1. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (LW: 1)
JWH is on fire, and only missed out on Man of the Match honours after being barely shaded by his halfback’s career-best game.
Against the Sharks Hollywood was unstoppable, running it 19 times for 214 metres with three offloads and a tackle bust, while on the other end he made 20 tackles and did not concede a penalty.
This guy could run through a brick wall at the moment and bruise the brick on the way through, and is clearly in career-best form. Since he’s returned from suspension, the Roosters have conceded just two tries and caused two shutouts — so big has his impact been that on the Sunday Footy show, they showed the defensive statistics with and without JWH:
In 12 games with him in the team this season, the Roosters have conceded 98 points. in the five games he’s been out, the Roosters have conceded 99 points.
What a BEAST.
2. Mitchell Pearce (LW: 2)
We touched on Mitchell’s game in the match report on Monday, but it’s worth revisiting here.
Four runs for 30 metres, an offload, four line break assists, two try assists (and also threw the final pass for another), 11 kicks for 330 metres, and 25 tackles for just two misses.
The quality of his work was first rate: his bombs were placed just an inch before the line, forcing the Sharks in-goal off the infield catch thanks to a terrific chase; his long kicks repeatedly found grass and their target; and his passing was, as described by Fox commentator Warren Smith on one occasion, delicious.
It was the perfect performance following three days of unprecedented and lopsided criticism fired his way, and was effectively a middle finger salute to the haters.
3. Boyd Cordner (LW: 5)
Boyd has been in scintillating touch recently, including a solid showing in Origin III and another two try effort against the Sharks.
He’s showing his hole-running ability recently and this game was his second double in four games. But aside from that, his work rate is up following a soft period of single digit run totals while JWH was out, and he played the entire 80 against Cronulla.
In all he made 124 metres off 15 runs including five tackle busts and two line breaks, a line break assist and a try assist, and had a hand in Tupou’s try when he held the ball in one hand and passed past the tackler to Jenko, who threw a flick ball inside for his winger.
He is an incredible player already, and will only get better. He’s just 21 years old and only played 44 games of first grade, yet he’s already represented country and NSW.
4. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (LW: NR – injured)
Welcome back, mate. Fuck we missed you.
RTS put on the non-scoring highlight of the season when he showed up two defenders within the space of three seconds by putting on a left foot step followed by a right foot step in the first half against the Sharks.
In reality it’s not really a step as much as a body shift; he slides sideways like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, sliding on his socks through the living room. And just like when people come into contact with Cruise, defenders opposing RTS are often left scratching their heads, wondering what the fuck just happened.
(And if you thought the Cruise analogy was bad, I was initially going to make a reference to Will Smith’s “Men In Black” song and the whole “slide with me, just slide with me” dance. You’re welcome.)
Highlights aside, The Matrix is here because he has a great game to back up his dance moves. Against the Sharks he had 23 runs for 249 metres — both game-highs — with four tackle busts and a line break.
Offensively there is not a single winger — nay, player — who can do what this kid can, and a whole bunch of whoop-ass is bound to be opened next year when, as expected, The Sheck will move to The Back and begin his terror campaign against opposition defences down the middle for the next decade.
5. Michael Jennings (LW: 3)
Jenko went off early but falls only because everyone above him played better on the weekend. That’s not to say Jennings wasn’t great against the Sharks.
He had nine runs for 105 metres with a game-high six tackle busts, a line break and a try assist when he threw that flick inside for Toops to streak away. Defensively he was as good as always, with 18 tackles and just his 10th miss of the year.
The ankle injury which forced him off was reportedly just a precautionary measure, and from all reports he should be right for Sunday’s clash against the Knights.
6. Jake Friend (LW: 7)
I wrote last week that Jake is climbing up the hooking ranks, and he continues to edge closer to that Cam Smith/Robbie Farah level — although he is still a fair bit away from there. However, he’s alone now on that next tier of hooker, and his game against the Sharks provided the separation.
Jakey-boy had his running boots on in this one, making 75 metres off eight hitups, and he bamboozled the markers on the line for a crafty try. He also had three tackle busts and an offload with 27 tackles and no misses in 44 minutes.
He’s backing up offloads and attacking whenever he receives one, rather than passing off immediately, which enables momentum to build quickly and gets his players on a roll. He is now officially a linchpin for the Roosters and as creative a hooker as they come.
7. Luke O’Donnell (LW: 8)
LOD has taken to prop like a vegan to tofu and has probably added a year or two to his career. He has two jobs: run; and run again. He’s doing both jobs very bloody well.
Against the Sharks he made 152 metres from 18 runs in just 41 minutes of action, and had 15 tackles without a miss.
He still has the hands of a snake, dropping the ball twice, but when he holds it he’s golden, pony boy. And he adds a mongrel to a pack that is now among the most feared in the NRL.
8. James Maloney (LW: 6)
Jimmy’s done nothing wrong to slide, but with Friend’s rise of late he’s become more of a link man and occasional kicker who has improved his defence this year beyond recognition. Against the sharks he made 17 tackles with just one miss, and kicked it seven times for 210 metres.
He broke the line and ran it twice for 20 metres, but in the past two games they haven’t needed much from the five-eighth who is coming off his first Origin series.
9. Daniel Tupou (LW: 10)
Toops was the beneficiary of one of the team tries of the year when he took Jenko’s flick ball to scoot over untouched against the Sharks. This is impressive as evidence that their combination has well and truly clicked, as at the start of the year they bombed several tries from a sheer lack of familiarity.
Against the Sharks he had 10 runs for 109 metres with four tackle busts. he has not put a foot wrong in the past month for the Roosters.
10. Frank-Paul Nu’uasala (LW: 9)
His metres were down against the sharks, making just 55 metres off nine runs, but his effectiveness wasn’t. His passing game was exceptional, throwing a neat before-the-line pass for JWH (maybe it was LOD) for a near line break and also gave three offloads, often to the waiting arms of Friend.
He made 16 tackles without a miss, but gave away two penalties. His past six weeks have been massive, and allayed fears among a contingent of Roosters fans that his recent good form was nothing more than a contract run.
Mitchell Aubusson, who was magnificent as the late replacement for Sonny Bill in the starting line-up with a magnificent individual try and many a probing run, and Sam Moa, who scored a try and contributed to the incredible platform his fellow front-rowers provided.