The NRL regular season is over and after 26 rounds, 17 players stood above their peers to be named in my 2016 NRL team of the year.
Fullback – James Tedesco
It seemed only injury could stop Tedesco this year. The Wests Tiger was one of the most dangerous players with ball in hand. His pace, support play and cover defence granted him NSW selection.
Wing – Jordan Rapana
One half of the Raiders’ lethal left edge, Rapana led the NRL in linebreaks in 2016. His thin frame and crafty footwork helped him finish second overall in try scoring.
Centre – Jarrod Croker
The NRL leading point scorer by a mile, Croker performed to a consistently high standard all year. Croker is just a smart footballer who excels in defence and can always sniff a try.
Centre – BJ Leilua
Leilua is the most difficult man to tackle in the NRL. The Raider always had the talent, but it was just a matter of being able to put all of his skills together. Leilua leads the competition in offloads, with his ability to fend off strongly making him the best centre in the NRL.
Wing – Josh Mansour
The Penrith winger was the number one player for metres gained during the regular season. Mansour is such a luxury to have as another foward, to start off sets, and also doubles as a very handy finsher.
Five-eighth – Corey Norman
He may have had a disastrous 2016 off the field, but on the field Norman was a bright spot in an otherwise horrible season for Parramatta. The five-eighth has slick hands, a willingness to take on the line and a long-range kicking game. He was leading Dally M voting before he was suspended. Next year, Norman can cement himself as the premier five-eighth in the NRL.
Halfback – Cooper Cronk
Cronk once again illustrated his precision as he helped guide Melbourne to the minor Premiership this season. Cronk led his team brilliantly, laying on tries and controlling matches with his kicking game.
Prop – Ryan James
James benefitted from his leadership role in a young Titans side. He showed his strength as a support player, breaking the record for the most tries by a prop in a year.
Hooker – Josh Hodgson
The favourite to take out this year’s Dally M Medal, Hodgson is the most creative and attacking hooker in the NRL. Much of the juggernaut that Canberra has become has plenty to do with his presence. Hodgson was injured during the Raiders’ semi final against Cronulla, and Canberra never looked the same in his absence.
Prop – Jesse Bromwich
The new member of the Storm’s big three, Bromwich is easily the NRL’s most skillful prop, with his ability to offload and fend. Bromwich averaged over 140 metres gained a game this year.
Second Row – Tyson Frizell
Frizell was a battering ram in 2016, who punched holes and remained stout in defence. He was the best player afield in the last two State of Origin games.
Second Row – Josh Papalii
Canberra’s Papalii was able to produce his best season to-date, protecting team-mate Aidan Sezer, while still remaining a damaging ball runner. He has became the leader of the Canberra pack. Papalii was also impressive for Australia and Queensland.
Lock – Jason Taumalolo
The best power foward in the game, who is just a force up the middle. Taumalolo had another cracking season, and others noticed too, as he was named the NRL Players Champion.