Jai Whitbread

1. Briton Nikora (Cronulla Sharks – last week: 1st)
v Penrith – 80 minutes, 10 runs, 119 metres, 2 line breaks, 8 tackle breaks, 1 offload, 27 tackles, 1 miss, 1 ineffective, 1 error, 1 penalty conceded

Briton Nikora maintains his spot at the top of the list after playing a major role in Cronulla’s comeback win over Penrith. Despite picking up a slight injury at the end of the first half, Nikora helped kick start the Sharks’ comeback after the break, making two crucial line breaks and putting in a kick for Chad Townsend’s penalty try. The only blemish on the performance was a dangerous throw, for which he was charged and will miss Cronulla’s Round 7 fixture against Brisbane.

2. Maika Sivo (Parramatta Eels – last week: 2nd)
v Wests Tigers – 1 try, 17 runs, 196 metres, 69 post contact, 1 line break, 4 tackle breaks, 4 tackles, 1 miss

Maika Sivo helped Parramatta open the new Bankwest Stadium in style, scoring a try in their 51-6 thrashing of the Wests Tigers. Sivo was at his barnstorming best yet again, running for a season high 196 metres and breaking four tackles in the win.

3. Payne Haas (Brisbane Broncos – last week: 4th)
v Canberra – 80 minutes, 19 runs, 170 metres, 63 post contact, 3 tackle breaks, 36 tackles, 1 miss, 3 ineffective

For the second week in a row, Payne Haas has been a shining light in a Brisbane Broncos’ loss. Starting at prop in his second game back, Haas played out the full 80 minutes, running for 170 metres and making 36 tackles. Despite a missed tackle (his only one for the game) late on John Bateman, Haas moves up one spot after leading the Broncos pack once again.

4. Jack Williams (Cronulla Sharks – last week: 3rd)
v Penrith – 36 minutes, 12 runs, 121 metres, 47 post contact, 1 tackle break, 23 tackles, 0 missed

With the return of Paul Gallen, Jack Williams moved back to the bench but still got through plenty of work in just 36 minutes. Coming on for his first stint late in the first half, Williams ran for 121 metres from 12 runs and was perfect defensively, making 23 tackles without a miss.

5. Bronson Xerri (Cronulla Sharks – last week: unranked)
v Penrith – 1 try, 15 runs, 198 metres, 40 post contact, 1 line break, 1 line break assist, 1 try assist, 3 tackle breaks, 12 tackles, 0 missed

After a tough game last week, 18-year old Bronson Xerri recovered big time with a brilliant performance for Cronulla. His try in the 48th minute got the Sharks back into the contest and showed off his tremendous speed and evasiveness. On top of that, he threw the final pass for Josh Dugan to score the match winning try. He finished with 198 metres from 15 runs and made 12 tackles without a miss.

Corey Waddell (Photo: Paul Barkley/NRL Photos)

6. Mikaele Ravalawa (St George Illawarra Dragons – last week: 6th)
v Manly – 1 try, 11 runs, 83 metres, 1 tackle break, 3 tackles, 0 miss, 1 error

It was a quieter week than usual for winger Mikaele Ravalawa but he still made a big impression for his side, scoring the winning try against Manly. He scooped up a Ben Hunt grubber with just two minutes to play, putting the Dragons ahead by two points.

7. Thomas Flegler (Brisbane Broncos – last week: 8th)
v Canberra – 34 minutes, 13 runs, 120 metres, 38 post contact, 1 tackle break, 16 tackles, 0 miss, 1 ineffective

Thomas Flegler started for the first time in Brisbane’s loss to Canberra on Sunday afternoon and did not look out of place. Starting at lock, he ran for 120 metres (his most since Round 2), breaking a tackle and making 16 without a miss.

8. Corey Waddell (Manly Sea Eagles – last week: unranked)
v St George Illawarra – 49 minutes, 17 runs, 153 metres, 46 post contact, 1 line break assist, 1 try assist, 1 tackle break, 3 offloads, 22 tackles, 1 miss

It’s been a long time coming but Manly back rower Corey Waddell finally jumps into the top 10 after a brilliant performance against the Dragons. Coming off the bench, Waddell ran for 153 metres, made 22 tackles with just one miss and had three offloads. The highlight of his game, a between-the-legs tunnel ball pass to set up Daly Cherry-Evans to score under the posts.

9. Jai Whitbread (Gold Coast Titans – last week: unranked)
v Newcastle – 39 minutes, 15 runs, 130m, 37 post contact, 3 tackle breaks, 1 offload, 22 tackles, 0 missed, 1 ineffective, 1 penalty conceded

South Tweed junior Jai Whitbread looks to have nailed down a spot in the Titans’ 17 after a big performance in their win over Newcastle. Backing up his 93-metre performance last round, Whitbread ran for 130 metres, broke three tackles and made 22 without a miss in 39 minutes of game time. He makes the top 10 for the first time in 2019.

10. Jayden Okunbor (Canterbury Bulldogs – last week: 5th)
v South Sydney – 13 runs, 120 metres, 50 post contact, 3 tackles, 0 missed, 2 errors

Jayden Okunbor was solid on the wing for the Bulldogs’ in their eight-point loss to the Rabbitohs in Good Friday. The Milperra junior made 13 runs for 120 metres, 50 of those post contact, and recorded three tackles without miss.

Outside looking in:

  • Blayke Brailey played his most minutes since Round 2 in Cronulla’s win over Penrith and added plenty of spark off the bench. He ran for 23 metres and made eight tackles without a miss.
  • Fullback Will Kennedy made his debut in the Sharks win and didn’t look like a stranger in the NRL. He ran for 109 metres, broke five tackles and made four without a miss.
  • Oregon Kaufusi and Ray Stone both came off the bench and played a role in Parramatta’s 45-point win over the Tigers. Kaufusi scored his first NRL try and ran for 99 metres, while Stone ran for 96 in his first game of the season.
  • Corey Allan continues to be a solid choice on the wing for the Rabbitohs. He ran for 86 metres, made two line breaks and forced a drop out in their win over Canterbury.
  • And finally, a quick shout out to the three rookies on the Roosters bench in their golden point win over Melbourne. Sam Verrills and Josh Curran were on debut, while Sitili Tupouniua was playing his first game of the season. Tupouniua played 35 minutes in the win, making a try saving tackle in the second half and an important line break in extra time.

The 18th Man’s Rookie Rankings, released after each round, take into account a player’s previous round performance and their season as a whole.

We are using the NRL’s criteria for Dally M Rookie of the Year; the player must not have played more than four NRL games prior to the current season to qualify. Unlike the NRL, a player won’t be taken off the rankings if he becomes ineligible through suspension.


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