The Top 50 Players in the NRL (Part 2)

Filed in NRL, Top 50 by on October 5, 2012

This week we count down the top 25 players in the NRL. Without further ado, the top 25 players of 2012.

25. Alex Glenn (Brisbane, 50)

Without question one of the most underrated players in the game, the Broncos backrower is in the top 50 for the second straight year following another excellent season where he topped Brisbane's tryscoring list with 13 (leading all forwards) and was one of the few big names at the club to play up to his ability. He also finished behind only Tony Williams and Dave Taylor in tackle breaks by forwards. Glenn is the kind of player you build a team around.

24. Todd Carney (Cronulla, -)
Statistics don't do Todd Carney justice. The Sharks five-eighth set 12 tries up and scored four himself but it was the impact he had on Cronulla in his first season that was most impressive. A team that has struggled to attract legitimate class in recent years, Carney proved a real matchwinner, winning the match against the Warriors at Shark Park almost on his own. Carney wasn't the Sharks' best but he brought so much confidence and cohesion to the Sharks that he was close to the most valuable. 

23. Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers, -)
Touted as an Origin prospect earlier in the year, Woods turned in a fine second year where he again played every game for the Tigers. Early on, he was beastly and finished the year averaging 138 metres and 35 tackles a game, one of only two props to reach the 130/30 mark. He is not just an up-and-down type though, able to get an offload away or force a miss. This kid will be a star who will play 20 Tests.

22. Matthew Scott (North Queensland, 10)
Without question one of the top props in the NRL, Scott again turned in another quality season where he averaged 137 metres and 25 tackles a game while also being one of the best at the subtle offload. Didn't stand out as much because of the emergence of James Tamou but there are few more effective bookends in the premiership. The first prop selected for Queensland these days.

21. Brett Stewart (Manly, 40)
Managed to get through another season injury free and was again Manly's key player, the Eagles going just 3-3 in his absence this season despite five of those games coming against non-top eight sides. Over the last five years, Manly's win percentage is 25 per cent higher when Stewart plays. The man known as 'Snake' is critical to Manly's shape and contributed with 12 tries and 14 try assists this year, in elite company with Barba, Bowen, Slater and Inglis as the only fullbacks with double figure tries and try assists. Almost underappreciated these days.

20. Sam Burgess (South Sydney, -)
After an injury-ravaged 2011, Burgess bounced back to play 22 games including South Sydney's three finals games. Burgess was critical to Souths' success, clearly one of the most dynamic forwards in the game with a love of the big hit and a thirst for the tough stuff. Burgess finished eighth among forwards for tackle breaks and sixth for offloads and put up 127 metres a game. Is an elite talent who can wreck an opposition middle.

19. Sam Kasiano (Canterbury, -)
There wasn't a Bulldog on the roster who didn't improve under Des Hasler but it was big Sam Kasiano who exhibited the most improvement in a superb season that saw his unique skill-set put to proper use. Kasiano stripped much fitter this year and was close to the most skilled props in the game, often referred to as the biggest halfback in the premiership. Ranked second among props for offloads and was key to Canterbury's change of style.

18. Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers, 30)
Despite a turbulent year off the paddock that saw his mother die, being embroiled in a war of words with analyst Matthew Johns, being told he was not an Origin type player, becoming involved in a Twitter incident and playing a key role in the removal of Tim Sheens as Tigers coach, Farah had a quality year after a slow start. Made only 11 errors despite touching the ball more than any Tigers. Super reliable on a team where that trait is rare.

17. Greg Bird (Gold Coast, -)
Not usually a favourite of this column, Bird cut the errors and the rubbish out of his game this year and did what he does best: running the ball hard, tackling with conviction and offering some skill and versatility on the edges. In 17 showings, Bird made only 16 errors and gave away just five penalties while leading the Titans in metres gained and finishing second in tackle breaks per game. He started taking his rep form into club games this year. His most consistent season.

16. Issac Luke (South Sydney, 38)
The most dynamic attacking hooker in the NRL, Luke's average of 114 metres a game is 46 metres more per match than the second placed hooker, Cameron Smith. Luke also had 70 tackle breaks – despite being limited to just 19 regular season games – while no other hooker had over 50. He still has defensive and disciplinary issues but as a pure attacking weapon, he is unique. Has the raw skills to be the best player in the NRL.

15. Josh Reynolds (Canterbury, -)
Before Des Hasler arrived, it looked like Reynolds would be the NSW Cup hooker. The former Manly boss immediately identified Reynolds as a No.6 and the local junior has just gone from strength-to-strength and is being mooted as the Blues' pivot next year, after finishing fifth in the Dally M Medal count. His numbers were superb: 19 try assists, 10 tries, 85 tackle breaks and 39 offloads, the latter three top four among halves. As tenacious and competitive as anyone in the NRL.

14. James Tamou (North Queensland, -)
Started making waves in 2011 and really emerged in 2012 as a bolter Origin and Australian representative. Was the only prop to make a 140 metres a game, averaging an incredible 151, while busting 74 tackles and offloading 37 times. Laid the platform for Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen to dominate in an exceptional year for the big-bodied Cowboy.

13. Nate Myles (Gold Coast, -)
Many, this author included, thought Nate Myles' move to the Gold Coast was bound to be a disaster, the party boy now on the party strip. But just the opposite happened. Myles seemed to mature and despite a string of injuries battled on gamely to win the Dally M Second Rower of the Year and the Wally Lewis Medal in what was a superb year. Never gave an inch in the Titans' middle, making 36 tackles and 120 metres a game. Came to personify smash-mouth football this year.

12. Shaun Fensom (Canberra, 24)
The darling of fantasy football owners, Fensom has always been a stout defensive workhorse and that did not change in his fourth season in the top grade, where he finished equal-second in tackles per game with 43. It was the improvement in his attacking game though that has seen him shoot up the rankings. Fensom made 106 yards per game and recorded 48 tackle breaks and 21 offloads with only Corey Parker doing the 100/40/40/20 quadrella. Should be one of the first players picked for NSW next year.

11. James Graham (Canterbury, *)
The big English prop certainly made an immediate impact in the NRL, being a key figure in the Bulldogs' resurgence despite starting only two games. Big and skilful, Graham is a throwback to yesteryear when props acted as key link-men and ball users, rather than just simple battering rams. Made 127 metres and 34 tackles a game but it was his unique style that made such a big impact in his first year in the NRL. Sadly, he will miss much of 2013 after being suspended for 12 games for chomping on Billy Slater's ear.

10. Jamie Lyon (Manly, 20)
There is a pretty sound argument that can be made for Jamie Lyon being the best centre to play premiership football since Mal Meninga. Manly once again went deep into September and much of it was on the back of Lyon's class. One of only two centres to have double figure tries and try assists (again), Lyon was part of the most threatening edge in league with the Stewart boys, Daly Cherry-Evans and David Williams. There isn't an element of rugby league that Lyon doesn't excel at.

9. Cameron Smith (Melbourne, 3)
Cameron Smith could not have achieved much more than he did in 2012, skippering the Storm to the premiership, the Kangaroos to Test glory and Queensland to a record seventh straight Origin series win. There is no question that he is a future Immortal. Smith simply doesn't have bad games and has done more than any other hooker in the long and stories history of the game.

8. Josh Morris (Canterbury, -)
It was a year of redemption for the Canterbury centre after a horror 2011 that saw him dropped to the NSW Cup. Morris was absolutely superb all season, without question the most dangerous centre in the game. Gone were his defensive deficiencies – he was arguably the Blues' best this year with his strong tackling and good reads – and his lapses in concentration. In its place was superb running, heavy tackling and full 80 minute performances. Morris scored 17 tries and made 87 tackle breaks in a brilliant showing.

7. Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland, 8)
There is just no questioning the class of JT, who was again one of the top players in the premiership. Thurston made the move to five-eighth and after a few early teething issues, was back to his usual self, putting on 23 tries in his 22 games. The Cowboys backline fired all year and it all went through Thurston. His leadership has become one of his great qualities.

6. Matt Bowen (North Queensland, 28)
The resurrection of Matt Bowen's career has been one of the great rugby league stories of the last two years. With his career looking shot after two serious knee injuries, Bowen struck back to be a top 30 player last year before this year moving to No.6 after some sizzling showings. Bowen finished second in the Dally M Medal and finished with a combined 36 tries/try assists. With 112 tackle breaks, Bowen had arguably the finest year of a very good career.

5. Billy Slater (Melbourne, 1)
If this list was chosen on the first half of the year, Slater would unquestionably have taken the No.1 slot for the second straight year. He was without peer before injury cut him down during the Origin period. A brilliant and totally complete player, when finding full fitness, the Storm custodian again became one of the most dangerous players in the premiership. He may well rate as the greatest fullback in league history.

4. Cooper Cronk (Melbourne, 5)
There is always talk of Melbourne's 'Big Three' but the assumption nearly always is that Cronk is third in the pecking order. Not in 2012. The most reliable and consistent half in the NRL, a thorough professional on every level, Cronk was the man that drove the Storm to their fourth title, deservedly winning the Clive Churchill Medal. He finished second in the NRL with 30 try assists and had the best kicking game of any player in the comp. A real winner.

3. Paul Gallen (Cronulla, 2)
Paul Gallen is not in the same league as other forwards. Often called a machine, Gallen certainly isn't human. He again topped the NRL in metres made with an incredible 199 a game. To put that in perspective, that was 32 metres more than the second-placed Michael Gordon and 48 metres (or nearly 25 per cent) more than the second-placed forward. Despite playing only 15 games, he finished second in offloads. Gallen keeps going and going but everything he does has a touch of class to it. The best forward of his generation.

2. Greg Inglis (South Sydney, -)
The best thing to happen to Greg Inglis was Michael Maguire being appointed as Souths boss. Inglis dropped all his fat, started putting in on the track and had his most electric year as a first grader when being shifted to fullback after two rounds. Such was his brilliance, he led Souths to a top four finish and their first finals win in 26 years. Given the freedom at the back, Inglis was superb, making 142 metres, finishing second in tackle breaks with 137 and combining for 25 tries/try assists. Probably the most naturally gifted footballer in the NRL.

1. Ben Barba (Canterbury, 37)
What a stellar season the Canterbury No.1 had, without question the top player in the premiership in 2012. After some shakes in 2011, Barba was worked as hard as he had ever been by Hasler and it reaped wonderful rewards. Barba's attack has never been in question and it wasn't this year where he topped the tryscoring tally with 21 tries and added 22 try assists to boot. Elusive as sin, breaking 169 tackles, Barba was scintillating, rising to the most popular player in the game as quickly as he can scoot 100 metres. It was his defensive work that most impressed though, saving some tries from impossible positions. There is no doubt 2012 was the year of Benny Barba.

Tune into Making The Nut next week to see the top 25 players of 2012.

Thanks to NRL Stats for the use of their numbers – it really is appreciated.

PLAYER 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Aaron Woods         23
Adam Reynolds         41
Aiden Tolman       18 29
Akuila Uate     23 11 26
Alan Tongue 33        
Alex Glenn       50 25
Andrew Ryan 46 39      
Anthony Laffranchi 2 21 21    
Anthony Watmough 18 11      
Ashley Harrison     46 39  
Ben Barba       37 1
Ben Creagh 47 14      
Ben Hannant 28 8   19  
Ben Matulino         36
Benji Marshall   15 14 4 27
Billy Slater 3 4 12 1 5
Braith Anasta 36   40    
Brent Kite 22        
Brent Tate         32
Brett Finch 50        
Brett Kimmorley   3      
Brett Morris   30 45   28
Brett Stewart 17     40 21
Bryce Gibbs          40
Cameron Smith 4 13 39 3 9
Chris Heighington 14   43 34  
Chris Houston       25  
Chris Sandow       27  
Colin Best 39        
Cooper Cronk 12 42 34 5 4
Corey Parker   25 29 6 39
Craig Fitzgibbon 19 45      
Dallas Johnson 16 44      
Daly Cherry-Evans       14 47
Daniel Mortimer   43      
Danny Buderus 40        
Darius Boyd     6 13  
Darren Lockyer 31 50 27 15  
David Shillington     11    
David Stagg   5 35    
Dean Young     38    
Feleti Mateo 10     47 50
Fuifui Moimoi       44  
Gareth Ellis   34 7 17  
Gareth Widdop       12  
Gavin Cooper         49
Glenn Stewart 9 26   7 30
Greg Bird         17
Greg Inglis 21 7     2
Israel Folau 15 38      
Issac Luke     19 38 16
Jake Friend       32  
James Graham         11
James Maloney       29  
James Tamou         14
Jamie Lyon 25 31 9 20 10
Jamie Soward   1 10 31  
Jarrod Mullen 37        
Jarrod Mullen   46      
Jarryd Hayne   2 49 48 35
Jason Nightingale       41 34
Jeff Lima 27        
Joel Monaghan 43        
Joel Thompson     50    
John Sutton 29 33      
Johnathan Thurston 30 9   8 7
Josh Dugan   47 2   33
Josh Hoffman       23  
Josh McCrone         43
Josh McGuire         44
Josh Morris   20     8
Josh Reynolds         15
Justin Hodges         42
Justin Poore   35      
Kade Snowden     31    
Karmichael Hunt 35 16      
Kevin Kingston     22    
Kevin Locke       22  
Kieran Foran       9  
Kurt Gidley 1 23 13 26  
Lachlan Coote     20    
Lance Hohaia     47    
Liam Fulton     48   48
Luke Bailey   32 26 16  
Luke Douglas 42 24   42  
Luke Lewis   29 11    
Luke Patten   27      
Luke Stuart   49      
Manu Vatuvei   48 41    
Mark Minichiello 20        
Matt Bowen       28 6
Matt Gillett     36    
Matt Orford 5        
Matthew Scott     42 10 22
Michael Crocker 44        
Michael Ennis 38 18      
Michael Gordon     32 21  
Michael Jennings   22      
Michael Weyman     25    
Micheal Luck       43  
Mitchell Pearce     24    
Nate Myles     16   13
Nathan Cayless 45        
Nathan Friend 32 40 15    
Nathan Gardner     37    
Nathan Hindmarsh 13 12 18 36  
Nathan Merritt       49  
Paul Gallen 6 19 5 2 3
Petero Civoniceva 8 36 44    
Ray Cashmere 23        
Robbie Farah 24 10 4 30 18
Roy Asotasi 34        
Ryan Hoffman         46
Sam Burgess     33   20
Sam Kasiano         19
Sam Thaiday 41 37 17 33  
Scott Prince 7 6 1   38
Shaun Fensom       24 12
Shaun Johnson       35 45
Shaun Kenny-Dowall     28    
Simon Mannering 48     46  
Steve Price 26        
Taniela Tuiaki   28      
Terry Campese 11 41 30    
Tim Grant         37
Todd Carney     3   24
Trent Merrin       45 31
Zeb Taia 49 17      

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Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Do you support the Bulldogs? Ridiculous. I thought you could watch a game and see who the players gravitate aroung, who pushes the games in directions. Takes a lot more then what Barba does to be the games best player. Smith, closely followed by Thurston. Proving to be more and more of a turkey Tedeschi.