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 – James Tedesco (Wests Tigers, fifth appearance)
When the form player of the NRL was left dazed after a knock from Luke Lewis – sending him to the sidelines in just the second minute – his incredible run of four-straight Team Of The Week selections appeared to be at an end. The fullback returned 15 minutes later, however, and immediately quashed any doubts of a possible concussion by brilliantly batting a pass on to David Nofoaluma to score. Tedesco showed his renowned footwork to score his own just seven minutes later – and a second later in the game. Can anything keep him down?
2 – Josh Mansour (Penrith Panthers, third appearance, captain)
Mansour was arguably the best on field in his side’s last-ditch win over Parramatta and in his third-straight appearance earns the captaincy in the Round 5 Team Of The Week. It coincides with the winger’s third consecutive 200-metre game, coming from a season-high 21 runs, which now puts him as the second-best metre-eater in the NRL this year. He also scored a late try in the 76th minute as part of an incredible finish at Pirtek Stadium.
3 – James Roberts (Brisbane Broncos, second appearance)
Roberts didn’t take long to silence the parochial Gold Coast crowd on Friday night, who he turned his back on in signing with the Broncos late last year; the centre scored through an amazing individual effort in just the third minute of Brisbane’s victory. The 23-year-old appeared to have copped a painful hip injury later in the first half, which looked as if it might hinder his speed, but he still made another line break and was all over the Titans defence. The sight of James Roberts at top speed is one to behold and we’re sure to see much more of it in 2016.
4 – Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels, second appearance)
Jennings continues to improve and while his left-side combination with Semi Radradra didn’t bring any points this week, he was still relatively busy in his season-high 19 runs and 136 metres. It was mostly fullback Michael Gordon who took over the Parramatta backline, but Jennings’ involvement in attack was also a positive sign for Eels and VB Blues fans alike.
5 – Tom Trbojevic (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
“Tommy Turbo” has been outstanding in the five NRL rounds to date and has been unlucky not to make the best 17 so far. At just 19 years of age, the Manly winger has already notched up 14 games – even being trusted with the added pressure of fullback in the early-season absence of Brett Stewart. On Thursday night he ran for 196 metres and frequently looked dangerous on the Sea Eagles’ right edge.
6 – James Maloney (Cronulla Sharks)
Maloney makes his first Team Of The Week in Round 5, playing well off Chad Townsend and also making 23 tackles. Both Townsend and Maloney helped set up the Sharks’ win, but it was the five-eighth who scored a special try late in the first half off a Valentine Holmes kick. His seven goals from nine attempts cannot be overlooked in the performance, either.
7 – Apisai Koroisau (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
Koroisau had the rare honour of a Man Of The Match award on a losing team on Friday night, after taking the second half by storm to get his side back into the contest. The Berala Bears junior, who despite playing five games for Fiji can be eligible for NSW if he chooses, combined brilliantly with five-eighth Dylan Walker and hooker Matt Parcell to make three line breaks and score the final try of the game. It is an outstanding achievement for a player who just two weeks ago was named in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Team Of The Week – in the no.9 jersey.
8 – Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers, fifth appearance)
Like team-mate Tedesco, Woods doesn’t look like missing a team in his current form; another 71-minute, 34 tackle, 150-metre game against the Sharks ensured he keep his spot in Round 5. Incredibly, it was the Wests Tigers captain’s lowest metres tally of the year to date and he has run further than any other forward in the competition.
9 – Cameron McInnes (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
While neither of McInnes’s tries – both in the opening 11 minutes of the game against Manly – can be said to be overly freakish, the young hooker did read the poor Sea Eagles defence well to bag the early double. The Botany Rams junior then laid on the visitors’ third and final try of the match four minutes later, which would eventually seal the victory. His defensive efforts to make up for the concussed Damien Cook, however, were perhaps the most pleasing – 46 tackles are the most he’s made this season.
10 – Ryan James (Gold Coast Titans, second appearance)
James is in a purple patch of form and was impressive once again in what was a closer clash than many expected on Friday night. Making a game-high 49 tackles and running 14 times, the two-time Country Origin star appears to have embraced his leadership role – even after relinquishing the captaincy to the returning Nathan Friend against the Broncos.
11 – Bryce Cartwright (Penrith Panthers, second appearance)
Cartwright worked hard on Sunday afternoon and can be largely credited with their last-minute win; the young second-rower muscled his way over late in the first half, before scoring the match-winner after the final buzzer. The 21-year-old could have a hat-trick if not for a disallowed try earlier in the game, while his 154 metres were second only to Mansour at Parramatta. Read what Cartwright had to say about his Origin prospects this year.
12 – Paul Gallen (Cronulla Sharks)
The returning Cronulla and VB Blues skipper was relegated to the bench on Saturday, with his 58 minutes well down from his usual capabilities. Gallen still had a game to remember, however, running 153 metres and making 19 tackles. While the 34-year-old will be disappointed in himself for stopping to allow what may have been a questionable Tedesco try, he silenced the vocal Campbelltown crowd three minutes later by crashing through to give his side the lead.
13 – Dale Finucane (Melbourne Storm, second appearance)
The unsung hero of the Melbourne Storm outfit went about his business quietly again on Saturday, but managed 44 tackles and 13 runs in the process. In his 69 minutes on the field, the lock also sent halfback Cooper Cronk over to score as the Storm came roaring home to steal the victory.
14 – Jarrod Croker (Canberra Raiders, second appearance)
Croker was instrumental in his side's upset win in Monday Night Football at Belmore. The headgear-wearing, fleet-footed centre was once again one of the Raiders' best, running for almost 100 metres, making a line-break and crossing for two tries and kicking five goals for a haul of 18 points in a 14-point victory.
15 – Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks, third appearance)
Fifita, who performs impressively whenever he lines up alongside Gallen at club level, had perhaps his best game of 2016 at Campbelltown Sports Ground. The unpredictable prop ran 172 metres, made 28 tackles and looked at his damaging best as Cronulla overcame the Wests Tigers.
16 – Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders)
Ran for 178 metres, scored a try and set up another in a polished performance at Belmore. Continuing to grow in confidence at the back for the Green Machine - and develop into one of the game's brightest young stars.
17 – Danny Wicks (Parramatta Eels)
Wicks, like Koroisau, is another player to make the VB Blues Team Of The Week after appearing in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW team earlier this year. He made the Round 1 side through a strong performance for Wentworthville and has played every Eels game since – making a season-high 16 runs and 136 metres to justify his selection.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the NSWRL.