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 . . .
Unlucky to miss out on a top 100 spot last year, Reynolds has been one of the game’s most polished halfbacks for several seasons. And while 2016 was miserable for the Bunnies, Reynolds showed tremendous determination to return from a broken jaw suffered in round one, to claim the NSW No.7 jersey.
The 22-year-old hard head was a shining light for the Sea Eagles in a forgettable year. Not only was he the standout forward for the club, he took on the captaincy when Jamie Lyon succumbed to injury, was chosen as a NSW development player, and then got called into the Kangaroos Four Nations squad.
Last year: 25
The Broncos only lost six games when Thaiday was playing last year. He also won another Origin series with the Maroons and was selected in the Kangaroos squad for the Four Nations. He may be entering the twilight of his career but he’s still one of the best back-rowers in the world.
Last year: 46
Canberra’s marquee man had another strong year, despite having to build a new halves combination with Aidan Sezer. He was a constant threat in attack, and played a huge role in the Raiders’ 10-game winning streak. If he didn’t miss five of the first 10 games and the final two rounds of the regular season, he’d be much higher on this list.
The Titans bookend set a new benchmark for most tries for a prop during a season with 12, when he crossed in their elimination final loss to the Broncos. That record hasn’t been broken since St George’s Jack Holland set the 11-try tally in 1950. It was a breakout year for James, who didn’t even make the top 100 in 2015.
Last year: 13
The Sea Eagles’ $10 million man didn’t inspire the results his pay cheque demands in 2016. DCE took part in 19 games and only won seven of them. He ranked 13 on this list in 2015, but was playing much better footy when he was sharing the playmaking responsibilities with Kieran Foran. Last season, without a regular five-eighth or hooker, he didn’t have the opportunity to build combinations with his spine, and the result was a disjointed Manly side.
Last year: 12
It wasn’t a year to savour for the Broncos No.7. In Hunt’s defence, both he and Anthony Milford were playing behind a Broncos pack, which struggled to dominate the middle third for a large part of the season. He should be back to his best in 2017.
Some will feel he should be higher, some will object to his name being on the list at all. So let’s address both. Firstly, if the two-time Dally M Medallist was playing consistent club and rep footy then there’s no doubt he’d be pushing the top 10, we all know what a freakish talent he is. And to those arguing he did nothing in 2016 to warrant selection – not many of his peers would’ve been able to return to the league after 18 months of dream-chasing and kick a match-winning field goal in just their second game back, or make that try-saving ball-and-all tackle on a rampaging Bodene Thompson in their first play as a Titan.
Last year: 9
His first season at Mt Smart promised so much, but in the end it was a bust. One of the most talented players in the game, Issac Luke left Souths with and was ranked No.9 on this list last year, but has fallen 33 spots on the back of an out-of-sorts season. He never really recovered from a poor pre-season, and Warriors fans will be expecting him to knuckle down ahead of the 2017 season.
Last year: 33
It was another solid season for big Dave Klemmer. He was a presence for NSW in Origin again and was strong in his second Four Nations. Whether or not he’s best utilised at lock is another question, but he did what he does best, and that’s running for over 130 metres and making close to 30 tackles a game.