Daniel Nichols – Response To Rugby League Week Player’s Poll

For those who haven’t read Rugby League Week’s Players Poll, I definitely recommend doing so as it was not only a good read but always starts discussion re the best players, best referee etc. The poll took a softer stance this season dropping the Biggest Grub/Sook award as well as the Most Overrated, and focused largely on the ASADA investigation.

Without any spoilers the answers were all pretty much where you’d expect them to be especially when it came to the best players in the game. The usual suspects were there and there were minimal surprises.

It will be very interesting to see the fan’s responses to the similar questions RLW will pose in a future edition (usually within a month of the players poll coming out) so I thought I’d get in first with my personal opinions. As always comments are welcome as these sorts of polls are designed to generate discussion:

Best Player In The Game: Cam Smith – The organiser in the machine that is the Storm. Is at the heart of everything at club, state and international level. The best ball distributor I have seen at this level. There’s an argument that Inglis, Slater and Thurston could take this position and with all honesty none would be out of place, but for mine, Smith is the best in the game.

Best Non-Australian Player: Sam Burgess – Some have him as the 2nd best member of his family but for mine he is the best non Aussie in the game. Sonny Bill, Benji Marshall and James Graham can all lay claim to this but Burgess has been so good for so long it’s impossible to look past him. Although Tompkins is the face of the English World Cup squad, Burgess is the man to lead them into battle against the incredible Aussie pack.

Best Coach: Craig Bellamy – Regularly turns reserve graders/fringe first graders from other sides into stars. Jason Ryles was done and dusted but has found new life under Bellamy. Brian Norrie couldn’t get a look in at a struggling Sharks side yet now has a premiership ring at The Storm. His ability to promote youngsters is second to none. When the Storm shed players after the salary cap most expected the Storm to suffer badly but it was Bellamy who rebuilt the side turning bit part players into sought after first grade stars.

Best Captain: Cam Smith – The Cam Smith love fest continues. Captain at all levels of the game and would captain a World 13 side. Incredible when dealing with referees, the best organiser in the game and leads by example. There’s no coincidence that the Storm captain was sidelined when they were belted 40-0 by Manly.

Best Ground For Facilities: Anz Stadium – When full and when all bars and toilets are open you never really have to line up for long to get a beer, pie or use the loo. A large train station just minutes from the game and a massive all seated stadium, it’s incredibly easy to get to, and enjoy games at.

Best Ground For Atmosphere: Suncorp Stadium – Ask any former or current NSW player what it feels like to run out at Suncorp and they will tell you it’s intimidating. Unlike ANZ Stadium, which when less than half full can feel like a ghost town, Suncorp is the perfect size and design to take full advantage of crowd noise. The noise whenever the Broncos run out is always extremely high and it doesn’t seem to drop off much as it does elsewhere. Traditional grounds such as Leichhardt oval produce an amazing atmosphere on the hill but don’t have the capacity to match it with Suncorp.

Loudest Supporter Base: South Sydney (when they’re winning) – When Souths are beating you, the fans let you know it. That’s not a knock on their supporter base, but they don’t exactly sit there quiet when they’re on top. With players like Inglis and Burgess leading the way the fans seem to lift with every big charge from Inglis or big hot from Burgess. I’ve seen every team play and although there have been games for each team where your ear drums have copped a hammering, Souths seem the most consistent noise wise.

Best Referee: Gavin Badger – I actually gave this some serious thought. I like it when you have to ask someone who the referee is they are there to officiate the game not star in it. Badger, like all referees, and humans for that matter, makes mistakes but compared to other referees doesn’t feature in too many hateful tweets. I honestly can’t remember the last time he refereed a Sharks game and that is a good thing.

Worst Referee: Matt Cecchin – Probably not the worst decision maker in the game (Maxwell) but by far the most likely to make it about him. Players rate him as hard to deal with and as a fan, I don’t enjoy hearing the whistle and referee’s having long discussions with players and those seem to be trademarks of Cecchin refereed games.

Most Over-Rated Player: Jarryd Hayne – Don’t get me wrong Hayne on his day is one of the best players in the game. He is capable of single handedly winning games and was the sole reason for the Eels grand final charge a few years back… but lately Hayne’s bad games outweigh his good games. I don’t think he should play Origin, he certainly won’t play in front of Stewart (if fit) in his preferred position and I don’t see him edging Uate, Morris or Merritt for a wing spot. Some Eels fans were annoyed when he resigned for the club for big money as they saw it as an opportunity to recruit using his salary as he has failed to live up to his form of years gone by. Much closer to the top player in the game than the worst but the wraps he continues to get after playing one good game after two bad games in a row surprises me.

Fullback: Bill Slater – Just edges Greg Inglis here. His support play is by far and away the best in the league and although he is prone to a high foot or a knee-first challenge, for mine is the premier fullback in the game and has been for many years now.

Centre: Jamie Lyon – Hodges is great but Lyon’s ability to make a break out of anywhere, or set up a try for his outside winger is 2nd to none. He would be the first centre picked for club and country if he was available … that’s an issue I have covered previously.

Winger: Brett Morris – One of the best finishers I have ever seen. If he was playing in a more successful side would be amongst the top try scorers every year. Probably not as damaging as Morris but far safer under the high ball and doesn’t get caught of position often.

Five-Eight: Johnathan Thurston – Daylight second. One of the world’s best, arguably THE best

Halfback: Cooper Cronk – Gets better every season. Arguably as important to Melbourne as Smith and Slater.

Prop: Matt Scott – Incredible go forward and a big work rate for a front rower. He and Tamou form the best front row combination at both club and international level. Only Sam Burgess would break up that partnership in a World 13.

Hooker: Cameron Smith – The game’s best player. Storm, QLD and Australian Captain, incredible work rate, insane ability to read the play, simply the best hooker I’ve ever seen.

Second Row: Greg Bird – FTR if Sam Thaiday was still playing 2nd row regularly it may have been him. Bird has improved as a player from the guy known as the fringe reserve grader at the Sharks who kneed Shane Marteene to part of the Bruise brothers with Paul Gallen. Will probably never shake the off field incidents but has become one of the best players in his position

Lock: Paul Gallen – 25+ tackles a game, 20 hit ups, 200 metres a game. There’s a fair argument to say he is the heart and soul of The Sharks. There is no argument to say that he is not the heart and soul of the Sharks.

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