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The Roar’s top 50 NRL players for 2018: 20-11

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert


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    Shaun Johnson is one of the game's elite players. (AAP Image/David Rowland)

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    Today The Roar continues its countdown of the top 50 NRL players with 20 through to 11.

    Compiling my top 50 was exceptionally difficult so it has been fascinating to see how my list, combined with the list of the other experts, has turned out. Suffice to say after seeing the results, it’s clear that I missed a couple of players – and that other rugby league experts think much higher of Blake Ferguson and Darius Boyd than I do.

    So here’s the next instalment of The Roar’s top 50 players. How many of them make your list?

    20: Wade Graham
    Graham can defend with force, run great lines on the edge, make a hit up five metres off his line, and bend the defence back – all while having the skills of a half, with a great kicking game and ball-playing ability.

    In 2018, Graham needs to demand the ball more and take some pressure off his new left-edge half, Matt Moylan.

    Expect to see him starting in a Blues jersey.

    Wade Graham of the NSW Blues takes the ball up during Game 1

    19: Josh Hodgson
    The crafty dummy half set the NRL alight in 2016 with his ability to create opportunities for himself and his array of dangerous support players.

    Hodgson would have been hoping to have a big 2018 but his plans have been affected significantly on the back of an ACL tear during the World Cup. He will be hoping the Raiders are still in finals contention when he returns towards the middle of the year.

    18: Josh Jackson
    Jackson is a tough, rugged defender who runs good lines and plays hard for 80 minutes, including at a representative level.

    At times his lack of speed can hamper the Bulldogs when they attack an edge, but he’s suited to play in the middle.

    In 2018, Jackson will play with the (c) next to his name and if the Dogs are to have a resurgence, the skipper will be a big factor.

    Josh Jackson

    17: James Graham
    Graham is the kind of tenacious leader who would run through a brick wall if it meant he could win a game of football. He was criticised for getting in the way of the Bulldogs halves, but he does have some sneakily good ball-playing skills.

    This year, the Englishman has a great opportunity to help the Dragons play with a bit more mongrel. Fans will be looking to him to help push the Red V to the next level in the finals.

    Canterbury Bulldog James Graham

    16: James Maloney
    A player that has to be admired for his calmness under pressure and his ability to make clutch plays, Maloney heads to the Panthers to partner one of the game’s hottest prospects in Nathan Cleary.

    Maloney will have plenty of responsibility at Penrith and it will fascinating to see if he can steer his new teammates to a grand final win – like he has done multiple times before.

    James Maloney NSW Blues State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017

    15: Cameron Munster
    Munster’s performance in Game 2 of Origin last year was one of my favourites of 2017. He can play fullback, centre and five-eighth, is a strong ball runner, has great speed, and begins plenty of Melbourne’s second-phase play.

    I can’t wait to see him with his hands on the ball more, as he eases the pressure on Brodie Croft.

    Cameron Munster Melbourne Storm

    14: Daly Cherry-Evans
    Cherry-Evans probably did not get the accolades he deserved for his performances in 2017. What always impresses me is, despite his average game management, he has an uncanny ability to create something out of nothing.

    DCE will be without Blake Green this season, so he needs to get more involved and not remain perched on the right edge. Should he perform to the best of his ability, he is a front runner to replace Johnathan Thurston for the Maroons.


    13: Andrew Fifita
    Fifita is a Jekkyl and Hyde player. He can be the most destructive front rower in the game, then struggle to make an impact. He’s at his best when he runs directly at the line with late footwork and that giant fend, rather than drifting sideways and trying to run around defences.

    This shapes as a make-or-break year – he’ll have a big say in how the Sharks perform as the main force in an ageing pack, and needs to work hard to keep his Blues jersey with plenty of players ready to take his place.

    Andrew Fifita is tackled

    12: Anthony Milford
    I did not include Milford in my list – by error – so it should tell you how highly he was ranked by the other experts that he just missed the top ten.

    Milford showed tremendous maturity last year when asked to guide the Broncos around as a result of injuries and form dips. He is a clever five-eighth with great footwork and a short kicking game that is a pleasure to watch.

    With Ben Hunt now at the Dragons and Kodi Nikorima partnering him in the halves, 2018 will see Milford be Brisbane’s game manager. He should earn another opportunity to play Origin.

    Anthony Milford Queensland Maroons State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017 tall

    11: Shaun Johnson
    Based on raw skill and talent, there are few in the game better than the Warriors halfback. He’s an electrifying ball runner with a kicking game capable of single-handedly turning a game on its head.

    The only reason he wasn’t in each expert’s top ten is likely because he can be injury prone and does have a habit of drifting in and out of games.

    Johnson will be paired with a capable game manager in Blake Green this season, which should allow him to play his natural role – bamboozling defensive lines and causing havoc for the opposition.

    The Roar’s top 50 NRL players for 2018

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • March 1st 2018 @ 6:46am
      Greg Ambrose said | March 1st 2018 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      A lot of players in the halves swapped clubs for this year. I wouldn’t consider it an upgrade if any of these forwards came to Manly and replaced Tapau or Jake T in fact I would be disappointed. I’m tipping the Manly pack to be really good this year.

    • Roar Guru

      March 1st 2018 @ 7:04am
      Dutski said | March 1st 2018 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      Looking forward to seeing the discussion on this mob. Maloneys notorious for his defence, Fifita goes missing, Johnson goes missing, Graham (either one) is prone to brain snaps and Milford has no long kicking game. I guess with these guys when they are good they are very very good, but just like the girl with the curl… when they are bad they are horrid.
      Enjoying the series. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s edition.

      • Roar Guru

        March 1st 2018 @ 8:09am
        The Barry said | March 1st 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        I think you’re harsh on Johnson.

        He was among the top couple of players in the comp in 2017 for attacking stats.

        He carries the cab for the Warriors inconsistency and lack of performance. If he doesn’t have a 9/10 game the Warriors get rolled.

        No one can do that every week. If that’s inconsistency then pretty much every player has been inconsistent.

        • March 1st 2018 @ 8:13am
          JM said | March 1st 2018 @ 8:13am | ! Report

          Agree. And if you look at fantasy stats, SJ is surprisingly consistent.

      • Columnist

        March 1st 2018 @ 8:32am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 1st 2018 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        Dutski, I would encourage you to try making your own list too because it was an exercise I found really, really hard! I was really happy with my top 10, but then played around with the rest of the list plenty of times.

        To give you my personal thoughts, the only player in this article that made my 11-20 was Wade Graham. I will let you have a guess as to where the others fell. 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          March 1st 2018 @ 10:04am
          Dutski said | March 1st 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          Replying to Mary and The Barry. I think this is what separates these guys from the absolute top tier. I agree it’s a bit harsh on some, but the elite players have a tiny gap between their best and their worst.
          Full credit to those who have made the list – I’m really enjoying it.

          • Roar Guru

            March 1st 2018 @ 3:33pm
            The Barry said | March 1st 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

            Each to their own mate but I don’t think Johnson has that big a gap. He plays well to very well way more often than not.

            When say a Smith or Thurston has a quiet game, it might be Cronk or Morgan who step up and get them home, when Johnson has a quiet game the Warriors get done.

            The impact of his off days is magnified.

            • Roar Guru

              March 1st 2018 @ 8:46pm
              Dutski said | March 1st 2018 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

              As always TB you make a good case.

    • March 1st 2018 @ 8:10am
      JM said | March 1st 2018 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      This has been interesting. My reaction to the 41-50 list was that it was a pretty good bunch of players and it felt right that there would be 40 better players. The next 3 lists have all been a bit disappointing in quality. Feel that outside the top 10 there is a big drop off.

      As for this list, I think James Graham and Josh Jackson are way over-rated. I’d pick not in the top 50 Marty Taupau over them any day of the week. And Gallen too.

      • March 1st 2018 @ 11:52pm
        Adsa said | March 1st 2018 @ 11:52pm | ! Report

        Josh Jackson is sooo good he wins M.O.M. awards in losing Origin games for the blues.

    • Roar Guru

      March 1st 2018 @ 8:18am
      The Barry said | March 1st 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      Good to see Jacko get some recognition.

      Like Greg Ambrose wouldn’t swap Kapow and Jurbo, I wouldn’t swap Jackson for anyone.

      He’s played finals footy every year bar one of his first grade career, played in two GFs, been a NSW player of the series and a MOM award, played test footy and is now club captain.

      Hard as nails and the best one on one defender in the comp.

      Hopefully with Des and his stifling strategies out of the way he can revisit his attacking game.

    • March 1st 2018 @ 9:02am
      RandyM said | March 1st 2018 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      I am terrified Josh Dugan is going to be in the top 10…. without a doubt the most overrated player of the last 5 years.

      • Columnist

        March 1st 2018 @ 9:13am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 1st 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        Is there any one else you are terrified will make the top 10? 😀

    • March 1st 2018 @ 9:41am
      Rod said | March 1st 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      Look I would struggle to pick up a top 50 players. So well done to all contributors

      James Graham, has been a great competitor , but blind Freddy can see his body is letting him down. He will need to be managed to get a couple more years out him, certainly not a top 20 player now.

      I will be interested to see the top 10, there is no way Dugan is a top 10 player. I don’t care what anyone says. He has poor skills. He is not overly quick, strong and even a particular brilliant defender.

      • March 1st 2018 @ 5:14pm
        Gray-Hand said | March 1st 2018 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

        Didn’t he leave St George after they failed to meet his pay demands “in accordance with his status as a world class fullback”?