Round 26 Team of the Week
Young talent comes to the fore in the final round of the regular season as players depart clubs on a positive note and one old Shark shows that he has still got some bite.
1. Will Hopoate (Bulldogs)
Tom Trbojevic looked to have the fullback spot sewn up until Hopoate delivered one of the great individual performances of the year to end the Dragons' season. Not only did he score his third try in two weeks but he provided the final sublime pass for two more and had a hand in the opener to Josh Reynolds. Not to mention holding up Josh Dugan under the posts to keep his side within reach.
2. Blake Ferguson (Roosters)
It was a game that threatened to get away from the Roosters but they got on the back of momentum generated by Ferguson late in the second half against the Titans to overpower them, Ferguson's 191 run metres consisting of 78 post contact to go with seven tackle busts.
3. Michael Jennings (Eels)
Another team who had to work harder than predicted to secure their place in the top four, the Eels struck first through Jennings against South Sydney and the Parramatta centre waged an intriguing battle with his brother Robert on the wing for Souths.
4. Brian Kelly (Sea Eagles)
Tore the Panthers to shreds in the first half with the most destructive performance of his rookie season. Scored a try, had three line breaks, two try assists, six tackle busts and one line-break assist to help secure Manly's finals finish.
5. Semi Radradra (Eels)
The difference against a brave South Sydney team, Radradra backed up his four-try haul from a week earlier with a hat-trick that ensured his Parramatta team a top-four finish.
6. James Maloney (Sharks)
Engineered the Sharks' blistering start in their win over the Knights and then provided the composure required to close out the game when Newcastle threatened to cause a last round boilover.
7. Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
Fresh from his match-winning heroics against the Warriors the Manly halfback picked up where he left off, scoring a try in the 23rd minute and combining superbly with brothers Jake and Tom Trbojevic through the middle third.
8. Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers)
A fitting way to finish his career as a Tiger, charging forward for 224 run metres and providing five offloads as he and James Tedesco went out winners.
9. Michael Lichaa (Bulldogs)
For the past three weeks the hooker has decided to run and the result has been three Canterbury wins to end 2017. Lichaa probed around the big Dragons pack for 72 run metres from dummy-half and burrowed over for the match-winning try seven minutes from full-time.
10. Jesse Bromwich (Storm)
Gave the Storm the fast start they were after with his side's second try in just the seventh minute and was a tower of strength in the middle, running for 147 metres with three tackle busts.
11. Boyd Cordner (Roosters)
Once again got his side out of trouble with a try against a determined Titans outfit and was perhaps a little unlucky not to have scored another in the first half. Without question the heart and soul of this Roosters team.
12. Tohu Harris (Storm)
An injury-disrupted season is coming good at the right time for the Storm with Harris's double taking his try tally to three in two weeks to go with 160 metres and 34 tackles.
13. Paul Gallen (Sharks)
There is life in the old boy yet. Exquisite pass for Jesse Ramien to score on debut along with seven offloads, eight tackle busts and an astonishing 303 run metres.
14. Tom Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
Scintillating performance against the Panthers that would have earned him the No.1 spot almost any other week of the year. Try just after half-time further crushed Panthers spirits with his 28 runs yielding 273 run metres, seven tackle busts, two line breaks, two line-break assists and a try assist.
15. Josh McGuire (Broncos)
Met the challenge of Cowboys opposite Jason Taumalolo the only way he knows how; head on. Set an aggressive tone for the Broncos pack and was resilient in defence as the Cowboys looked for a way to crack Brisbane's line. Totalled 177 metres and 41 tackles.
16. Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
Another wonderfully industrious performance from Trbojevic with some sprinkling of skill thrown in for good measure. Amassed 38 tackles and 103 metres along with three tackle busts and a line break.
17. Lachlan Fitzgibbon (Knights)
He didn't have to run far for his two tries but Fitzgibbon's energy and willingness to put himself in position to receive such opportunities dragged the Knights back into a contest that looked like getting away from them early. His first-half double took him to eight for the season, second only to Nathan Ross amongst Newcastle try-scorers.