2. David Nofoaluma (Tigers)
If the Bunnies struggled to cope with Tedesco’s footwork they also had no answer to the power of David Nofoaluma. The Tigers flyer thundered on to the ball with every touch, busting 13 tackles and running for a game-high 205m to go with two line breaks and six offloads.
3. Latrell Mitchell (Roosters)
The shift from fullback, where he was so effective last season, to centre proved a breeze for Mitchell who played a key role in the Roosters racing out to a 28-0 lead after 40 minutes against the Titans. A first career hat-trick to go with seven tackle busts should serve as a warning to right centres throughout the NRL.
4. David Fusitu’a (Warriors)
Finished 2016 in the centres and gave every indication that’s where he will spend all of 2017 with a three-try performance against the Knights. Taking his tally to eight tries from eight starts in the centres, Fusitua also produced a perfect 13-from-13 tackles to make coach Stephen Kearney doubly happy.
5. Daniel Tupou (Roosters)
The Roosters smashed the Titans through the middle in the first half and much of their momentum came on the back of kick returns from Tupou and Shaun Kenny-Dowall. He made a couple of errors with the game in the balance late but his 210 run metres, five tackle busts, try assist and six offloads caused Gold Coast all sorts of problems.
6. Gareth Widdop (Dragons)
Responded to criticism of his 2016 contribution in emphatic fashion by engineering the most exciting Dragons attacking performance in almost two years. Two tries and two try assists is exactly the type of output expected of a playmaker of his class.
7. Corey Norman (Eels)
He may have missed the last eight games of the season but Corey Norman picked up where he left off to guide the Eels past a Manly team that started with plenty of purpose. His kicking game helped to turn the screws on the Sea Eagles as the Eels forced seven line drop-outs and a superb 40/20 came at a critical point in the game. It’s like he never left.
8. Paul Vaughan (Dragons)
Will we look back on Paul Vaughan as one of the buys of the season at the end of 2017? If his first output for the Dragons is anything to go by we could well be. Vaughan helped to set an aggressive tone that the Dragons maintained for 80 minutes, finishing with 188m from 20 carries in 46 minutes of action.
9. Cameron McInnes (Dragons)
Unwanted by the Rabbitohs, McInnes showed how valuable he can be for the Dragons with an 80-minute display that yielded a try, a try assist, 43 tackles and 75m out of dummy-half. Having his forward pack rumble down the field all game also didn’t hurt.
10. Jordan McLean (Storm)
Leading 10-0 when Jesse Bromwich was forced from the field after 10 minutes and in atrocious conditions at Belmore the Storm needed someone to step up and McLean delivered. In a 57-minute performance McLean made 27 tackles and 156m as Melbourne once again displayed their unbreakable spirit.
11. Josh Papalii (Raiders)
We all knew “Papa’’ could run over defenders but the fancy footwork to create the first try for Zac Santo was something to behold. Played all 80 minutes and the four in golden point, coming up with 42 tackles and 115m in a powerhouse performance.
12. Joel Thompson (Dragons)
Because when a 28-year-old veteran who has scored three tries in each of his past four seasons opens up 2017 with a hat-trick you simply have to find a place for him. With Widdop going right to the defence, the lines run by Thompson are almost impossible to stop. Just ask the Panthers.
13. Jack De Belin (Dragons)
Another Dragon? Did you see how good they were? Did you see De Belin’s try in the 37th minute? He used footwork and power to brush past five Panthers defenders and celebrated like only middle forwards do when they cross the stripe. Had seven tackle busts and five offloads to go with 155m and 36 tackles.