So it’s been more than 26 Rounds so far this year, which kind of makes the name of the website a little silly in retrospect.
That aside though, what better way to herald the end of a regular season with an award ceremony attended by the who’s who of the Rugby League Community?
But the Dally M’s are a week away, and the founding fathers here at 26 Rounds through it prudent to gazump the traditional News Corp awards with an award that best congratulates consistent performances for the Roosters throughout the year.
The “26 Rounder” is in its first year and is based on the average score derived from the Weekly Roosters Player Rankings as determined by the hard-working staff here at 26 Rounds throughout the year.
All the rankings have been tallied per player, per week, and given a score for each “ranking” i.e. ranked one, you get a point for that week, ranked two you get two points and so on, all the way to a Not Ranked (NR) which gets a score of 11. The player with the lowest average score will be named the “26 Rounder” as the Roosters’ most valuable player in 2013.
Players that were injured or suspended are accounted for, although they scored an 11 for each week they were out, ensuring we get the most consistent player over the 26 Rounds. But it doesn’t mean those who missed weeks cannot win; after all, if Jared Waerea-Hargreaves scored five straight weeks at the top, for instance, that would mean his average score with those weeks and his five-game suspension would average out to 5.5. I think. Therefore, he can still take the prize.
But did he?
Before we get there, allow this writer to reminisce for a moment, because regardless of the outcome this Saturday against the Knights we have been through a heck of a ride in 2013.
We’ve seen players suspended who have come back to dominant performances. We’ve seen a trio of stars return from Origin with dominant displays, and seen one lose his stranglehold on the trophy after struggling to bounce back mentally from his first Origin campaign.
We’ve watched a superstar give it to his old team as his current fans were separated from his former ones in something that hasn’t been seen in world sport outside of a Serbia-Croatia soccer match.
We’ve seen more steps than at an AA meeting, more busts than at Hooters and more donuts than at a cop shop — and in fact more donuts than at any time in Australian rugby league history.
We’ve cried. We’ve laughed; usually at Souffs, and often out loud.
Regardless, in that time we had 23 incarnations of the Weekly Player Rankings. Seven different Roosters sat at the top this season.
But the winner is a player who sat atop the rankings the most. He came to the Roosters with the pressure of a new fan base starved of success and an old one desperate for his blood.
He faced untold amounts of vitriol from neutral fans and the media who demanded he never be allowed to play the game for having the audacity to walk out of a contract — which just seems silly in light of recent events where coaches and players have traded places more times than crabs on the set of Jersey Shore.
He has dominated the headlines all season — and his spectacular, consistent play in a number of roles has ensured that if he leaves the Roosters at the end of this season, he leaves as the holder of the first inaugural 26 Rounder award.
(The 2013 ranking averages and the final rankings as determined by those averages can be found here — but on with the show for now).
Sonny Bill Williams
26 Rounder, 2013
2013 Stats: Eight tries, seven try assists, 12 line break assists, 12 line breaks, 518 tackles, 25 missed tackles, 27 one-on-one tackles, 56 tackle busts, 54 offloads, 19 errors, 15 penalties conceded, 2,250 metres gained, 251 runs
2013 Averages per game: 0.4 tries, 0.33 try assists, 0.57 line break assists, 0.57 line breaks, 24.6 tackles, 1.2 missed tackles per game, 1.3 one-on-one tackles, 2.7 tackle busts, 2.57 offloads, 0.9 errors, 0.71 penalties conceded, 107.1 metres per game, 11.95 runs per game at 8.99 metres per run.
Sonny Bill finished atop the rankings eight times this season, and even despite missing two games to suspension was ranked highly enough to run away with the inaugural 26 Rounder award held at a Gala function last night at Oportos on Liverpool Street, Sydney.
He averaged a ranking of 3.08 and never fell out of the top five apart from the three games he missed, snaking the gong from his five-eighth James Maloney who may have won the award but for a form slump post-Origin when he slid as far out as ninth.
We saw the second rower take out man of the match awards playing on the left side, on the right, as a roaming lock, as a five eighth and while defending in the centres at various stages this season.
Even his worst games — notably the Titans and Sharks games in rounds 24 and 25 — were better than what most second rowers are capable of on any given day.
He had games where he couldn’t be tackled before offloading: against the Parramatta Eels in round four — just four games into his return mind you — he had a try, a try assist, a line break assist, four offloads and three tackle busts in one of the most dominant displays of the early season. Yet in that game he made just 47 metres.
We’ve seen him tuck the fancy stuff away and get the dirty work done: against the Cowboys in round 10 he made 32 tackles, 19 hit-ups, 176 metres, three offloads and two tackle busts in a gritty 12-8 win in the tropics.
He’s been the game’s biggest five-eighth on two occasions, the final a masterpiece: Against the Sea Eagles in round 16 he had a try assist, a line break assist, two offloads and a line break.
We were there to witness his finger-to-the-lips performance against his old club, in front of fans who hate him: In round six he scored two tries with two line breaks, five tackle busts, 21 tackles and a try assist for the ages when he threw a cutout face-ball to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck right in front of the Bulldogs fan bay at Allianz.
But he saved his best game for the biggest club game in many years, against the Rabbitohs in round 26.
He was bumped off early for Greg Inglis’ try but from there was simply unstoppable.
He lined up Chris McQueen with a beautiful shoulder tackle. He nearly broke the line with every touch and when he made it all the way through he set up the game winner. He offloaded twice. He ran for 214 metres off 18 hitups. He led from the front, side, wherever, and he took the Roosters on his broad shoulders to the minor premiership despite the club missing four starters and having lost two straight.
He is driven by achievements, and taking home the 26 Rounder for 2013 has legitimised his return to rugby league. It is without a doubt the greatest accomplishment the World Cup winner, boxer and premiership winner has ever had bestowed upon him.
If he leaves after this year, then it truly has been a blessing as a fan of rugby league — not just as a die-hard Roosters follower — to watch this man run around for 21 regular season games, with potentially two games more to come.
So Sonny Bill, if this is the last award you receive in Rugby League, enjoy. Because we have.
The 2013 ranking averages and the final rankings as determined by those averages can be found here.