Players' Champion: youngsters vie for rookie award
Another superb crop of rookies has emerged in 2018, with five of the best fighting it out for the title of Rookie of the Year at the RLPA Players' Champion awards.
Roosters lock Victor Radley, Broncos winger Jamayne Isaako, Titans fullback AJ Brimson, Sharks centre Jesse Ramien and Bulldogs second-rower Rhyse Martin represent a diverse crop of budding NRL stars and each has excelled in different ways this season.
From 25-year-old Martin to 19-year-old Brimson, the rookies represent a wide variety of experience levels and game styles and each has produced remarkably consistent football for a rookie.
Radley had the most caps of any of the contenders leading into this season after three games last year.
He is ineligible for the rookie award at the Dally Ms due to a second suspension picked up this year but that restriction does not apply at the RLPA Players' Champion awards.
Victor Radley (Roosters)
A superstar in the making and capable of playing edge forward, in the middle or at dummy half, Radley punches well above his weight and is already one of the hardest hitters in the competition. Some of his goal-line defence this season has been eye-catching while he also has the ball-skills to have created three try-assists to go with his three tries.
Jamayne Isaako (Broncos)
The first rookie to top the season point-scoring tally since the prolific Daryl Halligan back in 1991, Isaako's clutch goal-kicking has been as impressive as his slick work on the Brisbane right wing with 11 tries and 94 goals at an 84 per cent success rate. His match-winning try against the Roosters in round 11 was one of the tries of the season.
Alex Brimson (Titans)
Brimson only debuted in round 10 and played most of the season at five-eighth before shifting to fullback for the injured Michael Gordon in round 22 with spectacular results. Even more impressive than Brimson's potent running game and seven tries has been his work off the ball, with a series of stunning try-saving tackles. He has been arguably his team's best player in all four matches he started at the back and single-handedly turned the tide in a round 23 win over Manly.
Jesse Ramien (Sharks)
A constant in the Sharks backline from round three until his own late-season injury, Ramien's tackle-busting runs made him an enormous handful for opposition defences and helped him to tries in six straight games at one point mid-season. His move to the Hunter next season is a coup for the rebuilding Knights.
Rhyse Martin (Bulldogs)
The sharp-shooting PNG international got a long-awaited NRL chance in round nine; he scored with his very first touch in first grade and has made every post a winner since. He's kicked 34 goals at an unbelievable 95 per cent success rate and bagged a hat-trick in a 24-point haul against the Raiders in round 17. He's played 80 minutes in all bar two of his 14 matches, making over 37 tackles per game, proving his worth at NRL level.