Newcastle forward Mitchell Barnett returned in Magic Round from his six-game suspension with a point to prove — producing a barnstorming performance to take the Knights back into the winner's circle and himself to the top of the VB Hard Earned Index ladder.
Playing 80 minutes in the Knights' gritty win over the Bulldogs, Barnett's 96-point score took him top of the VB Hard Earned Index for Round 10, narrowly edging out Queensland Origin forward Moeaki Fotuaika's 95-point score in the Titans' golden point win over the Dragons.
With 30 tackles, five tackle busts, three offloads, four supports and 10 runs of eight-plus metres, it was an all-round performance from Barnett that would have no doubt pleased coach Adam O'Brien and seemed to bring out the best in his teammates.
Fellow forward David Klemmer finished with the fourth highest score of the round, with his 86 points just behind Ryan Matterson, whose determined effort off the bench for Parramatta saw him end the round with 87 points.
Tevita Tatola rounded out the top five with 82 points — courtesy of 14 runs of eight-plus metres — while regular standouts such as Isaah Yeo (81), Reuben Cotter (78) and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui (77) all finished inside the top ten performers.
No player had more runs of eight-plus metres than Fa'asuamaleaui's 17, but the Titans skipper did also make more errors than any other player with four.
Jayden Campbell a welcome addition
Jayden Campbell marked his return to the NRL in style, breaking 13 tackles to finish level with Fa'asuamaleaui, Patrick Carrigan and Addin Fonua-Blake on 77 points.
As we approach the halfway mark of the season, Panthers skipper Isaah Yeo continues to lead the way in both the Dally M and VB Hard Earned Index leaderboards — slightly extending his lead over Isaiah Papali'i to 10 points.
Currently in third place, Rabbitohs skipper Cameron Murray missed the weekend through injury and will likely slip further down the ladder as he recovers from a shoulder problem with Jason Taumalolo, Payne Haas, Josh King and Alex Twal all vying for a spot in the top five players in the competition.
VB Hard Earned Index: Round 10
- Mitchell Barnett (Knights) — 96 points
- Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans) — 95 points
- Ryan Matterson (Eels) — 87 points
- David Klemmer (Knights) — 86 points
- Tevita Tatola (Rabbitohs) — 82 points
VB Hard Earned Index Leaderboard
- Isaah Yeo (Panthers) — 816 points
- Isaiah Papali'i (Eels) — 806 points
- Cameron Murray (Rabbitohs) — 717 points
- Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys) — 679 points
- Payne Haas (Broncos) — 678 points