GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: Anthony Milford of the Broncos looks dejected during the round two NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Brisbane Broncos at Cbus Super Stadium on March 19, 2021, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

We're now six rounds into the 2021 competition. And it's fair to say that in any sport you'll see players exceed expectation. It's equally as fair to expect some players to fail to live up to the hype.

For the purpose of this we've picked out five players who we believe are 'Hot' - in that they've surpassed the levels expected of them, and three players who are 'Not' i.e. players who are performing below par/what's expected.

This is purely opinion and is not designed to target any players. I could list 20 of each but I have chosen a handful that have stood out to me personally.

Ryan Papenhuyzen, for mine, is the form player of the competition, but almost played Origin last year and was man of the match in the Grand Final. Hardly unexpected.


1. Who's Hot?

Ben Hunt

The Dragons halfback has been an absolute revelation thus far in 2021. Only injury could contain his brilliant start to the season under new coach Anthony Griffin.

It's amazing what a little confidence can do for talented players. A try and five try assists in his three games make for beautiful reading for those wearing famous Red V. Last year he had seven in 19 games.

His form is back to the level that saw the Dragons offer up a big money, long-term deal. He's also been named captain of the club and seems to have taken that on with great pride.

Reed Mahoney

The 22 year-old has started the season in such brilliant form that he currently sits fifth on the Dally M leader board with eight points.

Two tries, five try assists, five line break assists, seven offloads and almost 92% tackle efficiency is downright brilliant for a number nine.

Mahoney has missed only eight minutes of game-time in 2021 and looks set for a QLD Origin squad call up. If his form continues he is second behind only Harry Grant.

NRL Rd 8 - Eels v Cowboys
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 03: Reed Mahoney of the Eels passes during the round eight NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the North Queensland Cowboys at Bankwest Stadium on July 03, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Will Kennedy

William Kennedy has gone from long-odds to hold the number one jersey past round three or four to the Sharks undisputed best option at fullback with a big contract upgrade and extension to come.

Kennedy currently sits inside the top 10 on the Dally M count despite the Sharks only winning two games this season. He currently has seven points and has arguably been his sides best in every game bar the one he left early due to a failed HIA.

Six tries, two try assists, three line breaks and 13 tackle breaks show how important he has been in attack. He's had further try involvements also meaning he's hand a major hand in around half of the Sharks tries.

SEE ALSO: Gold Coast Titans pull OUT of race for Bronco Kotoni Staggs

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 18: William Kennedy of the Sharks runs the ball during the round 6 NRL rugby league match between the Sharks and the Panthers at PointsBet Stadium on April 18, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Hudson Young

Hudson Young's form across his five games has been such that the Raiders have hardly missed John Bateman. Considering the latter's importance to the side, that's a huge wrap.

Young has two tries, four line breaks, 90 metres per game as well as 19 tackle breaks shows just how difficult he has been to contain.

The improvement across one off-season is downright incredible. His issues are well behind him and now he's a weaponry wide-running back rower to who has won every battle to date.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 07: Hudson Young of the Raiders in action during the round 25 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

Isaiah Papali'i

The bargain-priced signing of the season? It's hard to argue against the 22 year-old wrecking ball, such has been his incredible level of performance to date.

Ryan Matterson's loss should be huge, but Papali'i has stood up to the point where Matterson's role isn't even guaranteed once he returns from injury.

Four tries, a ridiculous 23 tackle breaks, almost 150 running metres per game and 360 post-contact metres says it all. Phwoar!

Watch ZT's own Dan Nichols talk everything Rugby League via Rugby League Outlaws

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - JULY 14: Ben Hunt of the Dragons evades the tackle of Josh Hodgson of the Raiders during the round 17 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium on July 14, 2019 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)