Top 50 Players in the NRL: Part 4
We're into the top 20 in our countdown of the best players in the NRL right now. This is the cream of the crop, the genuine standouts; the players a club can build a team around. With just a week to go before we reveal our No.1 player in the NRL, here is the first batch of players who tallied the most votes in the NRL.com offices.
20. Jamie Lyon (Sea Eagles)
The Manly skipper is a class act – the on-field leader for one of the most successful clubs of the modern era, a perennial danger down the right edge, a crafty playmaker, a quality goal-kicker, and a centre who the NSW Blues have missed dearly since 2010. He's barely missed a game for his club since retiring from rep footy and is one of the reasons the Sea Eagles keep performing no matter what off-field strife they're facing. With 11 try assists and 170 points this season the 32-year-old remains arguably the best centre in the game.
19. Nate Myles (Titans)
When he's not showing off his acting skills Myles can be spotted demonstrating the dark arts of rugby league, showcasing a knack for the niggle only matched by his ability to lift for the big games. His aggressive nature can boil over at times – he's the only player to have been sin-binned twice in the 2014 regular season – but it's also been a trademark of his success on the rep stage, where he is a current starter for the Kangaroos and a Queensland veteran with 26 Origin appearances to his name.
18. Greg Bird (Titans)
Nate Myles' partner in crime – and co-captain – at the Titans, Bird is the ultimate competitor and like Myles tends to shine at rep level. The Gold Coast's 2013 player of the year is a first-choice starter for NSW and Australia, a fierce defender, a great worker, a strong ball-runner, a crafty ball-player and a versatile player to boot – having earned man-of-the-match nods at Origin level as a playmaking five-eighth in 2007 and 2008 and as a workhorse back-rower in 2012.
17. Shaun Johnson (Warriors)
The former touch football genius is now a bona fide rugby league superstar, carrying New Zealand into last year's World Cup final and producing NRL highlights on a weekly basis for the Warriors. Benji Marshall's heir apparent as the best sidestepper in the game, Johnson's general playmaking has come on in leaps and bounds in the past two seasons and his sharp goalkicking made him the fifth-highest point-scorer in the NRL in 2014. There may be a few more decorated halves in the NRL at the moment, but none is more fun to watch than Johnson.
16. Brett Stewart (Sea Eagles)
We're in the midst of a glorious era of NRL fullbacks, and Stewart is right up there with the best of them. Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne may produce more spectacular highlights and Billy Slater may hold the coveted Kangaroos No.1 jersey, but Stewart's all-round game (and knack for finding the tryline) has made him a deserved crowd favourite at Brookvale Oval for the last decade. He produced 10 line breaks, eight tries and nine try saves in the 2014 regular season, plus a massive 22 try assists – more than any other fullback and second only to Johnathan Thurston in the entire competition.
15. Sonny Bill Williams (Roosters)
One of those humans seemingly built for rugby league, Williams' arrival at the Roosters last year coincided with the team winning the premiership for the first time since 2002 and he's helped guide them to back-to-back minor premierships this season. Big, strong, fast and famously dedicated, the towering second-rower is among the best offloaders in either rugby code and is notoriously hard to stop from close range.
14. Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles)
Fearless in defence and a class act in attack, Foran forms one half of the best playmaking duo in the NRL and at 24 is already a veteran on the Test scene with 15 games for New Zealand. Possesses a terrific direct running game and has a gift for taking the right option at the right time, making him a superb foil for natural talents Daly Cherry-Evans at club level and Shaun Johnson for the Kiwis.
13. Matt Scott (Cowboys)
North Queensland's old-school warhorse has cemented his position as Australia's best prop in 2014. He led the go-forward in a star-studded Cowboys pack with a huge 160 metres per game, ranking him second among forwards in the NRL, while also making more than 500 tackles and 50 tackle breaks in the regular season. He's also an underrated ball-player, with the third-most passes of any prop this year. His solo try against the Roosters in the Cowboys' final game of the season – crashing over despite the attention of four defenders – summed up the power, drive and pure willpower that has won him so many accolades.
12. Corey Parker (Broncos)
He's been a hero to Holden NRL Fantasy coaches for years, but at 32 Corey Parker only seems to be improving as a player. He made a surprise transition from the back row to prop for Brisbane at the start of the season but didn't miss a beat, leading the NRL for offloads and boasting the fourth-most run metres of any forward. A renowned worker, Parker is also one of the game's best defenders and kicks goals to boot, and won back respect for his state with a man-of-the-match performance in Queensland's 32-8 thrashing of the Blues in State of Origin III this year.
11. Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers)
It may have been a season to forget for the Tigers but their skipper remains one of the league's most valuable players; a creative dummy-half and tireless defender who has made the NSW No.9 jersey his own in the past few seasons. He ranked first among hookers for try assists and second for tries, dummy-half runs, kick metres and line-break assists this season, with a statline that earned him 66 Fantasy points a game – more than any other player in the NRL.
Stay tuned for the final chapter in our Top 50, counting down players ranked 10th through to 1st, next Thursday morning on NRL.com.