Wednesday, 15 September 2021

NOT The Footy Show Episode 244: NRL Finals Week 2 Preview Podcast

Uncle Benny schools Ivan - Semi Finals Preview
Released September 15, 2021 

J
oin Robb Cox and Warrick Nicolson for NOT The Footy Show Episode 244 and their preview of the Semi Finals stage of the 2021 NRL Finals Series - with Manly facing Easts and Penrith taking on Parramatta. 

We discuss Ivan Cleary getting schooled by Wayne Bennett as Souths upset Penrith, and review Melbourne handing Manly a reality check. We also talk about how the Roosters and Eels did enough to send the Titans and Knights packing in Week 1. 

Coxsmith and Waz finish the Podcast touching on Billy Slater's apparent reluctance to jump on the QLD Origin job and Mary McGregor taking an assistant coach role with the NSW Blues. And... who wants Adam Elliott now Gus doesn't? 

Enjoy.  
🔘  Download the mp3 version
🔘  Stream the New Podcast

🔘  Watch the Show on YouTube
==
You can subscribe to the 
NOT The Footy Show Podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyAmazon Music and watch each episode on our YouTube Channel.
We are also on Instagram so please give us a follow @notthefootyshow 
==
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Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Rugby League History: The 1987 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

MANLY BREAK THROUGH IN 1987.
Published September 14, 2021 
📷 The '87 Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
The Sea Eagles had been the 'almost team' of the 1980s heading into the season, having lost two Grand Finals in '82 and '83 and making the Finals in '81, '84 and '86 (and losing a playoff for 5th to Penrith in '85).

Coach Bob Fulton (along with Manly supremo Ken Arthurson) had meticulously put together this talented Manly roster since arriving in 1983 and everything fell into place in 1987.
The team entered the season featuring a host of current or former Australian representative stars in captain Paul Vautin, Noel Cleal, Michael O'Connor, Chris Close, Des Hasler and Dale Shearer, as well as Cliff Lyons and Phil Daley who would make their NSW debuts in 1987 and Country Origin players Ron Gibbs and Mal Cochrane. Centre Darrell Williams was also a mainstay in the New Zealand test team.

After 26 Rounds, the Sea Eagles would finish as clear Minor Premiers with 18 wins, 5 losses and a draw from their 24 games to finish on 41 points (with 2 byes), a full 6 points ahead of Easts in 2nd place.

A great opening month had them sitting in 3rd with 3 wins and a draw, but after beating the defending Premiers Parramatta 26-4 in Round 4, Manly suffered a run of losses against Canterbury (18-6), Souths (28-18) and Cronulla (18-13) to find themselves in 6th spot.

That was as low as they would fall on the ladder in 1987. From Round 9 - Manly put together an utterly dominant 12 match winning streak (claiming 1st spot by Round 15), and despite losses to Easts (26-16) in Round 22 and Norths (32-30) in Round 25, no one got close to shaking Manly's grip on the Minor Premiership.

With the Finals just around the corner, Paul Vautin's Manly side had tasted defeat just 5 times and only Easts (who had beaten Manly in Round 22) were considered any real threat to Manly's Premiership claim.

Manly's Top Tryscorer for the season was 22 year old fullback/centre Dale Shearer who crossed for 13 tries (his best total in First Grade) but only Michael O'Connor with 11 tries, also reached double figures despite the Sea Eagles scoring 553 points during the season.
If you want to a good trivia night question, then the correct answer for Manly's top pointscorer during the 1987 season is Mal Cochrane with 138 points (5 Tries and 59 goals) and not O'Connor who had 122 points, as he didn't take over as the regular goalkicker until late in the season.
Manly used 30 players across the 26 games they played - all stats courtesy of Rugby League Project.
When September arrived, as Minor Premiers Manly had a week off and they would watch Easts put Canberra away 25-16 in the Major Preliminary Semi Final. Then on September 13th Manly would grind out a 10-6 win over the Chooks in the Major Semi Final to launch themselves into their 3rd Grand Final of the decade.
Their opponents for the September 27th Grand Final would be Canberra and not Easts (the Raiders won the Preliminary Final 32-24) and this meant Manly were made clear favourites, having defeated Canberra twice during the season - 18-10 at Seiffert Oval in Round 10 and 20-18 at Brookvale Oval in Round 23.

Canberra had welcomed Mal Meninga back from a broken arm late in the season but Manly also had an ace re-joining their side for the big one in English import Kevin Ward
Ward had played against Australia in the 1986 Ashes Series and Manly signed him to a contract mid-season in 1987. He is considered one of the best English imports the Australian game has seen, despite playing all of 15 games in First Grade (11 in 1987 and 4 in 1988 - all with Manly). Ward had arrived in Australia in late May in time for a Round 13 debut against Balmain and Manly went onto win 7 straight games with the Englishman in the lineup. However leading into September he had missed 3 straight games with Mark Pocock doing an admirable job filling in but he was back for the Grand Final.

Making way from the Major Semi Final win over Easts were bench players Jeremy Ticehurst, Ian Gately and Owen Cunningham, replaced by Ward (who started for Pocock, who went to the bench), and utility Paul Shaw. There would be no room for veteran Chris Close in First Grade come September and he would finish his Manly career playing in the reserve grade decider on the same day.
1987 Winfield Cup Grand Final Teams.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: 
D Shearer, D Ronson, D Williams, M O'Connor, S Davis, C Lyons, D Hasler, P Daley, M Cochrane, K Ward, R Gibbs, N Cleal, P Vautin (c). M Pocock, P Shaw. Coach: B Fulton.
Canberra Raiders: 
G Belcher, C Kinna, P Jackson, M Meninga, M Corkery, C O'Sullivan, I Henjak, B Todd, S Walters, S Backo, G Coyne, A Gilbert, D Lance (c). K Walters, T Regan. Coaches: W Bennett/Don Furner.

The game was played on what is remembered as a stinking hot Sunday afternoon in late September, with Manly running out 18-8 winners on the back of a powerful display from their forwards (particularly Ward who some consider to be unlucky not to win the Clive Churchill Medal) and the mercurial performance of Cliff Lyons at five-eighth.
Lyons played with 'spiders on him', toying with the Canberra edge defence all afternoon. He scored a fine individual try from a scrum to open the scoring in the 1st half and would be awarded the Clive Churchill Medal.

Michael O'Connor's 2nd half try off a Dale Shearer cross kick which gave Manly a 16-2 lead remains subject to much debate (Manly lifer and commentator Rex Mossop called winger David Ronson off-side in the call and no replay shows either player on or off-side on a wide shot) and despite Canberra scoring a try through Chris O'Sullivan late in the game, the Winfield Cup was Manly's.
Coach Fulton would breakthrough for his first Premiership as a First Grade coach, having fallen short with Eastern Suburbs in 1980 and Manly in 1983.

The vision of captain Paul Vautin being chaired off raising his fist in celebration is iconic. 
It encapsulated his relief and joy, as his beloved Sea Eagles finally broke through for their first Winfield Cup and first Premiership since 1978.
Full Time:
Manly 18 (C Lyons, M O'Connor Tries; M O'Connor 5/5 Goals)
defeated
Canberra 8 (C O'Sullivan Try; M Meninga 1/1, G Belcher 1/1 Goals)
Sunday September 27th, 1987 at the SCG - Crowd: 50,201. Referee: M Stone.
What are your memories of the 1987 Winfield Cup?
==
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Monday, 13 September 2021

Rugby League History: Peter Sterling with the Winfield Cup in 1982

STERLO IN LOVE...
Published September 13, 2021
It's the best photo of Peter Sterling I've ever found and believe me I've looked for the best one for a while (for those wondering, it was tracked down on Pinterest).
If it's not after the 1982 Grand Final, it then has to be after the 1983 decider. But out best guess is this is love at first sight for Sterlo after Parramatta beat Manly 21-8 at the SCG, so that'd make it 1982.
Either way it is just a brilliant moment captured in Winfield Cup history.
Fancy a longer walk down memory lane?
Above and below are graphics from the Winfield Cup Facebook Page that give an overview of the 1982 Season and the Finals Series.
For a full breakdown of the 1982 Season please visit RugbyLeagueProject.org and follow the Winfield Cup on Facebook and Twitter.
==
You can subscribe to the 
NOT The Footy Show Podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyAmazon Music and watch each episode on our YouTube Channel.
We are also on Instagram so please give us a follow @notthefootyshow 
==
Enjoy great moments from the Winfield Cup Era (1982-95) on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

NOT The Footy Show Episode 243: Madge and the Tigers - NRL Podcast

Madge and the Tigers' Coaching Merry-Go-Round.
Released September 9, 2021 

Join Robb Cox and Warrick Nicolson for NOT The Footy Show Episode 243 as we dig into the coaching merry-go-round that is the Wests Tigers... and whether or not Michael Maguire will be at the club in 2022? 

We also look at how all the new coaches who took over bad teams in 2021 went compared to their predecessors in 2020 and this comes with a lesson. Plus Paul Green gets tapped on the shoulder by QLD - time for Billiam Slater to try and pull a Freddy Fittler? 

So join Coxsmith and Waz for the another NRL Finals Podcast (yep two in a week!) as we bask the sweet sweet month of September. 

Enjoy.  
🔘  Stream the New Podcast.

==
You can subscribe to the 
NOT The Footy Show Podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyAmazon Music and watch each episode on our YouTube Channel.
We are also on Instagram so please give us a follow @notthefootyshow 
==
Enjoy great moments from the Winfield Cup Era (1982-95) on Facebook and Twitter.

12 Seasons of NRL Tipping from The Postman - All Time Record

THE POSTMAN'S NRL TIPPING RECORD...
Published September 9, 2021 
For over a decade here on www.wdnicolson.com, we have treated you (or misdirected you) to The Postman's NRL Tips
Although we did not post them on the blog in 2021 all games were tipped, and we published weekly tips from 2010 through 2020 (missing only 2019).
As a result we thought for posterity, we would list The Postman's tipping track record across 2,272 NRL games since the start of the 2010 Season.
Season  -  Tipping Record
2010 - 125 from 192 at 65.1%
2011 - 115 from 192 at 59.9%
2012 - 115.5 from 192 at 60.2%
2013 - 121 from 192 at 63.0%
2014 - 122 from 192 at 63.5%
2015 - 115 from 192 at 59.9%
2016 - 136 from 192 at 70.8%
2017 - 125 from 192 at 65.1%
2018 - 106 from 192 at 55.2%
2019 - 125 from 192 at 65.1%
2020 - 112 from 160 at 70.0%
2021 - 145 from 192 at 75.5%
Overall Record: 1,462.5 Tips from 2,272 NRL Games at 64.4%.
For reference - The Postman's 2021 Tipping Round by Round (only NRL Games)
8/8, 6/8, 4/8, 7/8, 5/8, 5/8, 6/8, 6/8, 6/8, 8/8, 5/8, 4/8, 3/4, 6/8, 6/8, 7/8, 3/4, 8/8, 6/8, 4/8, 7/8, 8/8, 5/8, 6/8, 6/8.
So 2021 was by far The Postman's best tipping season, although in 2010 he did win a Weber BBQ which by all reports is still fully functional!
But to be sitting at 64.4% tipping success rate after 12 seasons of NRL tipping isn't horrible.
==
You can subscribe to the 
NOT The Footy Show Podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyAmazon Music and watch each episode on our YouTube Channel.
We are also on Instagram so please give us a follow @notthefootyshow 
==
Enjoy great moments from the Winfield Cup Era (1982-95) on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 6 September 2021

NOT The Footy Show Episode 242: NRL Finals Week 1 Preview Podcast

2021 NRL Finals Week 1 Preview
Released September 6, 2021 

Join Robb Cox and Warrick Nicolson for NOT The Footy Show Episode 242 for our 2021 NRL Finals Week 1 Preview chat.

We go in depth on all four Week 1 Finals and lament the crazy 'playoff wildcard' chat that re-emerged on the weekend, despite there not even being eight good teams in the NRL in 2021.

So join Coxsmith and Waz for the first NRL Finals Podcast this week as we aim to do plenty during the sweet sweet month of September.

Enjoy. 
🔘  Download the mp3 version
🔘  Stream the New Podcast.

==
You can subscribe to the 
NOT The Footy Show Podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyAmazon Music and watch each episode on our YouTube Channel.
We are also on Instagram so please give us a follow @notthefootyshow 
==
Enjoy great moments from the Winfield Cup Era (1982-95) on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Top 5 NRL Rookie of the Year Contenders for the 2021 Season

2021 NRL Rookie of the Year Race down to 5...
Published August 30, 2021 
Another NRL regular season is almost in the books and this means NRL Award season is fast approaching. One of the most contentious awards given out on Dally M night is often the NRL Rookie of the Year - otherwise known as the Peter Moore Rookie of the Year.
So with the 2021 NRL Finals Series just over a week away, now seems like a good time to remind you that NRL Awards are judged solely on the regular season performances of players and whatever happens in the Finals doesn't count. 
In conjunction with NOT The Footy Show's NRL Podcast which will release an Episode soon talking about the Best Rookies of 2021, www.wdnicolson.com has whittled down a long list of over 70 eligible rookies from this season into a standout Top 5 we believe are in contention to be 2021's NRL Rookie of the Year.
Just to clear up any confusion on 'who is a rookie?', the rules surrounding rookie eligibility are:
From NRL.com - Players are eligible for the Rookie of the Year in their debut season and the subsequent two NRL seasons. Once a player plays his fifth NRL Premiership match (or English Super League match), he becomes ineligible for the Rookie of the Year in any subsequent seasons. A rookie who is suspended for two separate offences in any one season becomes ineligible for the Rookie of the Year award. The Rookie of the Year is voted on 3 points, 2 points and 1 point basis by the Dally M judges at the conclusion of Round 25. 

Now to be clear www.wdnicolson.com will be picking our best rookie of 2021, we will not be trying to predict who the Dally M Judges will select.

So without further ado...

The Top 5 Contenders for the 2021 NRL Rookie of the Year are:
  • Daine Laurie, Wests Tigers.
  • Josh Schuster, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.
  • Stefano Utoikamanu, Wests Tigers.
  • Sam Walker, Sydney Roosters.
  • Reece Walsh, Warriors.
Eligibility wise - Laurie, Schuster and Utoikamanu all played in the NRL in 2020, but only 3 games, 1 game and 3 games respectively, so all are eligible. Walker and Walsh both made their debuts in 2021.
Although the Joseph Suaalii hype-train was full stream ahead in the off-season once he'd secured his move to the Roosters from Souths, there is no room for the now 18 year old on this final list. He has also now played in 5 games (before being shut down due to injury) so he cannot win the award in 2022.
There are honorary mentions after some standout performances in 2021 from Toby Sexton (4 games) and Junior Amone (9 games) with both showing genuine promise but without a large enough sample size to force their way into the Top 5. Charlie Staines (20 games) scored 14 Tries for the Panthers during the season but struggled to get into games most weeks despite his tryscoring numbers and lost his spot in the Penrith side after Round 21.
Also worth noting is the players who are not eligible despite their relative inexperience at the NRL level. If we understand the rule 'once a player plays his 5th NRL game' applies to games played in total for their career (and not per eligible rookie season) - Matt Burton (6 games by 2020), Jason Saab (7 games by 2020), Haumole Olakau'atu (7 games by 2020) and Jordan Riki (5 games in 2020) should not be considered for the 2021 rookie class.
Now let's look at the contenders in more detail with stats courtesy of Fox Sports.
Daine LAURIE
Wests Tigers 
Fullback | 22 Years Old | 2021 Games: 19 (6 Wins, 13 Losses).
Scouting Report: 
Quick, elusive and willing, Laurie is an undersized fullback by today's standards but he is a goer and footy smart. Gus Gould was a huge fan at Penrith and said as much before he debuted.
He got a 3 game taste of the NRL with Penrith late in 2020 but his path to a regular first grade spot was blocked by Dylan Edwards and Stephen Crichton at the Panthers. The Tigers liked what they saw and in November they signed him for 2022 and beyond. Then in early February with the Moses Mbye at fullback retread project not enthusing the coaching staff, they then used the most traded player in NRL history to get him to Concord immediately.
Laurie became Michael Maguire's first choice fullback from that point forward and put together a more than credible rookie season finishing his campaign prematurely through injury but he still scored 7 and set up 10 Tries in his 19 games. Could sniff out a meat pie with support smarts and his link play evolved as the season moved on, often playing out the back of Luke Brooks, Mbye and Doueihi. Averaged 14.1 Runs for 118 Metres per game (good for 13 Line Breaks, 13 Line Break Assists and 75 Tackle Breaks) and defensively he was solid without being a bank vault at the back (67.7% Tackle Efficiency), and his 16 Errors ranked him 58th in the NRL.
Click for enlarged version of his Fox League Stats



Laurie looks to be the long term fullback at the Tigers but as we all know... the off-season is much longer than you think and who knows what Maguire goes after to improve the Tigers in the off-season... if Maguire lasts til then.
==
Josh SCHUSTER
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Second Row | 20 Years Old | 2021 Games: 17 (12 Wins, 5 Losses).
Scouting Report: 
Incredible prospect. Schuster came through the junior system as a five-eighth but his body has developed so well at just 20, he is the physical prototype for today's edge forward. Skilful to the wazoo (he may actually have too much skill for Des Hasler to fully enjoy) and strong enough to offload at will, Schuster is quick and agile despite his size but is still learning the game on both sides of the ball. The future is something else for Josh.
Began the year on the outside looking in and when injury took out Andrew Davey in Round 2, he was thrust into Manly's left edge as a second rower and stayed there. Missed 5 games with a leg injury mid-season but returned in Round 18 and showed he hadn't missed a beat, as he carved up the Dragons. Schuster has rarely looked overawed by the NRL.
Has set up 16 Tries already this season and possesses a superb no look pass which can be long and short. Hasn't shrugged his work rate either, especially in defence - making 25.4 Tackles per game at 91.0% Efficiency. Doesn't run a great deal but 8.7 Runs for 72 Metres per game isn't chicken feed. When you can do the things Schuster can with the ball (19 Offloads and 10 Line Break Assists), mistakes do follow, with his 19 Errors 39th worst in the NRL.
Click for enlarged version of his Fox League Stats




Josh Schuster is one of two rookies on this list who will play in the NRL Finals and with Manly firing on all cylinders as long as Tom Trbojevic takes the field - he might just be the first of this select rookie crop to taste Premiership success. Long term he looks like a representative player and should be a cornerstone of the backrow at Manly for the next decade. Sensational footballer.
==
Stefano UTOIKAMANU
Wests Tigers 
Front Rower | 19 Years Old | 2021 Games: 20 (6 Wins, 14 Losses).
Scouting Report: 
Massive unit and fairly athletic for his size, Utoikamanu has worked incredibly hard on his fitness during this campaign and is arguably the Wests Tigers most important forward when he is on the field - which is a lot more often now than it was to start 2021. Body shape reminds you of Ian Roberts - but Roberts was more skilful - and with a presence like that he is a force to be reckoned with even after 21 NRL Games. And a big bonus with him is he doesn't make errors or give away penalties - which might get him thrown out of the Front Rower Union if he keeps it up.
Signed to a big money deal to join the Tigers - even as an unproven rookie at Parramatta before the 2020 season and it's looking like one of their best investments in a long long time. Managed to get a spot on the interchange bench at the start of the year and announced himself with back to back tries against Newcastle and Parramatta in Rounds 3 and 4. Played solid football thereafter but it wasn't until he was called into Brad Fittler's NSW Origin squad for Game 3 that things really started to come up Millhouse for Stefano.
Fresh from Origin camp, Utoikamanu has started every game since and is averaging 14.4 Runs for 126.1 Metres in those 7 games, and he's scored 3 tries as well. His defensive work-rate has been consistent with 22.4 Tackles per game at 91.1% Efficiency. And in 20 games he has just 3 Errors and conceded just 2 Penalties (not including six agains).
Click for enlarged version of his Fox League Stats


Utoikamanu is some kind of front row prospect. Although the Tigers have faltered (again) in terms of challenging for that ever elusive Top 8 berth, the development of Utoikamanu from bench forward into integral starting prop is a rare win for coach Maguire in 2021. When Brad Fittler goes out of his way to show just how big a fan he is, you are a good chance of going places in rep footy as well. We will watch Stefano's career with great interest.
==
Sam WALKER
Sydney Roosters 
Halfback | 19 Years Old | 2021 Games: 18 (12 Wins, 6 Losses).
Scouting Report: 
You won't find a more precocious talent in Rugby League today. Walker has the potential to be a halfback in the Allan Langer mould but with a better passing game. That's not us saying he's going to be as good as Alfie but the instincts he has remind us very much of the all time great Brisbane halfback. Remember Alfie wasn't big (Walker definitely has him covered height wise) and he made a fair career for himself.
Walker actually is going to grow into his body - he's just 19 - and as it matures so will his running game which you can see he wants to use but it does get him belted at the NRL level right now. Has a smart kicking game that is better short than it is long. His passing and vision are already extremely good, almost to the point where the more mistakes he makes the better he'll be for it so he learns what's on and what's not in First Grade. Is a string-bean but he's willing and with more rump he'll get better at getting in the way effectively. Goal-kicking is something he needs to spend every waking hour on during the off-season as the Chooks are desperate for a reliable kicker. The package is there and in 2021 we've seen a lot from it already.
The big games have been big. Games against Cronulla in Round 5, St George Illawarra in Round 7, Newcastle in Round 8, the Gold Coast in Round 14 and North Queensland in Round 18 were all Walker's-On parties and all Sydney victories. He's experienced a couple of savage losses but for the most part - Walker has won in his rookie season (12 wins from 18 starts).
He has been a try-creating machine with 21 Try Assists (10th in the NRL) and another 7 Try Contributions to go with 8 Tries of his own. Throw in another 30 Line Break Assists (3rd in the NRL) and 7 Line Breaks of his own and good things happen when Sam's got the ball in his hands. With creativity comes risk and his 21 Errors are 26th worst in the comp, and his defensive game is weakness teams go after - he has 63 Missed Tackles (12th worst in the NRL) and is completing Tackles at just 76.9% Efficiency. However it is encouraging that of his 263 Tackles - he's made 41 of the One on One variety. Again, as his body fills out he'll get better here... because he obviously needs to.
The Roosters leant on him far earlier than they'd planned as Luke Keary's knee injury thrust Walker into the NRL in Round 4 but he has delivered more than they really could have hoped. Sure the talent is there but the desire to be a difference maker is as well, and that is the main quality that will have endeared Walker to his teammates as they tried to resurrect an injury and retirement plagued 2021 NRL campaign... and it isn't over yet.
Click for enlarged version of his Fox League Stats
Walker has all the tricks but he also has the footy instincts. It's a fair combination. Next year he gets to play next to one of the best playmakers in the game in Luke Keary and there simply won't be a more potent 6-7 combination than these two. Oh and he gets to pass to James Tedesco and Joey Manu for the next few years of his development as well... the sky is the limit for this kid. 
==
Reece WALSH
Warriors 
Fullback | 19 Years Old | 2021 Games: 15 (5 Wins, 10 Losses).
Scouting Report: 
Showed phenomenal confidence for an 18 year old when he debuted for the Warriors in Round 7 against Melbourne in Melbourne, and within two months Walsh had been picked in the Queensland Maroons team for Game 2. Although he didn't make his debut due to a training camp injury, Walsh had announced himself to the Rugby League stage in a big way before Origin came calling. 
Silky and elusive runner with a fearless approach to throwing cutout passes to his winger, Walsh immediately became the Warriors top playmaker when he joined the team. You only need to point to the regression of Kodi Nikorima's role in the team as evidence of this. The Warriors - and the fullback job - were Walsh's to command after what felt like about 60 seconds of first grade. If you require stats to underscore his playmaking importance so far - Walsh has scored 9 Tries and set up 14 more in his 15 games and has 14 Line Breaks and 13 Line Break Assists. The kid makes things happen.
There are limitations to his game at the moment and one is physically, he simply can't bang out the volume of runs that his contemporaries at fullback can. Averaging 10.1 Runs for 106 Metres per game - not bad, with 60 Tackle Busts, so he's not shirking his job at the back but he's not about to hit 200m a game through pure work rate anytime soon like some others can. Defensively he's limited and that is to be expected with his inexperience and size. Has errors in him (18) but all playmakers do. Does have a kicking game already which the Warriors haven't had at fullback since arguably Matthew Ridge in the late 90s. It's a great asset.
Click for enlarged version of his Fox League Stats

Walsh burst onto the scene with an even bigger impact that Sam Walker and that's saying something. If there's a knock against Walsh in the evaluation of Rookie of the Year it is the fact the Warriors have simply not won enough with him in the lineup. Like any rookie he will have down games or not be able to convert on a key moment in a match that may be the difference between winning and losing but with Walsh - you get the feeling he's going to keep trying to win games by himself even if the last time he tried to didn't payoff. With the right pieces around him (cannot wait to see him and Shaun Johnson play together in 2021), Walsh can keep turning heads with the kind of footy that crowds (and hopefully New Zealand ones) love to see for the next decade and a half. Fantastic talent.
==
So who takes it out?

It's not an easy choice. 

Walsh and Walker have certainly produced highlight reel content every other week for the Warriors and Roosters respectively. Schuster as a rookie has shouldered the responsibility holding up the left side of Manly's backrow (which was without Curtis Sironen for most of the season) and looked silky smooth with the ball in the process. Utoikamanu has come along in leaps and bounds in the second half of 2021 in a team that definitely needed extra punch up the middle and got a NSW squad call-up for Game 3. Laurie has been very good for the Tigers despite joining late in the pre-season but did not quite have the same level of impact on results as Walsh and Walker especially.

So here is the Top 5 in order of how we would crown the 2021 NRL Rookie of the Year.

5. Daine Laurie.
4. Stefano Utoikamanu.
3. Josh Schuster.
2. Reece Walsh.
1. Sam Walker.

Laurie is a good footy player but the other four are outstanding talents already and have some kind of future ahead of them at the top reaches of Rugby League.

And we believe Sam Walker is the pick of the bunch now and long term - he's a halfback who takes the game on which means he just shades Walsh and Schuster, whom by the nature of their positions are quality compliments to the halfback or hooker who runs things. 

Meaning Sam Walker is our choice for the 2021 NRL Rookie of the Year.
Who is your pick for Rookie of the Year and which player do you think will be the best long term?
You can subscribe to the 
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We are also on Instagram so please give us a follow @notthefootyshow 
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