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In a season of ups and downs, two Canterbury players typified the Bulldog spirit and the true value of hard work.

The team started the season slowly before coming home strongly in the second half of the Telstra Premiership to nearly make the finals.

At the heart of their forward pack through the early-season struggles was captain Josh Jackson and veteran prop Aiden Tolman.

Jackson was tireless in defence and the former Blues forward showcased more of his attacking skills in 2019 than any other season while Tolman kept turning up time and again for Canterbury with effort plays like kick-chases and all the work around the edges that may not be recognised by many fans but is certainly appreciated by his teammates.

It was no surprise to see each of them feature in the VB Hard-Earned Player leaderboard for the 2019 season - Tolman finishing third and Jackson eighth.

James Fisher-Harris took over from Jake Trbojevic as the VB Hard-Earned Player king but the efforts of Jackson and Tolman also deserve recognition.

Fisher-Harris won the 2019 award with 2240 points from Trbojevic (2031).

In determining a formula for the VB Hard-Earned player award the question was asked - how do you measure hard work in rugby league and come up with a metric to find the best?

In these rankings star playmakers and highly paid outside backs are nowhere to be seen, with the VB Hard Earned award recognising the true workhorses of our game.

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

Players lost 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.

Just 15 players – all forwards – managed to feature in the top eight throughout the year out of the 428 NRL players who took to the field in 2019.

Trbojevic led from the front in the opening month of the competition and looked like he was going to be tough to beat for a consecutive season.

The Manly lock was joined by NSW teammates David Klemmer and Paul Vaughan in the top three momentarily, with eventual winner Fisher-Harris in eighth spot.

Trbojevic continued to surge throughout the month of May to maintain top spot but Fisher-Harris was the biggest mover during that period to push into second position leading into the representative period.

Jai Arrow and Cameron Murray were the newcomers to the top eight but were also about to embark on a gruelling State of Origin campaign.

Fisher-Harris snatched the lead in June thanks to an extra game under his belt and a noticeable increase in minutes despite a shift to the front row to cover Penrith's lack of depth in the engine room.

He had Trbojevic and Tolman on his tail but continued to surge forward in July to stretch his lead out to 78 points. 

James Tamou also entered the top five with only players from the Panthers, Sea Eagles, Wests Tigers and Bulldogs featuring in the top eight overall in a unique circumstance.

By August it emerged as a two-horse race between two internationals with Fisher-Harris and Trbojevic pushing away from the remaining six players on the leaderboard.

Wests Tigers pair Alex Twal and Ryan Matterson remained regulars in the top eight throughout the year but were hardly threatening for the top spot position. 

The task for Trbojevic to reach Fisher-Harris' overall points proved too hard a task in the end especially with both players finishing the season with similar stats.

Fisher-Harris featured in every game for the Panthers and rightfully was crowned Penrith's player of the year at their presentation night last week.  

It was no surprise to see Storm warhorse Dale Finucane in the top 10 after he racked up yet another consistent season for the minor premiers. 

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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