Hot on the heels of leading Queensland to a memorable State of Origin series win Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans has been voted the best player over 30 years of age in NRL.com's latest fans' poll.
Cherry-Evans turns 32 in February as he enters his 11th season of first grade and his game management and skill level remains as good as ever.
The Sea Eagles and Queensland skipper will pass the 250-game mark this year barring injuries and he'll be looking to take Manly back to the finals alongside his old mate Kieran Foran.
Cherry-Evans walked away with 28 per cent of the fans' vote, well clear of Roosters tryscoring machine Brett Morris on 17 per cent and Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson (14 per cent).
With premiership-winning Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith still uncontracted we left him off the list of the game's top 10 players over 30.
Best player over 30
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Top 10 players over 30
(In alphabetical order)
Doesn't get the same accolades as fellow veteran Cam Smith but make no mistake, big Jesse has played a massive role in the Storm's success during the past decade. He turns 32 in May but is still churning out plenty of metres (112 per game in 2020) and upholding the standards set by Smith and coach Craig Bellamy. The 29-Test veteran's defensive work was also solid last season, getting through 477 tackles at 94% efficiency. On the verge of racking up his 250th career game and shows no signs of slowing down.
Fresh off captaining the Maroons to an improbable victory in the 2020 State of Origin series, Cherry-Evans remains among the top trio of halfbacks in the game. His individual skills are matched by both his leadership qualities and organisational nous. If Manly are able to avoid a repeat of the injury curse that plagued them in 2020, DCE should be able to guide the Sea Eagles back into the finals.
DCE says he's 'just the lucky one'
Barring injury or the Raiders inexplicably finding a new goal-kicker, Croker will be in third place on the all-time point scorer's list by the end of the year. Andrew Johns (2176) and Johnathan Thurston (2222) are both fewer than 80 points ahead of Croker (2158). A key part of the Canberra backline, Croker remains ever-reliable. If the points keep coming, it is safe to assume the Raiders will keep on winning.
A pair of ACL injuries have kept Hodgson on the sidelines in recent years. Raiders fans aren't the only ones who have lamented that, all fans of the game enjoy seeing the way he controls the ruck, defends stoutly and orchestrates the Raiders play. The Raiders have made a grand final and preliminary final over the last two years, and if Hodgson can enjoy an injury-free year the Green Machine appear set for another shot at the title.
Hodgson puts a kick in for Soliola
One half of the greatest tryscoring double act in the game's history. Brett and twin brother Josh will blow out 35 candles each on August 23 but they continue to score tries and save tries like men 10 years their junior. Brett's remarkable strike rate has seen him collect 165 tries in 269 games and he remains one of the NRL's most consistent wingers in attack and defence. With the class of Keary, Tedesco and Manu inside him, expect the tries to keep piling up and the superlatives to keep flowing for this consummate professional.
Brett Morris joins the party to score his 165th career try
From the Dragons to the Bulldogs to Cronulla and now the Roosters, J-Moz has put together one of the great careers of the modern era. Debuting at fullback in the opening round of 2007 for the Red V, the 20-year-old kid from Kiama looked right at home on the big stage and 304 games later he is still getting the job done. His first season at Bondi in 2020 produced 11 tries in 17 games at centre, including a classy double in the thrilling 29-28 loss to Penrith in week one of the finals.
Josh Morris gets the better of Graham
The Kiwi international will be part of what looms as one of the best packs in the NRL in 2021. His premiership experience will prove invaluable in a group of forwards that will also include David Fifita, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Moeaki Fotuaika and Jarrod Wallace. With more than 250 NRL games under his belt, look for Proctor to assume an elder statesman role. Was limited to just 12 matches in 2020, but had played 61 games across the previous three seasons with the Gold Coast.
Gave great service to Penrith over the past four seasons, leading an exciting squad of youngsters into the club's first grand final since 2003. The 32-year-old led the charge up front with a whopping 138 metres per game, including an average 54 post-contact metres each week – hardly the numbers of a prop past his prime – and he'll set the standards for the young Tigers forwards to follow. If the 2005 champs are able to finally get over the hump and return to the finals, expect Tamou to be in the thick of the action.
Tamou changing stripes but predicts success for Panthers cubs
The Kiwi and Samoan international will be 31 by the time Manly take the field against the Roosters in round one but age is just a number when you're as committed and passionate as the Sea Eagles enforcer. The numbers that really matter are Taupau's 123 metres per game in 2020 and his 54 tackle breaks, each one of them leaving a defender on the deck and wondering what just ran over him. Manly coach Des Hasler has plenty of young forward talent at his disposal and he will look to Taupau to show them the way it's done and show them the way back to the finals.
Taupau kicks for himself to score
Despite being in the latter stages of his career, Waerea-Hargreaves remains one of the best props in the game. Roosters backline stars James Tedesco, Luke Keary and Joseph Manu know all too well that when JWH is doing what he does best in the middle of the field, opportunities to attack are sure to come their way. Rugby league remains a sport in which toughness reigns supreme, and more often than not Waerea-Hargreaves is the meanest hombre on the field. There are few signs of that ending anytime soon.