Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary is the hot favourite to win the Dally M Medal – the NRL's prestigious best and fairest award - at a virtual ceremony broadcast by Fox Sports on Monday night.
Here's how the leaderboard looked before voting was hidden after round 10:
- Harry Grant (Wests Tigers) - 13
- Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm) - 12
- Clint Gutherson (Parramatta Eels) - 12
- Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys) - 11
- Shaun Johnson (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks) - 11
- Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers) - 11
- Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders) – 10
- Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers) - 9
- Matt Dufty (St George Illawarra Dragons) - 9
- Tom Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles) - 9
Penrith haven't lost since that point – they're aiming for 18 straight wins in Sunday's grand final – and many believe Cleary would have polled enough votes to clinch the honours.
He has the chance to do what Roosters fullback James Tedesco did last year – win the medal and the premiership in the same week.
The 22-year-old was initially docked six Dally M points after being suspended for breaching the NRL's COVID-19 protocols earlier this season, but it's since been confirmed he'll keep those votes because it wasn't an on-field misdemeanour.
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Speaking to NRL.com on Sunday afternoon, Cleary was yet to pick out a suit for the Dally Ms.
"I was thinking that on the way over here [to Panthers Stadium], I'll try to sort one out. I'll see when I get home," he laughed.
He's right on top of his game, but the No.7 remains humble.
"I think a lot of the time I just try to be self-aware as well. I think sometimes, a lot of the praise that comes my way is a bit unjust," he said.
"I think a lot of it could be going on towards my teammates and stuff like that. Some of the team have had unbelievable years and I think some of them are underrated.
"They've made my job a whole lot easier and I guess the more gratitude you have for the position you're in, it makes it a lot easier to be grounded."
The other contenders
The Parramatta captain was narrowly ahead of Cleary after 12 rounds and while his team dipped in form at the back-end of the year, he remained their best player.
The fullback was very influential and could be a sneaky chance of pinching the medal.
Melbourne only lost two matches after voting went private, but the ultra-consistent Smith missed three weeks with a shoulder injury and was rested for another match. He also had the likes of Ryan Papenhuyzen, Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster taking votes from him.
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Had a fantastic campaign with a whopping 23 try assists, but missed four regular-season games with groin, hamstring and Achilles injuries. Cronulla's patchiness may have hurt the Kiwi playmaker as well.
The herculean lock was sidelined for three matches late in the year with a calf injury and would have found it hard to pick up points with the Cowboys winning two of their last eight.
The five-eighth was only one vote behind Cleary at the last reveal and picked up steam the longer the year wore on as the Raiders really got into stride. Already has a Clive Churchill Medal and would no doubt love to add this to the mantlepiece.
Melbourne's pocket-rocket fullback sat in equal 12th position on seven votes after 12 rounds. Would likely have polled strongly to close out the season, but was giving a large head-start away.
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South Sydney's attacking wizard's late-season form was compared to the purple patch enjoyed by former Eel Jarryd Hayne when he took out the 2009 Dally M Medal. Could Walker follow suit? It's unlikely given he was on just three votes when the leaderboard was last updated, but he could have soared up the rankings.
Led the way when they turned for home, but the Wests Tigers hooker likely came back to the field in the straight. A great year, but a three-week knee injury and his team's average finish would have hurt.
Coach of the year
Penrith mentor Ivan Cleary is a strong hope of taking out his second Coach of the Year gong after last receiving the award in 2014. It's hard to argue with just one loss all season.
But the 2019 Coach of the Year in Melbourne's Craig Bellamy, Warriors interim coach Todd Payten – who nearly pulled off a miracle to get his team just short of the finals – and Parramatta's Brad Arthur could also come into play.
Captain of the year
Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck seems like a good shout to claim Captain of the Year honours given his inspirational role in guiding his side through a five-month stay in Australia. Penrith's James Tamou, Melbourne's Cameron Smith and Parramatta's Clint Gutherson are also in the frame.
Special episode of Inside the NRL
NRL.com is airing a special Dally M preview episode of Inside the NRL at 6pm EDT. Several awards will be announced on the show including the Drinkwise Try of the Year, Youi Tackle of the Year, VB Hard Earned Player of the Year and the Rebel NRLW Rookie of the Year.
Finalists for the Ken Stephen (NRL) and Veronica White (NRLW) Medals for work in the community will also be announced.