Before going any further… please, someone tell me they got on Aiden Tolman to be first try-scorer against the Wests Tigers last Friday night? You may recall last week I highlighted those guys who faced the ‘nudie run’ this year, with particular focus on Tolman, and voila… the big fella finishes off a long-range special against the Wests Tigers to break the duck and get off the list. Top stuff!
But let’s move on from try-scorers to this year’s bunch of rookies: it seems every year an exciting new crop storm into the game and get us talking. For some teams a rookie’s rise helps push a team all the way to glory… look at the Sea Eagles last year and Daly Cherry-Evans.
Perhaps the same is on the cards for South Sydney and Adam Reynolds this season… he certainly is the most talked-about newcomer and seems a hot favourite for the Rookie of the Year Award.
But others, like team-mate Andrew Everingham, Warriors Konrad Hurrell and Ben Henry, Eels Ken Sio and Matt Ryan, Dragon Jack De Belin; Titan Aidan Sezer; Sea Eagles Jorge Taufua and Daniel Harrison, Shark Tyson Frizell and Panther Josh Mansour all deserve some time in the discussion.
There is no doubt all of the above players have placed their own stamp on their teams and the NRL as a whole thus far in 2012. It is an impressive rookie class, no doubt. But how do they compare with the guys who were deemed the best over the past 10 Dally M Awards? (Note that 2003 didn’t have an awards ceremony.) Is Reynolds as good this year as Cherry-Evans was last year? Or better than Tim Smith (remember him) was at the Eels in 2005? Does Hurrell’s barnstorming season rank up against Israel Folau’s 2007 debut year? Is Ken Sio as damaging as Matt Utai was in 2002, or perhaps more so?
Will these guys go on to big careers like 2001 rookie Braith Anasta, or get swallowed up and lost like Tasesa Lavea and Smith… and countless others over the years?
The most recent winner, Daly Cherry-Evans, was a halfback; he joined Chris Sandow (2008) and Tim Smith (2005) as recent No.7s to win the accolade. Let’s have a look at the key stats for these three guys in the seasons they were rookies…
2011 – Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles): Played 27 games scoring 7 tries and 25 goals averaging 80 minutes a game. He made 9 line-breaks, 10 line-break assists, 19 try assists, 30 offloads, 115 tackle-breaks, 26 errors and conceded 12 penalties. Cherry-Evans averaged 57.1 metres gained running, 377.9 metres kicking, 23.4 tackles and 2.8 missed tackles.
2008 – Chris Sandow (Rabbitohs): Played 13 games scoring 2 tries and 19 goals averaging 80.5 minutes a game. He banked 5 line-breaks, 4 line-break assists, 8 try assists, 2 offloads, 22 tackle-breaks, 9 errors and conceded 3 penalties. Sandow averaged 34.2 metres gained running, 405.7 metres kicking, 18.2 tackles and 7.4 missed tackles.
2005 – Tim Smith (Eels): Played 26 games scoring 6 tries and averaging 76.8 minutes a game. He added 5 line-breaks, 23 line-break assists, 40 try assists, 6 offloads, 32 tackle-breaks, 28 errors and 12 conceded penalties. Smith averaged 24.7 metres gained running, 247.3 metres kicking, 16.9 tackles and 1.4 missed tackles.
Some of the numbers for Cherry-Evans and Smith in particular are outstanding. Cherry-Evans’ 115 tackle-breaks last year? Amazing! And Smith had 40 – yes 40 – try assists in a year the Eels were expected to go all the way, only to fall the week before the big one. So how does Reynolds stack up so far?
2012 – Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs): Played 22 games scoring 2 tries and 79 goals averaging 80.2 minutes a game. He has tallied 8 line-breaks, zero line-break assists, 13 try assists, 12 offloads, 43 tackle-breaks, 18 errors and conceded 5 penalties. Reynolds is averaging 40.6 metres gained running, 335 metres kicking, 17.7 tackles and 2.7 missed tackles.
From those numbers it appears Reynolds isn’t as dominant as Smith or Cherry-Evans were in their rookie seasons but he is certainly doing as much if not more than the man he replaced at the Rabbitohs, Chris Sandow, did in his rookie season. Would Reynolds be a good choice as Rookie of the Year? Yes, absolutely. Would he be considered one of the best in recent times? No.
Matt Gillett is the most recent utility forward to be crowned the best young star in the game, winning rookie honours in 2010. Gillett played from the bench, in the second row, lock forward and even some centre that season. Let’s firstly look at his figures from 2010.
2010 – Matt Gillett (Broncos): Played 21 games scoring 12 tries and averaging 68.3 minutes a game. He made 12 line-breaks, 8 line-break assists, 5 try assists, 33 offloads, 81 tackle-breaks, 20 errors and conceded 5 penalties. Gillett averaged 92.1 metres gained running plus 23.4 tackles and 2.8 missed tackles.
Now let’s look at the likes of Harrison, Henry, De Belin, Ryan and Frizell and see if they are on track to perhaps also be representative stars of the future…
2012 – Tyson Frizell (Sharks): Played 8 games scoring 2 tries and averaging 58.2 minutes a game. He has made 2 line-breaks, zero line-break assists, zero try assists, 3 offloads, 17 tackle-breaks, 3 errors and conceded 2 penalties. Frizell is averaging 83.1 metres gained plus 21.8 tackles and 1.4 missed tackles.
2012 – Daniel Harrison (Sea Eagles): Played 16* games scoring 1 try and averaging 42.2 minutes a game. He has made 1 line-break, zero line-break assists, zero try assists, 19 offloads, 13 tackle-breaks, 6 errors and conceded 4 penalties. Harrison is averaging 42.2 metres gained plus 18.9 tackles and 1.6 missed tackles. [* He played 3 games last season not counted in these stats.]
2012 – Jack De Belin (Dragons): Played 17 games scoring zero tries and averaging 34.6 minutes a game. He has made 2 line-breaks, 1 line-break assist, 1 try assist, 7 offloads, 10 tackle-breaks, 4 errors and conceded 3 penalties. De Belin is averaging 51.4 metres gained plus 21.7 tackles and 0.7 missed tackles.
2012 – Matt Ryan (Eels): Played 15 games scoring 2 tries and averaging 50.1 minutes a game. He has tallied 4 line-breaks, 4 line-break assists, 1 try assist, 18 offloads, 26 tackle-breaks, 8 errors and conceded 6 penalties. Ryan is averaging 53.3 metres gained plus 25 tackles and 1.2 missed tackles.
2012 – Ben Henry (Warriors): Played 22 games scoring 8 tries and averaging 78 minutes a game. He has made 5 line-breaks, 4 line-break assists, 2 try assists, 8 offloads, 29 tackle-breaks, 9 errors and conceded 4 penalties. Henry is averaging 73.5 metres gained plus 22.5 tackles and 2 missed tackles.
As good as these boys have gone as rookies, I’m not prepared to say they had a greater impact on the year than Gillett did in 2010.
Time to compare Titans rookie Aidan Sezer with 2001 rookie Braith Anasta, two pivots with similar hype at a young age:
2001 – Braith Anasta (Bulldogs): Played 24 games scoring 13 tries, 1 goal and averaging 72.5 minutes a game. He banked 11 line-breaks, 9 try assists, 38 offloads and 17 errors. Anasta averaged 57.8 metres gained plus 16.2 tackles and 1.5 missed tackles. [Line-break assists, tackle-breaks and penalties conceded weren’t collated in 2001.]
2012 – Aidan Sezer (Titans): Played 16 games scoring 4 tries, 7 goals and averaging 78.8 minutes a game. Has so far recorded 6 line-breaks, 5 line-break assists, 8 try assists, 14 offloads, 31 tackle-breaks, 10 errors and conceded 3 penalties. Sezer is averaging 56 metres gained plus 12.1 tackles and 2.9 missed tackles.
I feel like the old man saying ‘back in my day…’ – but once again Anasta, the older generation, has Sezer’s numbers covered.
Lastly we have the outside backs – generally a haven for exciting rookies. In 2009 it was Jamal Idris, 2007 Israel Folau, 2006 Jarryd Hayne, 2004 Karmichael Hunt and 2002 Matt Utai. How do candidates Everingham, Hurrell, Sio, Taufua and Mansour compare?
2009 – Jamal Idris (Bulldogs): Played 20 games scoring 7 tries and averaging 79.2 minutes a game. Had 12 line-breaks, 1 line-break assist, 2 try assists, 13 offloads, 98 tackle-breaks, 19 errors and 1 conceded penalty. Averaged 88.3 metres gained plus 14.7 tackles and 2.8 missed tackles.
2007 – Israel Folau (Storm): Played 27 games scoring 21 tries, 5 goals and averaging 72.9 minutes a game. He registered 15 line-breaks, 2 line-break assists, 4 try assists, 9 offloads, 79 tackle-breaks, 15 errors and 6 conceded penalties. Folau averaged 79.6 metres gained plus 10.5 tackles and 1.5 missed tackles.
2006 – Jarryd Hayne (Eels): Played 16 games scoring 17 tries, 2 goals and averaging 80 minutes a game. He made 11 line-breaks, zero line-break assists, 3 try assists, 3 offloads, 60 tackle-breaks, 19 errors and 2 conceded penalties. Hayne averaged 133.6 metres gained plus 3.9 tackles and 0.9 missed tackles.
2004 – Karmichael Hunt (Broncos): Played 26 games scoring 15 tries and averaging 80.6 minutes a game. He registered 13 line-breaks, 3 line-break assists, 5 try assists, 25 offloads, 67 tackle-breaks, 34 errors and 4 conceded penalties. Hunt averaged 122.1 metres gained plus 2.9 tackles and 1.6 missed tackles.
2002 – Matt Utai* (Bulldogs): Played 21 games scoring 13 tries and averaging 80 minutes a game. He made 15 line-breaks, zero try assists, 12 offloads, 18 errors and 4 conceded penalties. Utai averaged 119.9 metres gained plus 2.7 tackles and 1 missed tackle. [*Line-break assists and tackle-breaks weren’t collated in 2002.]
It’s a tough group of players to better. All five former top rookies have played for their country. Do any of this year’s guys have numbers to compare to any of them?
2012 – Jorge Taufua (Sea Eagles): Played 18 games scoring 7 tries and averaging 78 minutes a game. He has so far made made 15 line-breaks, zero line-break assists, 3 try assists, 6 offloads, 72 tackle-breaks, 15 errors and has not conceded a penalty. Taufua is averaging 130.7 metres gained plus 2.9 tackles and 0.9 missed tackles.
2012 – Josh Mansour (Panthers): Played 12 games scoring 5 tries and averaging 80.4 minutes a game. He has made 5 line-breaks, 1 line-break assist, zero try assists, 13 offloads, 69 tackle-breaks, 13 errors and 5 conceded penalties. Mansour has averaged 162.4 metres gained plus 6.2 tackles and 2.4 missed tackles.
2012 – Andrew Everingham (Rabbitohs): Played 20 games scoring 14 tries and averaging 80.2 minutes a game. He has recorded 9 line-breaks, 3 line-break assists, 2 try assists, 5 offloads, 39 tackle-breaks, 18 errors and conceded 1 penalty. Everingham is averaging 84.4 metres gained plus 9.1 tackles and 1.4 missed tackles.
2012 – Konrad Hurrell (Warriors): Played 15 games scoring 12 tries and averaging 65.9 minutes a game. He has tallied 12 line-breaks, 1 line-break assist, 1 try assist, 10 offloads, 77 tackle-breaks, 18 errors and conceded 3 penalties. Hurrel is averaging 118.4 metres gained plus 10.2 tackles and 2.7 missed tackles.
2012 – Ken Sio (Eels): Played 22 games scoring 13 tries and averaging 80.5 minutes a game. He has banked 15 line-breaks, 1 line-break assist, 3 try assists, 6 offloads, 51 tackle-breaks, 17 errors and conceded three penalties. Sio has averaged 134 metres gained plus 4.8 tackles and 1.7 missed tackles.
Personally I believe the numbers of Taufua, Sio and Hurrell have them in the area of the former winners. They might not get the gong on Dally M night because of the hype surrounding Reynolds but they have performed on par in their rookie years with some pretty handy former winners. Hurrell looks a real machine – perhaps even another Mal Meninga in the making. Taufua and Sio possess the flash of a Hayne and might just follow in their footsteps.
So there you go… Overall I love this year’s rookie class but I don’t subscribe to the theory they are one of the best in recent times. The talent runs deep, there is no doubt – but in recent years we’ve been spoiled with an out-and-out star; and the numbers don’t point to that in 2012. It will be hard for someone to top Cherry Evans’ premiership run in 2011, plus an Aussie jersey to finish. Or Folau’s run to prominence with the Maroons in State of Origin, the Kangaroos and a premiership (later revoked) in the same year.
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