My NRL team of the season thus far

Lachlan MacCorquodale Roar Rookie

By , Lachlan MacCorquodale is a Roar Rookie

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    It’s half way through the season now (yes I am a week late), but it is time to consider who I believe would make up a NRL Team of the Season thus far.

    I’ve decided to pick two teams, similar to how the NBA picks the All-NBA First and Second Teams, to recognise the players who may have just missed out on a spot.

    I’ll explain the selections for the first-team in the article to make sure it doesn’t turn into a book and will respond to selections in the second-team if asked in the comments.

    Selections for these teams will be heavily based around key statistics for each position. All stats referred to are when that player is playing in the specific position he is in contention for.

    For me, the fullbacks in contention were Billy Slater, Tom Trbojevic and Valentine Holmes.

    However, Billy the kid has been on another level compared to these two. Slater has scored five tries in ten games and is averaging the most line break assists (LBA) per game this season (0.9 LBA per game), the most try assists per game (1.1 per game), third most tackle breaks (5.3 per game) and third most line breaks per game (0.7 per game).

    These stats show why Slater is considered one of the best fullbacks to ever play the game and why he’ll be a massive threat against New South Wales in Game 2. Since returning from a major shoulder injury, Slater has come back and shown that he is still the best fullback in the game and is my fullback for the team of the season.

    Marika Koroibete and Billy Slater

    (AAP image/David Crosling)

    Firstly, Jordan Rapana is a no brainer to be in the team of the season so far. The winger has scored 14 tries in 14 games, averages 1.2 line breaks a game and a massive eight tackle breaks a game.

    He’s shown that he is arguably the best winger in the game with his incredible attacking ability and when Joey Leilua is in form inside him they are arguably the best centre/wing combination in the game.

    The other winger is Corey Oates. Oates is a good runner of the football and is important on getting a go-forward (averages 11 metres per carry) on the first couple of tackles of each set.

    This season he has averaged 169 metres a game which is the most of any winger and the most kick returns metres (48 per game) to prove that he is a strong winger when returning the football.

    Maroons player Corey Oates crosses over to score

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    The two centres I decided to pick were Latrell Mitchell and Josh Morris. Firstly, I picked Latrell Mitchell because he has that x-factor about him and is very Greg Inglis like in the way he plays.

    Latrell has scored eight tries in ten games in the centres this season and leads line break assists per game in the centres (0.7 per game) and second for line breaks (0.7 per game).

    He doesn’t get as much ball as some of the other centres, but he makes it count with approximately a line break for every ten runs of the football.

    Secondly, Morris was selected because he is a rock on defence. The centre has the highest tackle ratio (Tackles divided by Missed Tackles) out of all centres in the game this season at 14 tackles per missed tackle and is the best defensive centre this season.

    Josh still averages 113 metres a game with 9.4 metres per carry so he certainly doesn’t lack any attacking form and has also had four line breaks, three line break assists and two try assists this season.

    Personally, five-eighth was between Kieran Foran who has been good on attack this season complimented with a solid defence, Cody Walker who has excelled offensively when playing five-eighth and new Roosters recruit Luke Keary.

    I ultimately decided Luke Keary as the best five-eighth this season as Foran and Walkers’ teams have been utterly disappointing this season. Keary has relished the move to the Roosters where he landed a starting role in the halves and hasn’t disappointed.

    Roosters player Luke Keary

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    The half has the second most try assists for a five-eighth this season with 11 (0.9 per game) and most line break assists with 14 (1.2 per game). His short kicking game has been good as well as Keary has forced eight drop outs in 12 games this season being the secondary kicker.

    The battle for halfback was a battle between a Queenslander and a New South Welshman, one has played in six Origins and the other 15.

    The two players are Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans and the Sydney Roosters’ Mitchell Pearce. Pearce has excelled this season but Cherry-Evans has just slightly bettered him in almost every stat this season.

    Cherry-Evans has led a Manly side who no one expected to be sitting in the top eight at this stage of the season.

    Cherry-Evans has the second most try assists with 11 in 13 games (0.9-85 per game) and the most line break assists with ten (0.8 per game). He is a sold defender as well making 11.4 tackles for every missed tackle.

    His combination with Blake Green has seen both their kicking games benefit with a combined 24 forced drop outs for the season (DCE 11, Green 13), the most of any halves combination.

    Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    New St George recruit Paul Vaughan and Manly Prop Martin Taupau are the two big men I have selected up front. Taupau’s a no brainer when you look at his stats. In the average metres per game stats he leads the category by 19 metres per game.

    He also averages the most tackle breaks (4.9 per game), offloads (4.1 per game), Hit Ups over 8m (13.4 per game) and metres excluding kick return metres (157.5 per game) per game. The Front Rower averages 56 minutes per game, and during this time has been wreaking havoc this season.

    St George pick up from Canberra’s reserve grade side Mounties has been one of the buys of the season. Vaughan is a brilliant defender having amassed 400 tackles in 13 games for only 11 missed tackles per game.

    Vaughan also sits third for average metres excluding kick metres (139m per game) and hit ups over 8m (10.9 per game). Both forwards have been running big metres this season and have laid good platforms for the sides.

    This had to be the easiest selection in the team. Cameron Smith is sitting on 20 Dally M votes after Round 14, five ahead of next best, Mitchell Pearce.

    Smith is the only hooker (six or more games) to average 80 minutes a game this season. He sits third for average try assists (0.5 per game) and second for line break assists (0.7 per game) showing that the former Dally M Medallist has been one of the best attacking hookers in the game this season due to the chances he creates.

    His game management speaks for itself and last Thursday night’s clash against Cronulla was a perfect example of that.

    Second row
    The two back rowers I have gone for are current Queensland Origin player Josh Papalii and a surprise selection in South Sydney’s Angus Crichton. In my opinion, Papalii has been the best second rower in the competition this season.

    Papalii is an 80-minute player and sits second in average metres per game (150.8m), first in metres per carry (9.99m), second in hit ups over 8m (10.25 per game), second in tackle breaks (3.33 per game) and third for offloads (1.83 per game).

    The fact that he averages in the top three for all those key statistics for back rowers blows me away. Expect these sort of number in Origin 2. Young Angus Crichton is a surprise selection for the readers and maybe not for those fantasy players as he has only emerged as a starter for Souths over the past couple of weeks.

    Angus sits second for metres per carry (9.84m), third in tackle ratio (23.83 tackles per missed tackle) and first in average tackle breaks (5 per game).

    The youngster also averages 75 minutes per game, 122m per game and a massive 36 tackles a game, proving that the kid can play long periods of time while putting performances on the board.

    Finally, the star studded lock position. Personally, probably the hardest position to select due to amount of players who’ve been outstanding this season, e.g. Trbojevic, de Belin, Gallen, Mannering to name a few. But I can only pick one. 2016 Dally M Medallist, Jason Taumalolo has averaged a monster 198 metres per game, 11 metres per carry and 15 hit ups over 8m per game.

    This beast signed a 10-year contract, whether or not it was the right decision is another question, but there’s no doubting that this bloke is an absolute monster. Watching him play, he makes 198 metres per game like it’s just his average game and that is what us fans have come to expect from the back rower.

    Taumalolo also averages a massive five tackle breaks a game, proving that he is a handful for opposition defence.

    NRL First Team NRL Second Team
    1. Billy Slater 1. Tom Trbojevic
    2. Jordan Rapana 2. Nick Cotric
    3. Latrell Mitchell 3. Tim Lafai
    4. Josh Morris 4. Brenko Lee
    5. Corey Oates 5. Suliasi Vunivalu
    6. Luke Keary 6. Cody Walker
    7. Daly Cherry-Evans 7. Mitchell Pearce
    8. Martin Taupau 8. Aaron Woods
    9. Cameron Smith © 9. Cameron McInnes
    10. Paul Vaughan 10. Andrew Fifita
    11. Josh Papalii 11. Boyd Cordner ©
    12. Angus Crichton 12. Matt Gillett
    13. Jason Taumalolo 13. Paul Gallen