NRL MVP Index: Queensland’s new big three revealed
Queensland great Billy Moore says The Sunshine State engine rooms will be hard to contain in 2021 and the NRL MVP Index agrees.
Haas topped the list with an average of 76.79 per game, the best of any forward and in the league and the third best of any player.
Taumalolo wasn't far behind with 76.67 while new Titans recruit Fa'suamaleaui finished fifth with an average of 74.09, albeit from a smaller sample size after he started just five matches. But the Gympie giant's barnstorming Origin series and imposing trial form showed he's ready to join Haas and Taumalolo as one of the NRL's top middle forwards.
If each of the three big units play to their potential, all three Queensland clubs are sure to improve after each missed the finals in 2020.
"It's fantastic to have those three playing in Queensland when you look at their respective clubs," Moore said of the big men.
"Look at Taumalolo - he's re-written the standards and he is the benchmark. Defensive structures seemingly can't contain him and he's going to get roughly 200 metres a game.
"I think Tino is the Taumalolo heir apparent, just by looking at his trial match form, his Origin games and playing for Melbourne last year.
"And Haas looked like he redefined front row play. It should almost be illegal being that big and having that motor.
"On form, the better pack for me would be the Cowboys because they've got a couple of young back-rowers who will want to rip and tear."
Penrith's Isaah Yeo (73.7), Canberra enforcer Josh Papalii (72.06), Sydney Rooster Siosiua Taukeiaho (71.56), Newcastle's David Klemmer (71.37) and Parramatta's Junior Paulo (70.99) round out an impressive top 10.
JAKE'S TURBO STALL
One of the real shocks the NRL MVP Index threw out concerned Manly star Jake Trbojevic.
The New South Wales and Australian lock was one of the Sea Eagles' few constants in an inconsistent season in 2020.
But he finished 25th in the MVP Index standings for middle forwards, averaging 68.14, putting him below the likes of Patrick Carrigan and Aiden Tolman.
The reason for Trbojevic's drop can be traced back to a few factors. Firstly, with the Sea Eagles losing his brother, Tom, as part of a raft of injuries, Trbojevic was forced to play a different role.
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As a result, the Manly forward just didn't get through enough metres in attack.
Trbojevic is no one-dimensional battering ram, with his passing game in the middle of the field and ability to create from first receiver forming a crucial part of Manly's attack.
But he averaged just 83 running metres per game last year, a career low.
With the speed of the game set to increase in 2021 due to the new rules, Trbojevic will be one to watch as his mobility and footwork will still make him a dangerous weapon when he takes on the line.
Churning through more carries is sure to be a focus this year, especially with the departure of star forward Addin Fonua-Blake to the Warriors.
FAULTY TWIN TOWERS
The other surprise revelations from the middles in the MVP Index was the low ratings for experienced pair Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Christian Welch.
The pair finished 57th and 58th respectively with averages around 63.
Balmain front-row legend Steve Roach rates Roosters enforcer Waerea-Hargreaves as one of the best props in the game, while Welch was integral in helping Melbourne to the 2020 grand final win.
But the pair both do a lot of work off the ball in efforts not quantifiable in regular stats.
North Queensland's Jordan McLean is another prop whose 2020 efforts were shown to be disappointing.
The Cowboys forward had an MVP Index of 61.9 from his 15 games as a starting prop, highlighting the need for him to be more productive if the Cowboys are to drag themselves away from the bottom of the ladder and challenge for the top eight.
NRL'S MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER
When it comes to the most underrated player in the NRL there's one standout and it's not even close but Warriors forward Tohu Harris shouldn't be flying under the radar any longer.
Harris evenly split his 20 matches last year between lock and second row last year and finished with the third best average MVP Index of any middle with 75.91.
His work on the edge was just as strong, where he finished with the tenth best average in the league at 68.6.
Along with Brett Morris, Harris was one of the only players in the competition to finish in the top 10 in two different positions.
The Kiwi international has always been a strong ball-carrier dating back to his Melbourne days and that still shines through when he's parked on an edge.
But when Harris switches to the middle allows him to use his passing skills from first receiver in the style of Victor Radley or Cameron Murray.
Essentially, with most NRL sides being forced to choose between a yardage or a creative lock, Harris gives the Warriors the best of both worlds.
"I really enjoy the middle, but it'll be a bit the same this year with switching between the two," Harris said.
"I enjoyed staying busy, that's what I like about it, and I kept asking to spend more time there.
"This year we have a few guys who pass the ball in the middle and that spreads the load, it makes us a bit more unpredictable when guys use their skill and it's not just me doing it."
Originally published as NRL MVP Index: Queensland's new big three revealed