Saturday 16 December 2017 / 08:45 AM

SIX UP THE MIDDLE: 2017’S MOST IMPROVED

There have been some vast improvers in 2017. Here are the six players who have come on in leaps and bounds.

Anthony Don (Gold Coast)

Titans winger Anthony Don has been a revelation this year. Regarded as nothing more than a plodder until this year, Don’s speed has improved significantly, as has his elusiveness. It’s his ability in the air, though, that is second to none, while he is matching the mega-hyped Jordan Rapana for most try assists by a winger.

Coen Hess (North Queensland)

Hess came onto the scene with plenty of raps last year but the back-rower’s development in 2017 has been nothing short of astonishing. No forward in the premiership has his scoring nous – sitting equal first on the NRL’s tryscoring ladder with a  bunch of wingers and centres – while he does major damage post-contact. On the verge of an Origin call-up.

Paul Vaughan (St George Illawarra)

Languishing in reserve grade for the Raiders last year, Vaughan has a new lease on life since moving to the Dragons. Arguably the form front-rower of the premiership, Vaughan has been dominant through the middle of the field while showing surprising skill.

Nathan Brown (Parramatta)

Heading into this season, Brown was regarded as nothing more than a thuggish journeyman whose greatest strength was laying a cheap shot on. This year, though, he has stepped up as leader of the Eels’ pack with controlled aggression and a huge work-rate.

Cameron McInnes (St George Illawarra)

Michael Maguire continued to show faith in Cameron McInnes at Souths until the very end but he just could not find what Maguire saw. A shift to the Dragons has McInnes flying, however, with a potential Origin call-up not out of the reckoning.

Waqa Blake (Penrith)

A player who had a huge reputation before he even played a minute of first grade, Blake had been a major disappointment until this year. With his confidence up despite the Panthers’ struggles, Blake has been scintillating with the ball in hand, scoring some spectacular tries. A giant of an athlete with searing pace.

 

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About the author

Nick Tedeschi

You will not find a more passionate rugby league man than Nick, whose Making The Nut column has garnered a huge cult following over the last decade. The Sydney-based raconteur co-authored The Book of NRL Lists with CBS stablemate WILL EVANS in 2014 and has penned several other books; he joined the CBS team with his weekly Six Up The Middle feature in 2016.

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