Justis Kamu picks the standout performers from the latest round of the NRL.
1. Fullback - Ben Barba (Bulldogs)
It was a toss-up between Barba and Greg Inglis for this week's number one jumper with BB and GI both sharing similar stats with eight tackle breaks, two line breaks each and 200m and 180m respectively. However the smaller back wins the berth on a split decision after scoring an amazing 65 metres solo try against Manly at Telstra Stadium. He started his run in his own half, slipping past Steve Matai's flimsy attempt, and fended off another Sea Eagles player as he crossed the halfway. He ran deep into the half before a double pump dummy and a step off his right foot left Brett Stewart snatching at the Sydney air as he went over the tryline.
2. Wing - Jason Nightingale (Dragons)
The Dragons flyer is neither the biggest, strongest or fastest player in his position. Yet his consistent displays for his side would certainly see him recognised as the most reliable winger in the competition. On Anzac Day, Nightingale's heroics in the 75th minute set up the Dragons first of two tries in the last five minutes. Regathering a short restart, the Kiwi crabbed across field before linking with Matt Prior to go over for a try. A Ben Creagh try at the death would cap an unforgettable victory.
3. Centre - Colin Best (Sharks)
At the age of 33, Best is playing the best football of his career in his 13th season in first grade. In the victory over his former Canberra club all his class and experience were put to productive use as he led the team with four offloads, three tackle busts, one line break, and made two try. Quick hands from Paul Gallen and Wade Graham gave their centre enough space to tiptoe down the sideline and around the uprights in the 68th minute for the final try of a comprehensive win.
4. Centre - Will Chambers (Storm)
The past 18 months have been a whirlwind period for Chambers who finds himself back in Melbourne after dabbling in the other oval ball code. On the cusp of Wallabies selection after a breakout first season with the Reds in 2010, he was released mid-season and headed to Ireland's Munster for a brief spell before finally arriving back down-under for his second stint at the Storm. Against the Warriors, Chambers sliced open the right-side defence to slide over for three tries, the first of his career, and more importantly continue the club's flawless record of seven successive victories.
5. Wing -Bill Tupou (Warriors)
A player who polarises opinion among Warriors faithful, the 21-year-old is slowly silencing his doubters with his reliable presence on the right flank. Re-signed this week for two years, he has appeared in every match of the season and turned in his most impressive performance to date against the Storm last week. Scoring two tries, his first saw his athletic ability on display as he outstretched the cover defence to plant the ball in the corner. His second outlined his incredible talent pouncing on Pita Godinet's grubber inches before the dead ball line for a brilliant try.
6. Five Eighths - Corey Norman (Broncos)
Having to fill the boots of legend Darren Lockyer would seem like an impossible assignment for a second year player, let alone a seasoned campaigner. After beating fellow youngster Ben Hunt in pre-season for the coveted standoff jumper, Norman is blossoming in his new role. His silky skills and slick footwork troubled the Titans on a slippery night at Suncorp Stadium. Norman finished the night with two try assists, four tackle breaks, two offloads and two linebreaks. His second try assist for Josh Hoffman was sensational as he dribbled the ball with his feet before he patted it back to his fullback to go in under the posts.
7. Halfback - Jeff Robson (Sharks)
The 30-year-old playmaker was sent packing by Stephen Kearney at the Eels in favour of their marquee signing of Chris Sandow. The two have had extremely contrasting fortunes with the Sharks half combining superbly with Todd Carney on the weekend for their sixth straight win (first time since 2002) while Sandow has been dropped to NSW Cup after winning just one match from six starts in an Eels jumper. Robson laid on a try for Jason Bakuya and scored a try himself in the 50th minute throwing a dummy before ghosting past a tiring defence to dot down.
8. Prop - Aaron Woods (Tigers)
Woods only played a handful of games last season for the Tigers, but that was enough for Tim Sheens to ship out Bryce Gibbs and Andrew Fifita and entrust the young forward with a starting position for the 2012 season. His potential has started to emerge in recent weeks and on Sunday evening against a fast finishing Eels side he was in top form. His 23 hitups for 179m and 33 tackles underlined his coach's belief in the prop to be an able partner for the ever-reliable Keith Galloway upfront.
9. Hooker - Matt Ballin (Sea Eagles)
The most underrated hooker in the competition - had Ballen been playing in another era he would've had a number of Queensland representative appearances under his belt. A tough rake, who has been a mainstay of the Sea Eagles outfit for the past six seasons, he combines exceptionally well with his halves from the ruck area. His best work however is on defence where he currently leads his club in tackles. Against the Bulldogs, he was in the thick of the dirty work in defence, executing 51 tackles in a workman-like display from the former calendar model.
10. Prop - Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
The Indigenous All Star has made a huge impression for the Sharks with his strong carries and ability to bust tackles providing a much-needed impact off the interchange bench. Shown the door last season at the Tigers after they snubbed an option to re-sign the 120kg forward, Fifita has been out to prove a point in his new colours. In two 20 minute spells against the Raiders he made 159m and broke four tackles as Cronulla trounced the Raiders 44-22.
11. Second Row - Alex Glenn (Broncos)
The Kiwis backrower earned the man of the match award for his starring role in the local derby against the Titans at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night. Despite his age (23) and a lean build, Glenn doesn't hold back when dishing out punishment on the big men in the competition. His bone-jarring hits provided the 'ooo' and 'ahh' moments of the match as they handed out the Titans' sixth defeat of the season. He scored two tries inside the opening 15 minutes with his direct running approach breaching the GC defence. He also chipped in with a handy 86 metres with the ball in hand, a game-high six tackle busts and two line breaks.
12. Second Row - Dave Taylor (Rabbitohs)
The Souths' freak of nature made life miserable for the Cowboys on Saturday night at Sydney's ANZ Stadium. The hulking 124kg figure is a truck on two legs and possesses a deceptive amount of speed for such a big man. Taylor carried the ball for 168m, completed 30 tackles, scored a try and almost scored a second in a stampede-like run to the tryline. With the Titans forking out $2million for his services over the next four years, if his current form is anything to go by, they can expect a healthy return on their investment.
13. Lock - Michael Crocker (Rabbitohs)
The ageless warrior has taken on the captain's armband at Souths with the customary toughness that has characterised his playing career over the past 10 years. A tireless worker in the middle of the field, he was outstanding in his first 80 minute game of the season. His game-high 50 tackles against the Cowboys proved crucial in the second spell as the Cowboys fought back within four points. A Queensland regular in the mid-2000s, Crocker's experience will come in handy for his club during the busy Origin period.
Coach - Shane Flanagan (Sharks)
Round Eight Team of the Week - Ben Barba, Jason Nightingale, Colin Best, Will Chambers, Bill Tupou, Corey Norman, Jeff Robson, Aaron Woods, Matt Ballin, Andrew Fifita, Alex Glenn, Dave Taylor, Michael Crocker. Coach: Shane Flanagan