This is the second article in a series where I’ll name the best players to play in a grand final in each decade.
With the regular season wrapped up and us being deep into the finals race now, let’s pull out that crystal ball and try some predictions for the Dally M award races on grand final week.
I will look to cover the majority of the awards given out on the night, mostly the player-based ones.
For all awards, I have given deep thought about who is really deserving of them. Here are my Dally M award medal recipients.
Winger of the year: Reuben Garrick
Due to injuries to Brian To’o and Alex Johnston, I am going with the Manly left winger for this award. He will also receive another prestigious award on the night, which goes to show his form in 2021, as the league’s leading point-scorer.
Centre of the year: Justin Olam
By the smallest of margins, I have Olam ahead of Joseph Manu and Matt Burton. What a year the PNG player has had. He has developed his game from more than just brute strength, but now with a strong offload game. His draw-and-pass skills are second to none and he is the overall best hype man in the NRL.
Five-eighth of the year: Cody Walker
He is the man who led the league in try assists and line break assists. It is a given for him in this award. He has played scintillating football this year. It seems the less he touches the ball, the more havoc he creates.
Halfback of the year: Nathan Cleary
This award can genuinely go to Jahrome Hughes as well, given Cleary’s injury this year. But due to the fact the positions are based on overall Dally M points, Cleary gets the rub of the green here. Cleary realistically has it all in a halfback – he just needs to own a finals series. Scary signs for Parramatta this weekend.
Prop of the year: James Fisher-Harris
He may not be the best prop, or the biggest name in the prop category, but the ‘Fish’ just goes about his work and is very damn good at it too. The key to the Panthers’ engine, Fisher-Harris was sorely missed when he had a few weeks off, due to the birth of his child. He seems to get better and better every year.
Hooker of the year: Brandon Smith
The man nicknamed ‘the Cheese’ has had a huge year. This time last year, he was potentially the third-string hooker at his own club. With Cameron Smith retiring, and Harry Grant starting the year injured, Smith took the chance with both hands and has not looked back. It is well deserved, and his transition to a short-stint lock forward to a game-breaking hooker has been nothing short of superb.
Second-rower of the year: Isaiah Papali’i
The Warriors recruit who came over from Parramatta, potentially to develop, in the blink of an eye became the buy of the year and the best second-rower of this year. There are close candidates like David Fifita and Angus Crichton, but little ‘Papa’ gets the nod here.
Lock of the year: Isaah Yeo/Cam Murray
I really cannot split this one. Both are deserving, for different reasons. Murray is undoubtedly the engine in the Souths’ pack with his effort plays. Yeo allows his halves a ball-playing middle third, which opens up space outside for Jarome Luai and Cleary. Please, let’s have co-lock of the year awards.
Interchange player of the year: Harry Grant
Having a guy on the bench good enough to start for his state, it is a no-brainer that Grant will be the interchange player of the year this year. The duo he has with Brandon Smith is quickly becoming one of the most dynamic and effective duos in the game.
Coach of the year: Trent Robinson/Craig Bellamy
Both deserve this award for completely different reasons. Robinson coaches a team who has lost 50 per cent of its salary cap, and still has them in the final six teams remaining, a feat not many coaches could even imagine achieving. Bellamy lost his last member of the big three, and just keeps the Storm machine rolling. For a young side who was meant to fade, they blitzed the regular season competition and are firming for another title race. They are the two best coaches in the game, bar none.
Rookie of the year: Sam Walker
The young Roosters halfback has won a fair few games off his back this season, which has kept the injury-depleted Roosters above water this season. I don’t think anyone will ever forget what he did to the Sharks in Round 5, orchestrating 22 unanswered points in the final 19 minutes to upset the Sharks. It was a comeback for the ages.
Fullback and Dally M player of the year: Tom Trbojevic
It was one of those years you just sat back and marvelled just how good an individual year a player had. What ‘Tommy Turbo’ did this year was absolutely incredible and deserves to be mentioned up there with the ’09 Jarryd Hayne and ’12 Ben Barba performances.
He essentially turned a bottom-four side into a top-four side, and made those around him so much better players. The funniest part of this all is that in a maximum of 24 games eligible to be played in a regular season, he only played 15 this year. Fifteen games and a Dally M medal? Insane. Well deserved.
These are my award predictions for the Dally M awards for 2021. What changes would you make? Give me your thoughts and predictions, Roarers.