Team of the Week: Round 26
1. Matt Moylan (Panthers)
It took the Penrith fullback six minutes to stamp his authority against the Warriors on Sunday night. With a sneaky quick tap leading to the Panthers' first try through James Segeyaro, Moylan was then able to score one himself and set up Dallin Watene-Zelezniak twice to help maintain the Panthers' position in the top four heading into the finals.
2. Antonio Winterstein (Cowboys)
The Cowboys winger contributed to the Sea Eagles' unhappy night in Townsville with arguably one of his better performances of the season. Hitting form at the right time, Winterstein scored a try out wide and ran for 149 metres including two line breaks and four tackle busts.
3. Mahe Fonua (Storm)
With scores locked up at 12-all with 15 minutes left in the game against Brisbane, it was a try-scoring double for the Melbourne centre – in an eight-minute period no less – which won the game for the Storm. His 167 metres and two tackle breaks contributed to his cause but Fonua's ability to jump above two Bronco defenders to score his first try and pull off a 60 metre intercept touchdown soon after were memorable.
4. Kane Linnett (Cowboys)
With Winterstein outside him, Linnett's performance was another big factor in the Cowboys' confidence-boosting win over Manly. The centre's try, try assist, 92 run metres and three tackle breaks kept the ball rolling for North Queensland, who will start clear favourites to knock out rivals Brisbane this week.
5. Kalifa Faifai Loa (Titans)
With the Titans scoring 19 unanswered points in the second half against the Bulldogs, Gold Coast winger Faifai Loa started the run for the home side with his side's first try on the way to a stunning golden-point win. His three tackle breaks and 134 metres completed a strong all-round performance from the winger.
6. Robert Lui (Cowboys)
Usually it's Johnathan Thurston earning plaudits for his role in a North Queensland win, but not this week. Lui was exceptional in the Cowboys' triumph over Manly and when he wasn't putting boot to ball (348 kicking metres), the five-eighth was on an attacking assault. His try midway through the second half sealed the win while his two try assists didn't hurt either.
7. Mitchell Pearce (Roosters)
When he wasn't chasing down Greg Inglis with a try-saving tackle or booting the ball down field for 292 metres, Pearce was busy paving his way towards player of the round status. The halfback's three try assists and two line breaks reassured fans of the reigning premiers that their main man is ready to roll in the finals.
8. Josh McGuire (Broncos)
The Broncos prop continued his way towards becoming one of the premier front-rowers in the competition with another gutsy performance against Melbourne. McGuire's 164 metres and 37 tackles proved fruitful for Brisbane and will certainly come in handy this weekend against Cowboys bookends Matt Scott, James Tamou and Ashton Sims.
9. Cameron Smith (Storm)
A lower leg injury midway through the first half didn't stop the Melbourne, Maroons and Kangaroos captain from completing the game against Brisbane and help win his team the game. While his brave efforts to play through injury may have consequences on his fitness leading in to the finals, no one can doubt Smith's 48 tackles were worth the hassle.
10. Matt Scott (Cowboys)
The Cowboys' go-forward is in good hands if prop Scott continues his brilliant form. Alongside Sims and Tamou, Queensland's finest ran for 191 metres and punched out six tackle busts in their big win over the Sea Eagles.
11. Mark Minichiello (Titans)
In his final game in the NRL, stand-in captain Minichiello saved one of his finest performances of the year for last with the inspirational forward helping the Titans to a thrilling one-point win over the Bulldogs. Minichiello scored a crucial try, busted six tackles and produced 140 metres and 31 tackles in his last hurrah.
12. Sonny Bill Williams (Roosters)
Proving a threat with a ball in hand, Roosters back-rower was able to vindicate his team's position on the top of the ladder with his attacking finesse. SBW's 119 metres, line break and two line break assists will only prove important in the grand scheme of the competition's outcome if he remains consistent.
13. Adam Cuthbertson (Knights)
In his final game in the NRL after taking up a four-year deal with the Leeds Rhinos in the English Super League, Cuthbertson was on fire as Newcastle routed the Dragons. Up to 117 metres after only 15 minutes, Cuthbertson ended up with 216 metres as well as 24 tackles, a line break and three tackle busts to his name. His offloading ability will also be missed greatly in the Hunter in 2015.
14. Jack Wighton (Raiders)
While everyone scoffed at Ricky Stuart's selection of Wighton at fullback when Jordan Rapana was ruled out for the season with a fractured skull, it has seemingly worked wonders with the Raiders ending up with three straight wins to end their year. Wighton was all but the best player on the field against Parramatta with six tackle breaks and 188 metres.
15. Blake Austin (Tigers)
With the Tigers finishing off the year with seven losses from eight games, five-eighth/fullback Austin remained a shining light in a struggling team. Austin scored an intercept try and was generally impressive in attack in his side's win over Cronulla on Saturday, and could prove to be a massive loss for the club if he chooses to leave.
16. Boyd Cordner (Roosters)
The defensive yin to SBW's attacking yang, the Roosters back-rower held the fort for the Tricolours on Thursday night with 37 tackles. Not to be outdone by his dual-international teammate, Cordner also ran for 145 metres and made four tackle breaks in the minor premiers' win over the Rabbitohs.
17. Kenny Edwards (Eels)
Although the Eels were unceremoniously dumped out of the finals race by Canberra, their back-rower was on fire. Edwards broke an astronomical 10 tackles – the most by any forward in any one match this season – as well as producing 199 metres and 16 tackles in his final effort of the year.