Justis Kamu picks the standout performers from the latest round of the NRL.
Fullback - Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs)
Nine rounds into the season and three fullbacks have shown they are a class above the rest, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Ben Barba. The merry-go round continues with Inglis back into the TOW after a three try bag to break Cronulla's six game winning streak. The rampaging number one sent out a warning to competition rivals as he scored twice before the break and once in the second half to grab Souths a top eight berth. With Michael Maguire now intent on using Inglis in a free-roaming role, it begs the question - will we ever see GI in the number one jumper for state or country?
Wing - Dean Whare (Sea Eagles)
A full time member of the Manly top side, due to the calibre of players at the Brookvale club, Whare's involvement has been to cover for injuries or fill in during the busy Origin schedule. A Junior Kiwis representative in 2010, he is a skilful and classy centre who can cover wing or fullback comfortably. In the win 18-12 win over the Raiders on Sunday, Whare racked up 184 metres from 17 runs, two line breaks, nine tackle busts and two tries in a standout performance.
Centre - Josh Morris (Bulldogs)
Morris bagged his second hat-trick of the season, in the 45-12 humbling of the bottom placed Eels. Sitting second on the competition's top try scorer list, the free-scoring centre has been in the type of form that secured him a NSW jumper back in 2009. On Friday night, Morris' support play got his side over the line as he crossed for two in the first half before he outstripped Chris Sandow over 40 metres to score his third try, their sixth of the eight try drubbing that night.
Centre - Brent Tate (Cowboys)
The former Warriors flyer is operating on the right edge of the Cowboys attack with speed still his greatest asset for a player pushing 30 years of age. Having battled back from two knee reconstructions and a serious neck injury during his 11 years in the game, Tate's professionalism and experience is a valuable quality for a youthful side. He scored a try against the Dragons and ran for 120 metres from 13 hit-ups, breaking seven tackles and making a line break in their comprehensive 30-6 victory. Competing against Darius Boyd, Justin Hodges, Dane Neilsen, and Willie Tonga for a Queensland outside backs position, Tate has his work cut out for him if he is to add to the last of his 15 Maroons caps back in 2007.
Wing - Justin O'Neill (Storm)
Likened to Great Britain legend Martin Offiah for his blinding speed, the Torres Strait Islander is fast becoming a permanent fixture in the Storm backline. Having beaten out Anthony Quinn for the starting position pre-season, his feet did the talking for his first ever hat-trick. He ran in three tries, two from long range in which he outpaced the opposition over 80 metres. Ending the match with 202 metres off 12 runs, the best of his three tries came in the 50th minute when he showed a clean pair of heels from inside the Melbourne 20 to race away untouched to score. Touted as a bolter for the Queensland State of Origin team, with Jhral Yow Yeh out for the season, O'Neill's top end speed provides a somewhat identical replacement for the Broncos flyer.
Five Eighth - Josh Reynolds
It can do wonders for a player when a coach has unwavering belief in their ability, with their performance on the field taking a positive knock-on effect. The rookie five-eighth is in his first full year in the big time, and under the tutelage of Des Hasler, he's grown in confidence to lead his side to fifth on the ladder. If only the same could be said for their opposition pairing on Friday night with Steven Kearney having a tough time trying to inspire his playmaker Chris Sandow at the Eels this season. Reynolds had a hand in a try for Bryson Goodwin and scored one himself in the 48th minute to sucker-punch the Parramatta club who sank to their eighth defeat of the year from nine games.
Halfback - Mitchell Pearce - (Roosters)
The cocky playmaker played his way into a NSW jumper with another confident display on the weekend against the Knights. He took his time to settle into the match, but on the 30th minute he created the first of his two try assists with a deft-grubber into the in-goal for Tinirau Arona to touch down. His second was a delayed pass to Mitchell Aubusson who went over from 20 metres before Pearce sealed the victory ten minutes from fulltime with a four-pointer after bursting through a gap and rounding the fullback. With the Origin sides named on Sunday, barring injury or any unforeseen incident, expect Pearce's name to be read out by coach Ricky Stuart.
Hooker - Nathan Friend (Warriors)
The former Titan's performance against the Broncos was stuff that legends are made of. It will go down in Warriors folklore for years to come. Not only because he played 70 minutes of the game with a broken jaw, as though that wasn't impressive enough, he topped the tackle count for his team with 53 and set up a try for teammate Feleti Mateo. He also managed to communicate with his halves without a hitch and didn't make an error in a superhuman effort from the smallest player on the field. Has there ever been a more heroic display in the Auckland club's 17 year history?
Prop - Ben Matulino (Warriors)
Memo to opposition forwards - when you run at the Warriors number ten make sure it's not to his left shoulder. Just ask Broncos captain Sam Thaiday and Ben Hannatt who were hit with two Matulino specials on the weekend. The Wellington born forward has his tackling technique down to an art form with a number of victims already crossed off his hit-list. His defence hasn't been the only talking point this season with his all-round game at a new level. Against the Broncos, he made the most metres for any forward on the park with 137 from 14 hit-ups and completed 14 tackles in a barnstorming display.
Prop - Sam Kasiano (Bulldogs)
When I think of skilful forwards in the competition the likes of Souths forward Dave Taylor, the Warriors' Feleti Mateo and Adam Blair of the Tigers spring to mind. In Kasiano, the Doggies have unearthed a ball-playing frontrower (a rarity) who can flick a pass before he hits the ground or out from underneath two or three defenders. Blessed with soft hands, his huge frame makes him difficult to contain when he goes one-on-one with the opposition. He led the way for his team against the Eels with a hand in three of his side's eight tries including five crisps offloads and he ended his night with the man of the match award.
Second Row - Tariq Sims (Cowboys)
It's not very often you have a rookie forward who steps up to the big league and dishes out punishment on the veterans like he's the neighbourhood bully. The last time someone had such an immediate impact on the game (and on YouTube) for their booming big hits was when a young Sonny Bill Williams burst on to the scene. Sims' explosiveness when he is out on the park has the crowd on the edge of their seats - not bad for someone with Jonathan Thurston and Matty Bowen as teammates. On the weekend against the Dragons he made a strong case for an NSW Origin bench role with a couple of bone-crunching tackles on Ben Hornby, and a try to cement his side's 30-6 win over the Dragons.
Second Row - Anthony Watmough
A mainstay of the Sea Eagles forward pack for the best part of ten years, the Australian international will always keep the opposition honest for 80 minutes. In a tough battle with the green machine, Watmough was industrious in his side's 18-12 victory over a plucky Raiders outfit. The Manly backrower ran the ball 18 times for 175 metres, broke three tackles and completed 32 tackles. A NSW State of Origin regular since 2005, he is a certainty to be selected again for his state this weekend as they look to halt Queensland's dominance in the series.
Lock - Feleti Mateo
He's the Warriors Mr fix-it with his ability to plug the gap for his side in a number of positions, this time in the 13 jumper. Although Elijah Taylor has admirably filled the position for the majority of the season so far, Brian McClennan opted for the former Tongan captain to provide an extra ball player in between his halves. It could also be a choice NSW may look to follow if they decide to add the Parramatta's junior to provide some spark off the interchange bench. Outplaying his opposite Corey Parker in their head to head clash, Mateo found his way over the tryline and ran for 96 metres, breaking four tackles and a line break.
Coach- Brain McClennan - Warriors
Team of the week - round nine: Greg Inglis, Justin O'Neill, Josh Morris, Dean Whare, Josh Reynolds, Mitchell Pearce, Sam Kasiano, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Tariq Sims, Anthony Watmough, Feleti Mateo. Coach: Brian McClennan.