After a breakout 2017 season, Michael Chee Kam took another huge step forward at Wests Tigers in 2018 as he continues to develop his role as a versatile edge forward.
Now 26, Chee Kam has long showed the talent and potential that made him such a star in the Holden Cup competition, but is now starting to show that consistently — season after season — in the top grade.
Having played 22 of a possible 24 games in 2017, Chee Kam again racked up 22 appearances in 2018 as he passed the 50-game mark of his career. However, his impact was certainly far greater this year, with a string of starting appearances paving the way for career highs in almost every statistical category.
Chee Kam's move in to the run-on side was met with a challenge from Coach Ivan Cleary to be prepared for additional workload and responsibility — one that was certainly met from the 26-year-old.
After the Round 17 bye, Chee Kam started in all but one game and was a huge part of Wests Tigers' late charge towards the finals series with his relentless running and deceptive strength close to the line.
Versatility has always been one of Chee Kam's greatest assets (having played a lot of centre in his younger days) and his ability to shift between the left and right edge with little fuss added plenty to the side.
With the pending arrival of Ryan Matterson, competition for spots will be high at Wests Tigers in 2019 — something which seemingly brought the very best out of Chee Kam in the season just gone.
WHAT STOOD OUT IN 2018
It's been mentioned above, but Chee Kam's consistency in his carries was on show throughout the year with the forward averaging more post contact metres per game than any other Wests Tigers forward. He became an international forward with his debut for Samoa, and you just get the feeling that with another full season under his belt, Chee Kam is really taking strides forward as a rugby league player. He finished as a finalist in both the club's Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year voting, and looks primed to build on that form again in 2019 as he seeks to keep his place in a competitive forward pack.
WHAT'S TO COME IN 2019
With the emergence of Luke Garner and the arrival of Ryan Matterson, Chee Kam will again find himself in a race for spots — something which seemed to bring the best out of him in 2018. What will be interesting is as to what side of the field he finds himself on, and what role he will play throughout the year. Both Matterson and co-captain Chris Lawrence are viewed as 80-minute edge forwards; whether that ends up being the case or not still remains to be seen. What is for sure is that, just as it was in 2018, Cleary will look to use the full squad throughout the year and let the competition for spots bring out the best in everyone.
MILESTONES AND ACHIEVEMENTS
50 NRL Games — Round 21 vs. Newcastle Knights, McDonald Jones Stadium (03/08/18)
International Debut — Samoa vs. Tonga, Pacific Test, Campbelltown Sports Stadium
Nominated for Wests Tigers NRL Player of the Year (Kelly-Barnes) Award
Nominated for Wests Tigers NRL Players' Player Award