We’re now just over half-way through the 2017 National Rugby League season. There’s been some great signings for 2017 with some wonderful transformations by switching clubs. Here’s a look at five to one in the final part of this series.
Bench forward turned State of Origin starting forward in the space of six months; season 2017 has seen a meteoric rise for ex-Bronco Jarrod Wallace.
Wallace has almost doubled his input for the Gold Coast this season, compared to last. Averaging 60 minutes per game along with 140 metres and 34 tackles, Wallace is not only one of the best signings of 2017 but also one of the most improved players of the competition.
With a well-deserved State of Origin debut for Queensland in Game II of the series, plenty more is expected from Wallace in coming years.
It’s no secret the St. George Illawarra Dragons had the worst attack of the entire competition in 2016. After the signing of out of form South Sydney dummy-half Cameron McInnes, many thought that things would remain the same in 2017.
That belief has turned out to be far from the case this season. McInnes has proved the perfect foil for representative duo Josh Dugan and Gareth Widdop in the Dragons spine this year. Helping improve the clubs attack from a measly 14 points a game in 2016 to 23 points a game in 2017; McInnes has recorded 6 try assists, 5 line break assists and 2 tries whilst also tying up the defence of St. George’s middle with 43 tackles a game – the best figures of his career by far.
The Dragons are set to form one of the best spines in the competition next season with new recruit Ben Hunt joining McInnes and Widdop in 2018.
3 Blake Green
After churning through five halves partners for Daly Cherry-Evans in season 2016, Manly coach Trent Barrett has finally found a capable five-eighth in Blake Green.
Green, 30, having spent two seasons in the Melbourne Storm setup, has added much needed experience to the Manly spine this year which has seen halves partner and 10-million-dollar man Daly Cherry-Evans play his best football in over two years.
Currently sitting in the top four after the opening 16 rounds. Manly are playing the most exciting brand of footy of any team this season. Last year, Manly struggled to put points on the board with Cherry-Evans having a lacklustre season as he struggled to come to grips of not having a genuine six play outside him. This year has been a lot different. Green himself has taken pressure of Cherry-Evans with 6 try assists, 6 line break assists, 3 tries and most importantly his kicking game.
Green’s big game experience has proved the fundamental cause in Manlys’ much improved 2017 season.
What has Nathan Brown sitting so high on this list is the value he has offered Parramatta this season. Gone is the rubbish from his game, in its place high input and discipline. Not signing on the richest of deals, Parramatta took a huge risk in signing Brown due to his on-field antics but it has paid great dividends for the club with Brown repaying the Eels in leaps and bounds this year.
Last season Brown missed three games through suspension and was put on report three times. This season he hasn’t missed one game through suspension, and is yet to be put or report or charged by the match review committee.
It took former the former South Sydney bad-boy just four games this season to replace representative forward Beau Scott as the starting lock for the Eels. Averaging 63 minutes, 14 runs, 121 metres, 28 tackles and 2 offloads a game, Parramatta are getting bang for their buck with Nathan Brown.
1 Paul Vaughn
Be forewarned, I’m not going to sugar coat things in this next sentence but Ricky Stuart sure is one hell of an idiot.
It was Round 18 last season when Paul Vaughn was dropped from the Canberra Raiders squad in favour of fringe first-grader Clay Priest. At the time of his demotion, Vaughn was averaging 11.8 runs a game for 120 metres along with 25 tackles – among the best in the competition. Ricky Stuart later released Vaughn from the final year of his contract and he immediately signed with St. George Illawarra on a big money deal.
He has been arguably the best front rower in the competition this season, with an average of 139 metres and 28 tackles a game, the 190cm and 110kg behemoth was knocking on the door of State of Origin selection before his injury in last weeks’ win over the Newcastle Knights.
With four tries, one try assist, two line break assists and 33 tackle busts this year, Ricky Stuart could really use a forward with Vaughn’s attacking capabilities in the nation’s capital at the moment…