Six Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues players were named Player of the Year of their respective clubs as the Rugby League awards season came to a close on Saturday night.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS - JAMES TEDESCO
When you’ve set up twice as many tries as Cooper Cronk, you’ve had a remarkable season.
James Tedesco’s move from Concord to Bondi turned out to be a brilliant one for the electrifying fullback as he claimed his first State of Origin series victory followed by the NRL Premiership.
After arguably the best individual performance of the season at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in State of Origin I, Tedesco claimed the Brad Fittler Medal thanks to his integral role in the series win. He followed that with the Jack Gibson Medal last week with a premiership ring to complete the ultimate season.
Despite being known for his running game, Tedesco set up 15 tries for the Roosters this season as well as notching 13 line-break assists to his name, showcasing his ability beyond running the ball and breaking tackles himself.
In that department, he topped the NRL for tackle-breaks with 158, as well as 15 line-breaks to go with his nine tries. They say the best fullbacks are always lingering in support, and he was the No.1 fullback for this statistic as well with 634.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS – DAMIEN COOK
It’s been a year to remember for undoubtedly the most improved player in the NRL.
Damien Cook set Rugby League alight in 2018, with fans taking a liking to his raw speed out of dummy half, which was the key to South Sydney’s attack – the best of all teams this season.
His four tries were all one’s to remember, with his solo effort against the North Queensland Cowboys confirming his State of Origin debut with Fox Sports caller Warren Smith declaring to ‘give him the jumper now’ as he scored.
The best, however, was his try against the Melbourne Storm from 40 metres out where he beat both markers and a further four players on his way to the line, fending off none other than Billy Slater in the process.
Cook posed the same threat in the sky blue jersey with a brilliant debut at the MCG and stood up again in the final two games, even in the defeat with a brilliant try assist for Tedesco. He will don the green and gold for the first time this week.
At the moment, he is the most popular player in the competition. In the past month he’s won the Provan Summons Award, Daily Telegraph Peoples Choice Award, Rabbitohs Member’s Award, ‘The Burrow’ Award, all voted by the fans for NRL and State of Origin.
CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS – DAVID KLEMMER
In a team that struggled for most of the year, David Klemmer stood up for the Bulldogs.
In fact, he averaged the most metres per game for a forward across the whole competition, even beating Cowboys’ wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo, with those two being daylight ahead of the next forward.
Klemmer has been one of the best for the Bulldogs and Blues since his debut, and after a Grand Final defeat, some tough seasons at club level and three Origin series losses, the NSW victory was so deserved for the enforcer.
To the Bulldogs’ credit, they showed serious signs of life at the back end of the season with 2018 debutants Lachlan Lewis and Rhyse Martin stepping up to the plate. If the young guns can reach the potential they showed to back up the likes of Klemmer and Josh Jackson, the Bulldogs will be a team on the rise.
MANLY WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES – JAKE TRBOJEVIC
Alike Klemmer with the Bulldogs, Jake Trbojevic stood out in a team that struggled on the field and had their issues off it in 2018.
Trbojevic is an all round superstar; he makes the tough metres, but also scored seven tries this year, and made the most tackles for any player that isn’t a hooker across the entire competition.
He was one of the six NSW players that had played State of Origin this before this year, and the taste of victory was made even sweeter given he’d gone down to Queensland in the past.
During Origin he played both off the bench and started at times, highlighting his versatility and importance to Brad Fittler and his team. Game II was a particular highlight for Trbojevic, having one of the games of his life.
In what has been such a testing time for Manly, they must be thankful they have a junior like Trbojevic in their ranks that wants to hang around for the long haul.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS – TARIQ SIMS
He’s one of Rugby League’s most feared men in a forward pack stacked with State of Origin superstars.
Tariq Sims has been knocking on the Origin door for years beginning in 2011 when he was with the Cowboys and invited to train with the team.
Two broken legs and two clubs later Sims took the next big step to realising his dream when he was picked in the Blues’ extended squad for Game I and II, and finally got his chance at Suncorp Stadium.
It was a deserved call-up considering the impact he had for the Dragons all year, with Sims acting as the brutal hit man in a side that dominated the first half of the year.
In the semi-final against South Sydney Sims unfortunately got injured and the already depleted Dragons went down by a single point. That could have been a game changer, and highlights how important to the team he is.
GOLD COAST TITANS – RYAN JAMES
James went unbelievably close to a State of Origin debut this year given his sustained form at club level for the Gold Coast Titans that once again extended to 2018.
His work-rate at club level is phenomenal; he ranked ninth overall in tackles made throughout 2018 and was second to only Jai Arrow in terms of running metres for the Titans.
James has shown in recent years that he is no stranger to the try-line. Even though he didn’t beat his record-breaking tally of 12 for a front-rower in 2016, he still notched up six this year. He also scored a double against South Sydney, the second time he’s done that against the red and green in his career.
While James didn’t make his State of Origin debut this year he was in the squad, and will certainly be on Fittler’s radar in years to come.