Semi Radradra is the most prolific National Rugby League try scorer since Nathan Blacklock put the New South Wales town of Tingha on the map at the turn of the century and he is the logical bet at favourite odds of +700 with Bet365 and PaddyPower to take out this term’s individual race.
Radradra was a latecomer to professional rugby league; he played rugby union and worked as a miner in his native Fiji before Parramatta’s recruitment team spotted him and signed him to the Eels. Radradra made his National Rugby League bow in 2013 and, while it took him until his third appearance to score a try at the highest level, he has more than made up for lost time over the last two and a half campaigns.
Five tries in seven National Rugby League matches – six of which Parramatta lost – at the tail end of the 2013 season marked out Radradra as a sophomore to watch in 2014 and he did not let down anyone, crossing for 19 tries in his 24 games for the Eels. Only Radradra’s Parramatta teammate, Jarryd Hayne, scored more tries during the 2014 National Rugby League regular season than the novice winger, with Hayne’s tally of 20 and Radradra’s total of 19 remarkable given that the Eels finished 10th on the 16-side ladder.
Hayne quit Parramatta last year to try his hand at American football, signing with San Francisco and making his National Football League debut to prove millions of doubters wrong. Hayne’s departure meant that Radradra became Parramatta’s primary attacking weapon and, even though he missed a fair chunk of the 2015 National Rugby League competition, he ensured that the Eels supplied the regular season’s leading try scorer for the second consecutive year, putting the finishing touches to 24 tries. Radradra played just 18 of Parramatta’s 24 National Rugby League regular season games yet he ended up two tries ahead of North Queensland’s Curtis Rona and another five tries in front of three other players.
Blacklock (1999, 2000 and 2001) and Ben Barba (2011 tied with Nathan Merritt and 2012 on his own) are the only men to have been the National Rugby League’s top try scorer in back to back seasons since the tournament came into existence in the late 1990s. Radradra has the potential to surpass even the stunning achievements of Blacklock in the coming years, particularly if Parramatta awakes from its slumber and makes a stab at challenging for National Rugby League honours – the Eels are one of the biggest clubs in the competition but they have not won a premiership since 1986, they have not qualified for a final series since 2009 and they have collected two wooden spoons in the last four seasons.
Parramatta is a work in progress and one does not expect to see the Eels feature prominently at the business end of the campaign. However, Parramatta does look like it is heading in the right direction and the Eels have done some smart business in the transfer market, acquiring New Zealand five-eighth Kieran Foran and Australia centre Michael Jennings. Foran and Jennings starred on the left side for Manly and Sydney respectively in last year’s National Rugby League and there are no prizes for guessing on which flank Radradra lines up for Parramatta – he is the most likely beneficiary of Foran and Jennings working their magic.
Two months out of action could not stop Radradra being the National Rugby League’s leading try scorer last season and, with all due respect to Corey Norman and Brad Takairangi, they are not in the same category as Foran and Jennings. Bookmakers have installed Radradra as the National Rugby League top try scorer favourite but their odds are not sufficiently low – basically, he will go very close to winning it provided that he does not get hurt. One cannot help thinking that odds of +300 would be more appropriate and even they could end up looking like a huge bargain.
The National Rugby League competition will kick off on Thursday 3 March when Radradra’s Parramatta hosts Brisbane, with the final round of the regular season on Sunday 4 September. Only the National Rugby League regular season counts so everyone is competing on a level playing field.
Semi Radradra NRL top try scorer
Starts 3rd March
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