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The Roar


JT is by far the best NRL player of the 2010s

JT was a dominant force and made a massive difference for the Cowboys. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
31st December, 2019
1727 Reads

Johnathan Thurston is the stand out best rugby league player in the last decade based on my data.

To minimise any arguments, I have defined ‘best player’ as the player with the highest rating in my talent identification program, which in simple terms would command the highest salary today.

These players have the biggest influence directly and indirectly on the scoreboard, and if they were withdrawn prior to kick-off, would have the biggest influence on the line.

When a player is withdrawn most have zero impact on the game’s line, but JT’s value would exceed a converted try – quite remarkable!

The only player to come close to Thurston’s rating is Andrew Johns, but as we know he wasn’t around for the past decade.

Top ten players in the 2010s:

1. Johnathan Thurston
2. Cam Smith
3. Luke Keary
4. Tom Trbojevic
5. James Tedesco
6. Kalyn Ponga
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Greg Inglis
9. Billy Slater
10. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Each one of these players is a ‘spine’ player and has a major scoreboard influence.

Keary is yet to play Origin but he has been key in three grand final wins in the past six years, his data is superior to Cooper Cronk’s, who would make most top-ten lists and is a personal favourite.


With some teams the impact of a key out can sometimes be offset somewhat by a high-class replacement, most of the top ten were close to irreplaceable and their teams struggled when missing.

The highest-rated forwards to play NRL in the last decade are:

Jason Taumalolo
Payne Haas
Sonny Bill Williams
Sam Burgess
David Fifita

Analytically, Taumalolo re-wrote what a forward can do. His data is off the charts and is a must buy for every Super Coach. I did not expect to see the likes of him again in my lifetime and then Haas turned up. His data suggests he could retire as the greatest big forward ever.

There was never much between SBW and Burgess when they played against each other, and they are both directly responsible for grand final wins for the Roosters and the Rabbitohs respectively.

If you would like to include a coaches rating on forwards, the majority I have spoken to have plumped for Burgess. Taumalolo and Haas have fewer negatives, but we do not have a fear-factor analytic.

Other highly influential players include Robbie Farah and his teammate Benji Marshall, who Arthur Summons said “changed the game”; the same could be argued for Jarryd Hayne and Shaun Johnson, both freakish in open space.

Damien Cook’s data is higher than Cam Smith’s at the same stage and he set new Super Coach benchmarks, also Semi Radradra has claims as the best-ever winger, and how can we ever forget the controversial Izzy Folau, Latrell Mitchell and Val Holmes?


It’s been quite a decade of rugby league, can’t wait for the next ten years.