This is the seventh article in a series where I’ll name who I think were the best players to play in a grand final in each decade, focusing this time on the 2010s.
The criterion I have used are:
•The player must have actually played in at least one grand final in the decade in question
•A player is only considered for selection in one decade, even if he played in grand finals in more than one decade
•The player’s form in the decade is taken into account.
After a turbulent 20 years, this decade was the most stable for a long time, and the 16 teams that started the decade were still there in 2019. The only hitch was that following their salary cap breaches, the Melbourne Storm were required to play the full 2010 season without registering any points, resulting in their first, and so far only, wooden spoon.
In the 2010s:
•The Sydney Roosters won three grand finals and lost one
•Melbourne won two and lost two
•Both North Queensland and Manly won once and lost once
•St George Illawarra, South Sydney and Cronulla all won once
•The Bulldogs lost twice
•The Warriors, Brisbane and Canberra each lost one grand final
There were some wonderful players running around in this decade, as evidenced by the quality of the players left out of this list. Anyway, here’s my pick of the best of the best who made it to the biggest game of the year. All references to grand finals played relate only to grand finals in this decade.
Fullback: James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)
Tedesco won two grand finals from as many starts and established himself as one of the best players in the game towards the end of the decade. Manly’s Brett Stewart, Ben Barba (Canterbury and Cronulla) and Darius Boyd (St George Illawarra and Brisbane) were also impressive.
Wingers: Brett Morris (St George Illawarra and Sydney Roosters) and Josh Addo-Carr (Melbourne)
Brett Morris was good enough to win grand finals at both the beginning and end of the decade, firstly with the Dragons and then with the Roosters, and is one of the best wingers to ever play the game.
Josh Addo-Carr won one decider from two starts and had established himself as the leading winger in the game by the end of the decade. Honourable mentions to Corey Oates (Brisbane), Kyle Feldt (North QLD), Suliasi Vunivalu (Melbourne) and Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters).
Centres: Mark Gasnier (St George Illawarra) and Jamie Lyon (Manly)
Mark Gasnier was one of the best in the game at the beginning of the decade and won one grand final.
Jamie Lyon won one grand final from two starts and was one of the best to play the game in the NRL era. Other contenders were Matt Cooper (St George Illawarra), Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Latrell Mitchell and Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters), Josh Morris (Canterbury Bankstown), and Will Chambers (Melbourne).
Five-eighth: Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland)
Thurston was one of the greatest players of all time and won one grand final. Kieran Foran (Manly), Luke Keary (South Sydney and Sydney Roosters), James Maloney (Warriors, Sydney Roosters and Cronulla), Cameron Munster (Melbourne) and Jack Wighton (Canberra) were also in great form.
Halfback: Cooper Cronk (Melbourne and Sydney Roosters)
Cronk had a wonderful decade, playing in five grand finals and winning four. His closest competitors for this spot were Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly) and Mitchell Pearce (Sydney Roosters).
Lock forward: Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland)
Taumalolo was the dominant lock forward, and a wrecking ball for most of the decade. He played in two grand finals, winning once. Others to impress were Dale Finucane (Melbourne), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury-Bankstown) and Corey Parker (Brisbane).
Second row: Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters) and Glenn Stewart (Manly)
Cordner captained his side to three grand final victories, and was one of the best back rowers in the decade. Stewart played in two grand finals, winning one, and was an uncompromising player with great ball skills. Felise Kaufusi (Melbourne), Matt Gillett (Brisbane), Josh Jackson (Canterbury-Bankstown), Gavin Cooper (North QLD) and Tohu Harris (Melbourne) also impressed.
Front row: Matt Scott (North Queensland) and Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne)
Scott played in one winning grand final and was one of the best front rowers to play in the NRL era. Bromwich debuted at the beginning of the decade and has been one of the best front rowers in the game ever since. He played in four grand finals, winning two.
Honourable mentions to Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), James Graham (Canterbury-Bankstown), Andrew Fifita (Cronulla) and Sio Siua Taukeiaho (Sydney Roosters).
Hooker: Jake Friend (Sydney Roosters)
Friend was at the top of his game during the decade and played in three grand finals for two wins. Others who went well were Matt Ballin (Manly), Michael Ennis (Canterbury-Bankstown and Cronulla) and Jake Granville (North QLD).
Michael Morgan (North Queensland) continued to be one of his team’s best and played in two grand finals, winning one.
Simon Mannering (Warriors) was a great leader for his team and captained them to a losing decider. Sam Burgess (South Sydney) was one of the best forwards in the competition, and who can forget his courage in Souths’ victory in the 2014 grand final?
Paul Gallen (Cronulla) played himself to a standstill every week and was rewarded when he led his club to their first ever GF win in 2016.