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We?ve had some cracking football over the past few weeks and Round 18 was no exception. Friday night?s absorbing contest at Olympic Park was a mere precursor for the remainder of the week, and there were some great moments. A good old-fashioned stoush between Manly and Easts, Parra springing an upset over Newcastle and the return to form of the Premiers were all taken in by the selectors first hand as we roll out the Round 18 League Unlimited Team of the Week.
Fullback: Brett Hodgson (Tigers) ? Lead his team to an important victory in the Shire with some great support work and smart play. Hodgo, contributing three goals, narrowly edges Storm custodian Billy Slater out of a job this week - whose return to form was also impressive.
Wing: Jarryd Hayne (Eels) ? This kid certainly knows his way to the line, rapidly ascending the try-scoring ranks for the season after getting his first start under JT. A four-try haul is pretty special and although his combination with Timmy was close, hopefully he can continue on with Jeremy back in the side.
Centre: Mark Gasnier (Dragons) ? No signs of burnout for Gaz as he returned home to Kogarah to plunder a brace of meat pies. Working well off halfback Head, Gasnier resumed his role in the centres and will be looking for another big one against the Doggies this week.
Centre: Dean Collis (Tigers) ? The speedy Tiger had a sensational game down at Toyota Park, scoring the match-winner, although it wasn?t quite at good as his mate Fitzy?s effort. The kid can motor, you?ve got to respect that.
Wing: Michael Gordon (Panthers) ? Not a household name by any stretch of the imagination, Gordon?s an honest winger who had a super game for the Panthers as they ground out a victory over Canberra, scoring two tries and adding three goals. He?s done well here to hold Manu Vatuvei out of the side.
Five-eighth: Preston Campbell (Panthers) ? Another Panther who stepped up to the mark and ran things for the home team when Gower left the field. Presto crossed the stripe and knocked over a goal when required, a luxury they won?t have next year.
Halfback: Matt Orford (Sea Eagles) ? Came roaring back to form for the Sea Eagles after starting the game with some trepidation. He bagged a personal tally of 17 points and kicked well for the visitors, who snapped a troublesome losing streak. Had some competition from Mat Head here as well.
Lock: Loius Anderson (Warriors) ? Probably not the obvious choice but I?ve had my eye on this guy for a while and he can play. Big, strong and mobile, Louis has been part of the revolution down at the Warriors and despite their loss, the big Kiwi forces one of our favourites BK to the bench.
Second-row: Andrew Ryan (Bulldogs) ? The Bulldogs captain ran the ball all day long and tackled his guts out, finding his way across the line, albeit rather unfashionable. I think there?s something in that for the Blues selectors.
Second-row: Ryan Hoffman (Storm) ? Speaking of the Blues, this Tigers junior can?t be too far away from discussions at that level. He?s been making a habit of scoring tries and didn?t let anyone down against the Broncos. Evolving into a leader of men, let?s see how he handles things in Newcastle.
Prop: Willie Mason (Bulldogs) ? Big Willie started from the bench from the Bulldogs and had an immediate impact. His injection sparked the Doggies into a turnaround that would ultimately lead them to victory against the hard-hitting Warriors. Quality player.
Hooker: Cameron Smith (Storm) ? Another one of the Storm?s rising leaders who can?t put a step wrong. Smith has a clever brain, offers good service out of the rucks and although he had an off night with the boot, does know how to put them over the black dot.
Prop: Keith Galloway (Tigers) ? Galloway put a disappointing start to the season behind him with easily his best performance of the year. Standing tall, he made several powerful surges into the unusually flabby defence of the Cronulla pack. If he backs it up against the Raiders, we?ll know he?s the real deal.
Interchange: John Morris (Eels), Mat Head (Dragons), Steve Price (Warriors), Ben Kenndey (Sea Eagles).
A versatile bench here with the reliable Morris and unpredictable Head to be brought into the game at any stage. Both players have been close to their best in recent weeks, which goes a way toward explaining their team?s fortunes.
Price and Kennedy have a vice-like grip on this team every week and without them we?d be struggling, just like their respective teams would. These two guys give 100% each week for as long as they?re on the field and you simply can?t ask for much more than that.
Merkin of the Week Award for Stupidity: Jason King ? Nothing personal against the lad, but he went to a gun-fight wearing an apron, carry a pair of tongs and a bottle of tomato sauce.
He copped one of the best shoulder charges I?ve ever seen from Adrian Morley, and the only thing that would have brought any relief to the Manly prop-forward was knowing his side won. I?m sure the ambulance officers informed him when they dug him up later that evening.