For those new to these rankings, I think it’s important to clarify how these actually work.
It’s based on a series of performances put together, not on who won man of the match last week. Players go up and down based on this, and it’s purely at the discretion of this writer and as such is probably wrong and open for debate.
An easy way to look at these rankings is as a list of who you would pick first to start a team with from scratch – a list that changes potentially from week to week and based on form rather than reality.
(of course you’d rather sign Sonny Bill Williams first ahead of anyone on this list, but on form you’d pick the guy at number one.)
Does this make sense at all?
Well, now that I’ve muddied the waters, on to the rankings.
1. James Maloney (LW: 2)
He didn’t score a try or break the line against the Dragons, but the BBQ did enough to take the top spot in the rankings at last following an exceptional start to a year in which he’s taken four man of the match awards from 26 Rounds and been voted the Roosters’ best player through the opening six games by fans.
He took on the long kicking duties against the Dragons, and he regathered his on bomb via Mitchell Pearce and threw a lovely flat cut-out to Daniel Tupou for a try.
He also saved one with the help of Anthony Minichiello, catching a streaking Brett Morris just before the line. He only ran the ball four times (21 metres) but every one of those runs was a potential line break.
He did give away two penalties, but there were 21 penalties given out in that game alone in one of the worst refereed games this year. And while he continues to miss tackles (another three in this one) he is making the tackles when they need to be made.
2. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 3)
JWH put in arguably the best performance ever and took the highly-sought after 26 Rounds man of the match award for his performance against the Dragons.
He’s been nearly their best in every single game this year, and is without doubt the in-form prop in rugby league.
Against the Dragons he ran for 147 metres off 18 hit-ups and continued his purple patch of offloading with another four. His offloads continually find Jake Friend on the chest and have been instrumental in several tries this year.
He made another 29 tackles in this one and did not give away a penalty again – that’s akin to a kleptomaniac finding and returning two wallets in the space of two weeks.
3. Sonny Bill Williams (LW: 1)
Every single game this year, Sonny Bill has made you stand up in awe after a spectacular play. It happens at least once a game, and sometimes three times (like against the Bulldogs).
Against the Dragons he was “quiet”, with just one incredible offload through the line to Mitchell Pearce in support, who then put Anthony Minichiello over.
He played 60 minutes for 15 tackles and eight runs for 78 metres, with two tackle busts, four offloads and a line break assist.
Not bad for a guy with an arthritic knee.
4. Michael Jennings (LW: 5)
The Dragons game was pretty much a warm-up for his grudge match this week against the team that brushed him. But it was not a bad warm-up.
He scored two tries from pure speed – one with that incredible in-and-away from a Mitch Aubusson offload and another where he blew by three players to swoop on a Jake Friend grubber.
He’s faster than an 18-year-old in the sack, and he leaves the defenders wanting more just like the poor woman who shacks up with said 18-year-old.
He has three tackle busts and a couple of Kenny-Dowall-esque cross-field darts, and defensively he was strong again with 12 tackles against Brett Morris and Matt Cooper.
5. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 4)
MP7’s boot took the day off but the halfback was still heavily involved, directing the team around the field well, taking the ball to the line and passing at the last minute several times and remaining strong in defence.
But his bravery in attack is now an added weapon.
That ability to take the ball to the line, pass at the last minute and take the hit at the same time is effectively taking a defender out of the line and creating space either side of him. He drew the fullback perfectly in assisting on Mini’s try and was able to nearly get SBW through holes with this new tactic.
Other halfbacks simply don’t take it this far at a line. And it’s the one strength that sets Mp7 apart from other halfbacks.
He had six runs for 61 metres, but this doesn’t take into account the runs he had passing just before being hit.
6. Jake Friend (LW: 7)
Jake Friend has been on fire recently, and his game against the Dragons was his best of the season. On the line he is probing and using in-and-aways to keep the defence guessing, and his improving kicking game led to another try assist following a try he set up with a grubber for the BBQ last week.
He is far more creative this year than we saw of him last year, and his rotation at rake with Daniel Mortimer is keeping him fresher towards the back end of games now.
He was again tough in defence with a team-high 33 tackles and no misses. In attack he was credited with four runs for 48 metres in his 100th game for the club.
7. Boyd Cordner (LW: 10)
Boyd took the inaugural Ashton-Collier medal of best on ground against the Dragons, and has come firmly into State of Origin reckoning with a series of tough, skilled displays this year.
Against the Dragons he went for 97 metres off ten runs, and threw a tremendous flat ball to Aubusson for the club’s first try. He also made 22 tackles and several scrambling efforts to shut down a few broken play raids.
We need to call this guy the Hoover – he’s always cleaning up. And like a Hoover, he works even if he has a busted wheel or ratshit power cord. You drag that fucker around and use what you can to clean up the trash. Cordner gets more needles than a junkie on Centrelink day just so he can wheel that body out to clean up for his teammates.
8. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (LW: 6)
That footwork is simply mesmerising. He’s like the Lord of the Dance, except he’s not a wanker.
RTS will continue to oscillate freely down the bottom half of the rankings, as his involvement is predicated on those around him in attacking sets. Until he moves to fullback this is just how it’s going to be.
Against the Dragons he was heavily involved in returning the ball, running it 13 times for 96 metres with three tackle busts but raerely found the ball in attacking raids. But he’s able to find small gaps in any defensive line which enables him to get an extra metre or two out of any kick return.
I do worry about his play under the high ball: he’s not as athletic a leaper as many other wingers and although he’s safe when the ball hits his hands, he can be outleapt.
9. Sam Moa (LW: NR)
Sam Moa from Tonga bounced back from a quiet game and two errors against the Dogs to completely dominate the Dragons and bend them back like they’re Neo avoiding bullets in The Matrix.
He had 13 runs for 95 metres with an offload and a tackle bust, and made 25 tackles. There isn’t much to Victa Moa’s game but what he does he does very well. When he doesn’t make metres he doesn’t make an impact with any other part of his game. But keep making metres bug fella and it will be hard to keep you out of the rankings.
10. Mitchell Aubusson (LW: NR)
Mitch had a typical Aubo game, scoring a try and setting up another with a Sonny-like offload to Jennings. He’s doing enough to give Trent Robinson a headache when Frank Paul Nu’uasala returns.
He’s a smaller Ryan Hoffman in terms of being a pure hole-runner, but can bust out of tackles and get on a roll through the ruck. He had five tackle busts in this one off eight runs, and also had 21 tackles without a miss.
Anthony Minichiello, who falls out for the first time despite probably his best game of the year positionally at fullback against the Dragons; Martin Kennedy, who scored a try but gave away three penalties and ran it just six times; and Daniel Tupou, who showed shades of Israel Folau against the Dragons following a quiet game against the Dogs.