The first Team List Tuesday of the season was cause for great celebration as NRL sides named their starting 17 for the first round.
I also couldn’t believe some of the selections made, and judging by social media, I was not the only one.
Below are the top 10 team list ‘shocks’ that have people talking.
10. Ben Barba at fullback
I am overjoyed at this decision and have been predicting it since the nines. Barba has ‘won’ the fullback position over a man who has every attribute to make the centre position at the Sharks his own for the next decade. The Sharks needed to name Barba, Holmes and Bird in the starting line up to tackle the Cowboys, and did. Considering all the media reports that suggested otherwise, it’s still a shock that ‘Flanno’ went the way he did.
9. Cameron McInnes over Damien Cook
Although the Bunnies started the Charity Shield with McInnes in the number nine, I was sure Cook would snag the starting gig. His efforts for the Bulldogs in the late rounds last season were exceptional and Souths couldn’t sign him quickly enough. I’m not a fan of carrying a second number nine on the bench after the reduction of interchange, so I honestly thought Cook would play 80 minutes. He’ll still get his chance, but unfortunately it will be from the bench.
8. Jake Mamo not named
Given Mamo was selected at fullback at the tail end of 2015, it looked as though the fullback role was his. Not only was he overlooked for youngster Jake Feeney but he lost his first grade spot all together under Nathan Brown. Chanel and Pat Mata’utia have filled in the other backline positions with the expected Gagai and Uate, meaning Mamo must bide his time in NSW Cup. The Mata’utia brothers are exciting talents, so perhaps it’s not that big of a shock, but with Brown naming a host of debutants, I expected Mamo’s name to be there somewhere.
7. Ben Henry over Bodene Thompson
A huge blow for those who play Super Coach with the ever reliable Bodene Thompson dropped to the bench for Ben Henry. I thought Henry’s utility value would land him a bench spot, but I didn’t see Thompson being relegated for the 24 year-old. Unlike a few selections on this list, this is a selection that I find exciting, but it was certainly unexpected. One of several unexpected selections in the Warriors side.
6. Isaah Yeo starting over Elijah Taylor
This is another that will leave Supercoach scrambling, this time at the news that Taylor will come off the bench. Known mainly as a work horse, I fully expected to see Taylor benefit from the reduced interchange. Yeo’s selection isn’t a shock, but most were sure he’d be chosen on the bench. Many Panthers fans were calling for Peachey to start, but given his ability to break games open from the bench, it’s not a huge shock that he was overlooked also for Yeo.
5. Ben Hampton on the bench for Melbourne
I can only think this is so he’s ready to replace Billy Slater should be pull up short before the game, as I can’t see Hampton taking minutes off Cronk, Green or Smith in a utility role. He probably isn’t big enough to play back row, so unless he’s in for a stint on the wing or in the centres, I don’t see a whole lot of reasoning behind this move. My guess is either he starts at fullback if Slater withdraws or there is a late change here. No sense in carrying an out of position hooker for Cameron Smith.
4. Nathan Green in the back row for Manly
After a massive recruitment drive, Manly are busting at the seams with quality forwards, and it was Nathan Green who surprisingly won the run on spot. Jamie Burhrer’s injury opened up a spot I expected to be taken by Mateo, Symonds, Lawrence of Leary. Green has played most of his footy in the backline, although he has bulked up as he filled out. I didn’t think we’d be seeing his name at all this year for Manly, but he’s locked up a starting role in one of the game’s best packs.
3. Hymel Hunt in the centres for Souths
I did not see this one coming at all. Bryson Goodwin was a lock for one centre spot, but I thought the other would come down to Auva’a or Nielson. Auva’a, despite his off-field troubles is a premiership winning centre, while Nielson has Origin experience. Hunt, despite the odd appearance last season for the Storm didn’t really come into selection for most fans, myself included. He’s got plenty to his game but after the loss of Dylan Walker, I expected the more senior players to be given first crack
2. Blake Austin on the bench
Blake Austin is coming back from injury, everyone was aware of this, but I doubt anyone would have predicted he would resume his NRL comeback from the bench for the Raiders. My guess is he isn’t 100% but after the year he had in 2015, he simply could not be overlooked. That being said, why risk a less than fit Austin when you have a stack of big, mobile forwards to choose from? If he’s fit, he has to play 80 minutes, no question. If not, why risk one of your star players? Strange selection.
1. Blake Ayshford over Konrad Hurrell
This had been suggested, and I even drafted accordingly, but it’s still a shock. I have nothing against Ayshford who is a serviceable NRL player, but I wasn’t sure how a slimmed down and wrecking ball Konral Hurrell would be overlooked for a man who hasn’t played a whole lot of first grade over the past two years. Hurrell is a potential match winner, as is Lolohea, who was named outside Ayshford on the wing. Despite suggestions otherwise, I really didn’t see both being overlooked for the centre spot for the former Shark.