Canterbury Bulldogs and Brisbane Broncos dominate team of the week while Ben Hunt looms as Dally M chance
4. Stephen Crichton (Panthers)
By his own standards, he would have been disappointed with an up-and-down night in the opening round. But he showed every bit of his class as he scored the opening try and set up another in the premiers’ first win of the year. Importantly, he made plenty of good defensive reads down South Sydney’s favoured left side to keep Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell at bay.
5. Herbie Farnworth (Broncos)
What about this buy for the Dolphins next year? Usually a centre, the Broncos had to find a home for him on the wing after backing up his two-try heroics in round one with a phenomenal 91 post-contact metres and a crucial bust for Walsh’s match sealer in the final minutes.
6. Ezra Mam (Broncos)
Adam Reynolds might have finally found a regular halves partner. The 20-year-old was born in Sydney, but as he told Brad Fittler after the game, he’s a one-eyed and two-headed Queenslander. Sorry, did we really say that? Two tries and a stack of attacking spark against the Cowboys. Honourable mentions for Matt Moylan and Jarome Luai.
7. Ben Hunt (Dragons)
He didn’t win the Dally M last year, but he’s sure going to go close again in 2023 on this evidence. Never has a team had a bigger form barometer than Hunt for the Dragons. When he’s on, they look good. When he’s not, they look no chance. Another sparkling display against the Titans. Fun fact: he has scored 11 tries in his career against the Gold Coast, more than any other club.
8. Blake Lawrie (Dragons)
A few others could have filled this spot, but who doesn’t love “Blocker”? Scored a rare try, just his second in more than 100 NRL games, but there was one play which summed him up: getting back to save one when diving on a loose kick in his own in-goal. Props aren’t supposed to do that. Will need a big year if the Dragons are to be a top-eight chance.
9. Soni Luke (Panthers)
When does Ivan Cleary bite the bullet? It’s hard to give a team of the week nomination to a bloke who didn’t start the game, but he completely changed the momentum around the ruck when he climbed off the pine for the Panthers. Might not be too much longer before he has to be in the run-on side.
10. Joe Tapine (Raiders)
Lost the game but not admirers after another ripping display in the mud at Redcliffe. Bustled his way for 162 run metres, exactly half of which were after contact. And he only played 47 minutes. If not the best prop in the game right now, he goes mighty close.
11. Tom Gilbert (Dolphins)
In the Dad’s Army of forward packs, no bloke has shone brighter than the ex-Cowboy, who looks a great purchase by Wayne Bennett. Scored the crucial – and contentious – try in the second half which hauled the Dolphins back into the game against the Raiders, and tackled himself to a standstill with a game-high 42.
12. Briton Nikora (Sharks)
He doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t need to. Craig Fitzgibbon’s right-edge back-rower is turning into a serious weapon for the Sharks. Scored the first try which hauled them back into the contest and barely missed a beat in defence. How much better will he be when Nicho Hynes is back?
13. J’maine Hopgood (Eels)
Of all the players Penrith have lost over the last few years, you would be surprised how upset they were about Hopgood going – and not because it was to the Eels. He might be a mini-Isaah Yeo from what we’ve seen so far. Despite being on a losing side, Hopgood was superb. He laid on two tries and tackled throughout a 71-minute stint. A smart bit of business by the Eels.
14. Will Kennedy (Sharks)
A day after an alleged racial slur was aimed at Latrell Mitchell, this Indigenous fullback shone. Three tries for the first time in his NRL career and generally showed why the Sharks want to keep him. Underrated. Just edged out Tyrell Sloan for the bench spot.
15. Daniel Saifiti (Knights)
Of all the backs-to-the-wall performers for the Knights, he was outside his comfort zone as much as any. Had to survive 60 minutes and watch twin brother Jacob be sent off, but kept coming in one of his club’s most famous wins.
16. Jacob Preston (Bulldogs)
Who even had him playing for the Bulldogs, let alone being in an NRL team of the week this early in the season? While everyone talks about Viliame Kikau on the left edge, this former North Sydney Bear has had a super start to life in the top grade and was a constant menace to the Storm.
17. Lindsay Collins (Roosters)
No Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and no Matt Lodge for the Roosters. Step up Lindsay Collins. Seventy-seven out of the 80 minutes in sweltering conditions. Enough said.
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