Matt Russell looks at the NRL stars of the future in his weekly column on the under-20s Toyota Cup.
Youth and experience
Youth and experience
The Canberra Raiders have long put their faith in the Toyota Cup and last Friday night was a great reward.
Almost half of the Green Machine’s winning NRL team came through the Under 20’s.
Below is a list of those graduates and the year they last played in the National Youth Competition.
Nathan Massey (2011), Blake Ferguson (2009), Jarrod Croker (2009), Joel Thompson (2008), Sam Williams (2011), Shaun Fensom (2008), Josh Papalii (2011), Sam Mataora (2010).
Those names made up almost half of the NRL team that beat Canterbury 20-12.
How long until a club has more Toyota Cup graduates than not in its NRL team?
How long until a club has an entire NRL team made up of Toyota Cup graduates?
Here comes Canterbury ... again?
Canterbury’s Under 20’s left Canberra safe in third spot after winning 38-10.
Andy Patmore’s players can make it five straight wins when they play Gold Coast on Friday.
Toyota Cup observers will remember The Dogs’ remarkable run last year. They were without a win after Round 7 but lost only twice for the rest of the season – in Round 15 against Gold Coast and in Week 3 of the Finals against the Warriors.
What can they do in 2011 given the much better start than 2010?
Other clubs are also taking notice, given the interest in some The Kennel’s brightest young forwards.
Touch of class
The Tigers are unbeaten at Toyota Cup level this season when they've had Jacob Miller and Curtis Sironen in the halves. In other words, for the last four games.
Before that, NRL promotion, injuries and other players conspired to keep them apart.
If Round 11 was any indication, coach Grant Jones will want them locked in for the rest of the year.
Miller’s kicking game was outstanding – long, short, in attack or under pressure, he had it all.
Sironen scored two spectacular tries – the first from long range which reminded many people of his dad Paul streaking away in the ’89 Grand Final.
The halves get every opportunity behind standout props Neil Begovich and Matt Groat, the latter an Australian Schoolboy and NSW Under 18 for the past two years.
Given the Tigers have just re-signed Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods, to compliment the likes of Keith Galloway and Bryce Gibbs (at this stage), the stocks look good in Sydney’s West!
We rate that
The Tigers v Panthers game attracted the highest Toyota Cup ratings for the season.
Every moment was watched by an average of 94,000 people and 300,000 sampled the Under 20’s action at some stage.
You can watch more this weekend when the Fox Sports cameras bring you the resurgent Newcastle v Parramatta on Saturday and Melbourne v Cronulla on Sunday.
Omar Slaimankhel and James Roberts went into Round 11 as the Toyota Cup’s leading try scorers with 12 each.
What shaped as a great shootout between the excitement machines tanked when Roberts was re-called to the NRL.
It left Slaimankhel to cross twice in the Warriors 62-6 thrashing of the young Bunnies.
In 11 games this season, Slaimankhel now has 14 tries, including eight in the past four games.
Ben Barba leads the way in the NRL with 10.
Barba also holds the Toyota Cup (regular season) record for the 28 he scored in 2008.
Including finals, Jake Mullaney scored 29 in 2009.
Drury Low led the way last year with 22.
How will Slaimankhel finish 2011?
Plenty of points
Round 11 was a frenzy. How did the statisticians keep up?
Friday’s 38-10 result in Canberra was the lowest scoring.
There were 60 points in the Wests Tigers v Penrith game on Saturday.
Sunday’s games in New Zealand and at the SFS each had 68 points.
Monday topped the lot as Parramatta and Cronulla finished with 72 ... a 36-all draw!
Training should have been interesting this week.
Date to remember
Melbourne and the Warriors have become the Big Two in the Toyota Cup in 2011.
They meet again on Sunday, June 26, in New Zealand as part of Round 16.
Heading into Round 12 this weekend, Melbourne has won seven in a row.
Preparing for their first bye this weekend, the Warriors have won eight of their last nine, with their only loss in that sequence against Melbourne 40-10!
Back with a bang
We have seen some great form reversals in the Toyota Cup but Newcastle has created one of the best.
After a five-game losing trot where the Knights only once kept the opposition under 40 points, they bounced back to thrash the Roosters 50-18.
Tyrone Roberts returned from NRL while some of the club’s outstanding SG Ball team also stepped up.
One of them, Kurt Mann, enjoyed 12 runs for 156m and two tries on debut.
Will they stop the Eels, who have lost just one of their last five?
Marmin Barba was electric again last week with two tries – 10 for the season – as Parramatta kicked an 80th minute penalty to draw with the Sharks.
The Knights host the Eels live and exclusive from 3.15pm EST on Fox Sports 2 this Saturday.
Slip sliding away
After enjoing four straight wins, Cronulla slipped to a 28-19 loss to the Roosters, slid a bit further with the draw against Parramatta last week, and is now away to Melbourne.
It shapes as a massive test for the Sharks, who don’t expect Stewart Mills back anytime soon.
Making matters even worse, the Storm is fresh off a bye and unbeaten in seven homes games this season.