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A big round of footy is behind us with a number of upsets played out. There?s a few contentious decisions in this one as well, after some gutsy efforts by the Raiders and Cowboys plus a spirited fightback by the Sea Eagles. The sublime Storm were up to their usual tricks and the Doggies only went to second gear. Parra deserve a mention for their continued improvement, with the Round 20 League Unlimited Team of the Week offering as many headaches for the selectors as each round of tips.
Fullback: Matthew Bowen (Cowboys) ? Stood up and took charge after Thurston went down early. Matty looked back to his best and he controlled the game up in FNQ laying on three tries and floating about everywhere. Well supported by Aaron Payne.
Wing: Matt Sing (Cowboys) ? Ran off Bowen all night but you?ve got to be doing something right to bag a hat trick. Sing is an evergreen winger who will be missed up north next year, but they?ve had some of his best years.
Centre: Chris Hicks (Sea Eagles) ? Fast and fit, Hicks went hammer and tongs in the second half against the Panthers, scoring a vital try and making several damaging inroads. His pace is blistering and he?s not afraid to tackle either. Will be an important man come the semis.
Centre: Adam Mogg (Raiders) ? Just keeps pluggin? away for the Raiders each week. Unfashionable to some, but we love him here at LU with his loping style of running a constant feature in an ever improving game. Origin did him the world of good.
Wing: Jarryd Hayne (Eels) ? Boom rookie Hayne is again in the headlines, scoring two fabulous tries in his sides 34-6 demolition job on the premiers. He just seems to pop up in the right place at the right time, and with no hint of ego, this kid could be a star. Let?s hope he avoids the ?Jack Elsegood Academy for Wingers with Second Year Syndrome? in 2007.
Five-eighth: Jason Smith (Raiders) ? Another evergreen veteran who?s relishing his new role of toying with under-educated footballers. Smith showed the hyped-up Dragons a thing or two on Sunday and it?s a shame he?ll be leaving the club next year. Bagged a try and his prot?g? got a double, so I think they?ll be alright.
Halfback: Preston Campbell (Panthers) ? Contentious, yes, but also deserving. Campbell did everything in his power to beat Manly on Sunday but the rest of his mates just couldn?t keep going, despite one of them saying he?d smash the Sea Eagle pack. Scored two tries, set two up and kicked five goals. He couldn?t have done anymore.
Lock: Ryan Hoffman (Storm) ? Hoffman has taken his game to a new level in recent weeks, mixing consistency with hard-hitting and flamboyance. I like him as a player and he punches well above his weight. Also found his way across the chalk, which he?s been making a bit of a habit out of lately.
Second-row: Steve Simpson (Knights) ? Strong running Simmo had a real dig on Saturday night, slapping a few Bunnies about. Scored a try and kept putting in all game, which is more than you can say for a few of the Knights.
Second-row: Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) ? Again a tower of strength. Hindy has got September-Fever and he won?t die wondering if they can make the top 8. Scored another try and is constantly topping the tackle and hit-up count.
Prop: Nathan Cayless (Eels) ? Another Eel who had a good game, but in Cayless?s case it was his best for some time. Charged hard at the line and they?ll need to see plenty more of that from him in weeks to come, starting with Manly on Saturday night.
Hooker: Cameron Smith (Storm) ? The form hooker of the comp by far. The way he navigated Slater to the try line on Friday night would have done James Cook proud. Kicked three goals, ran well from dummy half and made his fair share of tackles.
Prop: Willie Mason (Bulldogs) ? Big Willie was beating up on little children again, with the Chooks presenting no more than a training run for the rampaging forward. He?s close to career-best for and that?s a scary thought for the rest of the comp as the Bulldogs strut about the premiership trophy rather menacingly.
A strong pack here led by bustling Doggie Roy Asotasi with budding Bunnies lock Johnny Sutton in toe. Both of them are going well at the moment and deserve a guernsey. We?ve got Aaron Payne to add a bit of zip out of dummy half and Travis Burns has been going alright too.
Merkin of the Week Award for Stupidity: There can be only one this round, with Adrian Morley winning by 124 lengths. We?ve seen plenty of stupid things deserving of the Merkin this year, but Morley?s low act is by far the worst. As such, he will receive the Gold-plated, signature edition Merkin presented in an airtight box alongside the game ball. Fare the well Adrian.