Cowboys hooker Jake Granville scored a key try for his side against the Dragons on Saturday.

Granville the most underrated hooker: Mason

Veteran Manly prop Willie Mason reckons in-form Cowboys hooker Jake Granville is the most underrated hooker in the NRL.

On the shortlist for 'best buy of 2015', Granville has been a key – if largely unsung – component of North Queensland's surge into second place on the ladder after 18 rounds.

Ahead of a must-win grudge match at Brookvale Oval on Monday night against the Cowboys, Mason was quick to praise the 26-year-old former Bronco's influence on the Cowboys' season.

"[The Cowboys] have probably been the most – them and the Broncos – have been the most consistent teams," Mason said.

"They've really found this really good balance with their No.9. I think Granville's the most underrated No.9 in the comp."

Mason said Granville had been a big focus during the Sea Eagles' video sessions ahead of the game, along with obvious threats like Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan.

"Obviously we know what Thurston, Morgan and Lachlan Coote [can do], they've been around for a fair while now but this Granville's come out of nowhere," he said.

"He's scoring tries, making line breaks, line-break assists, I think if you look at his stats I think they're up there with at least the top three nines in the comp.

"He's a massive part of their attack and he does his own job in defence and he plays 80 minutes. 

"Other than that, obviously you've got arguably the best player in the world leading them around [in Johnathan Thurston] and he's in unbelievable form as well."

The stats seem to support Mason's theory Granville is up there with the best hookers in the competition.

He has the third-most dummy half runs of any regular hooker after Rabbitoh Issac Luke (151) and Storm skipper Cameron Smith (110) with 96.

His attack has been where he has truly shined: his six tries are the most of any hooker (Andrew McCullough ranks next best with four) and his six line breaks are also the most, ahead of Penrith pair James Segeyaro and Api Koroisau (five each).

He is also in the top three hookers for tackle breaks with 28 (behind Luke's 33 and Segeyaro's 29).

He has a surprising turn of pace and has proved the perfect foil for the rest of the Cowboys playmakers in Thurston, Morgan and Coote.

 

There will be no shortage of feeling on Monday night due to recent history between the two sides.

Manly knocked the Cowboys out of the 2012 finals race on the back of the infamous "hand of God" try when a Kieran Foran knock on led to a Michael Oldfield try, allowed to stand by the video officials after an earlier contentious try to Jorge Taufua was also allowed to stand. Manly also knocked the Cowboys out of the finals a year earlier and last year earned a controversial win over the Cowboys at Gosford on the back of a try from an obstruction play that led to coach Paul Green's infamous promise to "walk nude down Pitt Street".

Despite not having been part of either club during any of those games, the history was not lost on Mason – a former Cowboy himself after a one-year stint there in 2010.

Mason suggested Thurston would rank level with Andrew Johns among the greatest rugby league halfbacks if he could finally lead the Cowboys to a premiership. 

"Arguably he'd be up there with Johns [if he can captain a premiership win], that'd be really at the top of his head," he said.

"North Queensland have been on the edge for ages with the top four and the semi-finals. I think Manly's been the team that's really ruined their semi-final hopes the last couple of years, three times in the last five years or something like that."