Next Gen: The best young guns of 2011
Best Of Gen Next
The Toyota Cup will name its Team of the Year next Tuesday and the Class of 2011 has much to live up to.
Nine members of last year’s team have played significant first grade this season, and Tariq Sims is a chance to be named NRL Rookie of the Year.
I spoke with Tariq at Sydney Airport last Saturday and he is still high in his praise of the role the Toyota Cup played in his development.
Below are some of the contenders for next Tuesday’s announcement. I’ve picked a standout player from each club in ladder order.
Warriors: Konrad Hurrell. The centre leads the competition in line-breaks and has been rewarded with 13 tries. His ability to bust a tackle has seen him average more running metres per game than anyone in the competition – a staggering 200. The Warriors also boast the competition’s leading tryscorer Omar Slaimankhel and pointscorer Dylan Collier.
North Queensland: Jason Taumalolo. The powerful forward has tasted NRL this season and last. Still 18, he has the top running metres in the competition, and was up over 300m in one game recently.
Cronulla: Tyson Frizell. He is another second-rower who has built on an encouraging 2010. He runs a fantastic, fearless line and forms a great combination with Tyrone Peachey. Both have fed off another impressive Shark Penani Manumalealii.
Melbourne: Mahe Fonua. This ball of muscle is Melbourne’s leading tryscorer with 17. The hard-to-stop centre is also a great advertisement for Victorian Rugby League. Born in Melbourne, the South East Titans junior has represented his state as an Under 15 and 18.
Roosters: Tautau Moga. Started the year as a prolific SG Ball scorer and has since crossed 15 times in 11 Toyota Cup outings. The Roosters and on a nine-game winning streak and Moga has been one of the key ingredients.
Canterbury: Dale Finucane. The utility forward is one of the Bulldogs' most consistent players. He made the 2010 Team of the Year and will join his club’s NRL squad next season. He entered Round 24 having had more runs than any other Toyota Cup player. Despite his work load, Finucane has played every game this season.
Wests Tigers: Jacob Miller. The halfback has been called on four times by Tim Sheens in 2011 and has impressed a great No.7 – Fox Sports commentator Brett Kimmorley – on several occasions. Noddy rated one of Miller’s games earlier this season as the best he’s seen from a Toyota Cup half.
St George Illawarra: Jack De Belin. For Wayne Bennett to use the forward three times in the top grade, De Belin must be doing a lot right. He played 20 games last season and hasn’t missed a week in 2011. He is one of the big motors in the Dragons’ late surge into the top eight.
Parramatta: Rory Brien. The lock has captained the side by example in 2011 as the competition’s top tackler. He is a long way from the biggest forward every week but never looks out of place.
Newcastle: Ethan Cook. The ball-playing backrower is still a chance of leading Newcastle to the Toyota Cup finals for the first time. The 2010 Team of the Year selection often looks like a five-eighth in a forward’s body – throwing great passes to promote his outside men. He started Round 24 third on the offload count.
Brisbane: Kurt Baptiste. This fantastic dummy-half runner has battled with Gold Coast’s Matt Srama, Melbourne’s Slade Griffin and Canberra’s Matt McIlwrick in what has been a golden year for Under 20’s hookers. Baptiste has already played four NRL games and will feature in many more to come.
Penrith: Matthew Moylan. The fullback had a slow start to 2011 after injury but has been the star as the Panthers won six of their last eight. Reminds some people of Clinton Schifcofske in the way he plays. Harry Siejka has played only 10 games, but enough to earn NRL promotion and a new contract.
Canberra: Michael Chee Kam. A 2010 Australian Schoolboy who has gone from the centres to second row. He’s been a bright spot in Canberra’s tough season and has scored doubles in his last two games.
Gold Coast: Luke Page. The prop has played every game in a team often beaten in 2011. Runs straight and hard, be it the first minute or 80th. Tireless.
South Sydney: Adrian Ha’angana. The forward is one of only two survivors from last year’s minor premiership team. He stormed over for three tries against the Roosters in Round 19. It’s not all biff and barge... Ha’angana is fourth for offloads in 2011.
Manly: Magnus Stromquist. He has been a beacon for the Sea Eagles this year. He’s played every game up front and has a workload that can only be described as phenomenal. He often plays 80 minutes, normally clocks up 150 metres per game and is always high on the tackle count. He’s unsigned... but probably not for long!
Here are some observations from Round 24
Rooster Tautau Moga became the sixth Toyota Cup player to score four tries in one game this season. In a big win against Cronulla, he had 12 runs for 246 metres, 15 tackle breaks and four line breaks. Ridiculous.
The consistent Luke Page inspired the Gold Coast Titans to victory by covering 186 metres with his 15 runs. Oh, and there were 36 tackles as well.
Then there was Manly’s Magnus Stromquist, who played 80 minutes again and finished with 21 runs, 197 metres and 47 tackles. Tired yet?
A mention should also go to Canterbury’s Moses Mbye, who scored two tries inside 13 minutes as halfback on Sunday. What a debut!
What a race we have for the 2011 top eight!
The Dragons hold eighth spot with 26 points, followed by Parramatta (25), Newcastle (25), Brisbane (24) and Penrith (24).
Two of those ‘desperates’ have television games this weekend.
On Saturday, Canterbury host Newcastle at Homebush in their first meeting of 2011.
On Sunday, the Dragons host the Warriors in Wollongong, hoping to avenge their 30-point loss from Round 3.
The finals have come two weeks early and you can see both games on Fox Sports 2.