The Rabbitohs coach has been adamant about stamping out high blows to the head but believes the recent emphasis is coming at the expense of the game’s flow. How does the NRL achieve the right balance?
Now that we are just over a quarter of the way through the season, it’s time to give out some way-too-soon NRL awards.
Dally M and best fullback – Ryan Papenhuyzen
I may as well do two awards in one for the man with the mullet. He has been immense in every game he has played in so far, scoring eight tries in the five games that he has played. While he has missed some time with injury, his impact in the games he has played far outstrips anyone else in the NRL at the moment.
When he is on the park, there is no one better than him. He runs fantastic support lines, is dynamic on kick returns and is one of the main reasons why the Storm are tipped to go all the way to the mountaintop this season. He is averaging just under one try assist a game and over 200 running metres per game. For those in the fantasy community, his average of 75.2 is third in the NRL, behind only Nathan Cleary and David Fifita.
Honourable mentions – Dally M
Jarome Luai: he has ten try assists and 11 line break assists, both the most in the NRL. The left edge of the Panthers’ attack is borderline unstoppable with Luai in charge.
David Fifita: he has the most line breaks, second most tackle breaks, fourth most offloads, and the second most tries in the NRL. What a beast he is and what a season he is having.
Honourable mentions – fullback
Latrell Mitchell: he has ten try assists, second in the NRL. He has 155 run metres per game and a fantasy average of 61.7. He has been immense.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck: he has 36 tackle breaks and 220 metres a game. He is the heart and soul of a desperate Warriors team. He does everything for them.
Best winger – Brett Morris
It is hard to go past the man averaging almost two tries per game, with 11 in six games, which leads the NRL. He is averaging 152 run metres per game and also 64.7 fantasy points, three points ahead of Brian To’o per game but 11 per game more than any other winger.
He was put on this earth to score tries. That is what he does. His two hat tricks to start the season put down the marker to the rest of the NRL. Morris is going to be looking at some try-scoring records as the season continues as long as he can stay healthy.
Brian To’o: he is just a beast with ball in hand. He is leading the NRL in post-contact metres, tackle breaks and run metres. He has accumulated 200 more run metres than his nearest challenger.
Corey Thompson: he is having a great season so far. He has six tries, 45 tackle breaks, 200 metres per game and nine line breaks to start the year.
Best centre – Dane Gagai
He is a weapon on the left edge. Gagai has benefitted from some sublime play from his teammates around him. He has scored three tries, had three try assists and had three line breaks to begin the year and is averaging 110 running metres per game. The Rabbitohs are in the position they are in partly due to the play of Gagai.
Justin Olam: he has four tries, 25 tackle breaks and 113 metres per game. The little bowling ball will run you over if you aren’t fully engaged. Is there anyone who runs as hard with as little regard for their own body as Olam?
Jack Bird: is he going to get back in Origin colours? He is having a great season for the Red V. He has 110 metres per game and three try assists to start the year. This Bird is flying high.
Best half – Jarome Luai
He is often overshadowed by his more spectacular teammate. Luai is quietly having one of the greatest starts to a campaign ever. He has ten try assists and 11 line break assists. It seems the Panthers score every time they go left with Luai. He stepped up while Nathan Cleary was out injured with some fantastic play. He will continue to be underrated as the season continues, with Cleary getting most of the plaudits. But Laui has been the best half to start the season.
Nathan Cleary: your team must be pretty good when your two halves are vying for best in the comp. Cleary has been spectacular in the six games that he has played. He has two tries, five try assists, four line break assists and 121 metres per game.
Jahrome Hughes: he is fast becoming the go-to half for the Storm. Hughes has had a great start to the year. He has seven try assists, six line breaks and a fantasy average of 55.8.
Best prop – James Fisher-Harris
What a player he has become. Fisher-Harris is the number five player in the NRL for post-contact metres with 442. He is the number one prop for metres gained with 1151 total. He averages 14.9 hit-ups per game and is second in the most decoy runs for his team, showing how valuable he is. A do-it-all prop these days, Fisher-Harris is the ultimate prop for the current game. He simply dominates in the middle and is a workhorse for a prop, averaging around 55 minutes per game.
David Klemmer: he has the second most metres gained and second most post-contact metres gained for a prop. He is having another fantastic season.
Payne Haas: while he missed the first three rounds of the season, Haas has been back to his dynamic best in the games he has played. He averages over 60 minutes in each game and his average metres gained of 180 is tenth in the NRL, the only prop in the top 16.
Best hooker – Reed Mahoney
Mahoney is having a fantastic season and has come on leaps and bounds since last year. He has seven try assists and seven line break assists to start the year, averaging one per game. He has made 352 tackles, third in the NRL, and has a hand in everything the Eels do with the most receipts in the NRL with 856. He is having a ripper start to the year and has been the best hooker so far.
Jayden Brailey: he has the most tackles and third most receipts in the NRL. He is having a great start to the season and will be looking to continue his stellar form.
Damien Cook: he is the quickest man out of dummy half. He is proving once again why he needs to be feared. He has 51 dummy half runs to start the season, nine more than his closest competitor. Cook has been electric from the base of the ruck.
Best second-rower – David Fifita
What a talent, what a beast. He has been dominating everyone this season. He has nine tries, second in the NRL. He has nine line breaks, 17 offloads and 146 metres per game. Fifita is proving to everyone why he was such a hot commodity at the start of the season.
He has been as good as advertised and then some. He has two hat tricks already in the season. Every time he gets the ball you expect him to either break a tackle or provide a line break assist with an offload. If he continues this form, Dally M bells will be ringing.
Isaiah Papali’i: what a signing by the Eels. He is one the Warriors let get away unfortunately. He has five tries, 28 tackle breaks, 408 post-contact metres and 68.6 fantasy average. He is having an unreal start to the season.
Tohu Harris: he is Mr Consistent for the Warriors. He never seems to falter. He just comes back time and time again. He has 120 run metres averaged per game, 65 fantasy points, 264 tackles and two tries. He is showing why he deserves the Warriors’ captaincy next year when Tuivasa-Sheck leaves.