Top 50 players in the NRL: Part 1
It's the age-old question for footy fans. Who's the best player in the game? Is Cooper Cronk as good as Johnathan Thurston? Is Jesse Bromwich better than James Graham?
The team at NRL.com have once again taken a stab at ranking not just the best player in the NRL, but the best 50. This list isn't an attempt to determine who have been the best players this season – we have Team of the Week lists and the Dally M awards for that – but simply the players who are, in our opinion, the 50 best players in the league right now.
It's not a simple task. How do you compare Jason Taumalolo's brutal power game with Shaun Johnson's silky skills? How do you rank international stars who have had their season derailed by injury like Billy Slater and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck? But after much debate in the office we've come up with our top 50 list for 2016, which we'll reveal over the next five weeks in the lead-up to the 2016 NRL Grand Final.
Kicking things off, the players ranked 50-41.
50. Lachlan Coote (2015 rank: N/A)
The premiership-winning fullback has not only been rock solid at the back for the Cowboys in recent years, he's also one of the game's most underrated playmakers - ranking in the league's top 10 for line-break assists and try assists.
49. Bryce Cartwright (2015 rank: N/A)
Already the NRL's most prolific offloader last year, Cartwright has developed into one of the game's most dangerous big men after making a smooth transition from the second row to five-eighth at Penrith this season. Undoubtedly a NSW Origin player in the making, expect to see Cartwright climbing this list in the years to come.
48. Josh Mansour (2015 rank: N/A)
For years NRL Fantasy coaches have known Josh Mansour is one of the hardest man to stop in the NRL – now he's got the rep jerseys to back that up. The NSW winger and one-time Kangaroo ranks third in the league for tackle breaks, third for line breaks and second for run metres and acts as both an elite finisher near the tryline and an extra forward when the Panthers are coming out of their own half.
47. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (2015 rank: 21)
The big Kiwi front-rower may have dropped down our rankings after a poor season from the Roosters but he remains one of the most destructive big men in the game.
46. Ben Hunt (2015 rank: 19)
By the standards he set last season, Ben Hunt has been below his best in 2016. Regardless, a brilliant start to the campaign for the Broncos means he still leads the league for kick metres and ranks third in try assists behind Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, and at his best is one of the game's most complete halfbacks.
45. Matt Moylan (2015 rank: 27)
Such is Moylan's class that when he was handed the five-eighth role for NSW in State of Origin III, having never played there in a first-grade game, he handled the new gig as if he'd been preparing for the role his whole career. The fullback ranks fourth for line-break assists in the NRL and sits in the top 10 for try assists.
44. Adam Reynolds (2015 rank: 36)
The new NSW halfback has had an injury-affected season but possesses one of the best kicking games in rugby league – both from the goal-kicking tee and in general play.
43. Josh Jackson (2015 rank: N/A)
He doesn't steal the limelight but there's a reason Josh Jackson plays the full 80 minutes in the NSW Blues pack – his fierce defensive game and rock-solid go-forward is readymade for Origin football. Jackson forces more errors from tackles than any other NRL player and he's been one of the quiet achievers behind the Bulldogs' rise to the top four this season.
42. Issac Luke (2015 rank: 24)
The New Zealand hooker may have endured a rusty start to his Warriors career this season but he remains one of the game's most explosive rakes, leading the league for dummy-half runs yet again.
41. Tyson Frizell (2015 rank: N/A)
It took a little while for the one-time Wales international to get a run for the Blues but when he did he announced himself as a long-term Origin player, with a standout performance on debut including a try and an inspiring defensive chase on Dane Gagai. A hard-running, big minute forward who has been arguably the Dragons' best in recent years.