It’s my favourite time of the rugby league season, Finals time and this year I thought I’d do something a little different and select eight players, one from each team in the Top 8, that I feel could be a game changer.
These are players opposition teams need to keep an eye on but normally aren’t on the top of an opposition coach’s tip sheet.
Penrith Panthers: Izack Tago
Tago may have only played 60 minutes of football in two months but he showed enough in his return against the Cowboys last week to suggest that he’s ready to produce the type of blistering form he was in before his leg injury.
Tago is tough, hard to tackle, can break a tackle and find a hole to the tryline, a hole so small, you could thread a needle through it. Geeze it’s good to have him back!
Brisbane Broncos: Billy Walters
Now here’s a bloke who has slipped under the radar but make no mistake, Billy is one tough and tenacious son of a gun. His running from dummy half has improved out of sight this year and he’s not afraid to tackle the big boys either.
Melbourne Storm: Nelson Asofa-Solomona
The big fella has been a little quiet of late. Finals time is the time the Storm need him the most, so opposition sides better watch out. Big ‘Nelson’ is about to come out of hibernation and once he gets on a roll, it’s near impossible to stop him.
New Zealand Warriors: Addin Fonua-Blake
Fonua-Blake is arguably the form prop in the competition. He’s the leader of a very good Warriors pack and his leg drive makes it very hard to stop him at first contact. Fonua-Blake also has plenty of speed for a big man and he’s not afraid of anyone.
Newcastle Knights: Greg Marzhew
I know what you’re thinking, that I’m mad to pick a winger as a major danger. The way I look at it, while everyone is worried about the tall bloke on the other wing, a man monolith named Marzhew, a 5ft 10, 104 kg block of iron is bulldozing his way to the tryline, time-after-time after time.
Cronulla Sharks: Thomas Hazelton
He’s the super sub with the shiny chrome dome who looks like a throwback from the 80s. When forwards were so big they towered over everyone and made kamikaze charges into opposition defensive lines. Let’s put it this way, you know when Hazelton is on the field!
Sydney Roosters: Joseph-Aukusi Suaalli
A month ago you wouldn’t feed him but over the last few weeks Suaalli has come alive. His form has been scintillating to say the least. He’s breaking tackles, taking high balls in a single bound and has become a real handful every time he touches the ball.
Canberra Raiders: Jordan Rapana
At 34 years-of-age, Rapana should be in the twilight of his career, instead he’s in the form of his career. Put him at fullback, on the wing or in the centres, Rapana is the most dangerous attacking player in the Raiders backline.
Ok well they’re my eight in the Top 8 to look out for.
Who are yours?
Peter Lang is an experienced sports writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.