VB Blues' Team Of The Week Round 6
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 – Josh Dugan (St George Illawarra Dragons, second appearance, captain)
In a badly beaten team, Dugan was simply outstanding. Through 312 metres from 24 runs – both easily the highest tallies of any player this season – the 2015 Brad Fittler Medallist caught the eye of many observers who had written him off for another sky blue jersey this year. Dugan made two of his side’s 12 errors, but his four tackle breaks and line break well and truly made up for it – posing the question of how the Dragons were still kept scoreless on Thursday night.
2 – Josh Mansour (Penrith Panthers, fourth appearance)
For the first time in four weeks, Mansour did not crack 200 running metres on Saturday night - but his tally of 176 was still a fantastic effort. Mansour ran the ball 19 times and has proven himself as a consistently willing participant, still looking like a threat on the Panthers' left edge.
3 – Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels, third appearance)
As expected, Jennings continues to improve in the blue and gold jersey and this week was involved in the demolition of the Raiders at home. The incumbent VB Blues centre crossed for a double in the victory, also notching up 16 tackles as the Eels put on a clinic at Pirtek Stadium.
4 – Jack Bird (Cronulla Sharks, second appearance)
Bird last appeared in the Team Of The Week back in Round 1 and his shift to the centres has definitely seen a quieter performances this season than a breakout 2015. The young gun, however, was solid for the Sharks on Saturday afternoon, with 18 tackles and a line break in the performance.
5 – Tom Trbojevic (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, second appearance)
Tom Trbojevic is a consistent performer for the Sea Eagles, this week earning a second consecutive selection. The speedster scored his second try for the year in Manly's victory over the Warriors, also breaking three tackles. As the season progresses, calls will grow louder for Trbojevic to progress into the fullback role as a part-time replacement for the ageing Brett Stewart.
6 – Josh Reynolds (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
Reynolds was incredible with and without the football on Monday night, as the Bulldogs shut out the Storm for a seventh-straight victory over Mebourne. The typically tenacious five-eighth didn't have his best game last week against the Raiders, but bounced back to make 23 tackles and set up two of the visitors' three tries in Melbourne. With VB Blues halves positions seemingly up for grabs, Reynolds pressed his case with a strong attacking and defensive effort.
7 – Trent Hodkinson (Newcastle Knights)
Hodkinson had easily his best game in a Newcastle jersey and it coincided with the Knights' first victory of 2016. His combination with Jarrod Mullen was clear for all to see as he made a line break and set up Korbin Sims for a first-half try. Importantly, Hodkinson also maintained his renowned calmness under pressure to kick three conversions from three attempts - which proved the difference in Newcastle's 18-16 win over the Wests Tigers.
8 – Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks, fifth appearance)
Fifita was extremely unlucky not to be awarded Man Of The Match honours on Saturday afternoon and is similarly unfortunate to miss out on the captaincy in our Team Of The Week. The Cronulla big man was at his destructive best, running for 160 metres which included a damaging run to the try line in the 56th minute. Fifita gave the crowd at Southern Cross Group Stadium an impressive dancing display after his four-pointer, confirming him as our choice for Round 6.
9 – Michael Ennis (Cronulla Sharks)
It was Ennis who was named best on ground in the Sharks' thrilling victory, setting up two vital tries including a perfectly-placed grubber for prop Fifita. The hooker also made 43 tackles and two offloads, providing constant energy around the ruck and leading from the front.
10 – Matt Prior (Cronulla Sharks)
Finding himself in a solid patch of form for Cronulla, Prior was, like the other Sharks forwards, impressive on a day when the home side just outmuscled the Titans. Making things better for the former Dragon, Prior crossed for his first try in Cronulla colours - the last points came in May 2013.
11 – Josh Jackson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, third appearance)
In an outstanding defensive effort from the blue-and-whites, it is impossible not to consider the Bulldogs forwards. While Englishman James Graham and Kiwi Sam Kasiano were both impressive, Jackson made a season-high 45 tackles - including a number of fantastic scrambling efforts to wrap up the Melbourne outside backs. With two offloads as well, Jackson continued pressing his case for another VB Blues jersey.
12 – Dale Finucane (Melbourne Storm, third appearance)
Fincucane did all he could for the Storm, who looked brilliant with the football but were unable to crack a fantastic Bulldogs defence. With 34 tackles and 97 metres, the former Bulldog was heavily involved as always, breaking two tackles and also offloading the football three times.
13 – Trent Merrin (Penrith Panthers)
It may have taken him some time to really impress this year, but Merrin had easily his best game in Panthers colours on Saturday night. In 54 minutes the lock forward made 37 tackles and 107 metres, breaking six tackles and offloading three times in the process. When the former Dragon broke through for his second try at his new club, it had Panthers and VB Blues fans alike hopeful that he has finally clicked in season 2016.
14 – James Tedesco (Wests Tigers, sixth appearance)
With Wests Tigers prop Aaron Woods leaving the field after minutes with an ankle injury, Tedesco is officially the only player to make every single Team Of The Week to date. While marginally outshone by starting fullback Dugan, it is simply impossible to leave the Tigers custodian out of the equation when he comes up with two line breaks, a try assist and a four-pointer himself. Another 136 metres also helps Tedesco earn a sixth selection.
15 – Jake Trbojevic (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, fourth appearance)
Jake Trbojevic is the second of two Manly players to make the Round 6 Team Of The Week, named alongside brother Tom for the first time this year. Returning from a minor injury to play at lock, Trbojevic made 33 tackles, broke two and set up a try as the Sea Eagles upset the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.
16 – Greg Bird (Gold Coast Titans, second appearance)
The VB Blues stalwart was a man on a mission on Saturday afternoon, making heavy contact in just about all of his 21 tackles. Bird offloaded three times and had a line break assist, once again aiming to provide playmaking options for a side featuring an inexperienced halves pairing.
17 –Tepai Moeroa (Parramatta Eels)
Perhaps the biggest surprise packet of the Round 6 Team Of The Week, Moeroa did a job in defence to bring up 44 tackles. The Cook Islands born, Western Sydney raised second rower has flown under the radar in 2016 but his work ethic was a big factor in Parramatta's big victory.
There's no better way to support in 2016 than by joining The Star-backed Blatchys Blues for Origins I and III at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Click here to secure a spot to witness history.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the NSWRL.