Rugby League down under is well and truly back in full swing as the opening week of the NRL produced some exhilarating action.
Penrith Panthers dominated the highly fancied Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles whilst there were wins for two of last season’s bottom three in Brisbane Broncos and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Plenty of stars shone over the weekend but only a lucky selection of 13 can be chosen as we bring you the first edition of Team of the Week from the 2022 NRL season.
Full-back: Dylan Edwards
One of many superb individual performers for the reigning Champions this weekend was Dylan Edwards at full-back. Edwards’ key statistic has to be his staggering 344 metres from 31 carries, plus the five tackle busts made as he helped the Panthers annihilate the Sea Eagles.
Wingers: Sean Russell and Mikaele Ravalawa
These two were a fairly straightforward choice, given their one shared trait in round one: a hat-trick of tries. Sean Russell scored his three during the first half for Parramatta Eels and they proved crucial in their 32-28 win over Gold Coast Titans. His time was cut short due to an injury but nevertheless, a crucial contribution as Russell helped kick-start the Eels’ season. Ravalawa assisted in the Dragons overturning a 16-14 deficit, even amassing 173 metres as well as five tackle busts in their 28-16 win over the New Zealand Warriors, continuing on from their impressive pre-season.
Centres: Stephen Crichton and Dane Gagai
A rather difficult choice but Stephen Crichton joins team mate Edwards but partnering him is Newcastle Knights’ Dane Gagai. Crichton was a try scorer and slotted over four goals for the Panthers, plus his five tackle busts and 149 metres helped cement him as one of their star players. Gagai meanwhile, got off to a dream competitive debut for the Knights since his move from South Sydney Rabbitohs. He scored a try and provided an assist as the Knights stunned the Sydney Roosters 20-6. Further stats saw him amass 200 metres the highest amount from a centre over the weekend plus he put in 23 tackles to help restrict the Roosters to just a single try in the 80 minutes.
Stand-off: Jack Wighton
Lining up at six is 2020 Dally M award winner Jack Wighton. An incredibly close call but Wighton edges out competition from Jarome Luai and Jake Clifford. Wighton was a try scorer in Canberra Raiders’ 24-19 win over Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks plus managed four tackle busts, 148 metres and even put in 19 tackles, helping the Raiders to a last gasp win to get their season already on track.
Scrum-Half: Jahrome Hughes
Arguably, the most difficult position to call but Jahrome Hughes edges it. The New Zealand international helped the Melbourne Storm overturn a deficit against a resilient Wests Tigers outfit. Having scored a try and managed seven tackle busts, nine kicks, 110 metres plus 18 tackles, Hughes was their ‘go to’ man in the absence of Cameron Munster and Brandon Smith’s early departure and really stepped up in what was a difficult fixture for the former champions.
Props: James Fisher-Harris and Payne Haas
These two are no strangers to personal accolades as the 2021 Dally M Team of the Year prop forwards James Fisher-Harris and Payne Haas make our team of the week. Kiwi international Fisher-Harris helped the Panthers dominant the Sea Eagles, putting in 26 tackles as well as 186 metres with ball in hand from 21 carries. Haas also produced excellent consistency for the Brisbane Broncos over South Sydney; having put in a staggering 45 tackles to help restrict the Bunnies to just four points. He also put in 187 metres from 23 carries.
Hooker: Apisai Koroisau
Yet another Penrith Panther is included in Apisai Koroisau. A controversial figure last year but Koroisau was at his best for the Champions in the opening match. Koroisau scored a try, provided an assist, put in 30 tackles and tallied 67 metres in the match completing an efficient all-round display from the hooker.
Second-row: Tyson Frizell and Isaiah Papali’i
Another tough choice as Newcastle’s Tyson Frizell and Parramatta’s Isaiah Papali’I find their way into the side. Frizell put in 37 tackles in the Knights’ triumph over the Roosters. He also managed 147 metres in attack to help secure an impressive result. Papali’I continued his form from last year, amassing 193 metres from 17 carries as well as nine tackle busts and 26 tackles, demonstrating his 2021 Dally M team credentials.
Loose-forward: Isaah Yeo
Rounding things off is the fifth and final Panther Isaah Yeo. Yeo put in 38 tackles as well as managing 181 metres with ball in hand. He led by example throughout, helping to keep the Champions on top throughout against Manly.