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, third appearance)
Dugan continues to impress in the custodian role for the Dragons and the race for the sky blue number 1 jersey is heating up; the 25-year-old amassed 24 runs for the second consecutive week and his 134 total carries are now the second most in the competition. By cracking the 200-metre mark yet again, Dugan is now the leader in that category as well, despite averaging just 64 metres in his two opening games at centre. While fullback remains one of the most hotly-contested position in the VB Blues line-up, no one can realistically deny that Dugan is in a special patch of form for the Dragons.
2 – James Roberts (Brisbane Broncos, third appearance)
Due to two outstanding centres, Roberts is pushed to the wing for the second time this year – his two try assists and one line break forced selection in Round 7. The Broncos’ annihilation of the Knights may have made Roberts’ life easier on Saturday night, but he appeared to have speed to burn as he did all he could to further the margin. Most importantly for the former Titan, however, is the total of Brisbane’s opposition; the complete shut-out of the Knights in defence is admirable, as Roberts made 16 tackles for zero misses.
3 – Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels, fourth appearance)
On Thursday night at Brookvale Oval, Jennings became the third consecutive player to score a double in his 200th NRL game. The incumbent VB Blues centre scored both in the space of four minutes as the score blew out – but would’ve had a hat-trick had Tom Symonds not knocked the ball from his grasp in the first half. It was his fourth try in two games as the former Rooster improves at his new club.
4 – Kerrod Holland (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
In just his third NRL game, Holland was among the best on ground in a poorly-performing Bulldogs side. His 27 tackles were a great effort for a centre as he also bagged two tries to give the Bulldogs a fighting chance in Wellington. Holland clearly has a big future ahead of him in the NRL – and time will tell if he will eventually be worthy of representative honours.
5 – Tom Trbojevic (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, third appearance)
The Sea Eagles young gun played fantastically again in the Manly side’s 12-point loss to the Eels, running for a season-best 219 metres and putting skipper Jamie Lyon over early in the game. He was impressive as usual with the ball, but unfortunately it is a line-break – in which a good chase from Semi Radradra eventually got Trbojevic run down by Beau Scott – that has been most spoken about following the defeat.
6 – James Maloney (Cronulla Sharks, second appearance)
Cronulla impressed the rest of the competition on Sunday afternoon as they put the Raiders to the sword at GIO Stadium. Maloney was one of the engineers of that, earning a try assist before scoring a deserved four-pointer on the full-time buzzer. Valentine Holmes’ second-half try also came on the back of a Maloney, half-break and the five-eighth totalled a huge 246 running metres at the conclusion of the game.
7 – Jamie Soward (Penrith Panthers)
The diminutive playmaker was instrumental in the Panthers' victory in a wet Monday Night Football clash with the Roosters at Allianz Stadium. Soward kicked masterfully in a performance reflective of his status as one of the game's most influential players - earning repeat set after repeat set in an outing that secured a victory and two very valuable competition points for his side.
8 – Ryan James (Gold Coast Titans, second appearance, captain)
James put forward what was easily his best performance this season on Saturday and was dominant enough to earn the captaincy for Round 7. The Titans prop played 80 minutes for the first time this year, running 20 times for a season-high 171 metres. With a huge 61 tackles to go with it, the 24-year-old pushed his case for State of Origin consideration and put in a gallant performance in a tough defeat.
9 – Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers)
Farah was exceptional in the Tigers’ narrow loss on Sunday night, steering his team around Leichhardt Oval beautifully for his best performance of the year. With a season-high 134 metres and 45 tackles, Farah is judged the best NSW-eligible dummy-half of Round 7 and looked to be in control throughout his 85 minutes on the field. Unlucky to miss out this week is Michael Ennis, who was named Man Of The Match in the Sharks’ defeat of the Raiders.
10 – Tim Grant (Wests Tigers)
Grant is a surprise inclusion in the Round 7 Team Of The Week, having made 42 tackles and 106 metres from a season-high 63 minutes on Sunday. Grant is typically solid in defence and worked well to lay the platform against the much more fancied-Melbourne Storm. The two-time VB Blues representative appears to be settling in well to life at Concord.
11 – Josh Jackson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, fourth appearance)
Jackson is one of the true constants of the Bulldogs side and despite a penalty and error-riddled performance against the Warriors in Wellington, the second-rower did enough to earn his fourth Team Of The Week selection this year. The 25-year-old made three errors with the ball himself, but his 43 tackles and 101 metres were standard and still helped lay a platform for the Blue-and-whites.
12 – Dale Finucane (Melbourne Storm, fourth appearance)
Finucane has maintained his consistency for the Storm, this week stepping up in defence for 54 tackles – which proved invaluable in his side’s Golden Point victory. 142 metres from 17 tackles also positioned the 24-year-old as a standout in the clash at Leichhardt Oval and he remains a genuine chance of a VB Blues debut in 2016.
13 – Paul Gallen (Cronulla Sharks, second appearance)
Gallen is unlucky to miss out on the captaincy this week following what was his best performance for Cronulla in some time. The Sharks and VB Blues skipper has now made the Team Of The Week twice from his three full games this season – a 200-metre, 31-tackle performance against the Raiders ensured that on Sunday. Gallen also earned a try assist as the visitors ran rampant in Canberra.
14 – Jack Bird (Cronulla Sharks, third appearance)
Another standout from Cronulla’s convincing win was Jack Bird, who scored a try and set up one and was generally impressive with and without the ball. Named in the utility position due to three other high-performing centres in the NRL this week, Bird could comfortably slot into a playmaking or second-row role if required.
15 – Jack De Belin (St George Illawarra Dragons, third appearance)
De Belin has long been known as a workhorse of the St George Illawarra side, but he reasserted that through 52 tackles in a physical game against the Titans. It is the third time the lock forward has cracked the 50-tackle mark in four weeks and he is now the fifth-best tackler in the competition – also scoring a vital four-pointer in the Dragons’ win on the Gold Coast.
16 – Matt Prior (Cronulla Sharks, second appearance)
It’s a funny game, Rugby League; having not scored in three seasons at NRL level prior to last week, the Sharks prop bagged his second in as many weeks against the Raiders. Prior deserved it, too, as he is in career-best form for the Cronulla side. His 31 tackles and 102 metres were solid for the visitors once again.
17 – Lachlan Coote (North Queensland Cowboys, second appearance)
It was impossible to leave Coote out following a super-strong showing against the Rabbitohs. Coote may only have one try assist and 50 metres to show for his efforts, but he was constantly looking dangerous with the ball – and the speed shown to run down Aaron Gray and prevent a certain South Sydney try was a promising sign for his Origin hopes.
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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the NSWRL.