The guys over at Undisputed Sports have compiled a list of the most improved players in 2013. Do you agree or disagree with the list?
To be included in this list, the player must have already played 20 first grade games before this season.
Under the tutelage of new Rooster coach Trent Robinson, Jake Friend has taken his game to a whole new level. His running out of dummy half is up there with the best and he has developed a very effective short kicking game. Friend has been a crucial part of the Roosters season and is being hailed as the next Australian and Queensland hooker when Cameron Smith retires. While his attacking game hits new heights he is maintaining a high work rate in defence with an average of 37 tackles a game. Trent Robinson has worked wonders on Friend who still manages to shine in a team containing stars such as James Maloney and Sonny Bill Williams.
The young former Sea Eagle was bought by Penrith to play fullback and started off the season in that no1 jersey. Despite making his international debut for New Zealand in 2012, he didn’t arrive at Penrith an established NRL player. He was a bit up and down at the start of the season and didn’t look entirely comfortable at fullback. However the rise of young fullback Matt Moylan forced Whare into the centres where he has excelled. He now ranks equal second for line break assists and has formed a lethal combination down the Panthers right edge with David Simmons. He is a strong defender, pulling off a few huge hits and his looks set to be silky passing skills have contributed to Simmons being the NRLs leading tryscorer. Whare involved in New Zealand’s World Cup team and with the form he’s shown at centre he is a real x factor in New Zealand’s world cup defence.
McQueen’s transformation from a fringe outside back struggling at South’s to a starting back rower for Queensland really is something. The type of no frills player Queensland love to pick was a shock pick for Origin one and cemented his place in the next two games. The valuable experience he gained from playing in the outside backs has made him a more complete player. His game now combines the traits of being a hardworking back rower along with those of an outside back. Unlike most back rowers McQueen also possesses great speed and is a good target for attacking kicks. The newly capped Queenslander looks to be an origin player for many years to come and is said to be targeting the Kangaroos world cup squad. It marks a meteoric rise from a fringe utility to being one of the games premier forwards and a critical cog in South Sydney’s campaign to end their premiership drought.
When the NRLs wooden spooners tell you you’re not wanted you have to doubt yourself. You can only imagine the relief when Justin Horo got a call from Manly and went on a new career path. He always had potential at Parramatta but no coach was able to get the best out of him. Since moving to Manly and reuniting with former Eels assistant Brad Arthur he has surpassed all expectations and been one of the form second rowers of the competition. He played most of the 2012 season for the Eels feeder club Wentworthville so it’s quite astonishing that he’s made such a splash at Manly. The 9 tries he’s registered from the back row (more than twice as many as any other forward for Manly) show that he’s a real attacking force and running off Manly and New Zealand half Kieran Foran he looks set to inflict more damage on opposition teams well into the finals.
The block busting back rower has set the NRL alight this season, he’s excelled with halves James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce in such great form and didn’t look out of place making his origin debut. His hole running rivals any back rower in the competition and he has the speed and strength to find the line once he’s through. The Daily Telegraph rated him the best player of 21 years or younger, lists like these aren’t the only plaudits he received with several greats of the game such as Brad Fitler and Andrew Johns speaking at length of how highly they rate him. Throughout 2012 he was always rated a special prospect but has really come on throughout 2013 and is yet another Roosters player to really flourish under coach Trent Robinson. He is an obvious leader of the future and has already co captained the Roosters in the absence of Anthony Minichiello. He is also a hard worker regularly making over 30 tackles and running 100 plus metres, add this to what he offers in attack and he really is a special player and is only getting better.
It was round 8; Cronulla Sharks captain Paul Gallen went down with injury just minutes into the match. The Sharks desperately needed a win and the rest of the team needed to step up. Something clicked in Andrew Fifita. He had 25 hit ups for 251 runs. Since then he has been the competitions best front row forward. His unbelievable form led to NSW selection and he didn’t disappoint. He was arguably the best forward from both sides throughout the series. His gigantic yet mobile frame has terrorised opponents all year and despite playing prop is shockingly the leading try scorer for the Sharks. His ability to break tackles and surprisingly quick leg speed has led to some memorable moments throughout the year such a last gasp try to beat the Dragons or a 60m long range effort against the Tigers. Averaging over 150m and 35 tackles a game he has really set the NRL alight and seems a logical selection for the end of year World Cup Australian side. He has become a truly great player and is as important as any player for the Sharks heading into the finals.