Welcome to the meaty centre of The Roar Experts’ NRL top 50 for 2020.
If you’ve been joining us on this journey you know how things work by now – myself, Mary K, Joe Frost, Scott Pryde and Tim Gore listed our top 60 players, they were allocated points according to rank, magic happened, and here we are.
There have been some big calls already from 31-50 and the hits keep coming today.
There’s sure to be disagreement, so bring it on! That’s what lists like this are all about.
Here’s today’s ten.
St George Illawarra Dragons | Second-rower/Lock | Last year: 45 (+15)
A big one to start off! There will definitely be eyebrows raised here.
St George Illawarra were abysmal last year and that affected everyone on the squad, in particular representative forward Tyson Frizell.
Frizell copped it from fans and foes alike as he went through a pretty down year on a Dragons team that got bashed around every week.
But his talent is undeniable and he’s proven himself before, hence the rating.
It’s a contract year for the 28-year-old and there are a few clubs kicking his tyres. He has a chance in 2020 to get back to the heights of not long ago and he still has plenty of time and ability to make an impact for whoever signs him.
Penrith Panthers | Halfback | Last year: 13 (-16)
Some may be surprised to see Nathan Cleary this low after his 13th spot in 2019’s list, but questions linger over the young Penrith halfback.
The biggest of them all will be how he goes in with no James Maloney beside him. Maloney was an irrepressible force on the field, involved in everything. Cleary may well relish the extra time on the ball and the added responsibility for the attack.
His stats were just okay in 2019 with nine try assists and eight linebreak assists, but with 79 first grade matches and two State of Origin series under his belt now, surely 2020 is the time to make the move from a good halfback to a great one.
Canberra Raiders | Fullback | Last year: N/A
From obscurity to the NRL grand final, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was one of the most pleasant surprises for Canberra Raiders fans since Raiders milk changed flavours from lime to mint.
If CNK was not able to play like he did, chances are Jack Wighton may have had to head back from five-eighth and Canberra’s game plan was ruined.
Given a chance after seven games with the Warriors, Nicoll-Klokstad blossomed, scoring 11 tries and averaging 175 metres a game. He led the league in kick return metres, was fourth in the NRL for tackle breaks, and safe as a bank when targeted by opposing kickers.
A tied finish for eighth spot in the Dally M voting showed how influential he became in his first full year in the NRL.
Parramatta Eels | Fullback | Last year: 67 (+40)
The Eels skipper should bring up his 100th NRL game in 2020 if all goes well, and he’s been pretty good value for all of them.
Last year he signed on at Parramatta until 2022 and he was also called into the NSW squad by Brad Fittler for Origin 2 in Perth.
Gutherson does have an error or two in him, but he churned out 1048 kick-return metres in 2019 to go with 13 try assists and eight tries of his own.
Parra score a lot of points, and Gutherson is a big part of it.
Manly Sea Eagles | Prop | Last year: 25 (-1)
Taupau is another who highlighted some Expert disagreement, with two having him in their top 20 and one not in their top 50 at all!
He’s a fearsome competitor, a barometer for Des Hasler’s Sea Eagles and his hard hitting, offload-hunting style fits in perfectly at Manly. Taupau gets through a truckload of work for his team (727 tackles at 92 per cent, and 3270 running metres at just under 150 per game) in pretty limited minutes – he never played more than 60 minutes in 2019.
Sydney Roosters | Prop | Last year: 58 (+33)
I am outraged about this ranking. I had Sio Siua Taukeiaho at ten in my top 50, one other Expert didn’t have him at all.
Taukeiaho is the modern prototype for a big man. He’s agile, faster than most forwards, able to break a line and take off down the field before picking the right play to get points.
When the Roosters score one of those great tries out of nothing, a lot of the time SST has played a big part. He might not get credited with the try assist in the stats, but rest assured it was a ball from him somewhere in the play that set one of the backs free.
Parramatta Eels | Halfback | Last year: N/A
He’s definitely a polariser, is Mitchell Moses. The experts had a 40-place difference in their lists when it came to ranking him. A lot of people don’t rate him cos they don’t like him, which is not the right way to look at things.
Try to look at it objectively. Moses is a gun.
Able to leave a mark on a game with deft passing (first in the NRL for try assists with 25) and a big boot (first in the NRL for kicking metres with 9413 and 92 goals at 78 per cent accuracy).
Love him or hate him, you can’t avoid him in a game because he’s in everything.
Penrith Panthers | Second-rower | Last year: 31 (+8)
Like a lot of the Panthers’ roster, Kikau’s 2019 season was impacted by injury and suspension. Penrith rely heavily – perhaps too heavily – on the Fijian in attack because at his best he is a tackle-breaking, ball-playing big man who can waltz through the line and put a teammate away, or just as easily go tuck the ball under his arm and be lethal anywhere inside the 30.
There’s work to be done on his defence, but he’s not a solo Mountain Man in that regard. Kikau is a great talent who is still only 24 years old.
Brisbane Broncos | Prop | Last year: N/A
What price do you put on a young game-breaking front rower? Ask Wayne Bennett, who before he left the Broncos signed Payne Haas to a six-year, $3.5 million deal in 2018.
At the time the master coach was ridiculed, but right now you can argue Haas is underpaid, big time.
Who’s the last 19-year-old you can remember to cause such demolition in the front row? Haas played 21 games in 2019 averaging a ridiculous 185 metres each outing. He topped 200 metres in a game eight times and ran for 3888 metres overall, a third of which was post contact (1475).
He’s an amazing talent who won the NRL and RLPA Rookie of the Year awards. If he can maintain the mix of athleticism and power, who knows what else he’ll do.
Sydney Roosters | Prop | Last year: 79 (+58)
A powerhouse in the front row, and forever the 2019 Clive Churchill medallist in the hearts of Roosters fans. A 219-game veteran, club vice-captain and regular terror of defensive lines.
In 2019 Waerea-Hargreaves averaged 141.4 running metres a game, topping 150 eight times in the 20 games he played.
JWH is the player opposing fans love to hate. He’s cheeky, plays with an inordinate amount of aggro and because of that is on a first-name basis with the referees and the NRL judiciary members.
He runs hard, he most definitely hits hard and he’ll be doing so for a while yet, after signing a three-year extension with the Bondi club in November.
The top 50 so far…
50. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
49. Josh McGuire
48. Chad Townsend
47. Tevita Pangai Junior
46. Valentine Holmes
45. Paul Vaughan
44. Ryan Papenhuyzen
43. Cameron McInnes
42. Josh Jackson
41. Cody Walker
40. Andrew Fifita
39. Adam Reynolds
38. Josh Addo-Carr
37. Jai Arrow
36. Joseph Manu
35. Michael Morgan
34. Mitchell Pearce
33. Blake Ferguson
32. David Fifita
31. Dale Finucane
30. Tyson Frizell
29. Nathan Cleary
28. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
27. Clint Gutherson
26. Martin Taupau
25. Sio Siua Taukeiaho
24. Mitchell Moses
23. Viliame Kikau
22. Payne Haas
21. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
20. Latrell Mitchell
19. David Klemmer
18. Cameron Murray
17. Jack Wighton
16. John Bateman
15. Boyd Cordner
14. Kalyn Ponga
13. Josh Papalii
12. Wade Graham
11. Daly Cherry-Evans