NRL 2021: Stats Insider's Team Of The Month - July
The calendar has flicked over to August, so it's time to check in with the Stats Insider Team of the Month for July.
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 (July, 2021)
1. Tom Trbojevic
Tom Trbojevic's outrageous form has continued into July. He needed just three games to feature in the Team of the Month, finishing up with seven tries and four try assists along with 258 running metres per game. His influence on the Sea Eagles attack is like nothing we've ever seen before.
He's the best player in rugby league right now and his form throughout July has proven that even further. You can't rule the Sea Eagles out as potential premiers when their fullback is playing like this.
2. Alex Johnston
Alex Johnston has scored 15 tries in his last six games...
Seven of those came in July before he was ruled out for Round 19 and 20 due to injury. He doesn't always need to do much to get over the line. Johnston's greatest skill is being in the right place at the right time to add the cherry on top of a silky South Sydney shift.
He leads all try scorers in the NRL with 24 tries this season and will take some chasing down for the Ken Irvine Medal even with another two weeks still to spend on the sideline.
3. Morgan Harper
Shoutout to Morgan Harper as one of the most unlikely of players to feature in a Team of the Month in 2021.
On the outer at the Bulldogs and released to join the Sea Eagles just under 12 months ago, the 22-year-old has taken his opportunity with both hands to cement himself in the first-grade side for the foreseeable future.
His four tries in July is just the start of it. Harper is an excellent defensive centre and not afraid to put in the hard yards in exit sets to average 107 running metres per game this year. Just 21 games into his NRL career, Harper has a big future. The sort that the Bulldogs could have nightmares about one day.
4. Justin Olam
The unofficial King of Papua New Guinea has continued to wreck opposing right-edge defences with his brutal carries of the football and even harder hits in defence.
He picked up three tries throughout July, but it's his carries of the ball to set up others that make him so dangerous at the moment. Averaging 144 metres per game across the month including a monster 224-metre effort in Round 18, Olam is a wrecking ball out wide.
His bromance with Josh Addo-Carr is one everybody will be sad to see come to an end when the latter leaves for the Bulldogs in 2022.
5. Brian To'o
Brian To'o is out until finals footy kicks off. With that news, the Panthers lose an NRL-high 248 running metres per game, 6.1 tackle breaks per game, and consistently strong starts to their yardage sets. The Samoan has a massive influence on how Penrith get up the field and they won't be able to replicate his yardage.
He had even bumped that average up to 267 running metres per game throughout July while also scoring two tries along the way. Few players in their current form are totally irreplaceable. To'o - with how he played in July - is one of those players.
6. Cody Walker
Cody Walker is unstoppable at the moment.
He tops the NRL in try assists with 27 already this season and looks set to beat the 33 Johnathan Thurston picked up in 2015. His form has contributed to South Sydney's eight-game winning streak in which they have averaged an incredible 43 points per game.
Walker assisted on 13 tries in July alone while scoring three himself along the way. Try assists don't include those he set up further in-field before somebody else made the final pass either.
Wayne Bennett must be counting his lucky stars that Brad Fittler snubbed Walker for a Blues spot. The 31-year-old has played himself into career-best form in the meantime.
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
In the aftermath of Queensland's poor showing in State of Origin and while playing in the shadow of Tom Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans has gone about his business rather quietly in July.
He scored a double against the Tigers in Round 19, but it's the six try assists in three games that stand out for the Manly captain. As Trbojevic piles up the attacking stats and fills the highlight reels, there is Cherry-Evans, pulling the strings.
8. Payne Haas
It can't be understated how impressive it is for a middle forward on a bad team to consistently be recognised as one of the best in his position.
Still only 21-years old, Haas averaged 188 running metres per game in July. He put in an especially destructive effort against the Panthers in Round 19 to register 14 tackle breaks. Remarkably, he has still found the energy to make 38.7 tackles per game in a side on the back foot more often than not.
Haas may have been given a license to release an offload again now too. He threw 25 in 17 games last season but just eight in 15 games so far in 2021. However, five of those offloads have come in his last four games.
9. Damien Cook
Damien Cook is getting back into the groove as the Rabbitohs middle lays a platform for the hooker to dominate behind. He is toying with opposition defence around the ruck. On the goal line, in particular. He helped Thomas Burgess score a double in Round 19 before finishing up with three try assists for the afternoon. Cook picked up another in Round 16 and chalked up 78.5 running metres per game in July.
It has been a while since we've seen one of those darting 50-metre runs from behind the ruck for Cook to score, but it doesn't feel far away.
10. Thomas Burgess
His double inside 18 minutes against the Warriors will have played a big part in his inclusion. So too will the fact James Fisher-Harris has missed time and failed to make the Team of the Month for the first time this season. Still, Thomas Burgess has played out one of the best seasons of his NRL career in 2021 and deserves a spot in the team for July.
His 164 running metres per game in July has contributed to his impressive 144 running metres per game in 2021 - just two metres short of his career-high set last season. Most notably, he has made just seven errors in 19 games after spilling the ball 15 times in 23 games last season.
11. Keaon Koloamatangi
He is lining up on the edge here but Keaon Koloamatangi has been all over the field for the Rabbitohs. Playing 80 minutes in four of the five games while spending a considerable amount of time in the middle of the field, Koloamatangi has played a huge role in South Sydney's recent success.
The 23-year-old has dominated in yardage for 175 running metres per game. Closer to the line, he is already one of the best hole runners in the NRL which has seen him score two tries and break three tackles per game. He has made 137 tackles for just three misses while defending in different parts of the field with different players around him to be a consistent part of a shakey Souths defence.
12. Haumole Olakau'atu
Where has Des Hasler been hiding Haumole Olakau'atu all of this time?
The 22-year-old has burst onto the scene in 2021 with his strong carries and general physicality proving tough for opposing defences to handle. With Tom Trbojevic attracting attention out the back, Olakau'atu has also found success as a hole runner.
With two tries, two try assists and 19 tackle breaks along with 112 running metres per game in July, Olakau'atu finds himself in the first of many TOTM's to come in his exciting young career.
13. Jason Taumalolo
Jason Taumalolo is no stranger to this spot.
The Tongan international is still one of the NRL's best middle forwards, even in a 'down year'.
Taumalolo's 157 metres per game this year is way down on his 207 metres per game last season, but he is starting to develop some consistency with efforts of 188 metres, 164 metres and 174 metres in July.
Interestingly, Todd Payten has named Taumalolo on the edge for Round 21. Will we see the Cowboys forward feature here in a new position next month?
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