Full-time of the Four Nations final will mark the end of rugby league for the year – and two and a half torturous months until the 2015 season kicks off with the Auckland Nines. To help you through another difficult footy-free summer, Commentary Box Sports has compiled the Top 10 individual performances of the 2014 NRL regular season.
10. Anthony Milford – Canberra v Newcastle, Round 2
The 19-year-old Milford doused any second-year syndrome fears with a breathtaking display in Canberra’s come-from-behind win at Newcastle in Round 2. The quicksilver fullback made three line-breaks, brilliantly setting up vital second-half tries for Jarrod Croker and Paul Vaughan, and notched 203 metres from 21 runs.
9. Daly Cherry-Evans – Manly v Canberra, Round 8
Manly scorched out to a 42-0 lead over the visiting Raiders after 33 minutes of the Round 8 encounter, and Cherry-Evans’ virtuoso display was largely responsible. The halfback’s running and passing game was at its peak, making three line breaks and producing four try assists. The Sea Eagles took the foot off the pedal to eventually prevail 54-18, but DCE’s first half performance contained more highlights than most players come up with in a season.
8. Dylan Walker – South Sydney v New Zealand, Round 13
Burgeoning young centre Walker’s best performance of magnificent sophomore season came when he was pitched into the fullback role midway through Souths’ rugged clash with the Warriors in Perth, replacing injured teammate Greg Inglis. Walker suffered a broken thumb early in the second half, but scored a sensational solo try (his second of the match) five minutes later to spark a 34-18 come-from-behind win, finishing with three line-breaks, 194 metres from 10 runs, and man-of-the-match honours in a gutsy display. The injury ruled him out for a month and cost him a potential NSW call-up, but Test honours were just around the corner.
7. Shaun Johnson – New Zealand v Canberra, Round 9
The gifted Warriors halfback scored the quickest rugby league hat-trick of all time at Canberra’s expense in 2013, but he was even more devastating in a 54-12 thumping of the Raiders in Round 9 this season. Johnson scored two runaway tries and kicked nine from nine for a 26-point haul, while he recorded 184 metres from six runs, two try assists and had a deft hand in three more touchdowns as the Warriors broke their Eden Park hoodoo.
6. Greg Inglis – South Sydney v Brisbane, Round 23
The Rabbitohs fullback scored one of the greatest individual tries of all time against Brisbane earlier in the season, but his overall performance in the 42-16 drubbing of the Broncos in Round 23 garnered the first Rugby League Week ‘10’ rating of his decorated career. Inglis’ second hat-trick of 2014 included another try-of-the-year contender, while he also produced an assist for Luke Keary to score.
5. Mitchell Moses – Wests Tigers v Canterbury, Round 19
Just 19 and appearing in his third NRL match for the injury-ravaged Tigers, Moses produced a highlight-laden performance of rare quality from fullback in a stunning 46-18 defeat of eventual grand finalists Canterbury. He made two line breaks and was credited with five try assists – including the last pass for three of Keith Lulia’s four tries – and had a crucial hand in another, while he slotted two goals for good measure.
4. Mitchell Pearce – Sydney Roosters v South Sydney, Round 26
Many labelled it the best performance of the much-maligned Mitchell Pearce’s career, spearheading a commanding Sydney Roosters win over archrivals Souths in the final round with two line breaks, two try assists and a remarkable try-saving chase and tackle on a runaway Greg Inglis.
3. Matthew Scott – North Queensland v Brisbane, Round 9
After the likes of Andrew Fifita and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves threw down the gauntlet for the NRL’s best prop mantle last year, Scott became the first front-rower to earn a perfect ‘10’ rating from Rugby League Week in a first grade match after starring in a 27-14 win over Brisbane. The Maroons stalwart produced a try, three line-breaks and 18 runs for 227 metres – numbers Jarryd Hayne or Greg Inglis are more accustomed to – and still had enough in the tank to rack up 26 tackles. Phenomenal.
2. Sam Burgess – South Sydney v Manly, Round 22
This list could just about have been filled with Sam Burgess’ 10 best games of the season, but his stellar performance in Souths’ comprehensive defeat of NRL front-runners Manly was a standout. His two line-breaks included a match-sealing try, while he finished with typically herculean figures of 34 tackles and 231 metres from 22 runs in the 22-4 rout.
1. Jarryd Hayne – Parramatta v Cronulla, Round 21
Hayne’s form climbed to insane levels of brilliance and consistency during 2014, culminating in this phenomenal display in a 32-12 defeat of Cronulla. The Eels linchpin chalked up an absurd 295 metres from 16 runs, while he scored a scintillating 50-metre try in the first half, raced away for a 95-metre touchdown after the break and threw deft passes to create another two Parramatta tries. He was revealed as the game’s No.1 player in Rugby League Week’s Players’ Poll just five days later.