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The weekly column here at Leagueunlimited is to highlight what we here on the site think are the best players in each round of the 2004 NRL competition. Based on the opinion received from the Leagueunlimited.com live updaters, we have put together what we think is the team of the Round 16.
With State of Origin game 3 looming once again representative spots were up for grabs. Major blowouts in the scorelines this week with the Tigers suffering another heavy loss this time at the hands of the Roosters. Meanwhile the Dragons were once again very impressive and the Knights with many player returning from injury, have found themselves back into their winning ways with style.
Leagueunlimited Team of the Week - Round 16:
1. Billy Slater - Billy Slater maintained his superb form from his State of Origin heroics, scoring one of the tries of the season in a second half spell that saw the Storm pile on 24 unanswered points. The blistering pace of Slater that brought the crowd to its feet, the dazzling fullback running 90 minutes - steam rolling the Warriors? defence on the way to the try line. Look out for him in the third SOO match.
2. Matt King - King?s treble capped off a stunning return to first-grade after injuring his elbow in the City/Country Origin match seven weeks ago. A late inclusion in the Storm line-up, King repaid coach Craig Bellamy?s confidence in him with a number of penetrating runs on top of his three tries. Making King?s return all the more amazing was the fact that the 23-year-old only resumed full training less than a week before the game.
3. Ryan Cross - The writing was on the wall when the Tigers let in seven first half tries including six in 15 minutes to unbelievably trail 40-0 at halftime. Off-contract Roosters centre Ryan Cross added some weight to his bargaining power with a hat-trick of tries. He was very unfortunate not to be named in the NSW squad for the third SOO.
4. Mark Hughes - Mark Hughes welcomed his son Zac into the world on Sunday morning and then scored three tries in the afternoon, replacing George Carmont in the centres, to help the Knights to a 56-12 victory over Manly in their NRL clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium. A fine effort for his return to first grade games.
5. Reece Simmonds - Simmonds helped his side to another blowout win on the weekend, this time the Rabbitohs suffering. The Dragons played the entire second half with just 15 men after losing John Carlaw and Lance Thompson to injury. Two fine tries to Simmonds helped seal a superb day for the Dragons at the historic SCG.
6. Trent Barrett - After just a short spell back from injury, Barrett has made his mark in each game so far and has been rewarded with a place in the NSW Origin team. Coupling well with Head in the halves, Barrett has been in dynamic form.
7. Mark McLinden - From 4 halfbacks available for the Leagueunlimited team this week, the nod narrowly went to McLinden. Although suffering a hit or two from some brutal Broncos defence, McLinden steered the Raiders well to victory on Sunday afternoon in Brisbane. A very even game, McLinden was just the spark needed to take the Raiders to victory. The Graham try he set up late in the game coupled with a field goal to nail the game was the difference between winning and losing.
8. Paul Rauhihi - Once again the Cowboys captain led his troops from the front as we have become accustomed to. His powerful hitups kept the Cowboys in with a chance for at least two thirds of the match until the experience of the Bulldogs started to come through.
9. Danny Buderus - Buderus has been named the captain of the NSW Origin side and after the way he's been playing of late, it is well deserved. His tackling in as solid as a rock and his guidance for the younger players is to be admired.
10. Steven Price - Bulldogs captain Steven Price, who played for the Bulldogs reserve grade side in the curtain-raiser 10 years ago. Saturday night up in Townsville and he's back there this time captaining the first grade side. Amassing nearly 250 metres in the game, Price led from the front once again.
11. Willie Mason - Mason showed once again why he is a certainty for representative honours at the moment. The Bulldogs big men Mark O'Meley, Willie Mason and Steven Price consistently found metres up the middle against a tiring opposition, especially in the last twenty minutes of the match in Townsville.
12. Craig Fitzgibbon - Fitzgibbon is one of the most consistent players in the NRL competition at present. His defence is outstanding and solid, mix that with his offloading skills and it's no wonder he is picked for the NSW State of Origin side.
13. Ben Kennedy - The evening game on Saturday saw Kennedy comeback game from a six-week hamstring injury. The Test forward scored a trademark try in the 61st minute, carting four defenders over the line with him and somehow managing to plant the ball. His return to almost instant form was certainly enough for the NSW selectors who have named Kennedy on the bench for the SOO game next week.
14. Amos Roberts - Initially named at five-eighth to fill in for injured Preston Campbell, Roberts slotted into halfback at the last minute after Craig Gower damaged his knee at training. Roberts who hit the lead in the league try scoring stakes for 2004 on the wing - revelled in his new position, setting up two tries and scoring another two to seal a dramatic comeback win. He also kicked the goals and totalled 18 points for the match.
15. Brett Finch - Finch had a double by the 48th minute after the Roosters capitalised on yet another Tigers spilt ball which seemed to be haunting them right throughout the game on Friday night. The Roosters halfback had been a constant menace for the Tigers defence and he bagged a third try in the final minutes to complete the demolition by the Roosters.
16. Mathew Head - Combining well with Barrett, Mathew Head had a field day on Sunday afternoon at the SCG as he helped his side top an outstanding victory over the Rabbitohs. His kicking game causing the Rabbitohs defence a lot of problems throughout the match.
17. Alex Chan - The Melbourne Storm side kept the Warriors securely at the bottom of the NRL ladder as they demoralized them on Saturday night. Alex Chan was dynamic in his hitups as he broke through the weak tackles and seemingly offloaded at will to help his side hold onto the Michael Moore trophy.