The North Queensland Cowboys have proved they've got arguably the best bench in the NRL, with three Townsville reserves taking up four of the spots on our bench after turning the tide against the Bulldogs.
Clint Gutherson enjoyed a near-perfect night against Manly but misses out to an unlikely candidate after Melbourne made some adjustments to trounce the Titans - although many of his Eels teammates are in the squad thanks in part to his efforts.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have a number of players in this week's team, thanks to their thrashing of the Warriors as they gear up for a finals charge.
A reminder that the team of the week is picked completely objectively, all based on an algorithm that calculates each player's stats and generates a total score.
The interchange players must also play from the bench.
Here is the Round 21 team.
1. Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm)
Some fans might forget, but Munster’s Storm career actually began in the No.1 jersey, and he certainly didn’t look out of his comfort zone as the Storm thrashed the lowly Warriors 32-14.
Munster scored a hat-trick, kicked three goals and ran for over 250 metres in a dominant, man of the match performance. As Craig Bellamy struggles to arrange a team following Jahrome Hughes’ shoulder injury and Felise Kaufusi’s family tragedy, he’ll take confidence from the versatility of his main man.
2. Jason Saab (Manly Sea Eagles)
He may have missed last week, but Saab hit the ground running in his return to Des Hasler’s side, putting in his best performance in a Manly jersey and leading a big – but ultimately fruitless – fightback against Parramatta.
Saab scored one try and was largely untouchable for the majority of the contest, running for 264 metres and breaking the Eels’ line four times. He was also constantly reliable under the high ball.
3. Young Tonumaipea (Melbourne Storm)
Some last-minute issues saw Tonumaipea make a surprise return to NRL action, and he wasted no time reminding everyone of the potential he displayed before his move to rugby. Tonumaipea scored a try, broke four tackles and added two line-breaks in an impressive display – his first since he departed for rugby after a season with Gold Coast in 2020.
4. Tom Opacic (Parramatta Eels)
The Eels maintained their composure despite a brief Manly fightback to ensure they left 4 Pines Park with two valuable points, and Opacic was vital to the result. The experienced centre grabbed a try and toiled for 125 metres. He also broke three tackles, made 19 and offloaded twice in a workmanlike performance.
5. Enari Tuala (Newcastle Knights)
It’s been a long time since the Knights have had something to celebrate but they would have been feeling good about their first-half effort against the Wests Tigers. Tuala was vital to those early celebrations, scoring a quick-fire first-half double to give Newcastle an advantage they never relinquished. He also added 152 attacking metres.
6. Dylan Brown (Parramatta Eels)
The Eels five-eighth was expected to shoulder more responsibility in the absence of Mitchell Moses and he did it with aplomb. Brown capped off the night with the match-sealing try but he was massive up to that point, breaking tackles with ease and running for an amazing 179 metres.
Even more impressively, Brown worked relentlessly in defence, finishing with a team-high 39 tackles – a number rarely heard of for a half.
7. Nicho Hynes (Cronulla Sharks)
Hynes continues to surge up the charts – both the Dally M and the ‘Years Best Buy’. He opened the scoring inside two minutes against the Dragons and had a perfect night with the boot, and ran riot against the Red V with 146 metres and five tackle breaks. He also contributed a one-on-one strip and made 31 tackles, missing just one.
8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Parramatta Eels)
The Eels’ pack are deadly and they dominated the Sea Eagles last weekend – led with gusto by RCG. In just 54 minutes he ran for a phenomenal 203 metres from 19 carries (88 of those post-contact) in a remarkable display of running. He also broke two tackles and made 18 at the other end of the field.
9. Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
While the focus has deservedly been on Latrell Mitchell’s form since his return, Damien Cook is also enjoying a renaissance as part of the revival. Cook was one of seven Rabbitohs’ try scorers and made 141 metres in attack. He set up a try, assisted two line-breaks and made 73 metres from just seven dummy-half runs. He also made 29 tackles.
10. Tevita Tatola (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Tatola enjoyed one of his best games for the club as they ran riot against the Warriors, getting in on the try-scoring and making a mammoth 200 metres in attack. He made a game-high five tackle breaks and made 20 tackles in a 52-minute effort.
11. Shaun Lane (Parramatta Eels)
Like his teammate Clint Gutherson (who only missed the team thanks to Munster’s incredible effort), Lane seems to enjoy playing against his old team. The rangy back-rower looked dangerous every time he had the ball, setting up a try with a great offload, drawing extra men on defence and creating plenty of room around him. He finished with 189 metres in attack, with three offloads and 24 tackles.
12. Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters)
Crichton has been vital to the Roosters’ recent resurgence, and he was in fine form against Brisbane. He scored a 15th-minute try as the Roosters ran riot early and proved a handful all night. He made 158 metres from just 13 runs, a massive nine tackle breaks and two offloads to go with an industrious 28 tackles at the defensive end.
13. Cameron Murray (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
It’s no surprise this game gave Murray a huge boost in our MVP rankings – he was in absolutely everything. Murray made 187 metres and a massive 35 tackles in 66 minutes, given a rest when the result was beyond doubt. He also showed off his skills as a playmaker, setting up three of the Rabbitohs' tries and offloading three times.
14. Luciano Leilua (North Queensland Cowboys)
It should come as no surprise that there are three Cowboys on the bench – Todd Payten’s reserves changed the game against the Bulldogs. Leilua scored a second-half try to help create some space between the Cowboys and their opponents, and he also set one up and ran for 144 metres in 55 minutes.
15. Reuben Cotter (North Queensland Cowboys)
Cotter was also massive for North Queensland, providing a massive boost to the team off the bench. He ran for 182 metres and worked himself to the bone defensively, leaving it all on the park and making a key impact for the Cowboys in the second half.
16. Teig Wilton (Cronulla Sharks)
Wilton was thrown in earlier than usual against the Dragons thanks to an injury-forced reshuffle, but he stayed on track for Cronulla, grabbing a try and a line break and two tackle breaks at the offensive end and adding 27 tackles with an admirable level of accuracy.
17. Griffin Neame (North Queensland Cowboys)
In a strange way, Neame is becoming one of the competition’s form interchange players, scoring his second try in his last four appearances and proving a challenge for the defence with three tackle breaks. He also worked hard with 15 tackles – all in the space of 30 minutes.