With the Dally M awards set to take place tomorrow, it’s time to take a look at the players I believe make up the team of the year this season. Officially there’s only one player award per position, and for the record the player listed first is the person I believe will win the positional award, but I have gone with a best 13. This isn’t what I consider the best player(s) in each position but the player in each position that has been the best in 2013.
Fullback: Greg Inglis
I fully believe that if Greg Inglis was still in his pre-Origin form that the Bunnies would be playing this Sunday evening, such was the destructiveness of his start to the season. Pre Origin and pre injury Inglis was the deadset favourite to capture the Dally M medal with a record points tally. Whether it was the post origin come down, or the persistent injuries that have been mentioned by South’s management, Inglis’s second half of the season was nowhere near as influential. In saying that each and every time Inglis touched the ball you felt something was about to happen. A brilliant season by the South’s number 1. For his own sake I hope he skips the World Cup and focuses on getting fully fit for next year.
Wingers: James McManus and Jorge Taufua
It would have been easy to go with the Roosters wingers but for mine McManus has had his best season and Taufua should have been there in for Origin 2 when Hayne went down with an injury. McManus returned to the Origin arena and more than justified his position. I believe these 2 will be the wingers picked for NSW next season with Hayne/Dugan at fullback, with the other playing off the bench. McManus was equal top try scorer this season with Williams and Simmons; however I am of the opinion that if Taufua had not been suspended for his moment of madness earlier in the season, he would have topped the chart.
Centres: Jamie Lyon and Michael Jennings
I have made my thoughts on Lyon’s refusal to play Origin well known and once again, if Lyon plays Origin, NSW are a FAR better chance of ending QLD’s Origin dominance. He is the best centre in the game, has been for a few years now. His combination with Stewart and Williams on Manly’s edge is the main reason they are playing in yet another grand final. Jennings was a late addition to the Roosters line up as Gould cut him from the Panthers. This move has benefited both parties, as the Panthers were able to use the funds freed up to secure talent into the future and Jennings has reinvented himself at the Roosters. It must be tough for Panthers fans to see him tearing up for the Roosters. The centre battle this Sunday may very well decide who lifts that trophy.
Five-Eighth: John Sutton
To say Sutton had a career best year is a massive understatement. I’m not entirely sure why he didn’t play Origin off the bench, especially considering Daley’s reluctance to give Reynolds big minutes. Sutton always played like a lock but this season his passing game has caught up with his running game. His combination with Adam Reynolds, working off the groundwork laid by the massive South Sydney forward pack, reaped great rewards this season for both the club and Sutton himself. If he continues to play like he did this season, Souths will be right back in the hunt again next season. He must play Origin in 2014 if he has another year like 2013.
Halfback: Daly Cherry-Evans
Cooper Cronk had yet another amazing season but for mine, Cherry-Evans is the man to beat for the biggest individual prize this season. His combination with Foran is the best in the competition and the main reason the Eagles are in yet another grand final. Non Manly fans thought they had made a huge error when they let Hodkinson go to the Dogs, but Manly fans knew better. Cherry-Evans gets better every year, which considering his age of 24 is a scary, scary thought. Whoever appointed Andrew Johns to help coach the young halves deserves life membership as these two are going to dominate for many years to come. Rumours are that he is being courted by the Broncos; Manly will need to do everything in their power to ensure he is an Eagle for a long time to come.
Props: Andrew Fifta and Sam Burgess
For the record if JWH hadn’t been suspended for so many weeks due to his shot on George Rose, he’d be here with Fifita. For mine Fifita has been the best front row forward this season, dominating for the Sharks and even NSW in a well beaten forward pack. The fact he has been the standout in a pack that includes Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis shows just how good he has been. Has played increased minutes, made more metres than any other forward, was the Sharks top try scorer, I could go on … Sam Burgess is South Sydney’s most important player not named Greg. His presence is almost as important as the metres and tackles he makes. At the minor premiership clash, Burgess’s name was met with a bigger cheer than Inglis, Reynolds, and Sutton, which shows just how revered he is by fans. If he can cut the silly acts out of his game he could be anything.
Second Rowers: Sonny Bill Williams and Boyd Cordner
A clean sweep for the Roosters back row pairing. For all the hype of the returning Sonny Bill, I honestly believe he has lived up to said hype. Handling the extra, well everything, that league demands over union, Sonny has again established himself as one of the top forwards in the game. He’ll lead the Kiwi’s charge at the World Cup. Cordner has had an amazing year, summed up by his solid performance in Origin 3. Injury unfortunately hit as the Roosters charged towards the Minor Premiership but by all reports Cordner will be on deck for the Grand Final. Cordner, if fit, will be in the Kangaroos train on squad and has a huge representative career ahead of him. The Roosters will move Heaven and Earth to re-sign SBW but if he is to return to Union, they have a superstar in Cordner.
Lock: Corey Parker
I honestly never thought I’d be typing a name other than Paul Gallen for the Lock of The Year award, but with Gallen spending a fair bit of time on the sidelines this season and Parker’s brilliant form; it wasn’t even all that close. Parker was a machine for the Broncos and for Queensland in this year’s Origin series. Will surely be on the plane to the World Cup and will likely play off the bench, but could just as easily start. Parker has unfairly become better known for his Supercoach scores than his on field abilities but surely after his performances in 2013 he will be rewarded with a Kangaroo’s jersey and the lock of the year award.
Hooker: Jake Friend
Who would have thought Jake Friend would even be anywhere near the top of this category with Cam Smith, Robbie Farrah and co. running round? Farrah had a blistering start to the season but suffered with injury and a less than stellar supporting cast, whilst Smith was again in everything for the Storm and Queensland, and will surely lead the Roos in the World Cup, but it is Jake Friend who has stood out for me. Whilst superstars SBW, Jennings, Maloney etc. seem to set up all the tries, Friend is the one doing the hard work, making a mountain of tackles, reading the play and distributing the ball. It’s all well and good to have dominant forwards and halves but if they’re not getting the ball, they’re useless. Friend’s ability to read the numbers and pick out tired and lazy markers has set the standard in 2013.
Captain: Jamie Lyon
This was a tough one but for mine, Lyon is the man at Manly. He captains the side with a cool head (most games), handles the media well, and generally represents the club with high esteem. Manly are always a target for opposition fans but even those who loathe the club have a begrudging respect for Lyon. I firmly believe that if he captained NSW and took the pressure of Gallen, they’d be in a better position to capture that elusive Origin series win.
Coach: Shane Flanagan
In all honesty Trent Robinson is probably as close to a shoe-in as possible for this award but NO ONE has had to deal with the constant media scrutiny and external pressure that Shane Flanagan has this year. It was always going to be a pressure year for Flanagan who recruited well in the off season and resides over a team with increased membership and expectations but when the ASADA story broke, his job pressure went through the roof. Initially stood down whilst the club investigated, Flanagan was cleared and re-instated. Judging by the performances of the under fire Sharks this season, they, like the fans, have a huge respect for the man. Things are probably going to get worse before they get better for the Shire club but Flanagan has been a rock for the club, trying to deflect media attention to himself where possible. As hard as 2013 was, 2014 may be just as, if not more difficult. Time will tell, but Flanagan deserves major props for his loyalty.
Rookie Of The Year: George Burgess
Before the year started, Sam aside, I don’t think I could pick the Burgess boys apart. Ok so it’s still difficult but George has had a year to remember. The emergence of the Burgess boys, George especially, comes at a good time, with England hosting the World Cup. His go forward, and his ability to break over the advantage line set Souths up in the early rounds especially. Souths had probably lacked impact off the bench late last year, and suffered when Sam Burgess had a spell on the bench, but George has more than filled that role and will surely play a huge part in the Bunnies charge in 2014.
Dally M Medal: Daly Cherry-Evans
This could go to anyone of Cronk, Thurston, Inglis, but for mine Cherry-Evans is the man in 2013. If the finals series was included in the count, DCE would be a mile ahead as for mine, he has been the player of the finals series so far. He’ll be on the plane to England and although Cronk is the number one halfback in the country, DCE is the form halfback and will be an invaluable asset to the Roos come crunch time. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the previously mentioned take the top award, DCE, for mine, has been the most important player in 2013.
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