Insiders say your club is embarking on “arguably its toughest pre-season ever” with a number of players “training the house down”, some even with clothes on.
Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
As we push past the halfway mark of one of the tightest and unpredictable seasons in recent memory, it’s time to take a look at the players who have made some of the biggest impacts for their team’s week in, week out.
5. Blake Green
He can steer teams around the park, guide players into holes and leave defenders following shadows, exactly what the New Zealand Warriors have needed this year. A no-nonsense, take-on-the-line type of player to compliment the flashy Shaun Johnson and Blake Green lays the platform down superbly. Excellent job by the Warriors to notice what they needed in their team to make them a premiership contender.
4. James Maloney
Wherever this man goes success seems to follow him, and Panthers fans will be hoping the pattern continues and he is helping young Nathan Cleary along the way. Even when their halfback was sidelined, and some people seemed to write off the Penrith club, always Jimmy has guided them through to win their next four or five without the star halfback. His influence can’t be underestimated.
3. Damien Cook
With a new coach comes some new signings and usually an overhaul in the way a team plays football. Damien Cook has been the beneficiary of just that thanks to new coach Anthony Seibold. Leading the competition in dummy half runs with 69 so far in the first 15 rounds, the amount of runs he makes coupled with his speed sees him cut teams straight through the centre to either runaway tries or setting up Souths into some prime real estate to capitalise on.
2. Garet Widdop
The boy from Halifax has always had the moves but not the right dance partner. With the signing of Ben Hunt for 2018 the Dragons now have an organising halfback to compliment Widdop’s ‘wait and watch’ style of play, and with Hunt taking control of the team, Widdop can just play, and with 153 points for the season, he has been able to do just that. One of the players to watch every time he gets the ball this year.
1. Kalyn Ponga
The way this young man has performed this season is good enough for any age, let alone 20 years old and in his first full season of first grade with pressures of a team looking to him as one of their shining lights. Even with Mitchell Pearce sidelined until at least Round 18, Ponga has taken the chance to stand up.
He’s at the top of the tackle breaks (103) and line break assists (13) for this year, and being at the top of the Dally M rankings shows he may be one of, if not the, biggest threat to a defender one-on-one with the ball in his hands. It is only up and up for this kid the more experience he gains.