Peter Sterling: Top of the props

I find that players make the best judges when it comes to on-field matters.<br><br>It came as no surprise then to learn that front-rower David Shillington was the clear choice as Player’s Player for Queensland out of last week’s Origin II. He received 13 of the 17 votes, but I’m confident he didn’t vote for himself so it was really 13 of 16 from his teammates.<br><br>Whilst Darren Lockyer was also superb and took out the official Man-of-the-Match award, the Maroons' internal vote indicated the significant input that Shillington produced in their pronounced victory.<br><br>With Queensland enjoying such a dominant run - and boasting arguably the greatest ever backline - the only concern was how they would fare “up front” following the loss of some absolute stalwarts.<br><br>For so long they were able to rely on the likes of Shane Webcke, Steve Price and Petero Civinoceva to lay the platform that there had to be some concern as to how the void would be filled when their Origin days were over.<br><br>In 2008 Ben Hannant was blooded and he has emerged as another outstanding front-rower, but was in need of some partners in crime.<br><br>I’m sure we will see Petero represent again, but the pressure is now somewhat off with the emergence of Shillington, Matt Scott and Dave Taylor.<br><br>Both Shillington and Scott have been superb as starting props and were instrumental in gaining a physical advantage over the Blues in both games.<br><br>Obviously David’s confidence was boosted by being a part of Australia’s Four Nations touring party last season and then earning his first run-on Test Jersey against New Zealand last month.<br><br>On Wednesday night he relished the confrontation and was particularly keen to set a precedent early in each half.<br><br>After eight minutes he blindsided opposing prop Michael Weyman with a vicious shoulder charge which reinforced the strong start his team had made both physically and on the scoreboard.<br>&nbsp; <br>Then to kick off the second-half he hit Tom Learoyd-Lahrs with a similar shot to make sure that the Blues were aware that despite the break and the 16-nil lead, there was to be no drop in intensity.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br><br>What was particularly impressive about this passage of play was that Shillington came up with two big tackles in a row but was able to produce an even more important effort immediately after. With NSW attacking to the right, an inside pass found Mitchell Pearce who looked set to scythe through. Shillington still found the energy to trail across and launch himself low to grass the flying half-back.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/repgames/origingameanalyser/tabId/10936/default.aspx?fixtureID=50120100201" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to watch these plays on our Origin Game Analyser.</a><br><br>This was not only an indication of attention to detail but also a display of a real athletic ability. &nbsp;<br><br>At 111 kilos and standing 194 cm he is a big man, but this mobility gives him a distinct advantage over those who don’t move as well. It is especially important in enabling quick play-the-balls and Cameron Smith revelled in the space that these provided.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/repgames/origingameanalyser/tabid/10936/default.aspx?fixtureid=50120100201?seasonid=240&roundid=869&fixtureid=50120100201&videoquality=1&type=penaltyconceded&period=1&time=2367" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Shillington's charge and quick play-the-ball to provide space for Smith.</a><br><br>It is now NSW who are facing a shortage of Origin-type props.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br><br>The only specialists chosen last week were Weyman and Brett White with six back-rowers rounding out the forward rotation. At some time Gallen, Hindmarsh, O’Donnell, Waterhouse and Learoyd-Lahrs all found themselves sticking their head in the front of the scrum.<br><br>There are those who believe there is little difference in pushing up from the back-row but I think it takes a toll on those who aren’t used to it and it also goes against their natural instinct of playing a little wider in the ruck. <br><br>In my opinion, on a weekly basis the best NSW front-rower is actually Souths' Luke Stuart who goes about his business in a professional manner with little fanfare. He is as tough as old boots, always the first to put his hand up to take the tough metres and is virtually mistake-free.<br><br>So too is the Titans' Luke Bailey who may be a metre slower than in his prime but compensates by covering the ground in a smarter fashion and by doing all the little things right.<br><br>These days both men are considered unfashionable with representative football having passed them by but they should be the examples that our young props are looking to emulate.<br><br>The Cronulla duo of Kade Snowden and Luke Douglas look to be on the verge of attaining higher honours, whilst Panther Tim Grant, the Eels' Tim Mannah, Dragon Matt Prior, Raider Dane Tilse and the Tigers' Keith Galloway are the best of the young breed coming through. I think Mose Masoe at the Roosters also displays plenty of promise.<br><br>For a while there has been talk about the need for an academy style set-up for the play-makers of our game to be given direction and stop their slow demise in the modern game. We should also be looking at something similar for front-rowers early in their career to help them learn the trade of one of the toughest positions on the field. <br><br>All players should take heed of two of the most impressive but unnoticed plays from over the weekend.<br><br>On Friday night with his side holding a seven point lead and the game won, the Titans hooker Nathan Friend raced 80 metres with 80 seconds remaining to keep try-scorer Ben Barba out wide to make the conversion kick harder. Nathan had not had a break and at the time had racked up 42 tackles.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=851&amp;fixtureid=50020101502&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=2515" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see the gutsy effort from Friend.</a><br><br>The next night in Melbourne Greg Inglis took an intercept and cruised 90 metres to add to the 18-0 score line the Storm already enjoyed. Pursuing him all the way was Cowboys second-rower Scott Bolton - also with the desire to keep him as far away from the posts as possible.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=851&amp;fixtureid=50020101503&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=1773" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Bolton's big effort.</a><br><br>In each instance, neither Friend nor Bolton was any chance of catching the much quicker ball-carrier and each try was converted.<br><br>For both players, the easy thing would have been to stop and watch from afar but they still deemed it important enough to chase. <br><br>These things cannot be coached and one day they will make a difference.<br><br>They are both Queenslanders.