James Tedesco has sprung a surprise by outpolling Cameron Smith to be named the Rugby League Players’ Association player of the year.
The Wests Tigers fullback was named the best player by his peers in a shock result, beating finalists Smith, 2016 winner North Queensland’s James Taumalolo, Sam Burgess, Nathan Cleary, Tom Trbojevic and Gareth Widdop on Tuesday night.
Despite his side failing to make the finals, Tedesco was announced as the winner of the game’s second most prestigious individual award at the awards night at The Star in Sydney.
Smith, who last weekend passed Darren Lockyer’s all-time most games record when he ran out for his 356th match, was considered a shoo-in.
Smith is an unbackable $1.08 favourite with some bookies for the Dally M which will be announced in grand final week
The award voting system involves all players selecting their top three players from the opposition after each match.
Tedesco joins an illustrious winners’ list which includes Johnathan Thurston, Darius Boyd, Jarryd Hayne, Braith Anasta, Petero Civoniceva, Matt Bowen and Danny Buderus.
During the regular season Tedesco topped the league for tackle busts (153) and was seventh for run metres (163m per game).
Tedesco in May announced he would be moving to the Roosters in 2018, joining star players Aaron Woods and Mitchell Moses in exiting the Tigers.
Smith was named Australian representative player of the year and included in the RLPA team of the year while Canberra’s Nick Cotric was awarded rookie of the year.
RLPA team of the year
1. James Tedesco (Wests Tigers), 2. Jordan Rapana (Canberra), 3. Konrad Hurrell (Gold Coast), 4. Dane Gagai (Newcastle), 5. David Nofoaluma (Wests Tigers), 6. Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra), 7. Nathan Cleary (Penrith), 8. Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers), 9. Cameron Smith (Melbourne), 10. David Klemmer (Canterbury), 11. Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland), 12. Wade Graham (Cronulla), 13. Sam Burgess (South Sydney).