I am tipping South Sydney to dominate at the Dally M awards night next Wednesday and I reckon Damien Cook, Greg Inglis and Anthony Seibold should get ready to go up on stage and receive recognition for fantastic years.
It is 38 years since a Souths player won the Dally M medal, back in the inaugural year of the award when Rocky Laurie got the gong, but I reckon Cook has done everything this year to be the second Rabbitoh to be honoured.
He has had a great year for his club at hooker from start to finish and he dominated at Origin level for NSW as well. He has ignited his team week-in and week-out.
There is excitement about him whenever he gets into dummy half. When he blasts out of there points have often followed. He picks his moments to run and when it is time to put on one of Souths many plays he provides excellent service. He’s a different style of hooker to Cameron Smith but he wins games for his team like Smith does.
Inglis has been a standout as South Sydney skipper this season. They are still in the running to win the premiership and GI's leadership has played a big part in that.
It is well documented he struggled mentally after a year out with his knee injury and he's come back and played a big role in turning the Rabbitohs around. He carries himself so well and is proud to captain Souths. That rubs off on his teammates. He's as fit as he has ever been and I love the aggression he's displaying in defence. It's inspirational stuff.
I wrote earlier this year Seibold should be coach of the year and nothing has changed. He took over when Souths were on the slide and their key players’ form was falling off like pirates off a sinking ship.
After a slow start to the season he’s got them firing. He has the respect of his players and I am impressed with the way he speaks. He is intelligent and he is calm. Those qualities are coming out in his team.
We saw the cool way they handled pressure last week and in attack Souths have an array of moves that prove there is a smart guiding hand behind them. I just love the way he has got the best out of the Burgess brothers and his halves Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds.
I can’t go past Broncos winger Jamayne Isaako as rookie of the year. He was the leading scorer and won games with his boot and scored some great tries. One against the Roosters right at the death to win the game was a standout. He was one of the most consistent players in the competition and just such a cool head in the big moments.
At fullback and wing I have two Warriors – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and David Fusitu’a. RTS was electric at the back. He dominated with his running game in broken play and his kick returns were the best in the Telstra Premiership. The key for me was the consistency of his season.
Fusitu'a is a great finisher. This year he’s been tough and strong and he was the NRL’s leading try scorer for the year with 23.
GI and Jimmy Roberts had strong seasons but Latrell Mitchell has taken his game to frightening heights. He stood up in Origin and at club level for the Roosters he was near unstoppable. There is a real fear factor about him now and give him the ball 10 or 15 metres out and he just powers over with that big fend and his brute strength.
It was a toss-up for me between Cameron Munster and James Maloney at five-eighth but Maloney gets the nod. He was consistent and he put in so many performances where all we were talking afterwards was a Maloney masterclass. Maloney lifts everyone around him and when the game looked gone for Penrith he was often the one to drag them back into it.
I’m going with Nathan Cleary at halfback. He’s a class act and so controlled for a young half. I’ve admired the way he competes and guides his team around with his kicking game. He is a tough kid too and never shirked it defensively.
Cook, as my Dally M winner, has to be the hooker of the year.
Matt Lodge has put all the drama behind him and played every game for Brisbane and he was the standout prop for me this year. It didn't take him long to hit a high standard and every week he would charge ahead with aggression and really bend the line. He's just so tough and hard to handle. At the end of the season he started to showcase his ball skills but what he did best was roll his sleeves up and got yardage when needed.
The best second-rower was Tyson Frizell for the Dragons. He rips into the line with no fear. He challenges the defence each time he runs and in defence he is uncompromising. There are no half-hearted efforts with Frizell. He sets such a high standard.
At lock I have gone with Jai Arrow for the Titans. He was probably the best forward in the competition up until he broke into Origin and he played so tough each week. He played busted for a lot of those games but he dominated.
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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.