UPDATED: This was a tough week for the player rankings. No-one really stood up to either keep or take the number one spot when combined with their performances throughout the rest of the season. It feels like number one on this list gets it by default.
Mitchell Pearce was the 26 Rounds Man of the Match against the Sea Eagles, followed closely by Boyd Cordner and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. But all three were well down the list and, when combined with their performances so far this season, didn’t warrant a dramatic rise to number one given the top three players have been among the Roosters’ best players all season prior to this one.
So yeah, toughie.
1. James Maloney (LW: 2)
Sure, he missed five tackles, and sure he didn’t break the line. But given his goalkicking and some absolute try-savers in defence, Maloney did enough to elevate himself back into the top spot following a poor showing by the former number one against the Sea Eagles.
On several attacking raids the BBQ cut down the likes of Watmough and his goal-kicking was the difference up until the 79th minute.
And he’s effectively wrestled the long-kicking duties away from Mitchell Pearce, kicking for 302 metres off eight strikes. In all he ran it six times for 44 metres with two tackle busts, two errors, 13 tackles and five misses – although again, none which led to a try.
He’s still been the most dominant half for the Roosters, but MP7 is hot on his heels and it’s only a matter of time before the halfback’s steady play, incredible defence and direction pushes him past ol’ Jimmy.
2. Sonny Bill Williams (LW: 3)
The Roosters are still guilty of looking the other way when SBW is in attacking range, and against the Eagles the superstar was a little quiet by his lofty standards.
He ran it 12 times for 116 metres with an offload and three tackle busts to go along with 20 tackles, a miss and two handling errors – although he wasn’t alone there in the errors department.
If you look at that stat line, that’s a solid outing by any standard, and that’s why SBW moves up. We perhaps hold him to a greater standard because he is capable of much more, but by any metric he still had a solid game.
3. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 1)
This could be the last time we see JWH in the player rankings for quite some time, given he’s been suspended for five matches for a high tackle on George Rose on Monday.
Jared doesn’t slip because he was sent off for that hit – although it doesn’t help – but because he had perhaps his worst game of the season.
The big prop gave away three penalties, ran it just nine times for 79 metres and made just 13 tackles. Granted he was off for most of the game, including the final 11 minutes which would have padded those stats, but the three penalties were a reminder of how close JWH toes the line in defence.
When combined with poor officiating, little errors in execution and laziness are exacerbated and put his team under enormous pressure.
He is still the form front rower in the comp, and still the Roosters’ most consistent forward. If you consider this was by far his worst game of the season, then you start to get the picture of how good he’s been this year, while his slip to three shows you just how close the top three players are in week in, week out performances.
JWH will return, ironically, against the Sea Eagles at home in Round 16. That won’t be fiery or anything.
4. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 5)
MP7 is fast becoming a typical halfback, and I mean that as a compliment.
For years the Roosters have been begging for him to direct this team around the field the way he is now, rather than looking for the knockout play every time he touches it.
The Roosters are making great metres every run (in which they hold it at least) with MP7 choosing the right runners almost every single time, while the threat of his combination with SBW on the right has opened up space for him in the middle.
He scored a try last week and almost set one up this week off a break, and his running game is asking questions of whatever defence there is in front of him.
Against the Eagles he had a line break, an offload, four runs for 61 metres and four tackle busts. In defence, again, he was a rock, especially close to the line. He had 16 tackles with just two misses.
5. Michael Jennings (LW: 4)
Jennings missed his third tackle of the season. The Panthers immediately pointed to that and said “I told you so.”
(That probably didn’t happen.)
The classy three quarter shut down Jamie Lyon and was credited with seven one-on-one tackles.
This is a guy who couldn’t lock up a garage last year but is now as hard to get through as one of Brando’s sandwiches:
On top of that he scored a 90-metre try off a spill, and ran it eight times for 153 metres with a line break assist. But his defence has become one of the most enjoyable parts of a Roosters game to watch this season.
6. Boyd Cordner (LW: 6)
If he didn’t drop that ball from MP7 with the line begging, he would have been man of the match against the Eagles.
He was a close second though.
He ran it 12 times for 97 metres with his trademark quick play-the-ball every single time, and his cover defence was Coote-esque. He made 30 tackles and was a highlight package defending the line.
He’s an everywhere man who takes care of the garbage, like a Souths fan at council clean-up time.
7. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (LW: 8)
You know where that unbelievable break happened on Monday, right?
Yep, up the middle. Pretty much the same place it would happen if RTS was playing fullback regularly.
The future is seriously now if Robbo would allow it, and while Mini has the respect of everyone from the fans to the coaching staff, there is a fullback who will help this team win a premiership playing out of position on the wing.
And that Shtep – this writer is like a junkie. He simply cannot get enough of it.
The one downside is his athleticism under high balls. He was outleapt by Steve “My Neck” Matai for the Eagles’ only try, as he was two weeks earlier against the Dragons. The fact is he doesn’t get as high on his leaps as other wingers.
They’ll continue to target The Sheck this year with mini-bombs, but as long as he keeps up with that Fred Astaire routine he has going, who gives a shit.
8. Mitchell Aubusson (LW: 9)
26 Rounds is catchin’ what Aubo has been spittin’ lately. He has been staunch in defence and dangerous running it in attack.
Against the Eagles he ran it nine times for 71 metres – or almost as many metres as JWH – with an offload to go along with 28 tackles.
But he’s always thereabouts in the action defensively and goes unnoticed to anyobe but rugby league purists. He’s a 26 Rounds favourite.
9. Jake Friend (LW: 7)
Jakey scored a try but was a little quieter compared to recent rounds.
He ran it just three times in limited opportunities for 28 metres with 30 tackles and was simply solid against the continual wave of Manly forwards coming his way on the line.
10. Daniel Tupou (LW: NR)
He’s been in and out of the rankings, but against the Eagles he showed superb speed and patience during one break, while he saved a try with a tap-out of a chip to David Williams – literally tapping it out of the Wolfman’s hands.
He ran it 10 times for 105 metres with five tackle busts and some fine recovery in defence. His length and leg drive are becoming more of a weapon as he becomes more accustomed to first grade.
Anthony Minichiello, who drops out despite an error-free game against the Eagles, one of the few players who could make that claim; and Luke O’Donnell, who was solid in both attack and defence with the Roosters down a front-rower.