The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club Written by ROCCO LUCA, March 2, 2016

ALL teams have their superstars but often at the core of every side is a hard-working unsung individual who doesn’t often get the plaudits he deserves. 

And so we’ve run our eye over all 16 clubs and identified the 16 sometimes unheralded players that your side can’t afford to lose this season.

BRONCOS: ANDREW McCULLOUGH

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

He doesn’t often get mentioned as a match-winner but if you look closely at his stats,  Andrew McCullough’s performance at both ends of the field have often proved the difference between the Broncos winning and losing.

Last season, the 26-year-old had a direct hand in nine Broncos tries, racked up a competition-high 49.4 tackles per match and made a measly eight errors (second least among starting hookers) in 2016.

RAIDERS: PAUL VAUGHAN

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

Arguably one of the most improved players in the competition, Paul Vaughan is also one of the most efficient.

With an average of just 42.1 minutes per game, the hard-running forward topped the metres count for the club in 2016 with 3056 – equating to a whopping average of 127.3 metres per game.

The Blues hopeful is also as discipline as they come – giving away just two penalties in 24 appearances last season.

BULLDOGS: CURTIS RONA

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

When the Bulldogs attack really struggled at times last year they played to their strength – and their biggest strength was Curtis Rona’s left flank.

The former Cowboys winger proved a revelation, scoring an incredible 23 tries from 25 appearances (that’s 13 more tries than Josh Morris in second).

Rona not only scored all those tries he created another five to go with his 24 linebreaks.

And with Brett Morris set to miss four months of the season, the Bulldogs absolutely cannot afford to lose their main strike weapon.

SHARKS: WADE GRAHAM

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

He is yet to represent his state but Wade Graham is an Origin player in every sense of the word.

Last season, the former Panthers junior averaged career-highs in metres gained – 125 and tackles made – 27.9.

Extremely versatile, Graham has the capacity to fill in in the halves or ball play on the left edge he occupies.

TITANS: LUKE DOUGLAS

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

The marathon man of rugby league will miss his first game for the club due to suspension but the embattled Titans will be hoping that is his last.

In 2016 Douglas was at the heart of the Titans engine room, notching up a club-high 805 tackles and forward-high 2226 metres.

And with front-rowers Nate Myles and Matt White and wrecking ball Dave Taylor departing the club in the off-season, the Titans will be more reliant than ever on their veteran workhorse.

SEA EAGLES: JAMIE LYON

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

Brett Stewart and Daly Cherry Evans are the superstars at Manly but you’d struggle to find a supporter down Brookie way who would say Jamie Lyon isn’t the heart and soul of the club.

He may be 33 but the Wee Waa product is still one of the most creative and reliable players in the game.

Last season, Lyon was directly involved in 14 tries (four scored, nine assisted) in just 17 appearances. His goal kicking percentage (72.31) was at its highest level since 2011 and he made the least amount of errors among the backline players with at least four first grade appearances.

And with a plethora of new faces at the club along with a rookie coach, Manly have never needed the cool, calm and experience head of Lyon more.

STORM: JESSIE BROMWICH

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

The Melbourne Storm may be best known for having the ‘Big Three’ but when Jessie Bromwich is on song – the club can boast the ‘Big Four’.

Arguably the best prop in the world, Bromwich can certainly match it with any up the middle at both ends of the field. Last season, the Kiwi star enjoyed his best individual season to date averaging no less than 33.6 tackles and 146.6 metres per game.

That kind of firepower the Melbourne Storm simply can not replace.

KNIGHTS: KADE SNOWDEN

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

Much-maligned during his first three seasons at the club, Kade Snowden certainly proved the doubters wrong last year.

The former Blues forward was arguably one of the best props in the competition in 2016 – Snowden managed a club-high 37 offloads to go with his very impressive 118.7 average running metres, 34 tackles and 45 tackle breaks.

Alongside Korbin Sims, Snowden could help spearhead one of the most powerful front row duos in the competition.

COWBOYS: JAKE GRANVILLE

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

Not since Aaron Payne have the Cowboys had a classy hooker to play off Johnathan Thurston . . . that was until the astute recruitment of Jake Granville.

The former Bronco was nothing short of outstanding last season and it’s safe to say that the Cowboys’ maiden premiership would not have come without him.

Granville played every game in 2015, proving to be a standout defender with an unbelievable eye for the tryline – scoring an incredible 10 tries (most among all hookers in the NRL) and notching up seven try assists – including two in the season decider.

Given the long-term injury to Ray Thompson and the lack of creativity of Rory Kostjasyn, the Cowboys will not be going back to back without him.

 

EELS: SEMI RADRADRA

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

He may play with the No.2 on his back but Semi Radradra is way more than just a winger and tryscorer for Parramatta.

The Fijian sensation led the club in tries (24), points (96), metres (2874) and runs (282). And he racked up all this in just 18 appearances.

If the Eels are to make their first trip to the finals in seven years, they need this man fit and firing.

RABBITOHS: ADAM REYNOLDS

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

Sam Burgess may be the marquee man and Greg Inglis may be the superstar but halfback Adam Reynolds will be at the heart of the Rabbitohs attack.

His goal kicking, his creativity and general kicking game is what drives Michael Maguire’s offence and no matter how good Burgess and Inglis perform, the Bunnies will not contend for the title if this man is not on song.

In 2015 he managed career-lows in appearances (18), points (111), try assists (eight) and tries (one). Largely contributing to the Rabbitohs below par season.

DRAGONS: LEESON AH MAU

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

The Dragons 2015 player of the year was the epitome of an unsung hero last season.

Leeson Ah Mau and his 110kg frame got through a mountain of work with extreme efficiency, averaging 104 running metres and 26 tackles in approximately 42 minutes on the way to the Red V’s first finals appearance in four seasons last year.

And the big Samoan will no doubt be eyeing off an even bigger year in 2016 particularly given the fact the Dragons have lost the likes of Trent Merrin and big new recruit Mose Masoe to the Panthers and long-term injury respectively.

ROOSTERS: AIDAN GUERRA

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

The loss of Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is a bitter blow for the Bondi boys who are trying to move on from the off-season departures of James Maloney, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Michael Jennings. As a result, never has more responsibility fallen on Maroons forward Aidan Guerra’s shoulders.

The premiership-winner will need to draw on all his big game experience to lay the platform for his young halves and set an example for talented youngsters Dylan Napa, Siosiua Taukeiaho and Kane Evans.

WARRIORS: BEN MATULINO

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

The Warriors didn’t enjoy a great 2015 campaign but powerhouse prop Ben Matulino can certainly hold his head up high.

The 27-year-old certainly kept pace with his fellow countryman, Bromwich in all facets, racking up an astonishing 144 running metres and 27 tackles to go with over two offloads per game.

If the Warriors are to make a run at the title Matulino needs to stay healthy so as create the time and the space for the likes of Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke.

TIGERS: TIM SIMONA

The unsung & irreplaceable players at your club

It may be hard to believe but Tim Simona is the most experienced player in the very inexperienced Tigers backline.

The Samoan international has proven he has all the skills to be a top flight centre in this competition after playing a role in 13 Wests Tigers tries in 2015.

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