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Five NRL players with a point to prove in 2011

Expert
7th February, 2011
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Braith Anasta dives in for a try

Braith Anasta dives in for a try: Rugby League, NRL, Week Two of Finals Series, Roosters v Penrith Panthers at SFS, Saturday September 18th, 2010. Digital image by Colin Whelan - nrlphotos.com

The kick-off to the 2011 NRL season is just around the corner, and with excitement growing, I’ve nominated five players who should be playing with some extra motivation in 2011.

Johnathan Thurston
No one questions JT’s form at representative level, especially in State of Origin. But his club form (and, not coincidentally, the form of his club) has been below par the last couple of seasons.

North Queensland have plenty of talent, but they’ve been extremely disappointing, and one feels that they need to turn things around in 2011 or heads will roll. Never one to be far from controversy (some of it fair, some of it unfair), it’s time Thurston put all of his off-field dramas and injuries behind him and delivered a season of sustained brilliance at club level, carrying his side deep into the finals.

His legacy is at stake: if he wants to be considered all-time great, something that is not beyond his talents, he needs to produce a career defining 2011.

Jarrod Croker

For the 15 clubs that didn’t win the 2010 NRL Premiership, it was no doubt a very long off season, with plenty of time to dwell on the mistakes of last year.

However, one player probably spent more time asking ‘what if?’ than the rest.

With little time left on the clock, and trailing 26-28 in the sudden death finals match against the Wests Tigers, Jarrod Croker had a chance to tie up the game with a 30 metre penalty kick. The home crowd of over 26,000 held their breath, and then let out a collective sigh of disappointment, as Croker pushed it wide, thus ending the Raiders campaign.

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Croker had delivered a fine all-round season, and was even selected in the train-on squad for Australia. Canberra coach David Furner defended his young player, stating that his goal kicking had won them many games during the year. And he was dead right.

But how he bounces back from that ‘choke’ could prove telling.

Will he remember that missed goal the first time he is asked to kick an important goal in 2011? Are there some mental demons still lurking in the back of his head? Or will he be back a stronger player who has learnt from his mistake?

2011 should answer these questions.

Daniel Mortimer

It may seem a bit presumptuous to say a 21 year old is facing a ‘make or break’ season of football in his career, but you can’t hide from the fact that 2011 shapes as a vital year for Mortimer.

After an outstanding rookie year in 2009, he suffered a bout of the dreaded “Second Year Syndrome” in 2010.

Whilst it would be silly to suggest being a rookie in the NRL is easy, the fact is, when no one knows anything about you, it can be easier to get away with some of your tricks and habits.

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But in your second year, coaches and opposing players have watched plenty of video on you, analysed you, and are therefore much better prepared for you. And that’s what happened to Mortimer last year, as he struggled to repeat his performances from 2009.

That’s why you need to keep improving, get stronger, and constantly add things to your game – both physically and mentally – to stay ahead of your opponents. In 2011, Turvey’s nephew needs to prove 2009 was no fluke.

Braith Anasta

In the space of a few years, Anasta has gone from a player perennially voted as the ‘most overrated’, to possibly the most underrated player in the league. It’s been a strange journey for the five-eight/lock. Touted as the ‘next Brad Fittler’ whilst he was still a teenager, he’s never quite lived up to the (unfair) early hype.

But whilst he hasn’t become an out-and-out superstar in the mould of Johns, Lockyer or Fittler, he’s still a great player. He has no weaknesses in his game, has become an outstanding captain, and is capable of switching between doing the hard work (hit ups, crunching tackles, packing the base of the scrum, etc), and also delivering moments of genius (his drop goal in the finals against the Wests Tigers, his deft passing, his short kicking game, etc).

He hardly ever has a bad game, and led the Roosters all the way to the grand final last year. And yet, recent reports have him on the outer at Bondi.

Considering he loves the place, and they love him, it’s a bizarre scenario, but the salary cap is being blamed for his potential exit.

That means 2011 must become a platform for him to further showcase his skills and leadership to the entire competition, either forcing the Roosters to think ‘we have to re-sign him’, or having every other team waving a big contract at him.

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Greg Inglis

It’s pretty hard to leave two clubs in one season, but such was the crazy saga of Inglis’ summer, that’s pretty much what he managed to do.

With the Melbourne Storm facing salary cap issues, the Brisbane Broncos leapt at the chance to snare one of the best footballers in the country. However, a disagreement over who should foot a legal bill that Inglis racked up (in his successful defence of an assault charge) meant that his signing with the Broncos was drawn out.

Despite a handshake deal with the Broncos, Brisbane’s contract offer was withdrawn, and Inglis then signed with South Sydney.

Many people within the Broncos organisation felt betrayed, and the media circus went into overdrive. Inglis was labelled many things, including: greedy, dishonest, a drama queen, fat, overpaid and injury-prone.

You don’t think the superstar centre might have a thing or two to prove this year?