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At the end of every NRL season praise is heaped on the player who scores the most tries. The same goes for the player who tallies the most points. But perhaps unfairly, the guy who makes the most tackles often gets overlooked. Likewise the player who ploughs through the most minutes, or the guy who pops the most offloads.

Never fear: Stats Insider is here to give credit where credit is due! It’s time to go over the leading contenders in each statistical category to see who is on track to top each list, and highlight the players who can make a move over the last two games to pinch top honours.

Top Pointscorer

The man in the box seat is Rabbitohs halfback Chris Sandow who has amassed 185 points from six tries, 77 goals and an impressive seven field-goals. His nearest challengers are James Maloney and Benji Marshall who each have 168 points. Sandow has tough matches against the Broncos and Knights to come, Maloney likewise against the Dragons and Cowboys, leaving Marshall a real smoky with games against the Titans and Sharks. They all have a long way to go to match last season’s best – Panther Michael Gordon posted 252 points after the regular season.

Chris Sandow (Rabbitohs) – 185
James Maloney (Warriors) – 168
Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers) – 168
Cameron Smith (Storm) – 154
Luke Burt (Eels) – 152

Top Goalkicker

Sandow’s 77 goals is the leader here also, with Cameron Smith next on 73 and Maloney on 67. In terms of accuracy of the frequent goalkickers this season, Panther Travis Burns has been best at 92 per cent, Wes Naiqama 88 per cent, team-mate Kurt Gidley is running at 87 per cent and Sandow is at 85 per cent. Last season Gordon had 98 goals to his name at the end of 26 rounds.

Chris Sandow (Rabbitohs) – 77
Cameron Smith (Storm) – 73
James Maloney (Warriors) – 67
Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers) – 63
Corey Parker (Broncos) – 61

Top Tryscorer

Rabbitohs flyer Nathan Merritt looks set to grab this crown in 2011 thanks to his recent eight-try haul over back-to-back games. It pushed him up to 21 tries and while injury may have given Bulldog Ben Barba a sniff, Merritt won’t give up without a fight. Barba sits four tries behind on 17 and appears the only real challenger… although last year’s winner, Knights winger Akuila Uate, could always ‘pull a Merritt’ and notch ’em up these last two games. He is on 15 tries right now, backing up from his winning score of 21 in 2010.

Nathan Merritt (Rabbitohs) – 21
Ben Barba (Bulldogs) – 17
Akuila Uate (Knights) – 15
David Mead (Titans) – 14
Matt Cooper (Dragons) – 13
Blake Ferguson (Raiders) – 13

Top Try Assists

It might be his last season but Australian skipper Darren Lockyer has been at his vintage best in terms of try assists. He is in a real dogfight for the title over the last few weeks with Kiwi captain Benji Marshall and Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston. All three sit on 21 try assists, two clear of Jarryd Hayne and a further one ahead of last year’s winner Luke Walsh. Walsh had 29 in 2010, a mark unlikely to be broken this year. Lockyer is probably the outsider of the three but the definite sentimental favourite!

Darren Lockyer (Broncos) – 21
Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) – 21
Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers) – 21
Jarryd Hayne (Eels) – 19
Mitchell Pearce (Sydney Roosters) – 18
Luke Walsh (Panthers) – 18

Most Line-Breaks

There may be two rounds to go but this category looks wrapped up for Bulldogs’ livewire Ben Barba. While playing at fullback he has had his downtimes, particularly under high kicks, Barba has excelled with the freedom it brings in attack. His kick returns have yielded multiple breaks and when chiming into the line he adds another dimension. He’s streets ahead of the field with 28 line-breaks, 10 ahead of Matt Cooper. He needs just one more to match Akuila Uate from last year who won the stat with 29 for the season.

Ben Barba (Bulldogs) – 28
Matt Cooper (Dragons) – 18
Billy Slater (Storm) – 16
Gareth Widdop (Storm) – 16
Akuila Uate (Knights) – 15
Steve Matai (Sea Eagles) – 15

Top Line-Break Assists

The art of attracting attention and then putting your mate away for a line-break is a nice one to have in the kit bag and it comes as no surprise three of the most elusive players lead the way. Johnathan Thurston is in the box seat to reclaim the title he won over Benji Marshall last year, although the Tigers’ five-eighth can still claim the win. Thurston has contributed 25 so far, Marshall 22 and Jarryd Hayne is still an outside chance with 20. The mark was 23 when Thurston claimed victory in 2010.

Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) – 25
Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers) – 22
Jarryd Hayne (Eels) – 20
Mitchell Pearce (Sydney Roosters) – 13
Mark Gasnier (Dragons) – 12
Cooper Cronk (Storm) – 12
John Sutton (Rabbitohs) – 12
Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles) – 12

Top Tackler

Will it come as a surprise to learn Eels legend and skipper Nathan Hindmarsh tops this list? He (and two others) has already cracked the 1000-tackle barrier for the season with 1090 to his name and he is odds-on to lead the list at the end of the last two rounds even though young Raider Shaun Fensom is just 26 tackles behind him. Roosters’ hooker Jake Friend is the other man to crack the 1000 mark. If the fact fewer points have been scored by the top guys wasn’t a clue to this year being more defence-orientated, consider the fact Hindy won this category last year with 1060 (shared with David Stagg) for the season. He and Fensom are already beyond that mark.

Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) – 1090
Shaun Fensom (Raiders) – 1064
Jake Friend (Sydney Roosters) – 1002
Dallas Johnson (Cowboys) – 937
Matt Ballin (Sea Eagles) – 895

Most Hit-Ups/Runs

Another category that looks set to go to the reigning champ. Sharks captain Paul Gallen loves to get his hands on the ball and has amassed 391 hit-ups this season to lead by 10 from the surprising Ashley Graham. The Cowboys’ outside back has seriously lifted his involvement this season – and he has a chance to knock Gallen from his perch. We were told Gallen would share more work this year; that appears true as last year he was a runaway winner with 505 runs, 114 clear of second place.

Paul Gallen (Sharks) – 391
Ashley Graham (Cowboys) – 381
David Simmons (Panthers) – 346
Corey Parker (Broncos) – 344
Aiden Tolman (Bulldogs) – 342

Top Running Metres

It stands to reason that if you make a heap of runs you’ll make a heap of metres. Gallen should be unchallenged here.

Paul Gallen (Sharks) – 3355
Ashley Graham (Cowboys) – 3106
Billy Slater (Storm) – 3011
Blake Ferguson (Raiders) – 2995
Fuifui Moimoi (Eels) – 2875

Most Offloads

It’s a race in two between last year’s winner Feleti Mateo and the resurgent Anthony Tupou. Mateo pumped out 72 offloads last season playing for the Eels and he could yet better the mark for the Warriors this year with 65 to his name at this stage. He leads the Sharks’ second-rower by eight offloads, which should be enough to see him retain the crown.

Feleti Mateo (Warriors) – 65
Anthony Tupou (Sharks) – 57
Trent Waterhouse (Panthers) – 53
Corey Parker (Broncos) – 51
Paul Gallen (Sharks) – 44

Kicks In Play

Last season there wasn’t a player within cooee of Jamie Soward when it came to kicks in play. He won the category by 81 kicks, with 354 to Terry Campese’s 273. But this year he’s in a dogfight for the title. Cooper Cronk (272) leads by just six kicks but with injury stalling his run Soward (266) and Penrith’s Luke Walsh (265) will likely move past him this weekend, leaving us with a final-round shootout.

Cooper Cronk (Storm) – 272
Jamie Soward (Dragons) – 266
Luke Walsh (Panthers) – 265
Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles) – 239
Chris Sandow (Rabbitohs) – 237

Top Long Kicks

Soward is still the clearing kick specialist. James Maloney is an outside hope of catching him.

Jamie Soward (Dragons) – 155
James Maloney (Warriors) – 137   
Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles) – 127   
Chris Sandow (Rabbitohs) – 124   
Luke Walsh (Paanthers) – 120   
Cooper Cronk (Storm) – 120    

40/20 Kicks

Any of the six leading players in this category could take out the honour, although the joint leaders Chris Sandow and Jarrod Mullen have the edge. They have four each, with Cooper Cronk just one behind.

Chris Sandow (Rabbitohs) – 4
Jarrod Mullen (Knights) – 4
Cooper Cronk (Storm) – 3
Cameron Smith (Storm) – 2
James Maloney (Warriors) – 2
Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers) – 2

Top Kick-Return Metres

It looks a race in two here between Matt Bowen (1312) and Ben Barba (1299) but you can’t write off Kevin Locke (1255) and Billy Slater (1230) the way they’ve been scorching the turf of late. All four guys get fans up off their seats every time they return a kick and it would take just one long return to blow this race wide open. Lachlan Coote won in 2010 with 1554 metres.

Matthew Bowen (Cowboys) – 1312   
Ben Barba (Bulldogs) – 1299   
Kevin Locke (Warriors) – 1255   
Billy Slater (Storm) – 1230   
Luke Burt (Eels) – 1144

Top One-On-One Tacklers

There is a real skill to bringing down an opponent by yourself, as you not only need to overpower them but also restrict an offload. The man on his way to taking out this category is comeback kid Chris Houston at the Knights. He has 63 for the year, a good 16 ahead of Jake Friend. Last season Brett Kimmorley and Mitch Aubusson were joint leaders with 64 for the year.

Chris Houston (Knights) – 63
Jake Friend (Sydney Roosters) – 47
Peter Wallace (Broncos) – 41
Ray Thompson (Cowboys) – 41
Wade Graham (Sharks) – 41

Top Dummy-Half Line-Breaks

Here is a category that will go down to the wire. Livewire Cowboys hooker James Segeyaro leads with four – but four players have three and nine others have two to their name. I wouldn’t be writing off Cameron Smith and Robbie Farah! Last year was more prolific, with Issac Luke and Andrew McCullough sharing the win with eight apiece.

James Segeyaro (Cowboys) – 4
Kevin Kingston (Panthers) – 3
Cameron Smith (Storm) – 3
Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) – 3
Aaron Heremaia (Warriors) – 3

Top Dummy-Half Runners

Luke may have lost his dummy-half line-breaks title this year but he’s in a great position to go one better than last year in the dummy-half runs category. Having finished second to fellow Kiwi Sam Perrett (210) last season, Luke leads the way with 236 already in 2011. Cameron Smith can still catch him; he’s just nine runs behind.

Issac Luke (Rabbitohs) – 236
Cameron Smith (Storm) – 227
Andrew McCullough (Broncos) –171
Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) – 152
Ashley Graham (Cowboys) – 140

Most Intercepts

Three guys with four, six with three and 11 with two… anybody’s ball game! Adrian Purtell is a sneak thief… he co-won last year with four.

Adrian Purtell (Panthers) – 4
Beau Ryan (Wests Tigers) – 4
Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles) – 4
Matt Cooper (Dragons) – 3
Chris Sandow (Rabitohs) – 3
Willie Tonga (Cowboys) – 3
David Simmons (Panthers) – 3
Ben Pomeroy (Sharks) – 3
Joseph Leilua (Sydney Roosters) – 3

Kick Charge-Downs

Another category with multiple possible winners: Feleti Mateo is the man right now with five; he won last year with seven.

Feleti Mateo (Warriors) – 5
Luke O'Dwyer (Titans) – 4
Ben Smith (Eels) – 4
Matt Hilder (Knights) – 3
Chris Houston (Knights) – 3
Dan Hunt (Dragons) – 3
Eddy Pettybourne (Rabbitohs) – 3
Akuila Uate (Knights) – 3
James Segeyaro (Cowboys) – 3
Gavin Cooper (Cowboys) – 3
Fuifui Moimoi (Eels) – 3

Most Tackle-Breaks

‘Akuila The Thriller’ looks set to grab this category after finishing fourth last year. Uate has 131 for the season, 10 ahead of Billy Slater. Last year Josh Dugan won with a mammoth 172!

Akuila Uate (Knights) – 131
Billy Slater (Storm) – 121
Matthew Bowen (Cowboys) – 114
Nathan Gardner (Sharks) – 109
Ben Barba (Bulldogs) – 108

Most Decoys

Ben Creagh will lose his title of being the most overlooked man for the ball (… maybe that’s a bit harsh, as decoy runners are critical to a team’s success… ) to Raider Shaun Fensom. Creagh won last year with 122 but Fensom already has 129 and is 21 ahead of second-placed Nathan Hindmarsh.

Shaun Fensom (Raiders) – 129
Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) – 108
Dallas Johnson (Cowboys) – 91
Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles) – 87
Andrew Ryan (Bulldogs) – 85

Most Supports

Billy Slater, take a bow. He’ll back up last year’s win here with another landslide victory. Last year he won with 91, 11 clear of the pack. This year he already has 161, a whopping 58 clear of Luke Burt!

Billy Slater (Storm) – 161
Luke Burt (Eels) – 103
Anthony Minichiello (Sydney Roosters) – 102
Gareth Widdop (Storm) – 102
Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) – 101

Most Good Chases

The hidden gem in the Storm line-up is Gareth Widdop. There are many reasons he is playing great football and leading this kick-chase category is one of them. He’s not over the line though as Brisbane pair Peter Wallace and Jack Reed are just one behind. Stormers and Broncos make up the entire top five… memo other teams: get your kick chase right!

Gareth Widdop (Storm) – 52
Peter Wallace (Broncos) – 51
Jack Reed (Broncos) – 50
Billy Slater (Storm) – 41
Jharal Yow Yeh (Broncos) – 40

Most Try Saves

You have got to love a guy who can continually save a try – and Warriors’ fans have seriously loved Kevin Locke this season. He leads the way with 18 try saves but he’s just one ahead of Bowen, Wesser and Brett Stewart.

Kevin Locke (Warriors) – 18
Matthew Bowen (Cowboys) – 17
Rhys Wesser (Rabbitohs) – 17
Brett Stewart (Sea Eagles) – 17
Luke Burt (Eels) –16
Blake Ferguson (Raiders) – 16

Top Minutes Played

Eels’ fans know all too well they’ve played a few golden point games this year and haven’t really come out with much to show for it, save a draw against the Dragons. But it has allowed Luke Burt the chance to be the competition’s minute master. He is 13 minutes ahead of Sandow and probably needs to just stay injury-free to take the title.

Luke Burt (Eels) – 1784
Chris Sandow (Rabitohs) – 1771
Steve Turner (Bulldogs) – 1767
Ben Barba (Bulldogs) – 1767
Josh McCrone (Raiders) – 1765
Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) – 1765