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VB Blues Team Of The Week | Round 7

NSWRL.com.au staff writers

BRUTAL DEFENCE: Wade Graham ran for 121 metres yesterday afternoon, but his best work came via a defensive workload which helped keep the Panthers tryless. Image: NRL Photos.
BRUTAL DEFENCE: Wade Graham ran for 121 metres yesterday afternoon, but his best work came via a defensive workload which helped keep the Panthers tryless. Image: NRL Photos.

Each week of the NRL season, the NSWRL.com.au staff writers will have their say on the round's best performing New South Welshmen. These are based entirely on the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSWRL or the State of Origin selection process.

1 - Tom Trbojevic
Club: Manly Sea Eagles; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 2.

22 total runs, 187 total metres, two line-breaks, one try-assists, one offload, four tackle-breaks, three line-break-assists.
Tom Trbojevic was at his electrifying best once again at Lottoland last Saturday against Melbourne, being one of the best players on the field in a losing outfit. He set up his brother Jake for a try in the second half, and also created some late chances, bursting the line on two occasions and setting up three line-breaks. It wasn’t meant to be for the Sea Eagles, but without Tom Trbojevic, they would not have got as close as they did.

2 - Jorge Taufua
Club: Manly Sea Eagles; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 0.

17 total runs, 143 total metres, one line-break, one tackle-break, one try.
In a match where the Sea Eagles conceded the first four tries, it would take a patience to take control of the game and gain any momentum, which started with Jorge Taufua’s work at the beginning of each set. Time and time again the big winger clocks up important metres for his side, this time running for 143 off his 17 runs. He also broke the line and scored a try in the late Manly surge, edging out Nathan Ross and Ken Sio for a wing spot, who also put in fine performances in a losing Knights outfit.

3 - James Roberts
Club: Brisbane Broncos; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 0.

17 total runs, 182 total metres, two line-breaks, one try-assist, two offloads, 21 tackles, 11 tackle-breaks, three tries.
When James Roberts is in form, it is one of the greatest sights in Rugby League. He is one of the fastest players in the game, and knows how to find the try-line, doing so three times in his side’s tight win over the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday night. Wayne Bennett described his performance as inspirational, and said he was a genuine threat every time he touched the ball. No try was more important than his last-minute effort to win the game, and his performance re-ignited his claim to debut for the VB Blues next month.

4 - Tim Lafai
Club: St George Illawarra Dragons; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 0.

16 total runs, 117 total metres, two line-breaks, one try-assist, four offloads, 19 tackles, four tackle-breaks, two tries.
It was a phenomenal effort from the Dragons centre, who is quickly returning to his best after a mediocre 2016 season. Lafai was involved in three of the home side's five tries - all of which came in the first half - as he scored two and set up another. A perfect flick pass to find Kurt Mann in the 26th minute encapsulated just how dangerous the Samoan international can be. He edges out the likes of Joseph Leilua, Jack Bird and Blake Ferguson for the second starting centre position, all of whom had terrific performances on the weekend.

5 - Anthony Don
Club: Gold Coast Titans; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 0.

Nine total runs, 129 total metres, one line-break, one try-assist, one try.
Anthony Don injected himself into the Broncos v Titans clash at two vital moments in the opening half, assisting his side’s fast start against one of the competition’s heavyweight teams. He was the recipient of a brilliant Tyrone Roberts offload in the 10th minute that saw him run 80 metres for the opening try, before setting up the craziest four-pointer of season 2017 so far, kicking the ball on the volley when it was almost over the sideline into the arms of Chris Grevsmuhl, who only had to stroll over. It was a fantastic game from the 188-centimetre giant winger.

6 - Josh Reynolds
Club: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs; Origin appearances: 4; 2017 TOTW selections: 1.

11 total runs, 118 total metres, one line-break, one offload, three tackle-breaks, one line-break-assist, one try.
On the big stage of the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs' annual Good Friday clash, Josh Reynolds was nothing short of outstanding. While a defensive lapse led to South Sydney's only try of the game, the five-eighth pulled off a try-saving tackle on namesake Adam Reynolds (view below) to prevent a second - and have a big impact on the momentum of the match. In attack, Reynolds repeatedly troubled the Rabbitohs' left edge, scoring a try and making a vital break which led to another.

7 – Mitchell Pearce
Club: Sydney Roosters; Origin appearances: 15; 2017 TOTW selections: 3.

One line-break, one try-assist, two offloads, 24 tackles, four tackle-breaks, one try.
With the contest in the balance, Mitchell Pearce scored a vital try against Newcastle that completely shifted the momentum of the game and eventually led to the Roosters’ victory at McDonald Jones Stadium. To go with the massive play, Pearce also set up a try and made four tackle-breaks, and resisted the Knights charging at him all game by completing 24 tackles. This is the fourth time Pearce makes the VB Blues team of the week, and he is shaping as a genuine chance to take the halfback spot when the side is selected in five weeks.

8 - Junior Paulo
Club: Canberra Raiders; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 2.

22 total runs, 185 total metres, two offloads, 19 tackles, one tackle-break.
It’s been a destructive start to the season for Junior Paulo, who makes his third NSW VB Blues team of the week, despite serving a suspension in Round 1. It was the same story against the Warriors, with the massive front-rower running 185 metres from his 22 runs and getting two offloads away, while shaping up in defence with 19 tackles. There have been many props who have stood up in 2017, including Paul Vaughan, Jake Trbojevic, Aaron Woods, Ryan James and Andrew Fifita, but Paulo is right up there in terms of the most valuable front-rower this year so far.

9 - Jayden Brailey
Club: Cronulla Sharks; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 0.

One line-break, one try-assist, one offload, 41 tackles, one tackle-break.
He’s only a baby in the Rugby League world, but Jayden Brailey showed the composure of a veteran against the Penrith Panthers yesterday afternoon. He is only in his first year of NRL, but he set up 16-year-veteran Paul Gallen to crash over for a try, while also making an important mid-field line-break for his side. The Sharks put together one of their most complete performances on the weekend, and Brailey was an instrumental part of that victory, proving that he has a massive future in the game.

10 - Aiden Tolman
Club: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 1.

20 total runs, 169 total metres, one try-assist, 38 tackles, one tackle-break.
Repeating his efforts to be selected in the Round 5 Team of the Week, Tolman was among the best metre-eaters of all NSW-eligible props this weekend. Mean while, Tolman was second only to Jake Trbojevic in tackles made among NSW-eligible forwards and while he doesn't frequently get the praise within the Bulldogs' side, he is deserving of a second Team of the Week selection.

11 - Boyd Cordner
Club: Sydney Roosters; Origin appearances: 6; 2017 TOTW selections: 4.

17 total runs, 174 total metres, 37 tackles, four tackle-breaks.
It seems that Boyd Cordner will never let you down. He makes his fifth NSW VB Blues team of the week out of a possible seven thanks to once again clocking up the numbers that have made him the consistent force for the Sydney Roosters since debuting in 2013. He made 174 metres against the Newcastle Knights with four tackle-breaks, and made 37 tackles; statistics which are remarkable yet hardly surprising for the Roosters’ second-rower.

12 - Wade Graham (c)
Club: Cronulla Sharks; Origin appearances: 1; 2017 TOTW selections: 4.

15 total runs, 121 total metres, two offloads, 35 tackles, three tackle-breaks.
Wade Graham’s statistics only tell half of the story this round. He has been selected as captain in the NSW VB Blues team of the week thanks to his brutal return to Pepper Stadium, demolishing everybody he could see with a black jersey on their back. The majority of his 35 tackles were bone-rattlers, and he led the charge for the Sharks in their defensive clinic against Penrith. He had an impact with the ball in hand, running for 121 metres, but his defence was the highlight of the Sunday afternoon clash.

Please note the captaincy is awarded to the chosen best performer each round and is not based on any club captaincy or leadership qualities.

13 - Jake Trbojevic
Club: Manly Sea Eagles; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 2.

17 total runs, 143 total metres, one line-break, 42 tackles, three tackle-breaks, one try.
Jake Trbojevic was as reliable as ever at Lottoland against the Melbourne Storm, making the VB Blues team of the week alongside his brother once again in 2017. The pair linked up for Jake’s try in the second half where he had to wrestle the ball over the line, and also ran for 143 metres from 17 runs. He was again defensively superb, completing 42 tackles without missing one.

INTERCHANGE

14 - Joseph Leilua
Club: Canberra Raiders; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 3.

15 total runs, 139 total metres, two line-breaks, 11 tackles, eight tackle-breaks, two tries.
Such was the sheer class of Roberts and Lafai that Leilua is narrowly relegated to the bench in the Round 7 Team of the Week, but he was yet another player to change the game on the Easter long weekend. Taking charge of the Raiders' deadly 'Leipana' combination this week, Leilua scored two tries which would ultimately prove the difference in defeating the Warriors. His eight tackle-breaks were second only to Roberts' 11 throughout the NRL in Round 7, meaning the 25-year-old beats the likes of Jack Bird, Luke Keary and Cowboys' mamoth halfback John Asiata for the bench utility spot.

15 – Josh Jackson
Club: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs; Origin appearances: 6; 2017 TOTW selections: 1.

15 total runs, 130 total metres, one line-break, 26 tackles, three tackle-breaks, one try.
Jackson had another big game on Good Friday, as the Bulldogs' right side began to hit its straps in the second half against the Rabbitohs. The VB Blues incumbent was dangerous and deservedly finished off a fantastic try in the second stanza as momentum clearly swung in favour of the Canterbury-Bankstown side.

16 - Jack de Belin
Club: St George Illawarra Dragons; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 2.

18 total runs, 150 total metres, four offloads, 31 tackles, two tackle-breaks, two line-break-assists.
While it was certainly a game of two halves for Paul McGregor's men, their lock forward was superb for the game's duration. Two of de Belin's four offloads directly led to line-breaks, with tries to Nene McDonald and Gareth Widdop coming soon after, while he muscled up for 31 tackles.

17 - Ryan James
Club: Gold Coast Titans; Origin appearances: 0; 2017 TOTW selections: 1.

17 total runs, 123 total metres, one line-break, one offload, 33 tackles, five tackle-breaks, one try.
Ryan James certainly knows how to find the try-line despite playing in the front row, and he did so again last Saturday against the Brisbane Broncos. The Titans’ captain led from the front with 123 metres from 17 runs, including five tackle breaks, and shaped up defensively with 33 tackles. As stated earlier, many props have put their hand up for VB Blues selection this year, and James is certainly one of those two players.

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