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Dally M Medal winner: NRL.com experts have their say

It's the top individual honour in club football, rewarding the best player over the course of the Telstra Premiership season. Which player should win the 2018 Dally M Medal?

The NRL.com experts have their say.

Craig Wing (former NSW & Australia star)
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Damien Cook had a few quieter games towards the end of the year and might miss out because other players in his team stood up whereas Tuivasa-Sheck does it all himself at the Warriors. He gets better and better and is clearly their standout player. The other game-breakers in the team were a bit quieter, especially late in the season, so he would have got most of the points. I think Cook is a victim of how good his teammates are.

Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)
Valentine Holmes.
I think there are too many stars that would've shared the points across all other clubs and Kalyn Ponga's injuries late in the season are likely to cost him. Holmes has been in incredible touch since voting went behind closed doors.

Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter) 
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Truly dominated a season for the first time in his career, no doubt made all the sweeter by the frustrations of injury and expectation since his high-profile move from the Roosters. His sparkling footwork and attack were back for all to see, complemented by newfound defensive resolve and under-rated leadership. Consistently among the Warriors' best few players each week – which would likely help him pick up one or two votes that may prove crucial in a tight field.

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Margie McDonald (NRL.com senior reporter) 
James Maloney.
Strange to think that a man whose won two premiership rings in the last five years, for two clubs, hasn't been a Dally M winner already. But Maloney showed his craftiness yet again at the Panthers this year, the NSW Blues can thank him as well for grabbing the Origin shield. His carefree kicking and passing helps him control the flow of a game just the way he wants. And when the Panthers lost Nathan Cleary to a knee injury in round three for seven weeks – and Penrith's season appeared doomed – up stepped Maloney to engineer five wins from the seven.

Katie Brown (NRL.com reporter) 
Damien Cook. 
We've all heard how the 27-year-old pushed past Robbie Farah to earn the starting No.9 jersey at South Sydney and 2018 has been Cook's breakout season. Yes, he's the perfect definition of a player's player, but he deserves more than that. He's simply been outstanding. Cook adds so much speed out of the ruck and his nifty footwork often results in him weaving through his opposition too easily. Nine line breaks, seven try assists and four tries of his own, a Dally M medal would be deserving for the prospective Australian hooker.

Zac Bailey (NRL.com reporter)
Damien Cook. There have only been a few players who have been consistent for the entire 2018 season, and Cook has been the best of them. At the beginning of the year, he was probably third in line to be selected as NSW hooker, but it didn't take him long to show Brad Fittler and the rest of the rugby league world he's the most exciting No.9 to watch in the game. Cook's speed and agility are his greatest attributes but he's also incredibly tough and always hold his own against monster forward packs. He's a key reason behind South Sydney's success in 2018 and should be rewarded for it.

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Hayley Byrnes (NRL.com reporter)
With no disrespect to his Souths teammates, would the Rabbitohs be playing in this weekend's preliminary final if Damien Cook never got the start at hooker? Cook's spark out of dummy half has been pivotal for Souths attack off the back off his forwards hard work, not only earning himself a NSW Blues jersey but a potential spot in the Australian side next month.

Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)
Damien Cook. New coach Anthony Seibold made the decision early in the pre-season that he wanted to roll with one hooker each game, which signalled the beginning of the end of Robbie Farah at Redfern while kick-starting the rise and rise of Cook. His speed and potency at the attacking end has given the Rabbitohs the zip they lacked last season while his defence in the middle of the field has been under-rated. He should just edge out Valentine Holmes, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Cameron Munster for the top honour.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)
Damien Cook. What a season this young man has had!  He has absolutely revolutionised the South Sydney Rabbitohs in attack and his quick runs out of dummy half have shown that there is still a place for the 'little man' in rugby league.  He deserves the Dally M this year and I hope to see him in green and gold at the end of the year as well.

Andrew Marmont (NRL.com reporter)
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.​ His defence won games as much as his sparkling runs for the Warriors, with the fullback returning to his best form since his stellar 2013 season. Deserves to just edge out the likes of Damien Cook and Cameron Munster for the crown. 

Dylan Morris (NRL.com reporter)
If it's a question of who will win, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck seems likely, given his strong performance in a team that was otherwise without consistently excellent player. But if it's a question of who should win, it's Johnathan Thurston, because everyone loves a happy ending.

Joel Gould (NRL.com reporter)
So many of the good things the Warriors did in 2018 started and finished with captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. His dazzling kick returns were a feature of so many of the side's sets and the energy, footwork, passion and power of Tuivasa-Sheck's play was on show each week and whether the side won or lost. It was the consistency of his top shelf displays that should see the Warriors custodian win the Dally M medal this year.

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Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
. While I think Damien Cook has been the best player across the season, he will have lost points to other stars in his team like the Burgesses, Reynolds, Crichton and Inglis. Val Holmes has had something similar with the likes of Fifita and Moylan. However most of the games the Warriors won seemed to be on the back of a big game from the captain, which could see him sneak enough votes to claim his first Dally M medal.

Jamie Soward (Former Blues five-eighth)
Cameron Smith. He's the Lebron James of the NRL in that he continues to bring the best out of his teammates and get his team into the finals no matter who he's playing alongside. He has an uncanny ability to get his team in a position to win and his name is synonymous with finals football. Sometimes the best player in the competition doesn't always win the big awards, but for what he's done this year and how he performs in the big moments, Cameron Smith is my Dally M Player of the Year. But who will win it? Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will win it after an outstanding season. He showed how important he was to the Warriors when he went off in the semi-final. It was a really big year for RTS.

Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
The Warriors captain was a major reason for his team making the finals for the first time since 2011, leading the NRL for metres from kick returns per game (59.75m), being fourth for all run metres (186.63mpg) and fifth for tackle breaks (111). RTS's first-half performance against the Dragons in round 21, during which he ran 176 metres with the ball, was probably the best 40 minutes by any player this season and it was no coincidence that the Warriors bowed out of their opening finals match after he was injured.

Tanisha Stanton (NRL.com reporter)
For South Sydney and the NSW Blues side, hooker Damien Cook has been the key ingredient to their success. With the most dummy-half runs (159) and the third-most tackles made (1021) in the competition this year, the Bunnies No.9's attacking and defensive effort cannot be questioned. 

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Peter Jolly (NRL.com reporter)
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. What a fantastic leader for the New Zealand Warriors. He is the complete player and has shown the way this season right across the park. His kick returns, flair in attack, the way he has held up tries and his brutal defence has been outstanding. He's going to be hard to knock off for the Dally M.

David Piepers (Big League editor)
Cameron Munster started the season stunningly with his effort from fullback in Round 1, but his move the halves and Melbourne's early season slump affected his output – though there were still enough quality performances to earn Origin selection. Instead of dropping off as fatigue took hold, Munster has been one of the best players in the competition since Origin and has come home with a wet sail, leading the Storm's stunning revival and lurking as a genuine Dally M contender, even if he's flown under the radar

Michael Chammas (NRL.com chief reporter) 
Kalyn Ponga. What an incredible season. By far the most exciting young talent the game has seen since the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall. While Damien Cook had an equally good year, he had too many other good players in his team taking points off him. Ponga was the standout in a team that lost more games than it won.

 

The 2018 Dally M Awards will take place on Wednesday, September 26 at The Overseas Passenger Terminal, Sydney.

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