Sterling Gold: NRL's four best excitement machines

I'm the luckiest person in the world in that my job is also my hobby.

Whilst others collect stamps or chase butterflies, I derive great pleasure out of rugby league games.

Because it is my occupation it also means that I watch an awful lot and am exposed to a certain sameness about how the game is played. With such an emphasis on completion rates there is a degree of predictability in how teams operate.

That doesn't deter, because I enjoy the arm wrestle aspect of the contest, but I do love a breath of fresh air.

That's why I was interested to hear the term "worth the price of admission alone" used a number of times in recent weeks.

It got me thinking that if going to matches wasn't a vocation, what would it be that would be get me to part with my hard-earned to pay through the turnstile? Or maybe more to the point, who?

Now I'm constantly amazed at the talent, skill level and athleticism of all today's players and believe they offer fantastic entertainment.

However by watching them so closely every week you become aware of the type of play they are capable of producing. It is testament to their great ability that opposition teams also know what to expect but are so often unable to stop them.

What then becomes incredibly appealing as a spectator are those rare individuals who produce the unexpected and put things on the line by throwing some caution to the wind. In other words, they often make the difference in games by taking chances that are not necessarily the percentage plays.

Fortunately we have a number of individuals in the NRL who keep us on the edge of our seats with the out of the ordinary that may not always come off.  

At the head of the list is the magical Benji Marshall who reminds you of the kid with the skateboard who imagines and then creates the best tricks which the other kids can only copy and follow.

We saw his wizardry again at work over the weekend when a 10-minute burst of sleight of hand was the catalyst in the Tiger's unlikely comeback against Manly.

Around that 10-minute period Benji was a real mixture, with some passes finding the mark and others completely misdirected. That though is the beauty of his playmaking, in that if things aren't always going to plan he rarely goes into his shell.

Whilst some plays fall apart because they weren't the right ones, others fail because his teammates don't possess the same vision.

Against the Sea Eagles his 'wow factor' was of course best illustrated by his "no-look" pass to Chris Lawrence.

Watch Benji turn the game with a brilliant no-look pass

Whilst the delivery was completely spectacular, as usual there was method to his not-so-madness.

Benji actually has an early glimpse at where Lawrence is supporting before concentrating on drawing Brett Stewart. Keeping his head turned inward served to keep the opposition fullback fully committed and gave his own centre the most room available to race away and score the match-winner.

It is what followed soon after that makes Benji Marshall so enigmatic.

With the Tigers now two points in front and time running out, he threw two passes to his left that had intercept written all over them. Fortunately Jamie Lyon was unable to swoop and the Tigers went on to win.

Even more impressive were the Rabbitohs in chasing down a bigger deficit against the Dragons in Wollongong.

After conceding 20 points in as many minutes, Souths looked gone until Chris Sandow took control. "Control" is not a word that has always been associated with the unconventional No.7 and to be honest still not a word that is always appropriate.

But this will-o-the-wisp's way of taking charge is by following his instinct and reacting to what he sees in front of him.

The danger that he exudes was clear in setting up the opening try for Rhys Wesser.

From a scrum win, Sandow's very presence in taking the ball to the line at full speed was enough to attract the attention of three Dragon defenders. This put Wesser on the outside of Ben Hornby and on a relatively comfortable run to the line.

Watch Sandow send Wesser over for Souths' first

His precision kick for Dylan Farrell to score his second try was particularly telling and was the moment that the Rabbits knew that they were capable of causing an upset.

See Farrell score from a sharp Sandow kick

Sandow is electric and all energy and whilst his shoulder charges don't always hit the mark and his chip kicks can be a poor option, he is always trying things and is a constant threat.

Equally as elusive and diminutive in stature is the Bulldogs' Ben Barba.

The Canterbury rookie may be going through a tough time at the moment under the high ball but in his first year in the top grade he heads the try-scoring list with 15 from just 19 appearances.

Remarkably eight of those have come from his own side of half-way, not bad when you consider that nine teams as a whole have scored fewer tries from 50-plus metres (including Brisbane and Manly).

He was at it again against the Roosters, haring 95 metres to open the scoring, and was on the verge of making it a long range double if not for a tremendous chase from Mose Masoe and Nate Myles.

Watch Barba sprint home for another long-range try

The fact that he was put on notice by coach Jim Dymock a few weeks ago shows that he had a few performance issues, but how could you drop such a potent attacking weapon and the season's leading try-getter?

Finally from little to large and the Warriors' "Beast" Manu Vatuvei.

The blockbusting winger has also struggled in the past but became one of my favourite players after surviving that hellish night at Parramatta in '07 and coming out the other side.

This man has it all with power, size, speed and a grace that belies his physical dimensions. His try against Souths in round 20 when he flew high to catch a kick and was deft enough to score between his legs a sign of real athleticism.

See Vatuvei leap high to clinch a hat-trick against the Rabbitohs

He has always been a wonderful finisher but is currently in a purple patch with five tries in his last four games.

Still there is a loveable "rocks or diamonds" quality about Manu.

Against Canterbury in round 19 his first touch saw him return the ball only for it to pop out of his grasp for a knock-on with no-one within 10 metres. He went on to terrorize the 'Dogs for the rest of the night.

I'm sure this quartet must give their coaches palpitations with their touch of flawed genius.

However whilst their risk-taking and errors leave them open to harsh criticism when it comes off they are invariably breathtaking.

The kind of rugby league I would pay to watch.