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Grandstanding: Four standouts so far in 2012

Daniel Anderson NRL.com Thu, Mar 15, 2012 - 11:00 AM

Daly Cherry-Evans has continued the stellar form that took him to a Premiership, Rookie of the Year award and a Kangaroos jersey. Copyright: NRL Photos

ABC Grandstandexpert and former NRL coach Daniel Anderson looks at four players who have started the season with a bang.

Daly Cherry-Evans

Daly Cherry-Evans is creating an unthinkable situation. His form and play is so mature and brilliant that the Queensland selectors are considering playing him at number 7 in State of Origin 1, consigning perennial bridesmaid Cooper Cronk to the bench.

Before now, the answer for the Maroons had been obvious: Darren Lockyer is retired, Jonathan Thurston moves to 6, Cooper to 7 and away we go.

This was an easy transition until some upstart who is supposed to suffer second-year syndrome whilst still in negotiations for a new contract (at any number of clubs) instead continued to play footy with a smile, tremendous foot speed, a wicked left hand fend and a killer show’n’go.

Ben Barba

Barba is in his third season at the Canterbury Bulldogs. Most pundits had pencilled in Brett Stewart to be courted and recruited to the Bulldogs to reunite with Des Hasler.

No one told Ben Barba to play tough, catch all types of bombs, score tries and make breaks given an inch of opportunity and generally perform at a representative level for two games.

Do you think that Des may consider the money earmarked for Brett Stewart may be spent on another position - maybe a representative halfback (see above) or international five-eighth (see man that plays next to the above)?

Billy Slater

It’s just not fair to the rest of the NRL that a player who used to ride track-work is fast becoming the best fullback most of us will ever see.

Everyone loves Billy Slater because of his competitiveness, ability to play well above his weight, commitment to every action he undertakes on the field and the respect he has for rugby league.

Listen to him after games deflecting personal adulation with congratulatory messages for his teammates. Listen to him pay credit to the people inside him for putting the ball in the right place for him.

All of these traits are reflective of the person he is, but we know he is a major reason why the Melbourne Storm have won 75 per cent of their NRL fixtures since he made his debut.

Ben Matulino

Forwards and especially front-rowers rarely rate a mention when it comes to team success. The halfbacks, fullbacks and try-scorers normally hog the headlines.

If the New Zealand Warriors make a serious run at the 2012 NRL Premiership, then this big unit will have to pave the way. The Warriors currently have a Kiwi front rower (Sam Rapira) and Queensland Origin front rower (Jacob Lillyman) missing with injury but Matulino has stepped up.

Yes I am a card-carrying member of his fan club, but I love watching a big tough front-rower carry the ball into the teeth of his opposites and emerge after bending the defensive line landing on his stomach. Watch a few NRL games and see how hard it is to complete this somewhat simple to say action.

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