Top 50 players in the NRL: 20-11

In the penultimate week of our top 50 countdown we name the players ranked 20th to 11th in the NRL, according to votes from those in the NRL.com office. 

We've ranked what we consider the best players in the competition, assuming all players are fit and available – not just the best players of 2017.

That's more obvious than ever this week as two Kangaroos veterans who have endured long stints on the sidelines make the cut, along with six current Origin players, one England international and a Kiwi superstar.

20. James Graham (2016 rank: 5)

The England star and Canterbury skipper has slid down our rankings after what has been a season to forget for the Bulldogs, but remains among the NRL's elite front-rowers. A strong and skilful ball-runner, fierce defender and one of the most passionate players in the game, there's a good reason why several clubs are interested in signing the 31-year-old for 2018.

19. Jake Trbojevic (New entry)

Younger brother Tom may be producing the one-man highlight reels at Manly but Jake Trbojevic has been just as impressive, earning his first NSW Origin jersey this year and becoming the highest-ranked new entry in NRL.com's top 50. One of just two players to make more than 130 metres and 35 tackles a game in the NRL this season (Dragons lock Jack de Belin is the other), Trbojevic is more than just a workhorse – he's scored eight tries this season for the Sea Eagles and is a bruising defender for club and state. 

18. James Maloney (2016 rank: 28)

He may lead the NRL for missed tackles but Maloney's attacking game is so valuable that he remains among the rugby league elite. Before 2016 the Cronulla Sharks were a solid defensive team with a good forward pack that struggled to score points (think the Bulldogs of 2017) and the signing of Maloney paid instant dividends, with Cronulla winning the first premiership of their history.  An elusive ball-runner and cool sharp-shooter who leads the reigning premiers for try assists and line-break assists this year, Maloney will once again be key to the Sharks' finals chances.

17. Michael Morgan (2016 rank: 21)

Already considered an outstanding performer at club level alongside Johnathan Thurston and rep level as a super-sub utility, Morgan's stocks rose further this season following Thurston's season-ending injury. Many wrote off the Cowboys' finals prospects with both Thurston and Matt Scott on the sidelines but Morgan kept their hopes alive with a string of stunning individual performances at halfback. Not content with shining as a playmaker at club level, he also thrived when thrown into the centres for Queensland in State of Origin III.

16. Boyd Cordner (2016 rank: 24)

Elevated to the NSW captaincy role this season after the rep retirement of Paul Gallen, Boyd Cordner led from the front – making the most hit-ups and run metres of any starting forward from either state. One of the best edge line runners in the game, Cordner's absence for much of the 2016 season was a big reason for the Roosters' poor campaign and he's helped make them premiership contenders again this year.

15. Shaun Johnson (2016 rank: 6)

As the most talented player at the Warriors, Johnson cops a lot of criticism for his team's frustrating NRL performances but their horror recent losing streak with Johnson on the sidelines shows just how much they rely on him when he's fit. Blessed with the best footwork in the game, capable of skipping through a defensive line from a standing start, Johnson also boasts the most kick metres in the NRL this season and looms as the Kiwis' best weapon in the season-ending Rugby League World Cup. 

14. Greg Inglis (2016 rank: 16)

Remember Greg Inglis? It seems an age ago the Rabbitohs captain injured his ACL in Round 1, battling on to score a try anyway before being ruled out for the season. Once considered the game's best player, Inglis had been quiet by his usual standards in recent times before his injury but remains a weapon when fit – and a walk-up starter in the centres for Queensland and Australia. Don't be surprised if he's causing headaches for NSW defenders once again in 2018.

13. Matt Scott (2016 rank: 14)

Another Kangaroos regular who has been a non-factor in 2017, Scott was ruled out for the season in Round 2 in a major blow to North Queensland's premiership chances. Until then he had been considered the best front-rower in Australia, a no-nonsense prop with 22 Test matches and 22 Origin appearances to his name and a regular starter for the Maroons and Kangaroos since 2010.

12. Andrew Fifita (2016 rank: 19)

A precocious talent for years, Fifita has been unstoppable at times in the past 12 months on the game's biggest stages. A hulking front-rower with the ball-playing skills and defensive workrate of a player half his size, Fifita was huge for Cronulla in the 2016 NRL Grand Final and tore through Queensland at Suncorp Stadium in State of Origin I. Consistency may still be an area of improvement but among NRL forwards Fifita still ranks second for offloads and third for tackle breaks this season.

11. Matt Gillett (2016 rank: 8)

Broncos and Queensland second-rower Gillett pips NSW rival Boyd Cordner as the best edge forward in our list. Brilliant with and without the ball, Gillett is among the game's best one-on-one defenders and was the only Maroons forward apart from Cameron Smith who played the full 80 minutes in all three Origin this year. The reigning Dally M Second-Rower of the Year can be expected to play big minutes again in the 2017 World Cup.

Top 50 players in the NRL: 50-41

Top 50 players in the NRL: 40-31

Top 50 players in the NRL: 30-21