With the preliminary finals approaching us and 12 teams out of action, it’s time to look back at the season 2014.
Before we go on, to ultimately crown the champion team for this year, why not look back at who has been successful throughout the season?
Season 2014 had it all – golden point games, unexpected victories, major upsets and even a change of hands in the Origin series. With all this, players stand out and rise above the rest.
Nominating four players of each position who had stellar seasons may be an easy job, but cutting it down to just one in each position (with one runner up) is tougher. Who would you pick?
Here is the Team of the Year, for 2014.
Fullback: Jarryd Hayne (Eels)
Before I started writing this article, I have been saying Greg Inglis was easily the top fullback in the game.
But it is hard to go past what he did this year. Catapulted into the captaincy role this season, he may have not always said the right things at times to referees, but his actions really led the way.
Hayne led a rejuvenated Eels squad in a charge towards the final eight, only falling short in the last round.
Glimpses of his magnificent 2009 form were on show this year, but will he keep this form up in 2015?
Runner up: Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs)
Right wing: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Roosters)
The heir to the throne for the Roosters beloved #1 jersey, RTS has worked his apprenticeship on the wing as a perfect example of how talented this young man is.
Selected for the World Cup squad for New Zealand, RTS has never let down. With arguably the best footwork in the NRL, he uses his sublime step and speed, to always accommodate to a photo finish.
Tuivasa-Sheck fits into the Roosters beautifully with his unique skill-set. In his last year as a winger in the NRL, RTS can be happy with the accomplishments he has already achieved in the #5 jersey.
Runner up: Jason Nightingale (Dragons)
Right centre: Dylan Walker (Rabbitohs)
The talented youngster who has previously played in the halves and as a winger, cemented his spot as one of the most exciting centres in the game.
Given permission to roam the field by coach Maguire, Walker would often link up with his centre to provide a spark.
A very dangerous and creative runner of the ball, Walker led all centres with line breaks this year, even with time spent on the sidelines with injury. Walker is an exciting young prospect for all NSW fans.
Runner up: Jarrod Croker (Raiders)
Left centre: Tim Lafai (Bulldogs)
The powerhouse youngster has been waiting in line at the Bulldogs for a long time. With Krisnan Inu manning the left side position, Lafai would always provide cover for injury in emergency to the outside back position. The big centre, when called upon, would always provide a solid performance.
2014, he was able to solidify his position in the Bulldogs starting line-up as the incumbent, and showed the NRL what talent he possesses. Strong, fearless and powerful, Lafai provides the Doggies with a strike punch on the left side in tandem with Tony Williams. The young Samoan centre has a bright future ahead of him.
Runner up: Steve Matai (Sea Eagles)
Left wing: Josh Mansour (Panthers)
The robust winger from the foot of the mountains had an outstanding breakout year, with the rejuvenated Panthers.
Sorely missed out an opportunity to represent his state this year due to a dampening run of injuries, but proved his worth in every carry of the ball.
Very strong ball runner, an excellent finisher and very solid in defence. His form strongly makes his deserving of his selection this team of the year.
Runner up: Semi Radradra (Eels)
Five Eighth: Jamie Soward (Panthers)
The Dragon outcast came as a surprise buy from many NRL fan’s perspectives. Jamie has silenced all his critics (including myself) by proving his worth and proving the fact that Gus Gould made the right choice by going after him.
Soward has spearheaded the rejuvenated Panthers squad to soaring heights, including sinking the Roosters in a pair of clutch moments just two weeks ago. He is finding his 2010 form again, the form that saw him play for NSW.
Runner up: Gareth Widdop (Dragons)
Halfback: Ben Hunt (Broncos)
There were huge expectations put onto the young man’s shoulders going into season 2014. No one had really seen the potential of Ben Hunt, but didn’t he put on a show in 2014?
Led all halfback with tries, his show and go is as lethal as JT’s, in which it mesmerises defence lines and sees him clear into space. He showed pure class with his approach to every game and handled the pressure of fifth tackle option quite well, considering he didn’t have much of a halves partner.
Very unlucky to miss out on an Origin selection this year.
Runner up: Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)
Prop: Jesse Bromwich (Storm)
Stamped his authority on the front row stock in 2014. Was brilliant in every facet for the Storm this year and really led from the front. Led all Storm players in hit-ups, metres gained and offloads this year.
If the Storm’s early exit was the negative fact of their season, the ascension of Bromwich is the very bright light of season 2014.
Runner up: Matt Scott (Cowboys)
Hooker: James Segeyaro (Panthers)
It’s hard to think any other hooker would ever outclass Cameron Smith in a season.
The young Papua New Guinean did so in 2014. Starting off the bench to accommodate to Kevin Kingston, he was too good to leave on the bench, and immediately paid dividends to his coaching staff.
Extremely quick out of dummy half and tough as nails, Segeyaro enjoyed his second year at the Panthers with his coming-out year, in which he was lethal on both ends of the field.
Runner up: Cameron Smith (Storm)
Prop: James Graham (Bulldogs)
Coming from a Storm fan, who really rates Jesse Bromwich, James Graham is hands down the best prop in the NRL. Very active and a tough physical player, Graham mixes tough gritty running, with silky smooth ball handling skills to throw off defences.
Graham is used often as the Bulldogs “forward-half”, an excels well in the position. He plays a huge number of minutes for a prop, and his work rate is tireless. Graham deserves every accolade he receives, because he is one hell of a player.
Runner up: Ashton Sims (Cowboys)
Second row: Aidan Guerra (Roosters)
Although he did wear the #13 jersey majority of the year, his versatility in playing in the second row also gets him the spot. In 2014, he enjoyed a breakout year which earned him a starting position in a packed Roosters squad, an also got to represent Queensland in Origin.
He provided the flair and grit when called upon, and kept the likes of Mitch Aubusson and Frank Paul-Nu’uasala on the bench.
Runner up: Josh Jackson (Bulldogs)
Second row: Simon Mannering (Warriors)
Although he is not my favourite player and I sometimes question his spot, he had a strong 2014 campaign.
He goes about his work and never seems to worry too much about things outside the footy field. Mannering is always safe and strong in defence, he led from the front with his line-running of halves Chad Townsend and Shaun Johnson.
Solidified his year with the Warriors Player of the Year in 2014, which he seems to win every single year.
Runner up: It pains me to say this, but Tony Williams (Bulldogs)
Lock: Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs)
Possibly the easiest pick of the lot. The most vital key to the Rabbitohs’ title hopes, ‘Slammin’ Sam is my favourite player to watch. His work-rate, like countrymen James Graham, is tireless and he seems to always find a third and fourth wind when needed.
Runs and attacks the line with vigour, and is always the first defender out of the line to make first contact. Tackles strongly, leads from the front, and never leaves his teammates unassisted when a brawl breakouts, Sam Burgess is the prototype forward you want in the NRL.
Runner up: Corey Parker (Broncos)
Coach: Ivan Cleary (Panthers)
He rejuvenated a slowly building Panthers squad from the laughing stock, to premiership hopefuls. He is the man behind the great resurgence, and thoroughly deserves this honour.
This team is solely picked on form, and no favouritism – or it would be the Storm from 1-13. This may cause debates, but I believe each player deserves their selection in this squad. Bring on preliminaries!