AFTER much deliberation and number crunching we finally arrive at RLW’s century of champions.
From sensational rookies to evergreen veterans – the game’s elite 100 players have been revealed.
Let the debate begin . . .
Top 100 players in the world (100-91)
Top 100 players in the world (90-81)
Top 100 players in the world (80-71)
Top 100 players in the world (70-61)
Top 100 players in the world (60-51)
Top 100 players in the world (50-41)
Such was BJ’s form, that his name was tossed around as a smokey for a Blues’ centre spot. It was good for Canberra that he didn’t get the nod, because it didn’t break up the most exciting partnership in the game. Leilua and Jordan Rapana were a constant threat last season on the right edge and a lot of it came down to the Samoan international’s freakish offloads in traffic.
Last year: 56
The Raiders skipper had his best year to date, breaking the club’s long standing record of points in a single season – and doing it before round 25. He knocked Clinton Schifcofske off his perch with 248 points and then went on to amass 296 in total, including 18 four-pointers (his equal best haul). His combination with Josh Papalii was a vital ingredient of Canberra’s run to the preliminary final.
What a year for Penrith’s enigmatic flanker. He didn’t even make the Top 100 list in 2015, but here is cracking the top 40. He scored a career-high 16 tries for the mountain men, made his NSW City and State of Origin debuts (playing strongly in all three games), and has taken his place on the wing for the Kangaroos in the Four Nations.
Unfortunately, an serious knee injury will keep him out for most of the 2017 season.
Last year: 81
Expect this Storm sensation to continue making big strides towards the top of the leaderboard in 2017. He is already in the top 40 after just 44 first-grade games, and he’s only going to get better. We all saw what he was capable of in 2015 when he was thrust into the role of Billy Slater’s replacement but he stepped up again last year to play an integral role in the Storm’s unlikely surge to the GF.
Last year: 62
The Canterbury back-rower elevated his game again in 2016 to improve his ranking by 26 places. He adds class to the Bulldogs right edge and has clearly grown in confidence with another Origin series under his belt. He’s an 80-minute player, who consistently racks up huge numbers in both attack and defence, and was unlucky to miss out on selection in the Four Nations squad after doing so in 2014.
Last year: 35
The “captain in waiting” tag has been attached to Graham for a few years now, and no wonder. He once again showed off his leadership credentials in the Sharks’ run to the title, and his game continued to grow in quality and versatility. Graham’s the Swiss army knife of back-rowers, able to run through defenders or kick and pass like an overgrown five-eighth out on the edge, where he formed the beginnings of a great combination with James Maloney. Watching him play, it’s easy to forget he’s just 25, and he proved Origin suits him when he got the call-up in Game Three.
Never fear, Manly fans. Just when Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai and Brett Stewart fell off a cliff form-wise, ‘Tommy Turbo’ stepped up to fill the backline void. No other Sea Eagle got within cooee of him for line breaks or tackle breaks in 2016, and even though opposing teams were onto the threat he poses after his breakout rookie year, hardly anyone could contain him in his second NRL season. The sight of Trbojevic long-striding to the tryline at Brookie will be a regularity for years to come, and he should press for an Origin call-up in 2017.
Last year: 95
Anyone who saw his star turn in the Auckland Nines would’ve known Norman was in for a special year. And so it was . . . until his off-field stupidity caught up with him in late July and got him suspended for the rest of the season. Prior to that he’d racked up 17 try assists in just 16 games, but what stood out even more was his style of play. The pivot is as smooth as velvet in attack, one of those rare players who seems to have all the time in the world and never panics. His ability to stop on a five-cent piece and switch the field beggars belief, and his long and short passing games are crisp with buckets of vision.
Last year: 42
Stats don’t do this bloke justice. There’s nothing startling about Proctor’s numbers for tries scored, tackles made, or metres gained, especially compared to some of his megastar team-mates. But he was a crucial reason why the Storm had arguably the form pack of 2016 – and it’s because, like a true Craig Bellamy product, he never goes missing and makes crucial plays all the time. Need a try-saving tackle? Call Proctor. Someone to back up a break even though his arse is hanging out? Call Proctor. Only Bromwich, Smith and Cronk meant more to Melbourne last season.
Last year: 14
Sam Burgess took the English captaincy away from him for the Four Nations and as RLW reported in our last year, there are rumblings he’ll lose the skipper’s role with the Dogs, too. So where did he go wrong? Graham still got through a mountain of quality work on both sides of the ball, but like most of the Canterbury pack, he lacked the creativity and second-phase play to break down defences. That can be partly put down to Des Hasler’s style, but Graham’s proved he’s capable of great ball-playing before the line and in the tackle. It just didn’t happen enough. Discipline remains a chink in his armour, too – but if you could choose someone to play a game with your life in the balance, you’d be a fool to pass him up.