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Rick Edgerton looks at just a handful of players who are set to light up Suncorp Stadium this weekend as we await kickoff in the inaugural NRL Magic Round.
One of the rare players in the game with the ability to turn a match on its head regardless of the number on his back. The highly versatile Peachey has the ability to light up the field from anywhere on the park. Small in stature, but has tremendous strength that sees him bouncing out of tackles on a regular basis. Light on his feet, the Titans dynamo has the speed off the mark to sniff out a hole and also has a beautiful offload in his game. Has had a slow start to his Titans career this year, but will no doubt be buoyed by the occasion of running out on Magic Round's opening night.
Okay, so it's been a fair chunk of time since the term ‘Benji Magic' was used. Since returning from his short Rugby Union hiatus, Marshall has been a far more measured and controlled footy player, but how could you pass up an opportunity to reflect on the sheer wizardry the younger version of himself brought to the game. Bursting onto the scene in 2003, Benji quickly transformed the way young kids at the local park played the game. His footwork was simply outstanding and the mid-air jump to generate more power off this step blew everyone's minds. His no look passes and flicks out the back were brilliant when they came off and they came off more often than not. There's been thousands of highlights throughout his career, but the try he set up for Pat Richards after making a break from his own line and throwing a no look flick on halfway will forever be part of Grand Final folklore. Who knows, maybe a bit of the old magic will come out on Friday night.
Burdened with the responsibility of running the team, it's been too long since Brisbane fans have seen the magic Milford is capable of producing. Now, in Magic Round and with young half Tom Dearden in the team to play more of the traditional number seven role, the stage is set for the diminutive pivot to unleash his attacking flair. Gifted with footwork that can leave opposition defences for dead, he also possesses a great show and go. Look for him to be running the ball far more often on Friday night and playing off his natural instinct.
If Benji Marshall was the player all the kids were emulating in the past, today its Kalyn Ponga and the vast array of skills he shows. With simply breathtaking footwork and a move that has now been dubbed ‘The Ponga Pogo', he also has the ability to fire bullet like passes to his outside men and an ever evolving kicking game. The Knights custodian simply has it all. In recent weeks, his pure speed has also caught the eye, burning Clint Gutherson and Roger Tuivasa-Scheck after making a break when both had every right to make a play on him. Looks set to be one of the stars of the inaugural Magic Round.
Speaking of the man known as RTS… Is there anyone in the game opposition fullbacks would fear more when breaking through the line? His electric feet are dangerous from anywhere on the park, but once he bursts through and hits top gear they're simply unstoppable, changing direction without losing any pace at all. His carries coming out of trouble are brilliant and his ball-playing is developing nicely, but the true magic is with his speed and footwork. After a rare quiet game last week, look for the Warriors Captain to bounce back in a big way on Saturday evening.
There's not too many players in Rugby League with the all-round skill set of Melbourne's mercurial number six. Blessed with a neat step, dummy, palm and a rare vision for the game, Munster has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. Strong, tough and super competitive by nature, Munster also has a rogue cheeky streak making him a real throwback to the halves of yesteryear (think Alfie Langer for one). That's not to say he won't be conjuring up a magic trick or two for the Storm on Saturday night.
Latrell Mitchell… That's right, not ‘the next GI'. This supreme talent is most definitely his own man. In fact, we will probably end up debating if he was better than Greg Inglis when all's said and done. His individual performance against the Tigers at the SCG last Saturday night was simply brilliant. Speed, strength, palm, step, swerve, dummy, pass, offload and kick. He literally has it all, but arguably his greatest asset is his sheer power. When his mindset is ‘you're not going to stop me' when he gets the ball and looks up at the man in front of him, something invariably happens. It's hard to imagine he could re-produce last week's game this weekend. Then again, Sunday afternoon on a fast dry track like Suncorp… sounds like magic.
After a blistering start to the season, it's getting to the stage now where, whenever Walker is anywhere near the football, you get the sense something's about to happen. It's amazing in Rugby League how many times the simple bounce of a ball falls the way of a player in form and that's exactly what's happening for the South Sydney five-eight right now. But it's certainly not a matter of luck. His instinctive genius is what makes him such a magic player and sees him pop up around the ball so often. Look for him to light up the penultimate game in Magic Round late on Sunday.
It's not too often the genuine big men of the game get a mention when considering magic and x-factor type players, but the Cowboys lock is no ordinary big man. His power and strength is immense and see him bumping off defenders more often than not. The skills and natural ability he possesses for such a big human really is insane. If he's not beating you with sheer power, he's beating you with a left-right step or he's getting an arm free and offloading just when you think he's under control. Didn't miss a beat in his injury return last weekend and will be primed for his battle against a strong Rabbitohs pack. It's quite fitting that one of the biggest stars of the game gets to unleash his form of magic in the last game of what should be a truly Magical round.