Top 10 underrated players of 2015
They are the players who don't rate highly in Dally M voting, or receive the same level of praise of some of their more-fancied teammates. But to the men they play alongside, these players are some of the most important performers in the competition, and deserve to be singled out for their efforts each week. These are the top 10 underrated NRL players of 2015.
10. Jeremy Latimore
After making his NRL debut at Parramatta in 2009, Latimore moved to the Warriors and Dragons before finding a home at the foot of the mountains. Hugely dependable up front, Latimore has played 24 games for the Panthers in the past two seasons, averaging 116 metres per game in 2015. Latimore has been rewarded for his consistency with selection in the 2015 Prime Minister's XIII side.
9. Sam McKendry
Another Panthers prop who is the cornerstone of Penrith's engine room, McKendry has completed his eighth season in the top grade, and much like Latimore, played in 24 games in both the last two seasons. With Brent Kite now retired, McKendry will be called upon to lead the Panthers' promising group of front-rowers in 2016 and beyond.
8. Mitchell Aubusson
Arguably the most adaptable player in the NRL, Aubusson is perhaps a victim of his own versatility. We've seen the Roosters utility cover the back-row, centre, wing, and hooker (and probably more if asked), and is generally deployed from the bench by Trent Robinson. He's seldom missed a game since 2011, and the Roosters wouldn't able to maintain their high level of performances without their 'Mr Fix-It'.
7. Ricky Leutele
The Sharks centre has enjoyed his most successful season to date, scoring seven tries as Cronulla rocketed into premiership calculations. He averages 109 metres per appearance in 2015, and with seven line breaks and 35 tackle breaks for the season to date, will need to continue to fire if the Sharks are to progress to a preliminary final.
6. Gavin Cooper
Running off the shoulder of Johnathan Thurston must be a real treat, but the combination Cooper has formed with the Cowboys No.7 is something special. The North Queensland back-rower is more than reliable in defence and a weapon in attack, having crossed for nine tries so far in 2015 – thanks mostly to the service of his halfback – and is an unsung hero of a star-studded Cowboys roster.
5. Ryan Hinchcliffe
Whether it's starting at lock, coming off the bench or deputising for Cameron Smith at hooker, Hinchcliffe will rarely let his teammates down. A hard-working middle forward, Hinchcliffe has hardly missed a game for the Storm with 174 appearances for the club since joining from Canberra in 2009. In his final year in the NRL he was drafted into the NSW camp for Origin III as cover for Robbie Farah.
4. Bryson Goodwin
Souths weren't able to replicate the feats of 2014, but things could've been worse had it not been for Goodwin, who adds much-needed experience to a young backline. Played in all 25 of the Rabbitohs' NRL games, switching between wing and centre and scoring six tries in the process, but it was his efforts without the ball which helped shore up South Sydney's edge defence.
3. Bodene Thompson
An off-season recruit from Wests Tigers, Thompson flourished in his first season at Mt Smart Stadium averaging just under 39 tackles and 90 metres per game from 21 starts in 2015. Playing the full 80 minutes for the bulk of those games, he also scored six tries and established himself on the Warriors' right edge.
2. Leeson Ah Mau
Part of a much-maligned Dragons pack in 2014, Ah Mau and the rest of the Red V engine room went to another level in 2015, racking up some solid numbers in the process. Starting at prop in all of the Dragons' 25 games this season, Ah Mau averaged 112 metres and 26 tackles per game and struck up a great combination with fellow front-rower Mike Cooper. Will need to continue in the same vein in 2016 following the departure of Trent Merrin to the Panthers.
1. Blake Green
Melbourne struggled to find a permanent replacement for premiership-winning five-eighth Gareth Widdop once he departed at the end of the 2013 season, but look to have found their man in Blake Green. With eight tries and 10 try assists in 25 appearances this season, Green has slotted in perfectly into the Storm system, and could help Craig Bellamy's side to yet another grand final appearance.