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Opinion

The best of the NRL's underappreciated players

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Expert
31st March, 2020
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Some players rarely get the public acclaim, man of the match awards or Dally M points the ‘stars’ do, but are just as essential to their sides’ successes.

Without these unsung heroes, their teams would struggle.

In this darkest of times, I have taken it upon myself to sing the praises of these mainstays, to make sure that they know that there is a whole lot of love out there for them.

Elliott Whitehead
The bearded lad from Bradford had played seven seasons in the Super League before coming to play with the Raiders in 2016. He has now played over 300 combined games and has represented England since 2014.

Every single week, the 30-year-old plays the full 80 minutes, tackles anything that moves and is hard as iron.

Don’t let his quiet manner and ever-present, wide smile fool you, ‘Smelliott’ is one of the toughest and most durable men in the game.

Elliott Whitehead England Rugby League 2017

Elliott Whitehead of England (Image: NRL)

Mitch Aubusson
Aubusson is set to break the 300-game mark in just nine more appearances, all for the Roosters. He debuted for the Tricolours in 2007 and has been a fixture ever since, playing wherever he has been needed and doing it well.

He now has three premiership rings and they are well deserved – this bloke is as tough, durable and versatile as they come.

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While some have suggested it, he has never been making up the numbers. The Chooks will suffer when he finally retires.

Gavin Cooper
The lad from Murgon has played 311 games in his 15 years in the top grade – 235 of them with the Cowboys – and at 34 he is still such a vital player for North Queensland. He was still getting selected for Queensland in 2018 at the age of 33, such is his value.

Not only is he a great defender and a hard hitter, he is smart. He knows what lines to run and when to run them.

For years he was a beneficiary of his great combination with Johnathan Thurston, but even since JT retired, Cooper is still a handful for – although an often unheralded one. A total legend.

Tyrone Peachey
I first saw the lad from Wellington – a famous breeding ground of prime NRL players – at Shark Park in 2013. He scored the most beautiful try, displaying both his speed and skills, which was subsequently – unfairly – disallowed.

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The Shire faithful already knew he was the goods and were upset when it was revealed that he was off to the Panthers and in his 109 games for Penrith he scored 40 tries.

Now 28, he has played for NSW and may well do so again, however his move to the Gold Coast has seen him fall off the radar. That said, in the Round 1 clash against the Raiders, his pure skill was clear for all to see when he was moved to five-eighth. Immediately the Titans’ defence improved and their attack looked dangerous.

Anybody who thinks this bloke is a has-been is totally wrong. We have not seen the last – or the best – of Tyrone Peachey.

Tyrone Peachey

Tyrone Peachey in his time with the Panthers. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Dale Finucane
Bulldogs fans are still ropeable about this bloke being let go, just as Storm fans are amazed they got him. Finucane is a machine.

While other players at Melbourne get the plaudits, he is the key to the Purple Horde engine room that lets the likes of Cam Munster, Cam Smith and Ryan Papenhuyzen weave their magic.

He plays 80 minutes almost every game and while he may not be as flashy as the likes of Jake Trbojevic or Cam Murray, he is just as good. He’d be in any NRL coach’s team if they could only get him.