The NRL's top five wingers
They're the game's entertainers, the speedsters who put the icing on the cake of sweeping backline plays and tend to dominate the try-scoring tallies. But the very best wingers in rugby league are more than just gifted finishers; they're an extra weapon in attack and are capable of producing crucial plays in defence – from defusing towering bombs to sending would-be tryscorers crashing over the sideline.
After plenty of debate in the NRL.com offices and a lot of nominations, here are the five wide men who we have selected as the best wingers in the game.
5. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Roosters)
He's been anointed the man most likely to replace Anthony Minichiello at fullback for the Roosters next season, but New Zealand international Tuivasa-Sheck has made his name on the wing. He was named both the Dally M and RLIF International Winger of the Year in 2013, winning the major and minor NRL premierships with the Roosters before dazzling defenders for the Kiwis at the 2013 World Cup. Last season was a quieter one for the man known as "RTS", with fellow Tricolours winger Daniel Tupou picking up more tries and earning an Origin berth while Tuivasa-Sheck missed the Four Nations through injury. Yet the 21-year-old still did enough to rank first among wingers for try assists (five), second for tackle breaks (93) and third for offloads (25).
4. Manu Vatuvei (Warriors)
"The Beast" is simply a legend to New Zealand rugby league fans, a rampaging 6'3 flyer with 135 tries to his name after a decade in the game. During the Four Nations he became the Kiwis' greatest ever try-scorer with his 19th Test four-pointer, and he's almost certain to pass Nigel Vagana as New Zealand's leading NRL try-scorer this season. Not the error-prone winger he once was (he made fewer errors last season than the next two names on this list), Vatuvei may be an elder statesman of the game but he continues to match the youngsters when it comes to finding a way to the tryline.
3. Josh Mansour (Panthers)
Mansour's elevation to the Kangaroos side for the 2014 Four Nations may have come as a shock to many rugby league fans, but Panthers supporters and NRL Fantasy coaches have known about his value for some time. The winger sported arguably the biggest beard in the NRL last season and he was also the toughest man to tackle, racking up a sensational 162 tackle breaks in 22 matches. Effectively acting as an extra forward for Penrith, Mansour finished behind only Jarryd Hayne for run metres per game and ranked third for runs per game – behind workhorse locks Sam Burgess and Paul Gallen. He can also find his way to the line, finishing as Penrith's top try-scorer in 2014.
2. Jason Nightingale (Dragons)
No longer the most underrated player in the NRL, Nightingale has made a habit of performing on the biggest stage. He scored a tournament-high five tries in the Four Nations, including New Zealand's opening points in their victory over Australia in the final. Before that he led the Dragons for tries, line breaks and kicks defused in 2014, also ranking second at the club for tackle breaks, run metres and try saves.
1. Brett Morris (Bulldogs)
He may well be wearing the No.1 jersey for his new club the Bulldogs by the time Round 1 arrives, but for now Brett Morris is the best winger in the business. With 14 tries in 18 games for the Dragons last season – including this sensational gravity-defying effort against the Sharks in Round 3 – Morris only re-established his credentials at NRL level. He went a step further for the Blues in State of Origin I, fracturing his shoulder while scoring his team's opening try inside the first 20 minutes, playing on anyway, and then making a superb try-saving tackle to deny Queensland's Darius Boyd five minutes from fulltime. He missed the rest of the series but his heroics helped set up a rare NSW series win. Quality out of dummy half, a superb finisher and strong defensively, Morris is the complete winger – but can he make a successful transition to fullback?
On Monday we named our top five fullbacks, and next up is the game's best centres.