres were dangerous now, wait until the man who has formed the best back-row/centre combo in the game with Jamie Lyon comes on board.
4. Ryan Hoffman (Storm to Warriors)
This was something that caught me a little off guard as I genuinely thought it was a formality that Hoffman would re-sign for the Storm. A huge pick up for the Warriors who really could have used another experienced head this season. Hoffman has done it all, and is still firing on all cylinders despite just turning 30.
Will join Simon Mannering to form a fearsome Warriors back row in 2015. His addition to the side suddenly makes his outside men all the more dangerous, and when you’re potentially talking about players such as Hurrell, that could be scary. Disaster aside, I can’t see how this signing doesn’t prove to be a big success.
3. Michael Ennis (Bulldogs to Sharks)
The addition of former Blue Michael Ennis should finally put an end to the Sharks ridiculous shared hooking duties of recent years. Having lost Morris, De Gois and Lichaa, the Sharks needed to land an experienced number nine to help guide their young backline around, and in Ennis, they achieved just that.
The Sharks problems in 2014 are well documented, but in 2015 there is a sense of a clean slate, and Ennis will be key in achieving any level of success. Will make plenty of tackles and provide an experienced head, and most importantly will pass on his knowledge of the role to Shark young gun Brad Dietz, who at the end of Ennis’s two-year contract should be a long way to being ready to take over long term.
2. Tariq Sims (Cowboys to Knights)
The Knights needed a signing in the mould of Tariq Sims in the world possible way after a horror 2014 season. In aging forward pack was in need of youth and aggression and in the young Origin hopeful they have found both in spades. Sims, whose development was stunted by a horrible run with injuries, may finally realise his potential in the Hunter.
The 24 year-old can play anywhere in the forward pack and will be looked upon to make a big impact early in 2015. Big, fast, and talented with ball in hand, Sims has the potential to become anything. This is one I will be watching closely as Sims provides great entertainment whether with, or without the ball. Newcastle should win big here.
1. Anthony Milford (Raiders to Broncos)
Milford has shown signs that he may become the next superstar in our game. The Raiders made every effort possible to keep their talented number one, however the Broncos ultimately won out, and should reap the benefits for the next decade. Milford is on the cusp of Maroon selection and would be considered almost a certainty if not for the presence of the likes of Slater and Inglis.
Earmarked to a move into the halves to solve the Broncos woes in the number six jersey, Milford is the most important signing of any thus far for 2015. If he fires, he and Hunt could fire the Broncos deep into the finals. If he doesn’t live up to expectations, the Broncos have a lot of money invested in him, and have lost Josh Hoffman to accommodate the freakishly talented 20 year old. Under Bennett, Milford could quickly go from the ‘next big thing’ to genuine superstar.
Other Stories Of Interest
In the wake of his brilliant 2014, and starring performance in last Sunday’s Grand Final win for South Sydney, Luke Keary looks as though he has again become the subject of an interstate tug of war for his services.
Last season the decision was made that Luke Keary was eligible only to play for the NSW State Of Origin side, despite his request to be made eligible for QLD.
Keary, who was born in Ipswich, which is genuinely in QLD despite jokes from South of the board, played his first junior game of footy in NSW, after moving to the blue state at 10 years of age.
The rules are ridiculously complicated and near impossible to put into words. The below image is taken from the nrl website and explains, as best it can, where a player is eligible to play.
Under the rules, Keary must represent NSW, having moved as mentioned when he was 10 years of age. He played the majority of his league in NSW. He attended the majority of his schooling life in NSW.
Is the fact he played most of his junior league in NSW enough to overturn the fact he was born and raised in QLD?
As someone on social media mentioned earlier “this is State of Origin, not state of selection”. As per the rules Keary must either play for NSW or miss out on Origin selection.
The Player’s Association have come out and thrown their support behind the Rabbitohs youngster, saying they will fight for his right to represent QLD.
As someone who was born and has lived in NSW my entire life, bar three months, I cannot begin to understand Keary’s thought process.
He was born in QLD and spent the first 10 years of his life in the State, and has made it very clear he wants to represent the state of his birth.
This is obviously not a decision made to simply enhance his chances of playing rep footy next year. With Thurston, Cronk, Cherry Evans and Hunt in front of him in the pecking order, it’s highly unlikely he will feature in the next few years.
If he were to accept his eligibility for NSW, he would be in the reckoning next season as NSW, despite victory, still do not look settled on their halves pairing at State level.
There are a few trains of thought on this issue:
1)He is eligible for NSW and must either play for them or forget Origin
2)He should be allowed to play for QLD after being born there and openly stating his intentions to play for QLD.
3)Some NSW fans don’t want him anywhere near the side. If he doesn’t want to play for them, he shouldn’t be considered.
4)If they were to change the rules for Keary, they’d have to bend them for anyone else in a similar situation. What would be the point of having the criteria in the first place?
The new rules were put in place to avoid a Greg Inglis like situation. Inglis who was born and played his first footy in NSW, was able to represent QLD on the basis he played his first under 18’s game in QLD.
There have been multiple examples of players representing either State through loopholes, whether it be Tony Carroll and Adrian Lamb playing for QLD, or James Tamou or even the great Peter Stirling playing for NSW.
Under the current rules, which cover everyone across the game, Keary is eligible only for NSW and cannot play for QLD. Rules are rules and if they were able to be bent, they’d be pointless in existence.
Keary must represent NSW.
As someone who was born and raised in QLD, is that really fair?
Other Stories Of Interest
South Sydney’s amazing 30-6 victory over a valiant but out matched Bulldogs side brought to an end a brilliant 2014 football season, and unfortunately the off season.
Luckily for fans of the game, the Four Nations kicks off soon and will at least shorten the length of the off season, which with the addition of the nines isn’t really that long now.
Although the nations tournament carries its own important, it should be a chance to blood a few youngsters with a look toward the future.
A host of top line players have been ruled out through injury, suspension and the need to rest nagging injuries, and given the emergence of young talents within the top clubs, the timing has never been better to reward form with national selection.
To clarify, the below team is is the 17 we would choose, not the 17 we expect to be selected. Please let us know who you’d have run out to represent the country by liking the facebook page and hitting us up.
Fullback: Jarryd Hayne
The co-winner of 2014’s Dally M medal did everything within his power and then some, to get his side into the eighth this season. Although the Eels ultimately fell short, Hayne had to make do with the highest individual honour, and a State of Origin victory. He will be somewhere in the squad, whether it be at fullback or centre, but I’d play Hayne in his natural position.
Wing: Brett Morris
Morris had an injury interrupted season but showed signs of his very best at club level, and there will be few who will forget his Origin heroics. On his day Morris is the best winger in the game, and his try big game experience will be almost as important as his try-scoring ability in a new look backline. Despite his side’s failure to play finals football, will be the first winger chosen and rightfully so.
Centre: Dylan Walker
On the back of what I still consider to be a centre of the year season, Walker should continue his incredible form in a Kangaroos jersey. With Josh Morris out injured, there is no reason Walker should not be blooded in the four nations tournament. May have to split the job with Michael Jennings however I’d take the chance to blood the youngster who will be a rep main stay.
Centre: Greg Inglis
Will likely play fullback, but due to his record breaking try scoring feats at Origin level, I think he’d bring more to the centre position than Hayne, and also provide an experienced head inside Alex Johnston. Inglis had a blockbuster season and should carry plenty of confidence with him after the Bunnies title win. Will be an experienced head in camp with the injection of youth.
Wing: Alex Johnston
With Darius Boyd unavailable and other wingers suffering indifferent form, Johnston is the the option we would take. His form is outstanding and there is no doubt at all his confidence is through the roof on the back of a try-scoring Grand Final performance. Playing outside Inglis, or Hayne, will provide him with all the knowledge, and supply of football, he should need to make a huge impact.
Five-Eighth: Johnathan Thurston
Despite calls to instill Cherry-Evans as the full-time half partner of Cooper Cronk, Thurston is just too good to overlook. Anyone with any doubts of his amazing talent only needs to see the medal hanging around his neck. Thurston is still the best half in the game, whether at five-eighth or halfback. Will provide the debutants with plenty of opportunity.
Halfback: Cooper Cronk
Despite spending some time off the paddock due to injury after Origin One, Cronk is still the best option at halfback. DCE’s time will come, but as mentioned before, Thurston and Cronk is the way we would go. Once again, with two young outside backs on debut, experience is key, and there aren’t many in the game better in big games than the Storm halfback.
Prop: Aiden Tolman
With Scott, Gallen, Tamou, Myles and Fifita all unavailable, the stocks up front are thin, but with Tolman available, it’s hardly the end of the world. It’s a shock that Tolman is yet to play rep footy beyond three Country jerseys. Tolman was an unsung hero in the Dogs charge to the Grand Final, playing second fiddle to James Graham. The Four Nations may be his chance to step out of Graham’s shadow so to speak.
Hooker: Cameron Smith
Despite the decent form of Robbie Farah and his comments earlier in the season, there is no doubt the Aussie captain is still the best hooker in the business. For ours Smith will have two props on their international debut so his delivery will have to be at his usual top class. Melbourne crashed out in the first week of the finals, and QLD lost the Origin shield, Smith will be chomping at the bit come kick off. He is not use to losing.
Prop: Aaron Woods
Once again, if Gallen, Fifita, Scott etc were available, Woods probably wouldn’t feature, however he won’t let anyone down. His efforts in Origin earlier this year were enough to suggest he could match it with James Graham, George Burgess and Jesse Bromwich in the upcoming tournament. Will be called upon to battle it with three of the best props in the world right now, so will need to be at his best.
Second Row: Greg Bird
An automatic selection in any rep side, Bird provides aggression, ball playing skill, and everything else a top second rower should. The Titans had a woeful season, despite a brilliant opening, but Bird certainly put in an honest shift. There’s nothing that can be said here that hasn’t been said re Bird before, he’ll be amongst the first player picked.
Second Row: Boyd Cordner
The Roosters and Origin star will be a valuable part of Tim Sheens’ side in the upcoming series. Cordner will surely add to his three Kangaroo caps. The 22 year old still has his best footy in front of him, and this upcoming tourney may be the true arrival of the Taree born hardman. The 2013 second rower of the year may be required to play big minutes with a young bench, however as shown during his time in the tri-colours, that shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Lock: Corey Parker
Another obvious selection after yet another brilliant season for the Broncos. Although he didn’t post the stats that he has been known for in previous years, there’s a sense of working smarter in 2014. Man of the Match in origin three, where he put in one of the best performances of the entire series, Parker has plenty of big game experience to add to the talent he has shown in his 299 club games.
Reserve: David Klemmer
David Klemmer is yet to start an NRL game but is a likely Roos bolter thanks again to the injuries and suspensions of the big name props named previously. Klemmer was earmarked for rep duties even before his first grade debut and he has not disappointed. Not known for big minutes or a huge work rate, however the two-metre tall giant will be used in short, sharp bursts as a wrecking ball.
Reserve: Josh Jackson
If you plan on picking on form, there are few in better form than the Dogs second rower. Possibly the most underrated player in the competition, if Jackson can continue his form, he will come in to serious Origin selection next year. The 23 year old had a breakout season and it should be rewarded with a green and gold jumper. His versatility will also come in handy should there be an injury within the run on squad.
Reserve: Aiden Guerra
Another play, who on form, would be incredibly difficult to overlook. I’m still shocked at the fact he was overlooked at the second rower of the year at the Dally M’s, such were his performances for the Roosters. Debuted in Origin this year and looked right at home. Has one international cap for Italy, however will make the move into the Kangaroos set up.
Reserve: Josh McGuire
It’s time to do away with wasting Cherry-Evans on the bench. DCE is an amazing player but Cronk, Thurston and Smith are all 80 minute players. With Gallen and Scott not there to smash through opposition forward lines in the early stages, the Kangaroos may need further back up from the bench. Josh McGuire is the man for the job. He is capable of playing big minutes if needed and can put on a momentum changing hit. A big metre eater and a deserved debutant for the Roos after his 2010 jersey or Samoa.
Other Stories Of Interest
With the grand final now just a little more than 48 hours away, South Sydney have been installed as clear favourites according to the betting agencies.
Fans of both sides are now feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement as the big clash grows closer.
As with every big contest, the result could hinge on the result of an indivual contest, be it in the forwards, the halves, or even out wide.
We have broken down the battles and will keep a score update after each, hopefully resulting in a clear winner of Sunday’s Grand Final:
Fullbacks: Greg Inglis vs Sam Perrett
Greg Inglis is without a doubt one of the greatest players of the modern generation. He has done it all. Sam Perrett has put in a brilliant effort all season in the number one despite having to read reports constantly that the Dogs are chasing big name fullbacks. As honest a job as Perrett does at the back, there’s really no contest here. If Inglis plays well, the Bunnies are a long way on their way to winning the game. Souths 1 – 0 Dogs
Wingers: Alex Johnston and Lote Tuquiri vs Corey Thompson and Mitch Brown
At the start of the season it looked as though the wing positions would be the weakness for the Bunnies, but thanks mainly to the emergence of Alex Johnston, it has become a strength. Lote Tuquiri has refound form at the perfect time. Corey Thompson has been a revelation out side for the Dogs, while Mitch Brown, although not a genuine superstar, never lets you down. Both are capable of scoring plenty of tries, however Johnston earns the points for his side here. Souths 2 – 0 Dogs
Centres: Kiriome Auva’a and Dylan Walker vs Tim Lafai and Josh Morris
I’m still shocked that Dylan Walker didn’t win the centre of the year award, such has been his amazing form in 2014. Kirome Auva’a has announced himself as a genuine star of the game after starring for the Sharks/Storm NSW cup side last year. Tim Lafai would have been right there in the centre of the year award also. He has come a long way in 2014. We all know what Josh Morris is capable of. He kept Greg Inglis quiet in Origin and has a habit of scoring big tries in big games. As brilliant as the Bunnies centres are, Morris and Lafai get the nod. Souths 2 – 1 Bulldogs
Five-Eighths: Luke Keary vs Josh Reynolds
Luke Keary’s form has allowed John Sutton to move into the second row, which strengthens the Bunnies across the board. His partnership with Adam Reynolds late in the season has been a key factor in the Bunnies success. Josh Reynolds, when his mind is on the job, is one of the best in the business, as shown by his performances in the first two Origins. If Reynolds can limit the niggle, his upside is a little higher right now than Keary. Souths 2 – 2 Bulldogs
Halfbacks: Adam Reynolds vs Trent Hodkinson
It’s hard to believe just a few months ago there were reports that Reynolds would be allowed to move clubs before the deadline. His kicking game has been top notch, and his running game much improved from his early season. Trent Hodkinson led the Blues to an Origin victory, and slotted a massive field goal to sink the Dogs, whilst injured. Both halfbacks have the ability to lead their side to victory, however in this huge gane, you have to go with the current NSW halfback. Souths 2 – 3 Bulldogs
Props: George Burgess and David Tyrell vs Aiden Tolman and James Graham
You couldn’t pay me enough to run at either of these front row combos. George Burgess has established himself as one of the best big men in the business despite his young age. David Tyrell might not have the name value of his front row partner, but he has been top notch all season. Aiden Tolman is extremely unlucky not to have an Origin cap to his name. He will toil all day, will tackle himself into exhaustion and can provide a huge play when needed. James Graham is the top front rower in the game right now. Graham could produce the play that decides this game. Souths 2 – 4 Bulldogs
Hookers: Apisau Koroisau vs Moses Mbye
Assuming Michael Ennis is out of the game, this is the battle of the second string hookers, yet neither will let their side down. Koroisau slotted in extremely well in Luke’s absense earlier in the season, and Souths fans will be confident he can do the same again. Moses Mbye is a great young player with a huge future, however not at number nine. Josh Reynolds is likely to slot into dummy half allowing Mbye to play in the halves. Koroisau for mine. Souths 3 – 4 Bulldogs
Second Rowers: Ben Te’o and John Sutton vs Josh Jackson and Tony Williams
Ben Te’o, since his return from suspension, has added another dimension to the Bunnies pack. John Sutton has the ball playing skill of a five-eighth and the strength of a second rower. He is a dangerous proposition for any defender. Josh Jackson, on current form, would be right there for Origin selection. His potential is scary. Tony Williams, when on song, can break open any defense. For the slack he cops on social media, Williams can turn a game in an instant. Unfortunately for Dogs fans, he just can’t find that wrecking machine form consistently. Souths take this one, just. Souths 4 – 4 Bulldogs
Locks: Sam Burgess vs Greg Eastwood
Sam Burgess is the main man up front for the Bunnies, this would be a secret to no one. He’s the favourite to capture the Clive Churchill medal, and for good reason. Burgess can wreck defenses like a front rower, but can ball play like a five-eighth. Greg Eastwood has produced a stellar 2014 and should be back in rep reconning after Sunday. Eastwood is incredibly quick for his size, and can sure put a hit on. As good as Eastwood is, Burgess is arguably the premier forward in the game right now. Souths 5 – 4 Bulldogs
Bench: Kyle Turner, Tom Burgess, Chris McQueen and Jason Clark vs Tim Brown, Dale Finucane, David Klemmer and Frank Pritchard/Reni Mautua
You can judge the strength of a side by their bench, and both of these sides have top class benches. Burgess is a carbon copy of his brother, both in look and ability. Chris McQueen is a genuine match winner and has plenty of big game experience. Turner and Clark won’t attract the same attention as the other two bigger names, but that hasn’t stopped them fullfilling their roles brilliantly.
Tim Brown and Dale Finucane are no nonsense backrowers with plenty of energy. Neither will score a bag of tries, they have two between them in their careers, but both will eat up plenty of metres and sap plenty of energy from opposition defenses. David Klemmer is a mountain of a man who siimply refuses to conform to the head down, run straight front row mentality of old. The fourth bench spot is up for grabs, but either way, both Pritchard and Mautua have plenty of big game experience, and aggression.
This is an incredibly tough one to pick, yet it could be the clash that determines the game. McQueen’s ability to make a break, or pop that vital ball sways it for me. The other players cancel each other out, but I think McQueen is the difference. Souths 6 – 4 Bulldogs
Coaches: Michael Maguire vs Des Hasler
Michael Maguire has transformed the foundation clubs into a genuine NRL super power during his time in charge at redfern. He has gotten the best out of young players, and has re launched the careers of older players such as John Sutton. Des Hasler has instilled a forward dominated, rough and tumble defensive game at Belmore than has many referring to the Dogs Of War days. Both coaches are amongst the top in the game, but at this stage, Hasler is the only one who has delivered an NRL Premiership. Souths 6 – 5 Bulldogs
Verdict: This is going to be a ripper of a Grand Final. The Bunnies are short price favourites, however there is some genuine value in the Dogs at over $3. Both sides are chock full of talent across the park. Sam Burgess and James Graham are arguably the best players in the world in their positions. We’re tipping the Bunnies by 8 although we must admit we tipped the Sea Eagles last year, so we appologise in advance Souths fans.
Other Stories Of Interest
The world’s largest mixed martial arts company, the UFC, is returning to Australian shores on November 8th from All Phones Arena, Sydney.
Main eventing the card, UFC Fight Night 55, will be a five-round Middleweight grudge match between heated rivals Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping.
Featuring on the undercard are a host of Australian fighters including Ultimate Fighter winner Robert Whittaker, Anthony Perosh, and Heavyweight knockout specialist Soa ‘The Hulk’ Palelei.
Soa, who stands 6 foot 4 and weighs in at just under the Heavyweight cut off of 265 pounds, is set to take on Polish submission specialist Daniel Omielanczuk.
Taking some time out of his fight camp we spoke to Soa before what is sure to be a highlight fight come November 8th, re his upcoming bout,his motivation, and the hard work put in to ensure his return to the UFC was a successful one.
Follow Soa On Twitter: @soathehulk – Instagram: http://instagram.com/soathehulk
Dan Nichols: You’re scheduled to fight dangerous Polish Heavyweight Daniel Omielanczuk at UFC Fight Night on November 8th. What can fans expect to see in this monster clash?
Soa Palelei: They can expect for both of us to walk in and put on a show. We’re both wanting to get a win and we’re both explosive fighters. Stay tuned November 8th
Dan: Omielanczuk has nine submission wins from his 16 career victories. You of course have 17 knockout victories. Without giving too much away, do you alter your fight style depending on your opponent, or do you head in focused on your own strengths?
Soa: We have been working on all aspects and i mean all. I can’t give the game plan away but we have been working hard here at AKA Thailand and come november 8th you’ll see
Dan: Omielanczuk is yet to be finished in his career with all of his four losses coming via decision. Can you deliver his first career knockout or submission loss?
Soa: We have to wait and see what happens. We;re both explosive fighters and i just know that its going to be a great bout.
Dan: What’s it like to be returning to fight in front of an home country crowd? Do you feel any extra pressure, or does it just add to the motivation?
Soa: There’s always pressure regardless of where you fight. I’m honoured to be fighting in Australia but I need to make sure I’m ready to do my job and do it well.
Dan: Your last fight was a defeat at the hands of Jared Rosholt. What went wrong on the night? How hard is it to lift your head up and try to learn after a loss?
Soa: Everyone loses even the greatest. i don’t want to feel that feeling again. Jared was the better man that night however we move past it and focus on the next bout.
Dan: Prior to your most recent loss you had put together an amazing run of 11 straight victories. They say winning becomes a habit, is this true or was it all down to hard work?
Soa: Hard ass work!!! i work my butt off. I ran 6 days a week and sometimes 5 times a day. Hard work pays off for real, I’ve proven that time again.
Dan: This is of course your second stint in the UFC. Has it been a change in attitude, training or have you just matured as a fighter than has allowed you to taste success since your return to the top company?
Soa: I had to change everything. My team changed and my mental state changed. You can be ready physically but if your mind aint right nothing will work. I had to grow as a man and as a fighter I’m much smarter now I know what I need to do and I get it done.
Dan: Your social media pages are full of motivational quotes and photos. How much of training is mental? Where does your motivation come from?
Soa: Its the same as training physically like i just said, we need to be ready 100% all aspects mind body and soul. You have got to surround yourself with positivity and people whom bring you up and support you. I have a great support system and if something aint right I make it right.
Dan: Since returning to the UFC, your number of twitter followers have skyrocketed, yet you remain committed to interacting with fans. How important is that relationship between you and your fans? Any message for those fans as you prepare for what should be a ripper of a fight?
Soa: I worked my ass of for 4 years to get back into the UFC and my fans rallied for me to Dana White to the point I’m blocked on his account lol. I love all my fans and thank them all for their continuous support. They have always been there buying seats and pay-per–views, much love to them all. I would like to thank you for this opportunity and thank my sponsors Mackboots, Southern Crossfit, R9WA, Limousine Excursions, Pier 42 resort and spa, My Urban Swagga, Stunning Smiles, Innovative Hair Loss Solutions, SuperStars and Legends, Lakes Designer Meats, Peaches Fresh Food, Empire Property Solutions, Visi, A.P Concreting and Thinkin IT. My team and lastly but not least “The Hulk” family.
Monstasport wants to thank Soa and his team for taking the time out to talk to us. We’re looking forward to seeing Soa, and all the Aussie fighters, fight on home soil. Be sure to follow Soa on twitter (@soathehulk) instagram (soathehulk) and facebook (pages/Soa-The-Hulk-Palelei/111561455546470) … Tickets for UFC Fight Night 55 are on sale through ticketek.
Other Stories Of Interest
Tonight will see the highest individual honour awarded to the Player Of The Year in the form of the prestigious Dally M Medal.
With Cooper Cronk’s being injured for more than a few weeks after Origin One, we are set to see a new winner crowned. That being said, it’s highly likely we will see a former winner crowned once again with Hayne and Thurston amongst the favourites.
South Sydney’s Sam Burgess is sure to figure at the business end of the count after a brilliant season, in what will be his last in the NRL, at least for the time being.
Below are our choices for each position award, other awards and of course, the big one, the Dally M medal. As always, feedback is welcome. Please like the facebook page and let us know who you think will take out the top award.
Fullback: Jarryd Hayne – Eels
As we mentioned in our team of the year announcement, Hayne beats out some amazing fullbacks after showing form not seen since his Dally M medal winning form of 2009. Had a blinder of an Origin series and seemed to get better as the season went on.
Wing: Josh Mansour – Panthers
Mansour was desperately unlucky to not be selected for Origin this series after a brilliant start to the season. The 24 year old scored 14 tries from his 20 games and made well over 3000 metres with the ball. Will edge out Radradra for the award.
Centre: Dylan Walker – Souths
Walker’s amazing 2014 will surely be rewarded with a spot in the Four Nations squad for the Kangaroos. Walker’s contribution goes far beyond his 11 tries. His combination late in the season with Lote Tuqiri has been vital. Hard to believe he’s still on 20 years of age.
Five-Eighth: Jamie Soward – Panthers
Perhaps the game’s most polarising player has had a year that would rival 2010 in which he led the Dragons to the title. Although the Panthers fell one game short of the big dance, Soward did everything he could to put the Panthers in a position to contest in October.
Halfback: Johnathan Thurston – Cowboys
Thurston, again, showed he is perhaps the greatest playmaker in the modern era, spurning his Cowboys side on to a mid September charge. Topped the point scoring chart with 208, and contributed 28 try assists.
Prop: James Graham – Bulldogs
Arguably the best front rower of the modern era Graham does more than just tuck the ball under his arm and run. A massive metre-eater who can also ball play like a big, dangerous, tackling machine, five-eighth. Has been the Dogs best player all season.
Hooker: James Segeyaro – Panthers
The Panthers number nine has been an absolute revelation in 2014. His defense was first class, his ability to make breaks top shelf and his workrate unquestionable. Has been one of the stars of a very successful Panthers outfit.
Second Row: Aiden Guerrera – Roosters
The roosters backrower has outshone his two much bigger named teammates in Corder and one SBW. If you were going to take an NRL player into battle with you, he’d be built in the Guerrera mould. Has been a rock in defense, and dangerous in attack.
Lock: Sam Burgess – Souths
May very well leave the game with a Premiership, but will without a doubt leave with another positional award to his name. Burgess has been brilliant in every sense of the word and has taken over Paul Gallen as the best lock in the sport.
Rookie Of The Year: Alex Johnston – Souths
Johnston’s ridiculous try-scoring strike rate of 17 tries in 15 games is almost unheard of for a rookie. The Souths wing spot looked like a problem area for the famous club, but thanks to Johnston, has been one of their great successes. The sky’s the limit.
Coach Of The Year: Ivan Cleary – Panthers
Cleary has again proven his worth as an NRL coach, guiding a team with no Origin reps to within six points of a Grand Final berth. Got the most out of the majority of his players, and totally reinvigorated Jamie Soward.
Captain Of The Year: John Sutton – Souths
The Souths skipper has managed to keep his head despite a mountain of pressure on both himself and his club. Has led the way by setting a strong example both on and off the field.
Dally M Medalist: Johnathan Thurston – Cowboys
Thurston will surely add to his two Dally M medal wins in 2005 and 2007 after leading the Cowboys to yet another finals series. Closed the season with an incredible amount of influence during an incredible run of wins. Will edge out Hayne and Burgess for the top honour.
Other Stories Of Interest
Earlier in the season we took a look at the early season success of a series of recruits. The Dragons English pivot Gareth Widdop topped the list ahead of the likes of Martin Taupau and Will Hopoate.
Although we’ve still got the completion of a huge finals series ahead of us, we believe we’ve seen enough to rate some of the biggest hits and misses when it comes to recruitment for 2013 into 2014.
Below are a sample of some of the best decisions made by NRL clubs, and unfortunately some of the worst made.
As always, feedback is welcomed, please let us know if we’ve missed anything, or have anything wrong, or hell, even if we’re spot on, by liking the facebook page and sending us a message. Of course it’s impossible to cover all the recruits, but the below are those who really stood out:
Gareth Widdop (Dragons): Earlier in the year we named him the early season best performing recruit, and no doubt he would be in the top few now that the regular season is done and dusted. Beale was a star in the stop-start Dragons all season. His partnership with Marshall will be key as the Dragons go forward.
Benji Marshall (Dragons): The Dragons took a massive punt on signing the former Tiger following his unsuccessful stint in Rugby, and it looks as though it has paid off. Benji showed glimpses of the form that saw him win the World Player of the year during his stint in the orange and black. Will be better with a full offseason under his belt.
Nathan Peats (Eels): Prior to his unfortunate season-ending injury, there was genuine talk of Peats being in consideration for rep honours. The Eels suffered at dummy half when Peats was injured, and had to look outside the club for a replacement. Parra provided Peats a chance to shine after moving from Redfern, and he repaid them handsomely.
Daniel Vidot (Broncos): Broncos fans questioned the reasoning behind signing the fringe first grader from the Dragons, however Vidot more than justified the decision. Was probably better than his seven tries from 22 games indicates. His strong carries out of the danger zone won’t stand out in the stats, but fans, and his forwards, would notice.
Tinirau Arona (Sharks): A rare highlight in an otherwise horrible season for the Sharks. Arona made a mountain of tackles and metres for the struggling Sharks in the absence of Lewis, Gallen, Graham etc. His efforts went largely under the radar due to the multitude of other stories coming out of the club, but it’s tough to pick a bad game out of his 23.
Big Hit: Jamie Soward (Panthers): I fully admit, I did not foresee myself typing this very paragraph after Soward’s season in 2013. He has been absolutely brilliant at the foot of the mountains, and is arguably the main reason the Panthers have made it through to a Grand Final playoff. Those who doubted Cleary and Gould are eating their words.
Big Hit: Panthers: Jamie Soward, Jamal Idris, Brent Kite, Elijah Taylor, Peter Wallace… The Panthers recruited in big numbers and have come up trumps. The Panthers currently sit one win from the Grand Final, but no matter what the result next weekend, this has been an amazing season for the Penrith side.
Under The Radar Hit: Dunamis Lui + Josh Starling (Eagles): Knowing they would lose Brent Kite and George Rose, the Sea Eagles continued their success in signing young, under rated players and turning them into first grade regulars. Starling played all 24 games, and Lui played 19 games. They will be called upon in 2014 with the retirement of Jason King.
Sam Tomkins (Warriors): This choice might seem a little strange as Tomkins didn’t have a terrible season, but taking into account the massive contract, the hype, and transfer fee they paid Wigan for his services, I simply can’t argue that Tomkins was worth the money. Next season, hopefully the pressure eases on the English number one and he can play the kind of footy that made him Wigan’s superstar.
Martin Kennedy (Broncos): Broncos fans were championing the signing of the former Rooster big man, but unfortunately for the club Kennedy spent stints this season in the QLD Cup competition. Kennedy, who was selected as QLD’s 18th man in the 2013 Origin series, had fallen so far from grace that there were rumours he would leave the club mid year.
Sam Williams (Dragons): Williams ended 2013 at the Raiders and will begin the 2015 season at the Raiders, via a trip to the Dragons and the ESL. Williams was seen as the long term halfback for the joint venture club, where he would partner Gareth Widdop. Widdop became arguably the best signing of the season, whereas Williams was shipped to France after failing to fire in his four games.
Ben Barba (Broncos): Despite a late season revival, there are very few that can argue Barba has lived up to expectations at Red Hill. Barba was bought, and paid, to be a match winner both with and without the ball. It took him an age to score his first try, and although he did end up with eight for the season, many would have expected to him to reach double figures, as well as lay off plenty as well. May or may not be at the club long-term.
Sharks: At the end of 2012 the Sharks brought in a group of stars that had 2013 looking like they may genuinely push for a top four spot. At the beginning of 2014 the Sharks were asked to get excited about Matt Prior, Blake Ayshford, Siosaia Vave, Eric Grothe and Daniel Holdsworth. Arona and Gagan saved the the club from a total recruitment embarrassment, but fans were left frustrated at the club’s going backwards.
Big Miss: Blake Ayshford (Sharks): The Sharks, who finished one game shy of a Grand Final play off, lacked a genuine try scoring centre who could break games open. They turned to Tigers fringe reserve grader Blake Ayshford and hyped him up as the next ET. Ayshford was responsible for plenty of tries this season, unfortunately for the Sharks they came against the Sharks due to his flimsy defense. Was told to look elsewhere for next season before being dropped to NSW Cup.
Big Miss: George Rose (Storm): Big George Rose was hailed as the next big thing in Melbourne after moving South. Craig Bellamy, who turned the hard working but unspectacular Bryan Norrie into a premiership winning prop, was expected to turn Rose into a weapon. By the end of the season Rose was flat out making the NSW Cup side for the combined Storm-Sharks set up. Was unable to get his weight under control under the strict regime in the Victorian capital.
Other Stories Of Interest
This past weekend in the AFL, for the first time since the introduction of the current finals system, two sides who finished in the top four at the end of the regular season went out in straight sets.
Of course straight sets means they did not register a victory in the finals series, as they were beaten by the victors of the elimination finals in week one of the current series.
With history being made in the AFL, could we be looking at the same situation occurring this weekend as Manly host the Bulldogs, while the Roosters play the Cowboys?
If Manly and the Roosters were to lose, it would remarkably see the teams that finished one and two in the regular season, exit the finals at the earliest possible opportunity.
On the back of their crushing 28-4 victory over the heavily favoured Storm, the revitalised Bulldogs will be chock full of confidence as they prepare to play a side heavily hampered by injury, and the very real possibility of at least one more star missing through suspension.
The Sea Eagles limped into the finals on the back of three losses in their last five games, including big losses to the Rabbitohs and Cowboys. They did however manage to stun the Panthers thanks to some last minute magic.
Incredibly, the Des Hasler coached Bulldogs will go into next weekend’s fixture as favourites despite finishing seventh. As bad as the aforementioned form for the Eagles was, the Dogs form was equally as bad.
They had also lost three of their last five games regular season games, including being belted by 31 points at the hands of the Broncos.
Hasler, who is no stranger to the majority of the Manly squad due to his years as manager at the club, will spend the next week plotting the downfall of his former side.
On the back of a monster forward pack, the Dogs representative halves pairing will be licking their lips at the opportunities they hope James Graham and co. will provide.
Manly, who will be missing Glenn Stewart, Jamie Buhrer, and Matt Ballin just to name a few, will be hoping that both Jamie Lyon and Anthony Watmough will be available despite being placed on report for a dangerous tackle on Greg Inglis on Friday Night.
If Manly are to avoid a straight sets exit, they’ll need to overcome injury, possible suspension and rumoured off field troubles to record one of their bravest and best victories of the season. They have the players to do it, but on current form, you’d be brave to bet on them.
In the other game the Minor Premiers and defending champions will have to hold off the red hot, in form Cowboys, who will be looking to avenge two controversial exits in the finals in the last two seasons.
The Cowboys, whose only loss in their last nine games came via a one point loss to preliminary finalists the Panthers, will hold no fear as they travel to Allianz Stadium to play the Roosters.
The Roosters, who were beaten thanks to a brilliant Jamie Soward field goal just seconds before fulltime, will be looking to set up the mother of all prelim finals by ensuring the Cowboys suffer more finals pain.
As good as the Cowboys have been in recent weeks, the Roosters are Minor Premiers, and defending Premiers for a reason. They know how to win the big games, shown as recently as their victory to capture the Minor Premiership with a victory over fierce rivals Souths two weeks ago.
Whereas the Sea Eagles look vulnerable, the Roosters will have plenty of motivation, and almost all a full squad at their disposal. Of course there are always injuries at this time of the season, however the Roosters medical team has done well to keep the majority of their top squad on the park.
That being said, the Cowboys do hold a 42-10 victory over their opponents this season.
History beckons as we head into the second week of the NRL finals series.
I wonder what odds you would have been offered for the Roosters and Manly to go out in straight sets.
Other Stories Of Interest
With 26 rounds of NRL action now in the books, only eight teams remain, while the other eight plan their Mad Monday celebrations. The Roosters have secured a second straight Minor Premiership, the Broncos return to the finals, the Bunnies continue to tease fans that this may be their year, and the Cowboys continue to send messages to the Sydney sides that they’re going to be tough to beat.
With the end of the regular rounds, we can now name our NRL Team Of The Year. The below is not a side made up of the best players in each position, but the players who have been the best in their position during 2014.
We weren’t too worried in the side the players below lineup in for their club (i.e. we may have named two left sided players in a position) and it is just made up of the best player this season, in that particular position.
Of course, as always, the below is totally subjective and is just an opinion. Please let us know if you agree or disagree with some, or all of the below:
Fullback: Jarryd Hayne – Eels
The Eels and NSW fullback almost reproduced his amazing Dally M winning form of 2009 and went within a game of carrying the Eels to a finals birth. He was arguably the man of the series for the Blues as they ended a near decade long dominance at Origin level. Hayne beats out Inglis, Milford and co to the top fullback in 2014. He tops the try scoring charts with 20, and finished atop the line breaks tally with 23. Amazing!
Wing: Josh Mansour – Panthers
Desperately unlucky not to play Origin this series after a barnstorming start to the year. Based on form you’d have to say he’ll be there or there abouts for next year’s series. Mansour has been a rock out wide for the high flying Panthers, and at times seems to score tries for fun. Although an injury robbed him of a chance of topping the try scoring charts, his carries out of his own danger-end were worth their weight in gold.
Centre: Steve Matai – Eagles
For years and years the centre of the year went to a different Manly centre, but this year, Matai is the man. His left side partnership with Jorge Taufua was lethal early in the campaign and although his partner’s form faulted, Matai remained in great nick. Linked with a huge money move away from the club in 2015, despite being the wrong side of 30, Matai is still amongst the elite.
Centre: Dylan Walker – Rabbitohs
I almost picked Jarrod Croker for this position, however Walker just edges the Canberra centre. Walker has had a breakout season and has been amongst the Rabbitohs best all year. His importance to the side goes far beyond the 11 tries he registered throughout the year as he played a hand in many more, and more than held up his end in defense. Croker also had a brilliant year, however the young Rabbit’s defense earns him the nod in comparison.
Wing: Semi Radradra – Eels
The flying Fijian would have topped the try scoring charts if not for the superman efforts in the round 26 fixture by his fullback Jarryd Hayne. His haul of 19 tries was amazing considering his relative inexperience. An absolute monster for just 22 years of age, Radradra’s best footy is still ahead of him. He will give plenty of opposition wingers nightmares in the future, as I’m sure he did this season.
Five-Eighth: Jamie Soward – Panthers
I fully admit I did not foresee myself typing the above at the beginning of 2014, but Soward has had a brilliant campaign. Often unfairly criticised due to his theatrics, such as the double barrel solute, Soward’s kicking game has been absolutely key to the Panthers top four finish. Soward posted seven tries and a bag of try assists, and landed conversions from all angles for fun. Edges out Maloney, who himself had another brilliant year.
Halfback: Johnathan Thurston – Cowboys
The Cowboys superstar posted an incredible 208 points this season, the most of anyone in the competition, and won multiple games on his own back throughout 2014. it’s no coincidence that his amazing form has propelled the Cowboys to an incredible fifth place finish, something that looked impossible early in the year. He’s probably only a premiership away from being the next Immortal. Edges out Ben Hunt, Pearce and Cronk.
Prop: James Graham – Bulldogs
I think it is fair to say James Graham is the Bulldog’s most important, and best player. Registered an ironman-like 344 hit ups for the regular season, and made over 3400 metres. Graham has been the model of consistency in what has been an inconsistent year for his Bulldogs side. He seems to have minimised the niggle that in previous years probably held him back slightly, and if the Dogs are to beat the Storm, it will have to be on the back of the Englishman’s efforts.
Hooker: James Segeyaro – Panthers
I never thought I’d type a different name other than Cam Smith, and I almost didn’t, but it was just too hard to ignore the brilliant number nine’s amazing 2014. Will be locked in a battle with Soward and Moylan for the Panther’s player of the season, but Segeyaro has been magic at times this year. Posted 10 tries this year and made a multitude of breaks from dummy half. Absolute key for the Panthers come finals time.
Prop: Jesse Bromwich – Storm
The Kiwi prop was a priority re-signing for the club early in the campaign and it is easy to see why. Bromwich lead the line for his Storm side, and laid the platform throughout 2014 for the likes of Cronk, Slater and Smith. Almost 300 hit ups and over 3300 metres gained make him the Melbourne side’s main man up front. Still only 25 years of age, it’s conceivable he still has improvement left in him. A scary thought.
Second Row: Sam Burgess – Rabbitohs
Despite the perceived broadcaster love-in, Sam Burgess is without a doubt one of the elite forwards in the game right now, if not THE elite. He will be a huge loss to the Rabbits in 2015 when he crosses codes, but not before leading his side towards a possible Premiership shake. Burgess is capable of the flashy play when needed, however he is just as adept when called upon to take part in the hard graft. 10 tries, almost 800 tackles, over 3800 metres made. The stats do not lie.
Second Row: Aidan Guerra – Roosters
It says something about Guerra’s form that he has outshone international backrow partners Boyd Cordner and one Sonny-Bill Williams. He may not attract the headlines of the bigger name players, but make no mistake, Guerra has been absolutely outstanding throughout 2014. His form earned him a Maroon Origin jumper, and if he can continue to play like he has this season, he will become a mainstay in the QLD pack.
Lock: Corey Parker – Broncos
Parker may not have registered the unhuman-like stats he has produced in seasons gone by, however a shift to prop at times this time round certainly had something to do with that. Parker, for both Brisbane and Queensland, was brilliant. He once again led the way for hit ups and metres for his club side, despite moving into the middle at times. At 32, Parker remains a vital player in the Broncos lineup, and will be looked to once again in 2015 under the returning Wayne Bennett.
Bench: Matt Scott – Cowboys
Such has been the form of Matt Scott for so long, I’m running out of superlatives to throw his way. His barnstorming runs for club, state, and country, lay the platform for his superstar half Thurston, and his defense is seemingly tireless. Over 500 tackles, just under 3000 metres gained, despite only playing 18 games for the Cowboys this season, well it really says it all. Capable of huge minutes if needed, Scott is once again one of the top props of the modern era.
Bench: Josh Jackson – Bulldogs
The young Bulldog well and truly announced himself in 2014 after a breakout season in 2013. Having represented Country Origin twice in his young career, his name will surely pop up come Origin selection next series. Jackson doesn’t have the reputation of some of the bigger name stars in the Dogs pack, but his input has been just as important. At 23 years of age, he is approaching his physical peak, which could be scary if he continues to develop and improve the way he has.
Bench: Simon Mannering – Warriors
A sad end to the Warriors Jekyll and Hyde season should not take away from the superhuman efforts of the Warriors captain. Playing in all 24 games for his club, Mannering made over 700 tackles, over 2200 metres and contributed nine tries. You never quite know what to expect from the Warriors, however you always know you can count on the 28 year old club legend. Although the Warriors missed the finals, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort from their captain.
Bench: Ben Hunt – Broncos
Pre-season, all the talk in Brisbane was about a huge bid for Daly Cherry Evans. Fast forward to September 2014, and I’m not sure they need him, such has been the form of their brilliant number seven. Hunt has probably been the Broncos best player in 2014, bagging 13 tries, a stack of try assists, 20 line breaks, and even kicking goals when called upon. At only 24 years of age, Hunt has scary potential, and will be a lynchpin for Wayne Bennett next season.
Coach: Ivan Cleary – Panthers
To sum up the influence of Ivan Cleary on his players this campaign, you only need to look at the return to form of Jamie Soward. Cleary has been able to get the most out of a team that did not contribute one single Origin player in 2014, something that may change in 2015 and beyond. Multiple club players such as Kite, Idris and Manu are playing brilliant football, while players such as Moylan and Mansour are improving dramatically under his tutelage.
Other Stories Of Interest