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After 25 rounds of blood, sweat and tears, the VB Hard Earned winner for 2019 has been crowned. 

Where no star playmaker or highly paid outside back came in sight, the VB Hard Earned award recognises the true performers of our game.

Based off an index point-scoring system, the players' efforts are calculated with a focus on runs, tackles, offloads, tackle busts, support and decoy plays plus charge downs.

Players will lose points for negative plays including one point for every missed tackle, four points per error or penalty conceded, while a sin-binning will cost them eight points.

Interestingly, clubs from Sydney feature only in the top eight, while the Panthers, Bulldogs and Wests Tigers all feature two players apiece. 

The VB Hard Earned Leaderboard

8. Josh Jackson (Canterbury Bulldogs) 

Another captain's knock from Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson after a challenging start to the season. Jackson pips Bronco Payne Haas by three points for the final spot. Jackson never missed a game for the blue and whites and churned out consistent numbers that everyone has come to expect from the former representative. His defensive work was most on display with 903 tackles, the most since his 907 total that included an extra four games in 2014.

7. James Tamou (Penrith Panthers)

Panthers skipper James Tamou stood tall for the side after being given the senior leadership role in April and his work rate seemed to increased following Ivan Cleary's decision. Tamou produced his best figures since arriving at Penrith which included four tries – his best in a season – to go with a career-high 775 tackles.

6. Cameron Murray (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Rabbitohs workhorse Cameron Murray made his way into the top eight last month after finding enough minutes and work post-Origin and leading into the finals. After a lean mid-season which included just two tackle busts in six games, Murray has returned serve with 11 in the past two games. His offload ability will be another key factor towards the Bunnies' premiership charge.

5. Alex Twal (Wests Tigers)

Lebanon international Alex Twal started the season at a great pace to keep his spot in the top three, but a drop in his minutes towards the end of the season saw his workload decrease and overall position suffer in the process. Twal was an integral part to the Wests Tigers' season, particularly when the side lost Russell Packer and Ben Matulino to season-ending injuries. Another player to play in every game for the club, he finished the year with 886 tackles, missing just 15, the best of any player in the top 30 on the leader board.

4. Ryan Matterson (Wests Tigers)

What a signing former Rooster Ryan Matterson turned out to be for the Wests Tigers with the 24-year-old featuring in every game for the club and proving his versatility value by slotting into four different positions throughout the year. Matterson pipped teammate Alex Twal for fourth spot on the leader board with both players' minutes noticeably dipping in the final month of the competition. He produced career-high numbers to average 14 runs, 36 tackles and 5.6 decoy efforts per game.

3. Aiden Tolman (Canterbury Bulldogs)

An impressive return from injury for Aiden Tolman in 2019 sees the Bulldogs veteran finish in third position on the overall leader board. Tolman was at his productive best in the 23 games he played, particularly considering the wide coverage given towards the Belmore-based club when former front-row partner David Klemmer departed at the end of last season. Tolman notched his 250th NRL game in July while delivering career-best numbers since 2016 with averages including 132.8 running metres per outing and 37.8 tackles.

2. Jake Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)

Reigning 2018 champion Jake Trbojevic finishes in second spot and could be considered unlucky after missing one game through Origin. The workhorse continues to dominate at all levels of the game and is the modern day lock that other clubs aspire to have with a ball-playing ability matching his high effort and energy. Trbojevic probably hasn't been as effective in attack compared to 2018 but churned out a career-high 992 tackles for the regular season. His low missed tackle count of 27 was also second best behind Alex Twal for the year.  

1. James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers)

A new champion is officially crowned with Kiwi international James Fisher-Harris securing the top spot back in June and maintaining his lead throughout the second half of the regular season. While the Panthers struggled throughout the year with consistency, Fisher-Harris relished the chance to evolve into an 80-minute player under Ivan Cleary for this first time in his NRL career and returned serve by featuring in every game. He finished the season with career-best numbers including 1030 tackles, 389 runs, 303 decoys, 290 supports, 25 offloads and 27 tackle busts. Not even a missed tackle count of 93 and 18 conceded penalties overall could affect his overall dominance.

Notable mentions: Payne Haas, Dale Finucane, Martin Taupau, Gavin Cooper, David Klemmer and Josh Papalii. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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