NRL competition best buys are proving their worth
WITH the business end of the season fast approaching, just who have been the buys of the year?
While there have been some big-name flops, APN has identified five players - relatively unknown going into this year - who have shone in the 2015 season.
Cowboys hooker Jake Granville comes in at No.1, followed by Curtis Rona (Bulldogs), Blake Austin (Raiders), Blake Green (Storm) and the Raiders' Iosia Soliola.
Some of the big names who got the headlines over summer and had fans at their new clubs excited include:
Anthony Watmough (Eels), Ben Barba (Sharks), Adam Blair (Broncos), Tariq Sims (Knights), Josh Hoffman (Titans), Brett Morris (Bulldogs) and Anthony Milford (Broncos).
Blues and Kangaroos representative Watmough has failed to live up to his hype at the Eels, while Milford is starting to play some fine football, after a steady start to the year, playing five-eighth at Brisbane.
The same can be said for prop Blair, while Barba's strong effort off the bench for the Sharks in their big 28-8 win over the Dragons could be a sign of things to come.
Here are APN's top-five buys of the 2015 season.
Jake Granville (Cowboys):
A match-winning hat-trick against the Warriors in round seven showed the 26-year-old's class in what has been a breakout season for him. Has played all 16 games, been a focal point in North Queensland's excellent attacking machine and is averaging 27 tackles per game.
Curtis Rona (Bulldogs):
Has impressed coach Des Hasler so much the premiership-winning mentor has preferred him on the left wing over one of the game's best flankers, Brett Morris. Has bagged four doubles in 2015, and was in a battle with gun Eels winger Semi Radradra last night for the lead in the season's top try-scoring tally, with both on 16 going into the game. The Cowboys just couldn't match the Bulldogs' offer in attracting Rona down to Sydney, and it's understandable Canterbury was so keen to lure him - he's big and powerful, and a great finisher.
Blake Austin (Raiders):
Showed Blues selectors what they missed in this year's Origin series against the Knights last Friday, with a phenomenal hat-trick inside the first 15 minutes. The pivot's support play has been outstanding and is thriving under the tutelage of former champion halfback Ricky Stuart in the nation's capital.
Blake Green (Storm):
A four-year stint in the English Super League, including steering Wigan to a premiership win in 2013, did wonders for the mature 28-year-old. The No.6 has been another steady influence at the Storm, fitting into its system well alongside veteran "spine" players Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
Iosia Soliola (Raiders):
Ask opposing halves Luke Brooks (Tigers) and Cronk just how hard this man can hit. Like his idol and Kiwi legend Ruben Wiki, Soliola has made a sound transition from centre to feared back rower. Has had six games of 40 or more tackles, and forms a crucial part of Canberra's formidable back row, featuring Shaun Fensom and Josh Papalii.