It’s been a big season of rugby league in 2019 and largely, its been due to some outstanding performances from Indigenous athletes.
Now with two months left before the finals, I’ve gone through and picked who I think have been the Top 5 Indigenous players of this season so far.
Josh Addo-Carr is number one and he’s the best winger in the competition, with his skill, speed and aggression.
He doesn’t break the 90kg mark on the scales, but he’s running straight and running all over people - something unheard of to do that at his size. Usually, they’re trying to use their footwork and speed to get around people but he’s happy to do it both ways.
His success with the Melbourne Storm and the way they’re going at the moment makes him hard to ignore. He also had a really good Origin series and even though NSW lost in Game One, the amount of work he did and his work off the ball was immense.
Because of that balance, of what he does with the ball and then without it, he sets the bar high and he’s a good role model for anyone looking at how to play on the wing.
You can’t look away from Latrell Mitchell’s ability and what he produces each week, stuffing the stat sheet and showing just how dominant he is. He’s the best centre in the game.
Even with a couple of dips in form, he’s still been playing good football. His goal-kicking is top level and he’s the highest point-scorer in the competition.
It was probably just that little hiccup during the Origin period but even on the weekend just gone he had a really good game; every touch was a classy touch.
North Queensland didn’t really handle him all that well because he’s just so powerful and dynamic in his runs and offloads, so he’s always creating opportunities for the Roosters too. And that’s the thing about Latrell, he’s the type of player who can make something out of nothing.
Cody Walker is a game breaker for South Sydney, who are second on the ladder and going well. He’s the kind of guy who plays off the top of his head and is anticipated to be even more dangerous as the game changes around finals time.
I think it was a bit of a disappointment when he ended up getting dropped from the NSW side. It no doubt affected his confidence with the Rabbitohs because it’s hard as a professional athlete, receiving all this praise, and then all of a sudden you’re getting shot down after losing one game. And it was only four points the margin in that first Origin game.
When the intensity lifts in big games such as finals, people are going to be tired in defence and there are lapses in concentration, and that’s where Cody Walker comes into his element. The Rabbitohs need options outside of the structure and they’ll always look to Cody Walker and that’s how he separates himself. He knows how to score tries, set them up and how to break the line.
Dane Gagai was really good in State of Origin and was terrific in Game One. He’s always been a good winger for Queensland and it helps him with his belief at club level.
He probably didn’t have the best start to the year and was a bit quiet, but as soon as he got into Origin he lifted and returned to the way we know he can play.
He’s another player who can lift the Rabbitohs to big things and with Dane Gagai on the wing and on the right side with James Roberts, that’s a dynamic duo right there, loaded with speed and skill.
The back three of South Sydney’s been a bit quiet and they need someone like Dane Gagai to get good field position and I think he’s going to huge for them, getting back as much as he can in good field position so the big forwards, like the Burgess brothers, don’t have to turn right around and get back onside before they take a hit-up.
Dane Gagai will be very important heading into the finals.
Since he’s slotted into fullback, Corey Thompson’s probably been one of the players of the year. I love watching him play.
Because of his size, he’s not the type of rugby league player coaches are generally looking for these days, but he’s one of a kind.
He brings such a spark to the Wests Tigers and gives it everything he has on every run, is terrific on kick-return and provides a brilliant option in the attacking line.
As always, for more rugby league chat, interviews and analysis, tune in to Over the Black Dot on NITV on Tuesday nights.
This week I’ll be doing some analysis on the final State of Origin game and how that match-winning try was constructed.
The final try was an awesome Origin try but there was a pattern to that play from NSW and it came off in the final 30 seconds.
Timana Tahu is a former rugby league, rugby union player and dual international, husband, father and a vegan advocate and panellist for NITV's Over the Black Dot.
Over The Black Dot airs Tuesdays, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34).