NRL 2021: Stats Insider's Team Of The Month - April
The calendar is being flicked over to May, so it's time to check in with the Stats Insider Team of the Month for April.
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. That is why you might see someone like Brett Morris, who had a great month of footy in June 2020 but played across three different positions, miss out on selection. Halves are also grouped into a single position for selection purposes.
So, who cracks it this month?
Stats Insider's Team of the Month (April, 2021)
1. Clint Gutherson
Clint Gutherson has become one of the best fullbacks in the NRL this season. While he has scored a try in each of his last five, including a double in Round 8, it's Gutherson's quick hands and ball-playing that have seen him take the next step in his career. He has seven try assists already this season and is well on his way to breaking his previous season-best of 17.
With six tries and six try assists in April, Gutherson is the in-form #1 in the NRL.
2. Brian To'o
Brian To'o has now made the Team of the Month in back-to-back months and is knocking on the door of a State of Origin jersey.
The destructive 22-year-old leads all players in yardage with a whopping 245.6 metres per game. His 96.1 post-contact metres per game leads the competition and is over 20 metres more than Ken Maumalo at second with 73.0 post-contact metres per game. Should that number stick, To'o will record the highest average in post-contact metres per game since at least 2013.
The Broncos of all teams did their best in limiting To'o in Round 6, but even then, he ran for 272 metres. He is a monster and it won't be a surprise to see him back here in a month from now.
3. Dane Gagai
He's a bit of a quiet achiever on South Sydney's left edge, but Dane Gagai is getting the recognition he deserves here. He is doing it all for Wayne Bennett and the Rabbitohs at the moment.
Gagai has crossed the line in each of their last three games while averaging 136 running metres per game this season. Defensively, he's playing a key role in one of the best left-edge defences in the NRL.
Without a contract for 2022, Gagai is putting himself in a good position to sign one more lengthy deal at 30-years old.
4. Matt Burton
He's a five-eighth by trade and signed by the Bulldogs to turn things around in the halves from 2022 onwards, but in the meantime, Matt Burton is playing like one of the best centres in the competition. He has scored a few tries and handed out a few try assists, but it's this try against the Raiders that really highlights his quality as a centre.
The way he moves before the ball and hits the gap is something 100-game centres can't even master. Burton may have found a home in the centres for the rest of the season with the way he's playing.
5. Maika Sivo
Maika Sivo is back, baby!
The big Fijian was slow to start this season. By his standards, anyway. But with six tries and 17 tackle breaks in the last three weeks, Sivo is back to his best and the Eels left edge is humming.
With Gutherson's hands out the back getting the ball wide, Sivo has a few more tries in him this season.
6. Jahrome Hughes
We don't need to worry about Jahrome Hughes as a halfback anymore...
Any thought that he would struggle without Cameron Smith pulling the strings at dummy half are gone with the Kiwi international playing the best football of his career. His running game has gone to another level. He tore the Warriors to shreds in Round 7 through four try assists, three line breaks and 112 running metres.
A late bloomer that was forced through three clubs before landing at the Storm, Hughes is a top tier #7 in 2021.
7. Nathan Cleary
Nathan Cleary is the key playmaker in the best team in the NRL and is unlikely to lose his spot in the Stats Insider Team of the Month at all this season.
He's touching the ball almost 70 times per game, pushing and pulling the defensive line around the field until he can release one of his seven try assists or six line-break assists this season.
Cleary's boot is doing plenty of damage through an NRL-high 531.8 kicking metres per game along with eight forced dropouts. Meanwhile, his current 111 running metres per game is a career-high.
April was just another month for Cleary as he continues to develop and stamp his claim as the best #7 in the world.
8. Payne Haas
Payne Haas is ridiculous.
Even while playing in one of the worst teams in the NRL, the 21-year-old is still shining through his 179 running metres per game. His acceleration never slows despite playing for 60 minutes a week and averaging 35.2 tackles per game.
He is propping up the Broncos middle and they fall to pieces without him on the field. The Broncos are often in games if not leading at the end of his first shift but go backwards while he sits on the bench.
Haas hasn't been talked about quite like he was in 2019. Still, he is a Top 5 prop and only getting better as the season goes on.
9. Damien Cook
The usual talking heads in the game gave Damien Cook a bake after the first three rounds of the season. While "running the ball more" isn't the answer to every struggling hooker and half, Cook averaged 79.4 running metres per game in April.
Cook hasn't registered a try or try assist this month, but he is seeing players on the ground and taking the opportunities on offer. His darts out of dummy half are putting the defensive line under pressure and opening up try-scoring opportunities out wide.
We're not about to say Cook is back to his best, but he's getting there.
10. James Fisher-Harris
We have a new #1 prop in the game.
James Fisher-Harris is denting the defensive line with 168.6 running metres and 65.6 post-contact metres. Coming back the other way, the big Kiwi is making 28.9 tackles per game. However, it's his support play and ball-playing that sets him apart from the rest. Fisher-Harris doesn't stop moving. Even without the ball, he is taking the attention of the defence by supporting the ball carrier. With it, defences can't cave given his ability to shift the ball wide.
Fisher-Harris is the perfect prop package and repeatedly proved as much throughout April.
11. Isaiah Papali'i
Look away, Warriors fans...
Isaiah Papali'i has added five tries to all of this in 2021 already.
12. David Fifita
David Fifita is an incredible athlete.
He has scored nine tries already this season and scored two hat tricks in April alone. His 6.8 tackle breaks per game is the third-most in the NRL. But Fifita's dominance is almost an issue for the Titans given how much they rely on him in attack. When he isn't dusting off defenders and crashing over the line, the Titans struggle to score.
He's not going to do it every week, and "consistency" will be something mentioned throughout his whole career, but if he can string games together as he has done in April, he will be a regular here in 2021 and beyond.
13. Tyrone Peachey
If you talked to anybody in rugby league in 2019 and told them Tyrone Peachey would make the Team of the Month as a lock in April 2021, they would have laughed their way out of the room.
The 183cm and 93kg 29-year-old has found a home at lock forward. The position has developed and requires more ball-playing than in previous years, which plays perfectly into Peachey's playing style. He has added 123.8 running metres per game in April along with two tries and a try assist.
After moving clubs and positions throughout his whole career, who would have thought Peachey's best spot is in the #13 jersey?
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