The cover of last week’s Big League magazine screamed ‘1,000 not out’. The image of 400-gamer Cameron Smith stood at the forefront of triple centurions Benji Marshall and the understated Gavin Cooper.
There was no predicting the outcome of many games in Round 23 with a number of upsets across the weekend.
In five games, the lower-ranked team beat the higher-ranked team with the Roosters and Rabbitohs both suffering losses while the Storm returned to minor premiership contention with a gritty win over the Eels.
There were a number of strong individual displays across the weekend from length-of-the-field tries and match-winning field goals to hard charges through the middle and big hits. Here is your NRL team of the week for Round 23.
Fullback: AJ Brimson (Gold Coast Titans)
Brimson proved the difference for the Titans with two tries, leading the way in attack to record a 42-34 win. He sliced through Manly’s defensive line with 118 running metres and eight tackle busts, providing a bright glimpse into the future for the Gold Coast side.
Wing: Corey Oates (Brisbane Broncos)
Oates had a big battle with young South Sydney winger Richard Kennar on Thursday night and came out the better of his opposite number. The giant winger posted three tries for the Broncos in their 20-point win over the Rabbitohs, running for 186 metres with six tackle breaks and three line breaks on the left edge.
Centre: Konrad Hurrell (Gold Coast Titans)
Hurrell was explosive on the edge for the Titans, combining well with Anthony Don. The Tongan international set up his winger to score the first try of the match while also making valuable contributions in attack with 150 metres gained and three tackle busts. He also made 11 tackles in defence.
Centre: Curtis Scott (Melbourne Storm)
Scott had a good game for the Storm as they won a battle of attrition against the Eels to move to first position. He ran for 126 metres, scoring a try for his efforts, however he was most effective in defence where he made 15 tackles leaving Daniel Tupou and Latrell Mitchell bamboozled.
Wing: Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders)
Rapana scored the Raiders’ only try against the Roosters but he gave the NRL’s best defence an absolute nightmare. The rangy winger crossed the line in the ninth minute but continued to show strength in attack with 94 metres gained and eight tackles in defence.
Five-Eighth: Anthony Milford (Brisbane Broncos)
Milford stepped up to the task and was effective in his approach to beating the Rabbitohs through the middle. The five-eighth combined well with Kodi Nikorima, taking the pressure of the Kiwi international by setting up two tries while also busting four tackles. His kicking game was strong, forcing a dropout and continually peppering the Rabbitohs’ line with a host of bombs and grubbers.
Halfback: Chad Townsend (Cronulla Sharks)
Townsend turned his form around by taking the reins for the Sharks and steering them toward victory. The scrum-half ran for 68 metres with a try to his name. His passing game was exceptional while he put Te Maire Martin under pressure from the bomb and forced a dropout.
Prop: Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Tyson Frizell pushed the Dragons into the top four with his heroics at prop against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday. He scored a try, busted three tackles, ran for 140 metres and made 28 tackles in a strong effort by the representative backrower.
Hooker: Cameron McInnes (St George Illawarra Dragons)
McInnes was incredibly dangerous out of the ruck with some strong runs and equally gritty defence. The hooker brought up 59 dummy half run metres from six darts with four tackle busts and an unrivalled 54 tackles in defence.
Prop: Ryan James (Gold Coast Titans)
The inspirational skipper proved the difference for the Titans through the middle, running for an unrivalled 193 metres from 19 carries. James busted through five tackles and created 38 tackles, leading the Titans to victory in a tireless 80-minute performance.
Back row: Luciano Leilua (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Leilua terrorised the Wests Tigers on the left edge in a barnstorming performance. The 22-year-old was incredibly dangerous busting seven tackles and scoring a try in attack as well as making 40 tackles in defence.
Back row: Iosia Soliola (Canberra Raiders)
The Raiders narrowly held on for a win over the Roosters on Sunday afternoon and Soliola played a big role. He had Canberra moving well in attack running for 147 metres while holding the Roosters out with 24 tackles in defence.
Lock forward: Jake Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)
Jake Trbojevic had a strong showing on Friday night with a big effort through the middle of the park. He tested the Gold Coast’s defensive line, running for 168 metres and scoring two tries for the evening. His impact was felt most in defence where he made a huge 41 tackles.
Interchange: David Klemmer (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
Klemmer chewed through the Warriors up the middle as he led the Bulldogs pack to victory in a close 27-26 win. Canterbury lifted whenever he was on the field, making 185 metres from 17 carries with two tackle busts and 36 tackles.
Interchange: James Segeyaro (Cronulla Sharks)
Filling in for Jayden Brailey in the hooking role, James Segeyaro played out of his skin over 80 minutes. The Papua New Guinea international proved the difference for the Sharks with quick bursts out of acting half, setting up two tries and making a phenomenal 40 tackles.
Interchange: Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks)
Fifita sent a huge warning signal to the rest of the competition (and his coaching staff) with an explosive performance at prop. The Tongan international was fired up in the Sharks’ victory over the Cowboys, rampaging his way through 114 running metres with eight tackle busts and a try.
Interchange: Tom Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)
Trbojevic was elusive at the back scoring three tries in the Sea Eagles’ 42-34 loss at the hands of the Titans. The State of Origin representative proved dangerous in attack, running for 207 metres total with a massive 13 tackle busts and four line breaks. Trbojevic also provided two try assists for his brother, Jake, to score.