My ultimate 17

I have been mulling a question in my head for a while lately, and the question is “who would be in my best 17 right now (plus a bench) if I were to pick a team?”

With a lot of back and forth, I had to set myself some ground rules.

1. The player must have at least played this position before.

2. The player must currently be playing in the NRL and no other form of competition (sorry SBW).

3. There is no cap in this, it is free rein (wow, to feel like Nick Politis!).

4. Pick your best and live with no regrets.

To reiterate this, I know a lot of comments will be like “nah I would’ve picked…” Or “I don’t think he is better than…” – please remember the title; it is my top 17, my own personal preference. Feel free in the comments to write your ultimate 17 as well.

Enough chatter from me, let’s break down who I would have in my ultimate team of 17.

1. James Tedesco
I went on record with an article saying I don’t think he is the best player in the competition at the moment. I stand by that, however, I did not say he wasn’t the best fullback in the competition. Although I do like Tommy T’s fullback traits better, it is Teddy for mine at number one (further explanation coming).

2. Josh Addo-Carr (left side)
It could be a debatable selection, but let me justify it. He is known for his speed, undoubtedly, but very rarely is Joshy out of position, or does he miss a tackle. Very small in stature, he seems to be very strong defensively wrapping up his man and is very safe with reading options on defence.

His speed does get him out of a lot of situations which would prove costly, but his overall safety is what I enjoy. He is focused, with no distractions of Sydney while he’s in Melbourne, which is probably allowing him to play to his capabilities, but I fear the day he moves back to Sydney and outside things may disturb his form.

3. Kotoni Staggs (right side)
This kid is special. I really, really enjoy watching him play. He plays with controlled aggression and is a fairly decent goal kicker as well. When you think of centres, I know the names Latrell Mitchell, Josh Morris, Jarrod Croker and Michael Jennings may jump out at you, but I daresay overall not many are better than this man.

His performance against the Sharks in a losing side will back my claims.

4. Joseph Manu (left side)
Now the man they all say is the best centre has to take up my other side. Great defensively and even more skilled offensively, Manu is the whole package.

In a system designed to give centres the early ball, rather than being used as crash dummies, Manu thrives with the early ball and possesses a wicked offload to match. A must-have in top teams.

5. Tom Trbojevic (right side)
To go against the speed on my other side, I need a noted leaper, defensive specialist and someone to bring the ball back with vigour. Enter Tommy Turbo. He and Staggs would create havoc on the right flank against any opposition and arguably a better fullback than the one I chose.

An absolute must-have, whether at fullback, centre or in my desired choice, on the wing.

Tom Trbojevic runs the ball

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

6. Cameron Munster (left side)
Speaks for itself, really. A strong runner of the ball and plays what is in front of him as well as anyone else in the competition. He will control the left side of my team perfectly and is strong on defence. Munster is a must.

7. Luke Keary (right side)
He currently controls the left side for his club, but can easily slot on the right side as shown and run it just as flawlessly. I will have him as my key man, although he is noted as a five-eight, is an out-and-out halfback in his style of play. The best half in the competition at the moment.

8. David Klemmer
I need two types of props. I need one who will lead, take the dirty hit-ups we need when we are on the back foot and a bit of mongrel. Big Klemmer is my man.

9. Cameron Smith (captain)
Was there any doubt? The best player in the competition. The best nine still in the game, even after all of these years. He will captain my side as well and steer them around when they need to be.

He will be my goal kicker and take all forms of kicking (dropouts and kicks for touch). The first name down on my list.

10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho
I explained what I needed in one of my props. This is what I need in my second prop. A little bit of footwork, a strong offload game, a bit of finesse about them, but not scared to do the tough yards as well.

That is Taukeiaho to a tee. One of the fancier props in the game, but his impact is fierce. He is a post-contact metre-eating beast. Not a shabby goalkicker as well.

11. Boyd Cordner (right side)
He could be out ten weeks in a row for a big injury, but if there was a game on the line, Cordner will always give you his best. He has been my favourite second-rower for a long time and I love the way he plays. He generally plays on the left side with Keary, but I will move him to the right, funnily enough with Keary to complete the right side combo.

He takes the runs no one wants to, runs perfect lines off his half, is strong in defence and is as good a leader as anyone else. He is a must for me as in his prime he was undoubtedly the best second row in the comp.

12. Wade Graham (left side)
A second-row who can kick as well as a half? Rare, but I have him here in Graham. HE will go side by side with Munster as a genuine second-man kicking option if Munster is caught in the line of play.

His kicking ability would prove even more valuable with Addo-Carr chasing them.

13. Jason Taumalolo
wQo else? There are genuinely some great 13s, it’s just that they all pale in comparison to Taumalolo. He will complete my pack in the middle with his tackle-breaking ability and his general presence in the game. He plays similarly to Taukeiaho and the two of them together will be a dream for any coach (just ask the Tongan coach).

The perfect way to finish out my starting pack.

Jason Taumalolo

(Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

14. Ryan Papenhuyzen
Only just. I looked at a number of players here. Kalyn Ponga, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Mitchell Moses, even Nathan Cleary – overall it was Papenhuyzen’s toughness that won his selection here. Defensively, he is better than Ponga and RTS at fullback and definitely stronger than the two halves mentioned.

He clocks up similar distance travelled on average to RTS, but would probably lose to Cleary in that battle. His runs made are far superior to the other four and his footwork is only behind the two fullbacks. He takes more middle-based runs than some forwards in the competition, has the work rate to compete, the speed to burn tiring forwards and the skills to be a real havoc coming off the bench.

He can play multiple positions given his skillset.

15. Jake Trbojevic
He plays lock for his club and plays in the middle the entire game. The best fundamentally sound defender in the competition, there is not much of him, but he holds his own with passion and determination. He would slot right into the middle for me off the bench and would bring in the combination with his brother.

He is a tireless worker and the type of person you want in your side. His style of play negated Dale Finucane in this team, which is hard to do, as I am a Finucane fan.

16. Viliame Kikau
He destroys teams on the left side for his club team. I would need him to play more minutes in the middle to give Taumalolo a break. More effective runs, a little more defence, the more Kikau the better I say. An absolute game-breaker and can shred tackles like no other forward.

17. Josh Papalii
So hotly contested. So many names to pick from: Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson, Jai Arrow, Andrew Fifita, James Fisher-Harris, Cameron Murray, and so on.

I ultimately went with Big Papa for his known experience of coming off the bench in his early years for QLD and keeping the same spark and excitement in his work rate. So many stars that play bench roles sometimes lack the injection they are meant to have, because they are so used to starting and can’t find the rhythm.

Papa on his day is the best prop in the competition and will provide strong 20-minute spurts for me, with all his experience and will create a strong bench middle pairing with Jake Turbo. He plays similarly to Paulo without the ball-playing ability, but for this role, I want pure grunt.

Jake Trbojevic covers my ball playing for my bench forward and Kikau is my x-factor forward.

There you have it. If I could, this would be my ultimate 17, all for my own personal reasons. They may not be the best 17, but this is who I would want on my roster.

Drop a team in the comments and get selecting.

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