I don’t know about you, but I found the 2013 NRL season exhausting. It was a year of big headlines. We had it all. The Good, the Bad, and most certainly the Ugly.
The West Tigers juniors
The Tigers’ 2013 season was hardly a pretty one. There were few highlights, largely thanks to disastrous second halves. But if nothing else, in 2013 they showed us that they have some of the most exciting young players in the entire competition. David Nofoaluma (28/11/1993) gave us the try of the year which left everyone gobsmacked. Luke Brooks (21/12/1994) had one of the most impressive debuts of the season. Tim Simona (20/11/1991) has proved to be a nightmare to defend with his speed on the wing. Add Curtis Sironen (31/7/1993), Marika Koroibete (26/7/1992), and James Tedesco (8/1/1993) into the mix, let alone Aaron Woods (13/3/1991) who is already playing representative footy, and you have some serious forces to be reckoned with in the coming years. Let’s just hope the club is smart enough to hang onto these ones.
The NRL Rookies
There were 71 rookies in 2013. What a mammoth year in showcasing young talent. George Burgess is a monster. Tohu Harris is the NRL’s BFG (big friendly giant, for those of you who are not Roald Dahl readers). Ben Hampton made a big impression in his mere two first-grade games, and I have already mentioned Luke Brooks’ striking start. Kyle Feldt’s debut for the Cowboys left quite the impact as well. Clubs have already been fighting over Anthony Milford. Daniel Tupou and Korbin Sims are currently playing for Tonga and Fiji in the Rugby League World Cup. Matt Moylan, Dylan Walker. Some of these guys are younger than me, and I am jealous of how much they are achieving.
Cooper Cronk winning the Dally M Medal
Cooper Cronk is an incredible athlete and an even better role model. If you haven’t read his website, I implore you to do so. He is about hard work, and constantly finding ways to better himself both on and off the field. He is about respect and overcoming challenges. He recognises his shortcomings and instead of letting them defeat him, he uses them to drive him to be a better person. He shatters the famous/infamous “Boofhead Footy Player” stereotype. I can think of no one I would want to win a Best & Fairest award more. Oh and don’t forget about all those sinews.
Adam Reynolds’ try assist vs. Warriors (Round 17)
Just watch it. HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN?! Give this guy a Blues jumper already.
The Jon Mannah Cup
Watching the Mannah family cope with the loss of a family member publicly with so much grace was truly impressive. When the inaugural Jon Mannah Cup game rolled around, the Eels were already failing to fire and the Sharks were just starting to face all the ASADA allegations. Both teams needed something special. I will never forget the tribute to Jon Mannah. Prior to the game, they asked supporters of both teams (Mannah’s ex-clubs) to unite not in a moment of silence to mourn, but in a moment of applause in celebration for his life. Both teams played with real heart that day – you could see it in their hit-ups. That game was everything I love about League. It’s hard to laugh at Parramatta when they played one of my favourite games of the season.
Mahe Fonua’s GI-like try assist
“There’s no way he got it. He couldn’t possibly have… OH MY GOD HE DID IT! HE PULLED IT OFF! HOW DID HE DO THAT?!” – My living room at the time. Fonua had been struggling a little with form, but he played the game of his life that day and showed everyone just what he is made of. And you know what they say in sport, everyone. “Vics do it better”. And they’re not wrong.
Farewelling retiring players
This is more ‘sad’ than ‘bad’, but on the eve of Grand Final I realised just how many well-loved players were bidding the NRL farewell. To Scott Prince, Steve Turner, Michael Crocker, Matt King, Dallas Johnson, Brett Finch, Nathan Fien, Matt Cooper, Matt Bowen, Danny Buderus, Jason Ryles, Joe Galuvao, Ashley Graham, and Ben Ross; you will all be sincerely missed by many, if not by all.