Patrick Ah Van is only 20. There's not too many running around at his age with 39 first grade games. He has some issues, but he's developing. Quite frankly, I thought he was terrific against Newcastle. That game was only what 5-6 weeks ago? Pat has been going quite well in the 20s, (his actual age grade), taking a distinct leadership role in that side either playing centre, or at times harrassing in the centre of the park as a hard tackling backrower. Personally, I think he'll evolve into a centre or a fullback.
Malo Solomona has started very well, but if I remember correctly, people were very satisfied with the starts Ah Van and even Misi Taulapapa made on the wing.
Cooper Vuna has admitted in the press that he's performed a lot better at Newcastle because he's trained a lot more professionally. He has said he needed the jolt of being out of the comfort zone to perform.
Matrix, Sonny Fai had quite a few indifferent starts before consolidated over the past few weeks. Russell Packer who people have been calling out for really struggled with the top end intensity. Ben Matulino still has a couple of issues to work on. Hell, I remember when people were raving about a young Sam Rapira... he still has some things to work on. Simon Mannering, I remember people saying we've got a Sonny Bill Williams in our club and we're making him play for the Orcas. Simon is a lot of things, but he's not SBW. He's a completely different style of player. The point is the jump from the lower grades to first grade is particularly intense. Also, last year the club ran 4th, this year 11th. One person hit the nail on the head in another thread - what's the difference? Injuries. Last year we were able to play our top side pretty much throughout the season.
Of course, still Cleary is getting chastised over player's 'not getting a chance', but for the love of god, Rapira, Tuimavave, Lauaki, Ah Van, Matulino, Mannering, Vatuvei, Ropati, Fai, Matulino... they're all still young blokes, some are still struggling with the intensity of first grade, but for the most part Cleary has given them good opportunities. He's tried combining them with experienced blokes, and he's got chastised for it. Locke, O'Regan, Ah Mau
, Poching, and a few others all have the possibilities of going into first grade. The coach isn't stopping it, he's provided opportunities, if they take them, they take them. Is it their time yet? Only Iro, the players and Cleary truly know that.