Big Match-ups: Round 4
Here's our snapshot of the key contests that will decide the outcome of this weekend's games...
Roosters v Sea Eagles: Mitchell Pearce v Daly Cherry-Evans
Great halfbacks relish the big games, and these two proved last year they have the stomach for it, as Pearce bounced back after the disappointment of another Origin loss with a spectacular second half of the season while Cherry-Evans was outstanding and a deserved Clive Churchill medallist in a beaten side.
The pair have started 2014 in contrasting style, with Pearce laying on three tries for his outside men as well as consistently putting them through the defence, while Cherry-Evans is taking the line on with gusto, running the ball 26 times for an average of 91 running metres a match.
Dragons v Broncos: Sam Williams v Ben Hunt
Two young halves trying to prove their worth get the chance to further establish their NRL careers at the expense of the other.
Williams, 23, has arrived at the Dragons seeking a permanent spot in the top grade but had to wait until Round 2 and an injury to Michael Witt before handed the Red V No.7 jersey. He has two try assists in two games to date and his 23 kicks in general play – including one 40/20 – has taken some of the pressure off Gareth Widdop (30 kicks in general play).
Hunt celebrated his 24th birthday the day before the Friday game and after a shaky start to 2014 is starting to look like the halfback that coach Anthony Griffin always knew he could be.
He has three try assists to date and with 31 kicks in general play only Shaun Johnson, Terry Campese and Johnathan Thurston have more than the Blackwater Crushers junior. His 174 possessions are the most by any half or five-eighth in the game, showing he is learning to take control of the Broncos.
Whoever controls this game gets their side over the line.
Warriors v Wests Tigers: Glen Fisiiahi v Pat Richards
The two most prolific scorers for their respective teams so far this year, Richards and the man they call the ‘Flying Fish’ are set for an electrifying duel on the flank.
Richards is big, powerful and experienced, with five line breaks and four tries to show for it.
Fisiiahi is quick and at his most dangerous when the ball is dribbled along the ground into his right corner. Already this year he has dotted down for three tries and has a couple of tackle breaks to go with it.
Eels v Panthers: Semi Radradra v David Simmons
The power of the Fijian rookie sensation against the wily veteran who soars with the best of them.
Raw strength and leg drive takes on aerial prowess and brawn when Parramatta's leading tryscorer meets last year's equal top tryscorer in what will be a fascinating battle on the edge.
Radradra will be keen to make amends for the penalty he gave away that led to Manly's final try last week, while Simmons will seek to continue his consistent form.
Bulldogs v Storm: Bromwich Brothers v 'Should-Be' Brothers
A front-rower laying the platform for any side is one of the more important facets of rugby league. Melbourne’s Bromwich brothers have been doing that for their undefeated side thus far this year.
Jesse, who with one line break, 76 tackles (25.4 average), six tackle breaks and 407.5 metres (135.8 per game) has shaped into one of the best young props in the NRL. His younger brother Kenny, who has come off the bench every game so far this year, has tried to replicate his sibling – his limited time on the field leaving him with an impressive 47 tackles and 202.2 metres and a try to boot.
Not to be outdone, lookalike 'brothers' Aiden Tolman and James Graham have been impressive for the Bulldogs in 2014. Tolman - who has only missed one tackle from 116 attempts and ran 440.9 metres (11th in the NRL) - and Graham - who has ran 459.3 metres (5th in the NRL) and made 99 tackles (33 per game) - have been playing brilliantly and filling the void left by the absent Kiwi internationals Sam Kasiano and Greg Eastwood.
Rabbitohs v Raiders: Anthony Milford v Greg Inglis
Although big 'GI' effectively missed a game with concussion last week that really just showed how crucial he is to this Rabbitohs outfit, while Milford has clearly been the focal point of the attack for Canberra.
Both men have been enormous in the matches they've played with Milford averaging just under 150 metres in three games and Inglis around 170 in his first two weeks.
Inglis has crossed for three tries to Milford's one, Milford has two try assists to Inglis's one, and Milford leads the tackle break count 18-13.
Seeing these two fullbacks, of very different sizes and styles but of similar influence on their teams, facing off against each other should be one of the highlights of Round 4.
Knights v Sharks: Michael Dobson v Todd Carney
With Todd Carney back in their side, Cronulla were always going to put forward a better performance - although it wasn’t enough for the side to beat the Dragons last week, he’ll be better for the run and will only have greater confidence in his troublesome hamstring.
Carney will look to thrive up against Knights five-eighth Michael Dobson, his old Raiders sparring buddy from way back.
Not one to be overshadowed, the laid-back Dobson will be looking to continue his solid start to the year. His passing game has been relatively good – just ask Beau Scott – while his running game will only develop once he’s settled in. These two are important in the grand scheme of this game.
Titans v Cowboys: David Taylor v Jason Taumalolo
We almost don't even have to say why; if you've seen these two at their best you'll know what a bone-jarring, athletically astounding, defence-shredding proposition this is.
It could be argued both are still trying to find out exactly how to bring their immense talents to their respective teams on a weekly basis but with four more years experience in the top grade Taylor should know better by now.
Taumalolo had barely turned 17 when he made his debut for the Cowboys in August 2010 while the world got its first taste of prime Blackwater beef when Taylor ran out for the Broncos for the first time a month shy of his 18th birthday.
It was Spiderman who was once told "with great power comes great responsibility"; in Taylor and Taumalolo the NRL has two extraordinary talents still grappling with their super powers.
Whoever unleashes them to their full extent on Monday will win this battle, and possibly the two competition points for their team.