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The Under-Rated Go Head to Head

Jack Novak

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Canterbury Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman faces off against Manly Sea Eagles front rower Brenton Lawrence this Friday night.

Two of the most under-rated front rowers in the NRL, Aiden Tolman and Brenton Lawrence are considered by many to be Origin quality players.

Tolman’s been on the cusp of NSW selection ever since he burst onto the scene with the Melbourne Storm back in Round 6, 2008. He isn’t the biggest prop in the competition, or even his club side of Cantberbury.

His front row partner Sam Kasiano who tips the scales at 130kg and stands at 197cm tall dwarfs Tolman’s 183cm and 103kg frame, yet Tolman’s statistics speak for themselves.

With 139 career first grade games, Tolman knows how to achieve great numbers. He currently averages 14 hit-ups for 147m and 31 tackles per game, and he knows his side will have to bring their very best if they are to stop a red-hot manly.

“It’s going to be a tough game. It’s around Origin time again so both teams are missing their players. Whenever you play Manly its grind football, you ‘gotta’ make sure you get in their early and try and get on top because that’s what they want to do,” said Tolman.

Tolman doesn’t often receive the accolades that his teammates do, but he has won back-to-back Coaches’ Awards in 2012 and 2013. He’s also represented Country Origin 3 times and is considered among the top props in NSW.

The man he will go up against on Friday night, Brenton Lawrence, has a very similar rugby league story to Tolman. Lawrence was born in Mackay, QLD and is 4cm taller than his opposing prop and 3 kg heavier.

One of the fastest props in the game, ‘BJ’ is another quiet achiever in the NRL’s front row department. A little less experienced than Tolman, BJ debuted for the Gold Coast Titans back in Round 16, 2011 and has gone on to play 59 first grade games. He stayed in QLD for two seasons before linking up with Manly in 2013.

Lawrence played 27 games for the Eagles last year, making it all the way to the Grand Final. With an average of 9 hit-ups for 98m and 31 tackles per game, BJ has a “no nonsense” approach similar to Tolman.

He’s been considered a chance for QLD Origin selection throughout the year; the Maroons clearly lack quality front rowers and have only just re-ignited the Origin careers of Jacob Lilyman and David Taylor.

The eighth immortal Andrew Johns and 4-time premiership winning halfback Peter Sterling, have both expressed their praise of Lawrence on various rugby league shows, even going as far as to suggest he’s ready for an Origin call up.