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Big League editor Maria Tsialis nominates her top five players to build a club around.

Cooper Cronk’s announcement that he would be leaving the Storm at the end of this year got me in quite a tizz.

He’s the kind of player you dream about having on your team. I immediately went to work trying to figure out the mathematical possibilities for Sydney clubs, including combing through rosters for the next couple of years to see where gaps needed to be filled. Luckily, this is considered ‘research’ for my job.

It got me thinking about which players I gravitate towards as people who  I definitely want playing for my club. The pattern is clear once you get down to it – talent is important but I really value heart, commitment and the kind of player who will bust their guts every week even when things aren’t going your way.

This is different for everyone and probably reflects quite closely to your own personality. I’ve always been known to back a battler!

Anyway, it got me thinking about who I’d recruit if I were to start a footy team tomorrow. Here are my top five.

Cameron Smith: A no brainer, really. He’s the kind of player and off-field leader teammates clearly respect and he’s damn good at his job. Leadership qualities and skills galore. I’d make him captain/coach if I could.

James Graham: This may be polarising but I’m a big fan of Graham. He’s stoic and always does his job to the best of his ability. Even in the face of adversity, he never backs down from a challenge. Plus I enjoy his fiery temperament.

Ash Taylor: I think he’s supremely talented and a definite star of the future. He’s also done very well to keep his head above water considering his age, lack of experience and everything thrown at him.

James Tedesco: He’s got talent to burn and a huge heart. I love watching him at full-flight, busting tackles at will and scoring amazing tries. My team needs a little bit of razzle-dazzle.

Tyson Frizell: Frizell is the kind of old-school second-rower I always respected with a heap of talent thrown in there as well. He’s your calm and steadying influence.

You could build a pretty decent roster around that. Who would be your picks? Tweet me at @mtsialis, use the hashtag: #NRLBig5

And another thing… We’ve got a great story in Big League this week about what Ricky Stuart, Don Furner and Peter Mulholland at the Raiders go through when they are recruiting players to their club. It’s a real insight into how they operate and how they’ve managed to establish such a great roster both on and off the field.

The Round 7 issue of Big League is on sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via

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