The stakes are increasing down under. With the squads announced for the upcoming State of Origin series as well as a couple of sackings here and there, the players should have more motivation to improve on performances as the weeks go by.
Melbourne Storm got back to winning ways this week by sweeping aside Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles; Friday saw Brisbane Broncos gained the bragging rights over the Gold Coast Titans before Penrith Panthers blanked the North Queensland Cowboys. Newcastle Knights battled past New Zealand Warriors, South Sydney Rabbitohs produced a stunning second half over the Wests Tigers and Sydney Roosters held off a fightback from the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.
Sunday saw two interesting matches as St George-Illawarra defeated Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, with Parramatta Eels sealing off the weekend with a thrilling win over Canberra Raiders. But after all that, who makes the team of the week?
Full-back: James Tedesco
Named as New South Wales captain by Brad Fittler and with good reason as James Tedesco is in red hot form. Not the first time this year he has been named, the 2019 Dally M medallist led by example for the Roosters and was too incomprehensible for the Sharks to live with. His contribution saw him notch a try, provide two assists, nine tackle busts and 238 metres from 20 carries, a staggering amount from him.
Wingers: Alex Johnston & Bailey Simonsson
Hat-trick hero and 2021 top try scorer Alex Johnston is chosen alongside Bailey Simonsson. Johnston was crucial for the Bunnies as they remain in the top eight race; on top of his three tries, he managed three tackle busts and 131 metres from 11 carries. Simonsson edged out competition from the likes of Ken Maumalo and Daniel Tupou and here is why: the Eels player managed two tries, 11 tackle busts and 164 metres from 17 carries as he helped his side remain on course for the top four.
Centres: Enari Tuala & Campbell Graham
Enari Tuala was key in assisting the Knights, scoring two tries, provided an assist, putting in 15 tackles and running for 89 metres with ball in hand. Graham scored a try for the bunnies and provided three assists in their big win. He also made 16 tackles, five busts and amassed 169 metres from 16 carries.
Stand-off / Five-eighth: Cameron Munster
This guy will be interesting to watch in the State of Origin series as Cameron Munster maintains his regular spot in the team. Munster produced another top performance for the Melbourne Storm, scoring two tries, provided a try assist, put in 27 tackles, five busts and managed 149 metres from 20 carries.
Scrum-half / Halfback: Ezra Mam
For the first time this season, Ezra Mam of the Brisbane Broncos is chosen. Another upcoming and promising player, Mam scored a try, put in 24 tackles and 134 metres, helping the Broncos overturn a 20-point deficit as they continued their surge up the table.
Props: James Fisher-Harris & Joseph Tapine
Back in the side is 2021 Dally M prop James Fisher-Harris alongside Joseph Tapine. New Zealand international Fisher-Harris was a juggernaut once more for the Panthers, putting in 26 tackles, two busts and 220 metres from 20 carries. Tapine may have been on the losing side with the Raiders but still caused the Eels plenty of problems, putting in 31 tackles as well as 234 metres from 20 carries.
Hooker: Damien Cook
Another international in Damien Cook is named. He led by example for the Rabbitohs once more, just when they needed him most. He put in 40 tackles, seven busts and 123 metres from 13 carries and no doubt impressing Blues boss Fittler for the upcoming Origin clash.
Second-row: Tyson Frizell & Nat Butcher
On to the back row and Tyson Frizell of Newcastle is joined by Nat Butcher. Frizell was a try scorer for the Knights as well as putting in 42 tackles and 125 metres from 14 carries. Butcher produced similar heroics for the Roosters, scoring a try, putting in 36 tackles, two busts as well as 132 metres from 13 carries.
Loose-forward: Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
Now a man who perhaps did not deserve to be on the losing side in Tino Fa’asuamaleaui of the Gold Coast Titans. The big man put in 31 tackles as well as a staggering 271 metres from 23 carries, by far the highest amount from a lock forward.