5 Best Buys Of 2013
With the Origin period nearly over and the Telstra Premiership set to round the home turn in the run to the finals, here’s my assessment of the players who have made the biggest impact for their new clubs in season 2013:
It looks like Albert Kelly is finally happy and enjoying his football this year. He seems to be in a really good place both on the field and off the field. That single reason I think is the reason why he is putting in the performances he has. Albert leads all halfbacks for tries (10) and line-breaks (8). He has found an environment after some difficulties at the start of his career that have grounded him. Albert looks like he fits perfectly into the football they want to play as well. Scott Prince played a more structured style whereas Albert uses his vision and plays off the top of his head. With John Cartwright’s game plan, it provides the opportunity for him to play what he sees. The Titans have benefited from that.
Sonny Bill Williams
What more can you say about Sonny Bill? There were a few questions at the start of the year about how he would handle the pace of coming back to the NRL and whether he would have the fitness but he has put all that to bed. Coming off the bench in his first match he showed glimpses of the old Sonny Bill and since then he has only improved with each performance. Now he is one of the most dominant players in our game and his performance against Manly on Monday night was an indication of that. To be a back-rower and be thrown into a playmaker’s role and have that dominance over one of the best sides on the competition is testimony to his status in the game. Also, he is lethal offloading the ball – his 33 offloads are the fourth most by any player – while he has contributed nine damaging line-breaks and scored six tries.
Another Rooster making waves. Michael is someone like Albert Kelly who has changed his environment and grown from the experience. The fact that he is playing outside some players now too that are giving him that chance to showcase his speed and agility – everything that all rugby league fans know he is capable of – is really benefiting. I wonder if perhaps Michael was cruising a bit at Penrith and in a bit of a comfort zone? Now that he has changed clubs there is an expectation on him to perform because he has arrived as a star player – and he has backed that up, scoring 10 tries and making 10 line-breaks to date, as well as an elusive 45 tackle busts.
See a theme developing here? There was never any doubt James Maloney would make a difference to the Roosters, the only question was how big a difference. He showed great playmaking abilities at the Warriors but there were questions over how that would transfer across to the tricolours. Obviously he has been a huge signing for them and his partnership with Mitchell Pearce has really blossomed. Not only has James been great, he has helped Mitchell realise his potential as well. He earned a NSW jersey for the first time this year and he is going to develop into one of the elite playmakers in the competition if he isn’t one already. James looked great in Origin straight away because not only is he a tough customer, he can play with a level head. That’s why the Roosters are where they are on the ladder.
James has formed a great combination with Kevin Kingston at the Panthers this year but you can just see whenever he comes onto the field the impact he makes on the game. It’s not uncommon to see him come up with a key play to turn the game in Penrith’s favour. Quite a few of their big wins this year have been a result of the role he plays. He is a dynamic player and he really lifts the team – especially with his ability to offload (30 to date). He is going to be a very good plater for a long time for them.
… and the ones who haven’t quite hit the mark
Tony was Canterbury’s big signing from Manly this season and there was an expectation that his previous form would continue. He is a Test player and everyone was looking to him to be one of the key players for the Bulldogs but that hasn’t happened. It’s a tough one. He is one of the most powerful players in our game but it is disappointing for the Bulldogs that he hasn’t had the same impact as usual. It is positive for him that he has improved a bit recently but as a Test and Origin player there is an expectation that you bring a high standard of football week in, week out. That’s the expectation on Tony – especially having been signed to a big contract and taking a fair chunk out of the salary cap. You just have to deliver.
We’re all hoping that Dave can play some consistent football. He is another guy that brings a lot of expectation on his shoulders every time he steps onto the football field. That’s Dave’s challenge – being able to maintain that and find that consistency in playing at a high standard every week. Like Tony Williams, there is an expectation as a representative player to perform for your team. That’s what the fans want.