It’s every NRL fan’s dream to submit their club’s team list on Tuesday, using their from-the-couch insight to make judgement on each player’s strengths.
As much as they like to think they know more than their club’s coach, they don’t.
For the fan, it’s simply putting out the best 17 on paper. For the coach, there are strategic elements to each selection, disciplinary reasons or an outlook at the future to explain their choices.
Nonetheless, there are occasions when the man sitting on the bench is far more talented than the man on the field. That speaks for every club.
Sporting News has picked out the one player at your club who is worthy of a full-time gig in first grade, whether it be at his current destination or a new one.
The list includes reserve grade stars looking for their first opportunity, talented first graders who have fallen down the pecking order and those fill-ins rolling in and out of the NRL team.
See who is worthy of a first grade gig from your club.
BRISBANE BRONCOS – KOTONI STAGGS
Staggs’ name surfaced on the NRL map just this season in what was an NRL debut to remember, scoring a try in Brisbane’s 28-22 victory over the Roosters. Since then, he has only made the starting 17 once and is a regular on the Broncos’ bench, but the kid can play. Unfortunately, Wayne Bennett is blessed with a stack of outside backs and the return of Jack Bird will only push Staggs further down the order. A powerful running centre with tackle-breaking abilities, Staggs would be handy in any backline.
CANBERRA RAIDERS – BRAD ABBEY
Abbey is currently plugging holes in the absence of Jack Wighton, making six appearances at fullback and wing for Canberra. His creative abilities are wasted out wide and Ricky Stuart forced a backline reshuffle this week by putting him back in his preferred No.1 jumper. Still only 21 years of age, there is plenty of room for development but Abbey is displaying features of a quality ball-playing fullback who can distribute good service to his outside men.
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS – ZAC WOOLFORD
Dean Pay has tinkered with Michael Lichaa, Fa’amanu Brown and even Jeremy Marshall-King in the hooker role, but none have paid dividends. Woolford has been patiently waiting for his club debut and has been through two successful campaigns with their NSW Cup side, but hasn’t received a tap on the shoulder. Facing an embarrassing wooden spoon in a season from hell, what have Canterbury got to lose? Time to experiment.
CRONULLA SHARKS – KYLE FLANAGAN
When your dad is the coach, you’d think you’d have the upper hand, but it has actually been a speedbump for Kyle Flanagan and his quest to enter the NRL. Shane Flanagan has revealed his son’s opportunity is just around the corner although it has been difficult to crack into a side boasting established stars Chad Townsend and Matt Moylan. Rival clubs are circling and if Cronulla aren’t careful, he may be stolen from under their nose.
GOLD COAST TITANS – LEILANI LATU
From a potential starting front-rower at Penrith to regular reserve-grader at the Titans, Latu’s fall still remains a mystery. Paraded as one of their headline recruits, Latu has made just six NRL appearances since landing on the glitter strip. There have been concerns he may be carrying some extra baggage, but when fit, Latu is a charging weapon that can cause some serious damage.
MANLY SEA EAGLES – LLOYD PERRETT
Manly have informed the bulky forward he is no longer part of their plans beyond this season, leaving him in limbo. He has been rewarded with a recall this week against the Titans for his stellar NSW Cup form which will make it his 13th appearance for the season. Off the bench, his size and late impact can help build momentum.
MELBOURNE STORM – BRODIE CROFT
The next Cooper Cronk? That didn’t last long. Croft was touted as the next Melbourne superstar but was surprisingly culled after the first five rounds. On his day, we’ve all seen his capabilities, but there are questions around his poise and game management. At 21, though, time is on his side and he definitely has first-grade qualities about him.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS – NICK MEANEY
Living in Kalyn Ponga’s shadow at Newcastle, Meaney will ride his NRL dream next season at the Bulldogs after signing a three-year deal. He had a brief opportunity to showcase his talents in Ponga’s absence, proving to be a handy ball-player in two wins from two games for the Knights.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS – ETHAN LOWE
North Queensland’s starting second-rower for years, Lowe has played just 12 games this season while Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess pack out the edge. Lowe is a determined workhorse who can run a line to perfection and is by no means in the twilight of his career at 27 years of age.
PARRAMATTA EELS – BEVAN FRENCH
Playing fullback is one wish Brad Arthur won’t grant Bevan French and after kicking and screaming, the flying back now finds himself out of the first grade side. There is no questioning French’s talents, but his attitude has become an issue and he now seems bound to find another club.
PENRITH PANTHERS – TYRONE MAY
It’s hard to crack first grade when you’re competing against NSW combination James Maloney and Nathan Cleary, as May has learnt. In a brief cameo last season, May helped steer a sinking ship to the finals and eased the pain of Matt Moylan’s absence. He will now be asked to do the same with Maloney injured until the finals, and he has the chance to prove why he should be in the top flight.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS – TYRELL FUIMAONO
Injuries have burdened Fuimaono for the most part of the season, only playing his third game of the year on Friday night against Brisbane as cover for Greg Inglis. The versatile big man was a regular in South Sydney’s 2017 campaign and will be looking to slot back onto the bench in a hot contest for second-row positions.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS – HAME SELE
The Dragons are at serious risk of losing the promising youngster after using him for just three games this year. Some fans expressed the anger at the fact the club re-signed Jeremy Latimore but have not been able to retain Sele who is hot on Cronulla’s radar.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS – KURT BAPTISTE
Baptiste is used to playing second fiddle, being Josh Hodgson’s sidekick for years at Canberra. But at the Roosters, he just can’t quite get his name on the team sheet since their forward pack returned to near full strength. The lightning-quick rake keeps middle forwards on their toes and is a ball of energy around the ruck, but it’s hard to find a job at Bondi with Jake Friend in the ranks.
WESTS TIGERS – TUI LOLOHEA
Super League will be Lolohea’s new home since Moses Mbye took over the fullback reins at Concord, making it another uneasy move for the Tongan star. The Warriors and Tigers were both happy to replace him, but he has displayed glimpses of brilliance over a frustrating career.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – MASON LINO
Lino helped break the Warriors’ Shaun Johnson hoodoo, helping them end a long losing streak without their star playmaker which has put them in good stead for the finals. Lino is a handy playmaker with a diverse skill set, equipped with a kicking, running and passing game whereas some halves pride themselves on one area.