The NSW government has staved off interest from Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and New Zealand to host the NRL grand final.
Tonight the NRL will announce the winner of the Dally M Medal, which is awarded to the best player in the competition based on 3-2-1 votes each match. He are my winners for each award.
Dally M Medal: James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)
Tedesco is the outright favourite to take out the award after a brilliant individual season. The New South Wales fullback led the league in line breaks (29), tackle breaks (134) and run metres (4320). He also scored 17 tries while assisting 15 others. Tedesco would be very worthy winner of the medal.
Fullback of the year: James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)
For the reasons stated above Tedesco should take out this award but will face competition from 2018 Dally M Medal winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Winger of the year: Ken Maumalo (Warriors)
Maumalo had a stellar year at the back, which saw him score 17 tries as he also led wingers in run metres with 176 per game. The Warriors’ back three was the only positive in a disappointing season for the club.
Centre of the year: Latrell Mitchell (Sydney Roosters)
Tough award to hand out given the inconsistencies of the position but Mitchell has been outstanding at different parts during the season. Mitchell has scored 19 tries while also being the competition’s top point-scorer with 267. He has also made 16 line breaks while creating ten breaks for his team-mates. He can be the ultimate offensive threat when in form.
Five-eighth of the year: Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm)
The award could go to either Munster or Luke Keary, who’ve both had tremendous seasons. Munster however has been the main attacking threat for the minor premiers over the course of the season, scoring eight tries himself while assisting 20 for his team. He also averaged 70 metres per game including 11 line breaks and 20 line break assists.
Halfback of the year: Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly)
Cherry-Evans has had his best individual season as he helped guide Manly from 15th last year to a semi-final berth this year. The halfback was second in his position for try assists with 25 and led the league in 40/20s with five. He was vital for the Sea Eagles this season as they struggled with injuries to star players. This would be the second time Cherry-Evans has won the award.
Prop of the year: Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders)
Papalii has had an outstanding year and I’d expect him to just beat Payne Haas for this award. Papalii has been the leader of the Raiders’ pack, who are now preparing for their first grand final in 25 years. Papalii averaged 146 metres per game and only had one match in which he didn’t reach 100 metres. Papalii also had 47 tackle breaks and also averaged 25 tackles a game at 94 per cent efficiency.
Hooker of the year: Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm)
It’ll come close between Smith, Damien Cook and Josh Hodgson, who have all been brilliant this year. But the captain of the minor premiers is hard to go past. The 36-year-old had 17 try assists this season while also assisting 19 line breaks. He also led hookers with 19 forced drop-outs and his defence was consistent as always, averaging 35 tackles per game at 93 per cent efficiency. This would be Smith’s eighth hooker of the year nod.
Second-rower of the year: John Bateman (Canberra Raiders)
The Englishman made the switch from Super League to the NRL this season and has been a revelation for the Raiders. The back-rower was involved in 12 tries this season and also broke 66 tackles, proving that he is an offensive threat and has played a key role in the Raiders’ season. He proved to be dangerous on the right edge and was able to offload the ball 34 times and was also a rock in the defensive line, averaging 32 tackles at 92 per cent efficiency.
Lock of the year: Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland)
Former Dally M Medalist Taumalolo has had another outstanding season despite missing games early in the season. The Tongan international averaged an incredible 197 metres per game and proved to be hard to stop in attack. He recorded 69 tackle breaks and broke the line on ten occasions, which leads the league for the middle forwards. He has been the only shining light out of another disappointing season from the Cowboys.
Interchange player of the year: Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm)
Smith is a hooker by trade but this season turned himself into a bull in the middle of the park. The Kiwi averaged 89 metres off the bench and recorded an astounding 43 tackle breaks. Smith also averaged 22 tackles at 91 per cent efficiency, showing his defensive capabilities. Any team would be stoked to have a player have this sort of impact coming off the bench.
Female player of the year: Charntay Poko (Warriors)
Poko has been someone who really stood out to me during the NRLW season despite her side just missing out on the grand final. Her kicking game impressed me, averaging 373 kick metres per game, while also forcing four drop-outs. The halfback averaged just shy of 70 metres per game and also broke ten tackles over the course of the three-game season.
Rookie of the year: Payne Haas (Brisbane Broncos)
Payne Haas has been a revelation this season for the Broncos as the 19-year-old has averaged 175 run metres per game and also broke an incredible 91 tackles. He has been excellent in the middle and has proven that he can become an 80-minute prop, which is a tremendous sign for the Broncos. Haas also made his State of Origin debut for New South Wales this season.
Coach of the year: Des Hasler (Manly)
Hasler has done a tremendous job in his first season back at Brookie as he guided the Sea Eagles from 15th place to a semi-final berth. The former premiership coach showed his ability as he had to deal with injuries to key players throughout the season. He just pips Craig Bellamy for this award.