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

Which player will win the top individual gong at the end of the 2019 Telstra Premiership season?

NRL.com's experts' view

Michael Chammas (NRL.com chief reporter)

Kalyn Ponga is about to do things in this sport we haven’t seen for a long time. He’s fast becoming the face of the game and he will be responsible for leading Newcastle back to finals football in his second year at the club. He’s a special talent, both on and off the field and is the shining light for a sport struggling to overcome a negative perception of its athletes.

Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)

My pick for the Dally M medal is Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary. He was the Clive Churchill Medallist in last year’s grand final and I just think he is primed for a big year. The Roosters are going to be up there again and Keary has proven he can run the show. He’s not the biggest player but he commands respect and has taken his all-round game to another level.

Jamie Soward (Former Blues five-eighth)

Over the second half of last season James Tedesco’s passing game became elite and he’s ready to take out the Dally M Medal in his second year at the Roosters. With his team having the chance to win rare back-to-back premierships and with Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary pulling the strings, Tedesco could go to another level in 2019.

Margie McDonald (NRL.com senior reporter)

Josh Hodgson. Following in the steps of Danny Buderus and Cameron Smith and after Damien Cook and Issac Luke polled well early in 2018, I feel another No.9 is due in 2019. Hodgson missed the opening 14 weeks last year. This year ‘Little Britain’ surrounds him in the Raiders forward pack with new recruits John Bateman, Ryan Sutton and old mate Elliott Whitehead. That England Test connection will do wonders for Hodgson’s Dally M hopes.

Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)

Kalyn Ponga led the Dally M voting until the final round of last season and with the Newcastle sensation likely to have his hands on the ball more in his new role at five-eighth he could go one better this year.

Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)

All the pieces are in place for Nathan Cleary to truly take ownership of this Penrith team and lead them deep into the playoffs. With Origin experience now under his belt, Cleary is primed to establish himself in the upper echelon of NRL Stars.

Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter)

Anthony Milford. Last year’s most successful Dally M pollers were attacking lynchpins not necessarily from the most successful sides – with five of the top 10 vote-getters from teams that didn’t make the finals. I expect Brisbane to make this year’s semis but to do so Milford must fire more than any other, and Anthony Seibold’s game plan should have him featured heavily. Milford has both the natural ability to claim the game’s top gong and an environment where he can dominate voting, a key factor in the 3-2-1 system.

Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)

Mitchell Pearce went close last season until a pectoral injury hampered his chances of winning the award in the middle of the year. If the Knights are to reach the finals, Pearce will play a huge part. I’ve got him pencilled in for the medal.

Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)

Generally the two main factors in a Dally M are: a) being an extremely dominant player within your club and b) being in a club that has enough success to be getting the 3 and 2 Dally M votes more often than not. I reckon Kalyn Ponga is a huge shout at Newcastle (but probably moreso at fullback if he moves back there). The Camerons, Smith and Munster, will dominate polling at the Storm this year in the wake of Billy Slater's retirement. Tom Trbojevic is hugely dominant at Manly but whether the Sea Eagles can win enough games to get him over the line for the top gong is another question so I'll stick with Ponga.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)

Just two points separated last year’s Dally M Medallist Roger-Tuivasa Sheck from who I think will win the Dally M Medal this year, Newcastle Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga. He had a breakout season for the Knights and in his 20 appearances, scored six tries, kicked 27 goals and ran at an average of 141.9 metres per game, stunning the opposition with his attacking game. He was recognised with a State of Origin debut, was awarded the RLPA Players’ Champion and took out several awards for the Newcastle Knights. Come the end of 2019, he will also have a Dally M Medal to add to the trophy cabinet.

Tony Webeck (NRL.com reporter)

There are plenty of Roosters teammates capable of taking points off him but I expect James Tedesco to poll very well. He took time to find his feet at his new club last year but there will be no such teething problems in 2019. Fullbacks have a great recent record in Dally M voting; I’m tipping ‘Teddy’ to continue the trend.

Joel Gould (NRL.com reporter)

Cameron Smith is primed to win the Dally M medal for the third time in 2019. The last of the Melbourne Storm’s ‘Big Three’ to still be playing at the club, Smith will have something special up his sleeve this season as he takes on a more dominant role after the retirement of Billy Slater. He has just had one of his longest off-season breaks and will be fresh in body and mind to deliver a trademark season of match winning displays.

Brett Keeble (NRL.com reporter)

It is hard to go past Newcastle's Kalyn Ponga for the Dally M Medal. He led the vote count heading into the last round last year but an injury sidelined him from Newcastle's final game and Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck pipped him at the post. Expect another big year from South Sydney's Damien Cook and Melbourne's Cameron Munster, and 2016 winner Jason Taumalolo should poll well every week for the Cowboys in the wake of Johnathan Thurston's retirement. But with an even stronger supporting cast around him, Ponga should shine even brighter in 2019 and go one better than last year.

Lone Scout (NRL Fantasy expert)

Every year the Melbourne Storm seem to lose a star player or three, and every year they’re still among the best in the league. For them to remain in the hunt this season they’ll need some big performances from their remaining stars, so I’ll opt for Cameron Smith to edge Cameron Munster to the Dally M Medal. Smith is no stranger to awards and his playmaking will be more crucial than ever with Billy Slater having hung up the boots.

Jonathan Healy (NRL.com reporter)

Nathan Cleary has bulked up in the off-season in preparation for a big 2019 and has already indicated he is keen to take his game to a new level this year. It's easy to forget that Cleary is still only 21, so he could claim the game's highest honour if he can stay injury free and the Panthers can continue the form that saw them finish last campaign in fifth place on the NRL ladder.

Hayley Byrnes (NRL.com reporter)

Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary was the form player of the finals series last year and was rightly rewarded with a late call-up to the Kangaroos squad. He's in the prime of his career, the Roosters will be the team to beat again so there's no reason why he can't add a Dally M Medal to his collection of two premiership rings. 

Katie Brown (NRL.com reporter)

Luke Brooks. At a prime age of 24, the Wests Tigers halfback will step up and take control of the team with the likes of Josh Reynolds and Benji Marshall around him. Brooks finished in the top five for the Dally M count last year and took out halfback of the year. Also, throw in the fact that new coach Michael Maguire has guided the likes of Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary to maiden premierships, Brooks will be a firm contender if he remains injury free and continues on his form last season.

Kenny Scott (NRL.com podcaster)

Is it boring to say Shaun Johnson? I picked him as my recruit of 2019 and I will also pick him as 2019 Dally M winner. As Burgess Meredith said to Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III, “You ain’t hungry... You ain’t been hungry in years”. This accusation could have just as easily be hurled at Johnson over the last few seasons. However, I am a massive SJ fan and I think he is hungry to win and hungry to prove himself as a leading half. SJ’s desire to stick it to the naysayers will see him iron out the inconsistencies in his game and we’ll fast learn that he now has the eye of the Tiger... even though he’s not playing for them.