Each week in the lead-up to Origin, NSWRL.com.au pick the best-performing NSW-eligible players from the NRL. Selections are based on the previous round only.
1 – Lachlan Coote (North Queensland Cowboys)
It was always going to take something special to dislodge James Tedesco from his starting fullback position in the Team Of The Week, but Coote delivered on Thursday night. As the Cowboys decimated the Roosters 40-0 in Townsville, the Windsor Wolves junior was a dominant playmaker in a side featuring Johnathan Thurston, laying on two tries and scoring one through a brilliant solo effort on half-time.
2 – Josh Mansour (Penrith Panthers)
The cult hero at the foot of the mountains this week reaffirmed himself as one of the busiest wingers in the NRL, his game-high 19 runs earning 206 metres. Mansour may not have come up with a try himself but was vital to the Panthers’ second-half efforts, frequently running the side out of its own half.
3 – Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels)
While overshadowed by left-side partner Semi Radradra – who remains ineligible for NSW selection – Jennings is still worthy of the Team Of The Week after his best performance in the blue and gold to date. The VB Blues incumbent was the beneficiary of a freak Radradra flick pass to open the scoring, also breaking the line twice in the big win.
4 – Euan Aitken (St George Illawarra Dragons)
In a traditional arm wrestle at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the up-and-coming Dragons centre wasn’t afraid of rolling his sleeves up in the wet: he made 26 tackles and ran the ball 17 times. It was the relegation of fullback Kurt Mann to Intrust Super Premiership NSW that gave Aitken his shot, with the 21-year-old supporting a widely-held belief that he should have been there to begin with.
5 – Cory Denniss (Newcastle Knights)
Not only did Denniss debut for the Knights on Saturday, but he was a relative unknown when he did it; the 18-year-old is yet to play in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW but was the beneficiary of three early-season injuries to the Knights’ backline. Denniss scored two tries in the nail-biting draw at Hunter Stadium and looked dangerous with the ball.
6 – Jarrod Mullen (Newcastle Knights)
It was a big day for Mullen, who lined up to a proud Newcastle crowd for his 200th first grade appearance with the unwanted record of losing his debut, 50th, 100th and 150th game in his career to date. After an impressive 90-minute performance, Mullen still couldn’t achieve a milestone win – but his line break, key try assist and general vision with the ball had him looking close to his best as he combined well with Trent Hodkinson.
7 – Chad Townsend (Cronulla Sharks, second appearance)
While not quite as controlling as in the Sharks’ Round 2 victory over the Dragons, Townsend did all he could to give the Sharks a fighting chance against the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval. The halfback summed up the situation perfectly to send Valentine Holmes over late in the game, reducing the deficit to six, but was ultimately outclassed by a strong Sea Eagles defence.
8 – James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys, second appearance, captain)
Tamou is elevated from last week’s bench position to the Round 3 captaincy after a man-of-the-match performance in Townsville on Thursday. The 11-cap VB Blues prop provided 224 metres of vital go-forward, which Coote and others were able to exploit on the way to a big win. Along with 29 tackles, Tamou was simply outstanding and his inclusion means three of the four NSW-eligible Cowboys players feature in the Round 3 Team Of The Week.
9 – Mitch Rein (St George Illawarra Dragons)
The Dragons dummy-half really came into his own in the rain, running the ball 11 times for 101 metres in total. Rein’s 51 tackles were crucial as both sides presented perhaps the best defensive displays seen this season.
10 – Aiden Tolman (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, second appearance)
After a first-half concussion in the Bulldogs’ Round 2 victory over the Panthers, the Canterbury vice-captain was back amongst it to clash with traditional rivals Parramatta. Despite going down to the Eels 20-6, Tolman pulled out a 50-tackle, 156-metre performance that has almost become expected of him in recent years, in what was for the most part a high-quality team performance.
11 – Bryce Cartwright (Penrith Panthers)
It was only a matter of time until this future star made the Team Of The Week and after back-to-back losses to start the year, Cartwright was outstanding in the Panthers’ upset win over the Broncos. The playmaking second-rower scored a vital try in the final moments of the first half to give the home side a chance in the second – before setting up Te Maire Martin to level things up with 10 minutes remaining. With momentum and playing ad-lib football, Cartwright can be almost unstoppable.
12 – Paul Carter (South Sydney Rabbitohs, second appearance)
South Sydney’s solid signing was exceptional in the wet SCG conditions, making a game-high 61 tackles and frequently imposing himself in both attack and defence. With the worrying absence of Sam Burgess, Carter was a willing volunteer to mimic Burgess’s aggression in the second row – a move that subsequently saw him charged for a cannonball tackle on the Dragons’ Mike Cooper.
13 – Shaun Fensom (Canberra Raiders, second appearance)
Like Tolman, Fensom was another workhorse who made the Team Of The Week in Round 1 before being ruled out with concussion in Round 2. The 27-year-old notched up 56 tackles and ran 103 metres, also being forced to play increased minutes in the 90-minute-game.
14 – James Tedesco (Wests Tigers, third appearance)
In what was a slightly more quiet game for the Tigers custodian, Tedesco still managed to lay on two try assists late in the second half. The fullback – still yet to miss a Team Of The Week three weeks into the season – was still a weapon in attack, but the Titans defence did well to contain him. Unbelievably, Tedesco’s 152 metres is his lowest tally to date in 2016.
15 – Jack De Belin (St George Illawarra Dragons)
De Belin returned to the starting line-up in Round 3 and proved his worth with a busy performance in the wet. The 25-year-old ate up 170 metres to go with his 45 tackles, well and truly earning his debut place in the Team Of The Week.
16 – Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers, third appearance)
Along with teammate James Tedesco, Woods finds himself in the Team Of The Week for the third consecutive round – albeit on the bench and from a losing side. The Wests Tigers skipper led from the front as usual, with 35 tackles for his 165 metres. A standard showing from one of the NRL’s most consistent performers.
17 – Jake Trbojevic (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, second appearance)
The young Sea Eagles stalwart was once again imposing in the team’s victory at Brookvale Oval, making another 45 tackles and bagging his first four-pointer of the year. Trbojevic was heavily involved and forced a vital error from James Maloney deep into the second half.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the NSWRL.