25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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It was a pleasure watching the footy over the weekend with some of the true heavyweights of the competition standing up in Melbourne and Canterbury. The Storm blew Wests off the field before the Doggies ran out in FNQ and went one-up on them against the Cowboys. A resurgent Parra outfit showed off their wares and Newcastle put in a claim as the dark horse of the comp as the selectors put together the Round 22 League Unlimited Team of the Week which is dripping with speed, plenty of skill and a lot of grunt up front.
Fullback: Luke Patten (Bulldogs) ? Had a good game up in FNQ as he showed off his pace and defended well in the line. The General doesn?t get many wraps but he can hold his head high following his work on the weekend, taking home one four-pointer.
Wing: Nathan Merritt (Rabbitohs) ? Outstanding work from Merritt as he pushes further ahead in the try-scoring ranks. He claimed a hat-trick out at Homebush against a shell-shocked Panthers outfit and he?s earned a week off for his efforts.
Centre: Jake Webster (Storm) ? Put down the glasses, this guy blitzed them on Saturday night. Webster will be missed in our Southern Capital when he heads to the Titans next year and he showed why when he crossed the stripe four times against the hapless Tigers at Olympic Park.
Centre: Willie Tonga (Bulldogs) ? Tonga found his touch against the Cowboys for the first time since returning from injury. He created plenty of opportunities and made a few good breaks up in Townsville, scoring a try and helping out winger Cutler as well.
Wing: Steve Turner (Storm) ? Another bloke who?ll be sorely missed next year is Turner and he put on a fine display against the Tigers as well, grabbing two tries in a solid display that we?ve come to expect from him.
Five-eighth: Preston Campbell (Panthers) ? I like this bloke at the moment. Campbell is one of the few that?s trying his guts out at Penrith and that?s all you can ask of him really. Picked up a pair and is handy with the boot when called upon.
Halfback: Andrew Johns (Knights) ? Played out his best game for a long time against the Roosters at Gosford, shooting a warning shot across the bow of all top 8 sides in the comp. Joey is back, he scored a try and kicked six goals along the way to leading Newcastle to victory.
Lock: Reni Maitua (Bulldogs) ? This fella is going well at the moment, running amok with a roving commission out at the Bulldogs. He scored a good try and gave the Tigers headaches all night long with good offloads and positional play.
Second-row: Andrew Ryan (Bulldogs) ? Bobcat was superb for the Doggies as well, running hard at the line and failing to give an inch in dominating side that were thirsty for points. He brings a cool head to a team full of talent that might otherwise get a bit carried away.
Second-row: Alan Tongue (Raiders) ? A dead-set workhorse of a player who goes out every week and gives his heart and soul for the Raiders. They should offer a National holiday in Tongue?s honour and he helped put away the Broncos in style.
Prop: Steve Price (Warriors) ? Can hold his head high after putting in that extra yard to cover front row partner Ruben Wiki who was suspended. Difficult conditions made for interesting footy and Pricey was in the thick of things against the Sharks.
Hooker: Cameron Smith (Storm) ? A cut above right now. Smith is the comp?s form hooker and he just keeps putting in each week. Slotted six goals as well as running cleverly and tackling all night long to lay the foundations against the Tigers.
Prop: Nathan Cayless (Eels) ? Two weeks in a row Cayless has impressed and we honour him again with a jersey this week. Parra?s shortage of props has meant he needs to step up and he?s responded to the call, putting in the work each week to keep them competitive.
A great bench here but a little unconventional. Sonny-Bill is a must have at the moment considering the devastating form he?s been in and PJ Marsh is a zippy little character who finds room on the edges of the ruck when the forwards get tired.
Then we?ve got two Porsche?s in Grothe and Emelio who know their way to the line, scoring a combined total of four tries between them at the weekend and any three-quarter pairing that can do that deserves a spot in the tem.
Merkin of the Week Award for Stupidity: Nathan Brown pillages the most sought award in Rugby League this week as he claimed not only that ?the ref?s hate us? but that Jason Ryles was ?our best forward for the past month?. Two genuine pieces of insanity there. He has somewhat redeemed himself though, paying 15 grand to win Sunday?s clash with the Bulldogs. It?s a tall order but even if it doesn?t get them the chocolates on Sunday it should be enough to make Mr Finch order his troops to take it easy on the red-and-whites over the coming weeks.