NRL.com Players' Poll: The full results
We put the questions to the players, and the results are in.
NRL.com polled more than 100 players from all 16 clubs before the representative season, with players giving their responses about a range of topics.
Cameron Smith reigns supreme as the best player in the game according to his colleagues, Smith's club mentor Craig Bellamy was named the best coach in the game, Kalyn Ponga is the game's best young star, and Jason Taumalolo is, unsurprisingly, rated the hardest man to tackle in the NRL.
Leichhardt Oval is the most popular suburban ground in Sydney, and the players threw their support behind the Nines, seven-tackle sets, NRL games in the USA, and the Friday night 6pm timeslot.
Here are the results.
The verdict: It's hardly a surprise to many that Craig Bellamy was voted the best in the business by the players. Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary finished in second position, perhaps aided by the fact he's coached at three clubs. Wayne Bennett will go down as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game but it appears his aura may have taken a hit among the current crop of players.
The surprise: Stephen Kearney's selection also comes as a surprise but the Warriors' resurgence in 2018, and the fact he's coached many players at club and international level, may have helped his cause. South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold would have likely polled better if it was conducted after the Origin series. Interestingly there was no room for Roosters coach Trent Robinson in the top five.
The verdict: Rated by many as the best fullback of all-time, Slater won this category in a landslide with 60 per cent of votes. It's the second biggest winning margin of all the positions voted by the players.
The surprise: James Tedesco was voted the RLPA player of the year last year. He polled well but it appears the emergence of Kalyn Ponga and the improvement of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at the Warriors saw votes move elsewhere.
Others who polled well: Darius Boyd, Clint Gutherson.
The verdict: Some get better with age and that's clearly the view of James Maloney from the players. The five-eighth category was probably the most open of all positions but Maloney was well ahead of the pack. At the time of voting Gareth Widdop was on fire with the Dragons which no doubt contributed to his numbers.
The surprise: Many would have assumed Cameron Munster would have polled better. So too Michael Morgan, who last year was considered as the best player in the competition for his role in leading the Cowboys to the grand final.
Others who polled well: Corey Norman, Michael Morgan.
The verdict: It's not the fairytale finish he would have hoped for but Johnathan Thurston's reputation hasn't taken a huge shot as a result of the Cowboys' nightmare season. Nathan Cleary's stocks continue to rise.
The surprise: Last year most people would have said Cooper Cronk was the next best halfback in the game but that hasn't been reflected in the votes for the Roosters halfback. Perhaps a slow start to the season from the Roosters contributed.
Others who polled well: Luke Brooks, Daly Cherry-Evans, Mitchell Pearce.
The verdict: This was the most comprehensive-winning category of all positions, with Cameron Smith racking up two-thirds of all votes for hooker of the year. The off-contract Issac Luke is still highly-regarded by his peers as Damien Cook continues to impress. It would be interesting to see how high Damien Cook would have finished if votes were submitted post-State of Origin.
The surprise: There was no room for Queensland State of Origin hooker Andrew McCullough in the top five. Josh Hodgson may have suffered from being out of sight, out of mind while sidelined for much of this season with a knee injury.
Others who polled well: Nathan Peats, Andrew McCullough
The verdict: If Cameron Smith needed any assurance he should continue to play on beyond the end of this season, this is it. He is considered the best player in the game by his peers by a long shot. It seems players haven't forgotten reputation when casting their votes, with Johnathan Thurston coming in at second position.
The surprise: Perhaps the fact Greg Inglis missed out on the top five would surprise many. Also the fact Cooper Cronk wasn't in the top 10.
Others who polled well: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Sam Burgess, Shaun Johnson, Greg Inglis
The verdict: The Foxx's incredible transformation since joining the Melbourne Storm continues to improve, regarded by the players as the best winger in the business.
The surprise: Warriors winger David Fusitu'a is highly regarded, but not many would have predicted this highly. Last year Suliasi Vunivalu was arguably the form winger in the NRL but there was no room for him in the top five.
Others who polled well: Suliasi Vunivalu, Blake Ferguson, Josh Mansour
The verdict: Will Chambers has edged out Greg Inglis as the best centre in the game. Chambers has been regarded as the best in his position for a few years but there are a few young stars gunning for his mantle.
The surprise: The poll was done before the start of the Origin series. Perhaps Latrell Mitchell would poll a lot higher now than he did before the series. Euan Aitken was also in contention for Origin and was in red-hot form to start the year.
Others who polled well: James Roberts, Dane Gagai, Jarrod Croker.
The verdict: This was always going to be a two-way battle between Sam Burgess and Jason Taumalolo, but it probably comes as no surprise to most that Taumalolo is considered the best of all the props and locks in the game. Jake Trbojevic's non-stop efforts in a struggling Manly side haven't gone unnoticed.
The surprise: Andrew Fifita only collected four per cent of votes. That's a lot less than many would have anticipated. There was also no room for Kangaroos prop incumbents David Klemmer and Aaron Woods in the top six.
Others who polled well: Russell Packer, Josh McGuire, David Klemmer
The verdict: This was the tightest battle of all positions. Dragons back-rower Tyson Frizell edged out Matt Gillett, and perhaps it was a matter of out of sight out of mind for the injured Broncos second rower.
The surprise: Boyd Cordner only received 15 per cent of votes, while Angus Crichton struggled to poll enough votes to finish in the top 10.
Others who polled well: Manu Ma'u, Josh Jackson, Tariq Sims
The verdict: The wrecking ball that is Jason Taumalolo has been voted the most difficult player to bring to a halt. It's not just strength that has been recognised, with the dazzling footwork of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck earning him second spot.
The surprise: Kalyn Ponga finished in the top five but perhaps next year he will feature a lot higher than No.4. There was no room for Sam Burgess, possibly a player who would have won this category in previous years. Another who will likely feature in future years is Penrith Panthers giant Viliame Kikau.
Others who polled well: Sam Burgess, Marty Taupau, James Tedesco
The verdict: The wonder kid from Newcastle has unsurprisingly taken this category out. Perhaps Nathan Cleary would have been the recipient if you'd asked the same question 12 months earlier but Ponga's rise cannot be denied.
The surprise: Tom Trbojevic and Valentine Holmes have represented their countries but even they couldn't get near Ponga and Cleary.
Others who polled well: Euan Aitken, Suliasi Vunivalu
** At the time of voting Valentine Holmes and Euan Aitken were still 22 years old.
The verdict: The Sydney Roosters' Dylan Napa may not have been in the top 10 middle forwards in the game but he certainly lets his presence be felt with his hitting ability. Two Dragons also feature in the top five with Jack de Belin and Tariq Sims.
The surprise: Cronulla's Wade Graham is one of the biggest hitters in the game, but perhaps the resurgence of Tariq Sims in 2018 cost him a spot in the top five. Victor Radley may find himself in this category next season.
Others who polled well: Wade Graham, Russell Packer, Manu Ma'u
The verdict: While there has been plenty of commentary around the frustrations of having every 20-metre restart constitute a seven-tackle set for the attacking team, it appears the majority of players polled don't hold those same frustrations. More than 60 per cent of players have voted to keep the rules as is, despite claims a seven-tackle set is too harsh of a punishment for certain in-goal infringements.
The verdict: Of the four options provided to the players polled, most voted to keep the current golden point system in place. You could look at it in a different way, with almost 65 per cent of players voting for a change in some capacity. The most supported form of change is to introduce a 10-minute extra-time period with the score after 90 minutes to decide the result. A quarter of the players polled believe the match should end in a draw after 80 minutes. Only 10 per cent of players support the idea of golden try.
The verdict: The three teams with arguably the most consistent record of success over the past decade have all featured in the top three. No doubt some players voted for the team they supported growing up, but clearly some based on an appetite for success. The Gold Coast Titans have traditionally struggled to attract big name players but they've finished fourth of all clubs. Perhaps the lifestyle and weather is an attraction to players. Some of the Sydney competition giants didn't even feature in the top 10.
Others that polled well: Newcastle Knights, North Queensland Cowboys, Wests Tigers
The verdict: It turns out Sydney suburban grounds have a place in the game according to the players, with only two of the 117 players polled voting against playing matches at suburban grounds. Leichhardt Oval was deemed the best to play at, with Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Lottoland and Belmore receiving the least amount of votes. Kogarah coming in behind Penrith and Cronulla would have surprised a few.
The verdict: The Friday 6pm time slot has divided opinion since its inception last year but it turns out the players love it. Perhaps because they don't have to wait around so long for a late kick off and still be able to go out or spend time with friends and family after full time. Maybe it's the fact they get the whole weekend to enjoy themselves. Surprisingly the Sunday, 4pm time slot only received nine per cent of votes. The least liked time slot was the Thursday night match, presumably because of the shorter turnarounds leading in.
The verdict: With the NRL still exploring the possibility of bringing back the Nines competition next year, it's been heavily endorsed by the players. A total of 73.5 per cent of players want it back as part of the calendar. While the first four years were played in Auckland, next year will be played at a different location. The players have traditionally enjoyed the short-form tournament not just because of the open-style football, but because of the opportunity to socialise and mingle with all 16 teams in the one city.
The verdict: If it was up to the players the next two expansion teams would be based in Perth and Brisbane. Nine per cent of players voted against the idea of expansion. ARLC chairman Peter Beattie has indicated the expansion discussion is back on the table but where and how many teams is up in the air. Fiji, on the back of a successful world cup campaign, surprisingly polled well.
Others that polled: NSW Central Coast, Central Queensland, Papua New Guinea.
The verdict: With the NRL exploring the possibility of starting next season in California, likely between South Sydney and Melbourne, there seems to be no lack of support from the playing group to take a game to the United States. Almost 90 per cent of players have backed the idea of an NRL competition game being staged on US soil in the future.
The NRL.com Players' Poll is independent of the National Rugby League. The survey was undertaken by 117 NRL players across all 16 clubs. The survey questions and results have not been designed or endorsed by the NRL or the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA).