Every now and then I get asked exactly who are my favourite players in the NRL. Generally it’s from the younger generation of fans, who love to chat the topic of the game’s best. All fans have their special players, some have been that for years while other players burst onto the scene to capture the imaginations of fans across the game. I’m no different, with my favourites being seasonally adjusted to add a new star to some of the players who have been there for sometime.
Favourite players don’t have to be the best , biggest or fastest. They’re just the ones you love to watch. I thought I’d convert the talk to print and at the risk of omitting some of the finest, come up with my five favourite players in the NRL.
There is no point completing this exercise if you sit on the fence so I will put forward my top five in order.
5) BEN BARBA (Canterbury)
What a star. Odds-on favourite for the Dally M Medal and rightly so. Barba has exploded this year. Sure, he was an entertaining player last year but he has risen so easily to the next level of superstar.
He is the player converting kids to be Canterbury fans. He has suddenly become the face of our game. Barba seems a level-headed young bloke thriving under Des Hasler at Belmore. And what about those 100 metre tries!
The kid is a freak. He has the ability to develop into one of the great's of the current era.
4) GREG BIRD (Gold Coast)
Bird reminds me of a hardened old English forward from the 1970s. He has everything you want in a footballer. Bird is resilient and skilful - he shows that every State of Origin series. Bird is creative and has great footwork. He can also off-load and is one of the toughest players in the game.
What more can I say about the bloke?
I love watching him play. He is the bloke every player in the NRL would want to play alongside. That's about the biggest compliment you can give a player.
3) JOHNATHAN THURSTON (North Queensland)
Has been among the game's top few players for the past six or seven years.
There is no better player at pulling apart a defensive line than Thurston, whether it is by putting players through holes or using that famous dummy.
Over the past eight years at North Queensland, he has scored or set up hundreds of tries. His incredible skills are only matched but his longevity at the top. And when it comes to State of Origin, he somehow goes to another level. A class player. Will go down among the game's all-time finest.
2) JAMIE LYON (Manly)
Rarely makes a mistake. Does everything right on the field. Lyon instills you with confidence each time he takes the field. Another tough country boy. He just goes about his work in a highly-effective way that doesn't always pinch the limelight, but is chockfull of talent.
In recent years has proven himself to be one of the great all-rounders He can muscle his way into position to score from any type of kick and is great in the air. Has a nice kick himself for his winger. A beautiful set of hands, with plenty of speed and is a strong leader. Lyon has no weaknesses and is great to watch.
1) MATT BOWEN (North Queensland)
Bowen has been among my favourite players for a long time. He showed us yet again last Monday night against Wests Tigers what he’s capable of on a football field.
It is easy to fall in love with the way Matt Bowen plays the game. He is electrifying. He has amazing footwork and that instinctive dummy.
His natural class just oozes out of him. Bowen reads the play so well. He not only scores tries, he creates them and he saves plenty as well. This from a player whose career was almost over, through shocking knee injuries. The man they call Mango is my favourite.
I have been doing a lot of thinking this year about the state of the game and where the NRL is heading.
Rugby league is flying at the moment - that is reflected in soaring television ratings and strong crowds.
The impending $1 billion TV broadcast deal will show exactly what a valuable commodity rugby league has become.
But I still think there are a few areas where the NRL can improve. In next week's column, I will offer up five ideas that could help our game prosper even further.