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Top 50 players in the NRL: 30-21

It's Part 3 of our countdown of the best players in the NRL, as voted by those in the office. Again the criteria for our rankings means we're not simply rating the players who have been the best performers of 2017, and all NRL players are eligible whether they are injured or not.

Without further ado, let's get to the top 30.

30. Gareth Widdop (New entry)

Last season the Dragons had the third-worst attacking record in the NRL; two months into this season St George Illawarra had scored more points than any other team. That stunning turnaround had a lot to do with their chief playmaker Gareth Widdop, who was enjoying his best year since moving north from the Storm. With 10 tries and 18 assists this season no player has had more direct try-scoring involvements than Widdop in 2017, with the Englishman also improving his goal-kicking to be the league's second highest point-scorer. 


29. Josh Papalii (2016 rank: 31)

Papalii's barnstorming running game makes him a standout even in Canberra's huge pack and while the Raiders may not have matched the heights of their 2016 campaign, their best forward has had another strong individual season. He's ranked fifth among forwards for tackle breaks in 2017 and played all three games in another Queensland State of Origin series victory. 

28. Tyson Frizell (2016 rank: 41)

After bursting onto the rep scene last year Frizell now has five Kangaroos appearances to his name, coming off the bench for Australia against New Zealand in May. At club level he's been a key cog in arguably the best forward pack in the league, and was starting lock for the NSW Blues in all three Origins this year. 

27. Jesse Bromwich (2016 rank: 4)

Jesse Bromwich's numbers in attack and defence have dropped this season – hence his slide in our rankings – but Bromwich remains a class act in the front row, as the leader of the pack for the NRL's dominant club and New Zealand national team. 

26. Mitchell Pearce (New entry)

Pearce's status as the best halfback in NSW is so secure that Blues selectors again resisted the urge to look elsewhere this season despite the Roosters star's horror winning percentage at Origin level. While his Origin losing streak continues, he remains a dominant playmaker at NRL level, guiding the Roosters back from cellar-dwellers in 2016 to title contenders once more this year. He ranks second in the league for kick metres this season and no halfback gets through more defensive work each week, with Pearce also the Roosters' chief provider of try assists and line-break assists.


25. Jake Friend (2016 rank: 29)

One of the busiest players in the game, Friend's combination of great work ethic and attacking creativity has made him a crucial cog in the Roosters' machine. He makes 49 tackles per match – not only the most at the club but the most in the NRL – and has a savvy playmaking game as well, kicking the team's only 40/20 this season. He leads a group of talented Queenslanders who will be vying for the Maroons No.9 jersey when Cameron Smith eventually hangs up the boots.

24. Tom Trbojevic (New entry)

The only fullback in the NRL to have reached double figures for both tries and try assists this season, Tom Trbojevic is just a natural footballer – tall, quick, strong, elusive and a great passer of the ball. The Sea Eagles star is a real weapon at the back but has also starred on the wing or at centre in the past, making him an obvious choice to join the NSW Blues side next season. 

23. Cameron Munster (New entry)

One player who has already made the step up to Origin level – and thrived there – is Storm five-eighth Munster, who has made the most of a dream start to his NRL career playing alongside Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. A terrific ball-runner and all-round playmaker, Munster is already a star in his own right, with his Queensland debut in State of Origin III ranked among the best in history. 

22. Anthony Milford (2016 rank: 25)

"There's probably no better player in the game in broken field than Milford." That was the verdict of Dragons coach Paul McGregor after Milford engineered a win for Brisbane over McGregor's Dragons in Round 24. With brilliant footwork and the capacity to create something out of nothing from anywhere on the field, Milford leads the try assist tally for the best attacking team in the NRL and has an ability to squeeze out of tackles and pop offloads that few other halves can match.

21. Wade Graham (2016 rank: 34)

There are few second-rowers in the game more skilful than Graham, and hardly any genuine playmakers who hit harder in defence. One of the NRL's best all-round footballers, Graham's ability to lay on a sharp pass or smart kick coupled with his penchant for bone-crunching tackles makes him a natural fit for State of Origin, where his only real weakness is a tendency to let his aggressiveness get the better of him.


Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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