NRL 2021: Stats Insider's Team Of The Month - June
The calendar has flicked over to July, and while June was a disrupted month due to bye rounds and State of Origin, it's time to check in with the Stats Insider Team of the Month.
How is the Stats Insider Team of the Month Selected?
Based on Stats Insider’s NRL Player Ratings, a player’s game by game ratings (when named to start in each position) are added together for the relevant month. The players with the highest overall rating in each position are then selected in the Team of the Month.
Outside of players named to start on the interchange bench, players are only eligible to score in the position they were named to start the match. Halves are also grouped into a single position for selection purposes.
So, who cracks it this month?
Stats Insider's Team of the Month (June, 2021)
1. Clint Gutherson
It's good to see Clint Gutherson here.
With Tom Trbojevic's return from injury and rise to the top fullback in the game, James Tedesco taking out the first TOTM #1 spot and Ryan Papenhuyzen's amazing April before injury, Gutherson had become somewhat of a forgotten man.
He's a top-five fullback in the game right now and proved as much with three tries and four try assists in June. It's been a crucial month for the Eels. With few players selected for State of Origin, they've had a chance to build some momentum and have done so with three big wins on the bounce. Gutherson's play with the ball in hand has been a major contributor to their 38.3 points per game this month.
2. Alex Johnston
Alex Johnston made it look easy in June. It was easy, for the most part. The quintessential paint-on-his-boots winger hugged the touchline for five tries in two games to take his tally up to an NRL-high 17 tries this season.
3. Waqa Blake
They were calling for his head outside Bankwest Stadium not long ago, but Waqa Blake has responded with a good month of football. He picked up two tries and broke 16 tackles in three games while running for 130.6 metres per match. However, his abilities in attack have never been questioned. It's on the defensive side of the ball that he has struggled and let the team down.
It has helped that the Eels played poor attacking teams in the Knights, Tigers and Bulldogs in June. Their lack of potency with the ball has allowed Blake to play himself into form in both attack and defence. The key now is to keep it up as the Eels prepare for the toughest remaining schedule of all 16 teams.
4. Dane Gagai
He only needed one game to force his way into the Team of the Month, but boy, it was a good one.
Dane Gagai ran for a whopping 255 metres against the Broncos in Round 15. He broke seven tackles and finished up with a meat pie as he ripped through the club that first signed him way back in 2011.
5. Maika Sivo
You might think Maika Sivo has had a relatively quiet 2021 before you realise he has scored 14 tries in 14 games while running for 139 metres per hit-out. He scored three tries and broke 12 tackles while running for 142 metres per game in June alone.
The big Fijian is getting back to his destructive best. As the Eels attack improves inside him and provides opportunities on the edge, Sivo is making them count. One-on-one in the corner with his defender, and it's over. That's the Sivo that can play a big role in Parramatta's push to the NRL Grand Final.
6. Jahrome Hughes
This is the time of year Jahrome Hughes really stands out. With so many Storm teammates away on Origin duty and somebody needed to step up and fill the void, it has been Hughes that has taken over.
Plenty had doubts over his ability as a #7 without Cameron Smith pulling the strings, but Hughes is out there ripping defences to pieces with his running game. He has broken the line with relative ease to register 14 line-breaks already this season - one more than Clint Gutherson and Brian To'o.
That's an incredible number for a halfback, with the 26-year-old adding another four to his tally in June along with three tries.
7. Ben Hunt
Nathan Cleary's time in Blues camp must be mentioned after the Panthers half claimed the #7 jersey in March, April and May. However, Ben Hunt's season so far - particularly after all of the overblown negative attention he has faced in recent years - deserves recognition.
He's back playing his best football and Paul Green's poor coaching for Queensland ended up a Dragons gain in June. Green didn't select Hunt for Game 1 which allowed him to orchestrate a 52-24 win over the Broncos in Round 13. Hunt then played a key role in the Dragons upsetting the Raiders in Round 15 through a try assist, three line breaks and 149 running metres.
The Dragons are exceeding expectations in 2021, and much of that comes down to Hunt's return to form.
8. James Fisher-Harris
James Fisher-Harris has landed in the Stats Insider Team of the Month for a third consecutive edition.
While Nathan Cleary's injury news is bad news for the Panthers, it does open the door for a run at the Dally M Medal for Fisher-Harris.
Dally M voters get a lot wrong. They do, however, love running metres and at least giving a point to the forward that runs for the most. Averaging 174 running metres per game throughout June, Fisher-Harris once again laid the platform for his backline to attack from.
I'll keep saying it: Fisher-Harris is the #1 prop in the world.
9. Brandon Smith
It's quite ridiculous that the Storm can have Harry Grant on Origin duty or injured throughout June and they still produce the #9 for the Team of the Month.
Brandon Smith is killing teams close to the line. Remarkably, after scoring in six of his last seven games, the Kiwi international is still managing to barge over from dummy half.
Hectic Cheese finished up with three tries, nine tackle breaks, three line breaks and two try assists in June.
10. Josh Papalii
Josh Papalii is back!
The Raiders prop has struggled at times this season. He removed himself from footy for a brief period before the judiciary recently removed him for a little bit more. Now, when the Raiders need him most, Papalii is dragging them up the field for 180metres per game in his last two. His five offloads have added some promising second-phase opportunities too.
While the Raiders aren't making the most of Papalii's yardage right now, he's putting them in positions to improve. If the Green Machine is to turn the key and begin accelerating towards finals football, it'll be Papalii in the driver's seat.
11. Ryan Matterson
Overshadowed by Isaiah Papali'i, Ryan Matterson produced a solid month of football.
He has stepped up with the ball to crack 100+ metres in two of his three games in June while also scoring in two of them. He isn't the ball-playing threat the Eels might be hoping for just yet, but he's getting there.
Defensively, Matterson completed 86 of his 88 attempted tackles to see the Eels concede just 26 points throughout June.
12. Isaiah Papali'i
Isaiah Papali’i ran for 1,209 metres and broke 21 tackles in 15 games for the Warriors in 2020.
He has run for 2,324 metres and broken 70 tackles in 15 games for the Eels in 2021.
His rise to becoming one of the most destructive back rowers in the NRL has been something else. Papali'i kept it going in June for 158.6 metres per game and a whopping 23 tackle breaks in three matches.
13. Dale Finucane
Dale Finucane has timed his rise in form well. Off-contract at the end of this season and currently negotiating with at least four clubs for 2022, the 29-year-old has provided his potential suitors with a decent highlights package.
He displayed his qualities as a ballplayer and a ball carrier when he ran for 156 metres, handed out a try assist and crashed over for a try in Round 15.
Finucane is one of the best middle forwards in the NRL and proved as much throughout June.
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