Six players to decide the Premiership
THEY are rugby league's Super Six. The players who will mould, define and ultimately decide the forthcoming semi-final series. Big games are won by big-name players. Greatness is often judged by how you perform in the crunch games throughout September.
Today I want to reveal the six players I think will determine and shape their team's hopes and aspirations during the NRL finals.
They are six of the best.
JOSH REYNOLDS (Canterbury-Bankstown)
Has been the Bulldogs spark all season - what a talent to be unearthed at Belmore. He played a few NRL games last year so is ineligible for rookie of the year honours but no doubt he is the game's best newcomer.
Reynolds is aggressive and a great competitor but much more than that. He is also a very good ball-player, and will take on the defence with some great footwork.
Put simply, he looks a natural.
DALY CHERRY-EVANS (Manly)
He did it last year when a virtual unknown and Cherry-Evans again looks the man to guide Manly through the finals furnace. The Sea Eagles have a number of match-winners so it is not easy narrowing it down to one player - they have more of the game's best players in their team than any other in the competition!
Jamie Lyon has been in stellar form, as has the Stewart brothers - Brett and Glenn - and five-eighth Kieran Foran. But over the past five weeks, Cherry-Evans has stepped up a notch in a Manly side that has won five successive matches.
Cherry-Evans on one side, Foran on the other... Manly are rumbling towards back-to-back titles.
TODD CARNEY (Cronulla)
Paul Gallen is without doubt the heart and soul of Cronulla. He is their leader and inspiration. The Sharks are a tough and gritty side but they don't have the natural match-winners other sides in the finals boast.
That is why Carney is so vital to their chances. His attack is the key to Cronulla. He has to create something otherwise the Sharks will be cannon fodder. When he plays at defences, Carney has looked the equal of any player in the game.
CAMERON SMITH (Melbourne)
Everything starts with the no.9 at Melbourne Storm. Against Cronulla on Monday night, Smith constantly put his forwards into space. His selection and the timing of his passes was spot on. He controls the Storm game from dummy half.
People also underestimate Smith's defence; he is one of the best midfield defenders in the game. He will make or break Melbourne' finals campaign.
GREG INGLIS (South Sydney)
What more can you say about this bloke?
He is the most devastating player in the game at the moment. Inglis has an amazing impact on the rest of the Souths side. Inglis can lift the Souths team. He has extraordinary upper-body strength with amazing speed for someone who is about 110kgs. I think Inglis has the ability to drag Souths all the way to the grand final. No wonder Souths want to offer him another four-year deal.
JOHNATHAN THURSTON (North Queensland)
North Queensland have all the ingredients to win the 2012 title - two of the game's best front-rowers in James Tamou and Matt Scott, two in-form centres in Brent Tate and Kane Linnett and, of course, Thurston and Matt Bowen hovering midfield and on the edges.
They are the complete team.
It is hard picking out one player but I have to nominate Thurston. The Cowboys rely so much on Thurston to create their tryscoring chances.
And, finally, his goalkicking has been outstanding. Don't underestimate that in the big games.