1. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 2)
Maybe the five weeks off due to suspension was good for Jared. He looks amped and refreshed, and his past two games are among the best played by a front-rower this season, without question.
In the game against Manly in round nine – when he was sent off – he ran it just nine times for 79 metres before being marched, a week after running it 18 times for 147 metres. Maybe he just needed a rest?
Because against the Sea Eagles in round 16 he ran it 21 times for 180 metres, and against the Dragons he was almost as good in a whitewash, running it 16 times for 160 metres with an incredible game-high 43 tackles. It’s a urprising stat because he’s the one guy you wouldn’t run at on the Roosters due to the simple fact he’s likely to rip your head off.
In his two games since his return, the Roosters have conceded just two tries. We’ve said it before, but his past two weeks compared to the five games out prove he is the defensive leader for the best defence in the NRL. But don’t just take this writer’s word for it:
Jared Waerea-mutherfuckin’-Hargreaves, ladies and gentlemen.
The good news is he now knows how critical he is to the success of this team, and hopefully is focussed enough that he won’t try and hug another player’s face with a swinging arm anymore.
2. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 4)
MP7 did a little bit of everything well against the Dragons, and with any luck for NSW the pathetic merged entity played the half back into some great form.
His past two weeks he’s been superb running the ball and opened up the Dragons in particular, putting Guerra over after a poor miss from some Dragons fuck and also taking it right to the line in putting Boyd Cordner over.
He’s been trying to get that grubber going to little effect but to be honest, the Roosters haven’t needed it. They are sticking to the tactic of bombing the wingers from 40 out and it paid off as the hang-time enabled the chase to get to the fullback and camp the Dragons down that end.
He ran it four times for 28 metres, with a line break, an offload, a tackle bust, three try assists and eight kicks for 234 metres. He also made a mammoth 33 tackles – a season high – but didn’t seem to get tired from the extra workload.
He is in very good form heading into what many are calling perhaps his last game as Blues halfback should they lose. On this form he will be hard to stop, so expect a big running game from the half in the decider next Wednesday.
3. Michael Jennings (LW: 3)
The left side combo he has developed with Toops and the BBQ is the best in the league, resulting in two try assists from the centre through quick hands – including one blindside play where they had no right scoring and another where Tupou almost scored but for his sizeable rump.
His speed and swerved were responsible for the first try, while pure explosive pace meant he raced 80 metres off a Jake Friend offload meant he scored a try with the closest people two him being the two referees when he touched down.
He again did not miss a tackle in making 13 – how the newspapers haven’t made more of this is beyond this writer considering he averaged nearly three misses a game last year – and had 10 runs for 192 metres with a try and two try assists on the other end.
He has now scored 11 tries in 2013 and missed just nine tackles. He is the form centre in the NRL and has definitely earned his pay check this year.
4. Sonny Bill Williams (LW: 1)
Sonny Bill only really slips because he was on the field for just 29 minutes against the Dragons before coming off with a hamstring twinge.
But in those 29 minutes he still showed how good he is, with five runs for 42 metres with two offloads and 15 tackles without a miss.
It would have fuckin’ sucked to have him as your fantasy captain though.
5. Boyd Cordner (LW: 5)
Boyd’s performance played him onto a seven-man bench for the Blues. If they were ambivalent about his credentials before this game, they were concrete in his suitability for Origin afterwards.
He had 15 runs for 115 metres with a try and three tackle busts, and 17 tackles without a miss in an 80-minute effort.
He just does what needs to be done, and does everything with a quality and poise that players ahead of him in the Origin pecking order – namely, Anthony Watmough – can only dream of doing on a consistent basis. But as evidence of how good he is, you only have to look at the players he leapfrogged to be named in the squad: Glenn Stewart, Tony Williams (that one was pretty easy) and young gun Tariq Sims to name just three, and it’s only a matter of time until he passes Watmough and Ryan Hoffman.
Bird is likely to be ready for State of Origin III, which probably means Boyd will drop off the bench. But he’s a shoo-in next year, injuries permitting.
6. James Maloney (LW: NR – injured)
He dropped two balls and gave away two penalties, but the BBQ bounced back to form and his sensual cutout ball to Tupou after four minutes gave Jenko the space to create for the first try.
Defensively he missed just two tackles, none crucial, in making 13. He also tested the line repeatedly with seven runs for 77 metres, while kicking it seven times for 77 metres.
He needed the pick-me-up after a down Origin two when he missed six tackles and a poor game in the effort prior during a loss to his former team.
7. Jake Friend (LW: 10)
As mentioned in the review, Friendy has climbed up the hooker rankings and to drive the point home has climbed up the player rankings as well.
He was on fire against the Dragons, running it nine times for 84 metres with a try assist and two kicks for 84 metres with 32 tackles; but mistly his two kicks were the best part of his game. He catches out lazy wingers and the kicks themselves are awkward to judge, one of which led to a wicked bounce and a try off the next play.
He’d be the next in line behind Cam Smith for Origin, having surpassed Matt Ballin in overall influence on a game.
Going away for six months and making coffee was the best thing that ever happened to him, as he is just a level head out there and one of the most trustworthy players we have. Kudos, Jake.
8. Luke O’Donnell (LW: 9)
LOD has cemented that front-row spot after a few teething problems when he first returned to the pace and strength of the NRL, and the 32-year-old even hinted he’s looking to go around for another year.
Against the Dragons he made 15 runs for 110 metres with 24 tackles and just one miss in 47 minutes of action. His work rate along with that of JWH is freeing up his back row to create on the fringes and enabling a better running game from Jake Friend. The non-prop forwards combined for six offloads, two tries, a line break assist and a line break as the front row did the majority of the metre eating.
9. Frank-Paul Nu’uasala (LW: 8)
Frank Paul celebrated six weeks of very good form with a two year contract extension that will keep him at the club until 2015.
Against the Dragons his go-forward was down on recent weeks but still had several timely runs, making 66 metres off nine, while offloading it twice and passing for a line break assist. It’s an underrated part of his game, his passing, and maybe FPN has learned the balance between passing and running it. At the start of the season he deferred too much but recently has been doing a little bit of everything.
He also made 22 tackles without a miss. Here’s hoping the last six weeks are an indicator of what he will do for the next two years, rather than a dead-cat bounce.
10. Daniel Tupou (LW: 7)
The ball went almost exclusively out left against the Dragons and Tupou reaped the rewards, with a try, two line breaks and 10 runs for 87 metres.
His try with no space showed the kid’s belief and patience, while the try that was disallowed was an incredible display of skill: he found the ball with no space down the sideline, and the tackler had committed. Tupou had the ball outstretched with one hand when the tackler connected, and Toops had the awareness to shift it to the other – but his arse was out.
He’s a bloody freak – and Origin bound at some stage in his career. He only slips because of the superb play of his forwards, who it simply cannot be denied laid a great platform the last two weeks so that the likes of Tuopu can dominate when given the chance.
Sam Moa, who struggled to make the same impact off the bench we know he’s capable of with just 69 metres off nine runs; and Mini, who ran hard and busted three tackles — and even forced a rare repeat set with a grubber. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will undoubtedly be back in the rankings next week.