Top 50 players in the NRL, Part 4
Our countdown of the NRL's best players – according to the writers at NRL.com – continues as we hit the top 20.
This list isn't based on 2016 form alone – we've already named our Team of the Year based on this season's NRL performances – but is simply our take on the best players currently in the game.
This week's batch includes two superstars with big reputations who have had a limited impact on the 2016 season, plus a new English star who has broken into our top 50 list for the first time.
20. Jarryd Hayne (New entry)
Before his exodus to the NFL we ranked Jarryd Hayne the second-best player in the NRL in 2014. It's easy to forget just how good Hayne was that season – he won a Dally M Medal, was the league's leading try-scorer and inspired a drought-breaking NSW Origin win with a man-of-the-match performance in Game One. He hasn't come close to those lofty heights in his time at the Titans just yet, with a single match-winning field goal his major highlight so far, but there's no denying the super-talented fullback will be a weapon for the Gold Coast next season.
19. Andrew Fifita (2015 rank: 38)
He's a player opposing fans love to hate but there's no denying the raw numbers that make Andrew Fifita one of the most dominant big men in the game. The Sharks and NSW prop ranked second in the league for total runs and third for offloads, while also ranking first among forwards for tackle breaks and second for run metres per game. At his best, Fifita is just about unstoppable.
18. Aaron Woods (2015 rank: 14)
The Wests Tigers skipper and Fifita's Blues teammate produced some inspirational performances for his club and state in 2016 – making 160 metres per game in the NRL as well as being the only State of Origin forward from either state to make at least 100 metres in all three games this year.
17. Josh Hodgson (New entry)
Canberra's English hooker is one of the biggest improvers in our rankings this season, and you could argue we've still rated him too low. The dynamic rake is now considered the second-best No.9 in the league behind Australian Test skipper Cameron Smith, ranking first among hookers for try assists (16) and line-break assists (15) in 2016. He's a major reason for the Raiders' resurgence as a premiership contender this year.
16. Greg Inglis (2015 rank: 3)
It hasn't been a year to remember for Inglis, once regarded as one of the game's top five players. His Rabbitohs side slumped to a 12th-placed finish despite ending the year with four straight wins, and Inglis wasn't his usual barnstorming self at fullback. Regardless, the 35-Test veteran is still a walk-up starter for Queensland and Australia and at full fitness remains one of the best players on the planet.
15. James Tedesco (2015 rank: 20)
Tedesco finally claimed the NSW fullback spot this year and he's leapt past superstar Greg Inglis in our player ratings after producing another strong season despite a couple of injuries. The Wests Tigers star scored 14 tries in 17 games (10th in the league) and made 15 line breaks (10th) and 106 tackle breaks (8th) as his club exceeded expectations to challenge for a finals berth.
14. Matthew Scott (2015 rank: 13)
In an era in which some of the game's big men play like halfbacks or throw offloads at will, Matthew Scott is a throwback to the great no-nonsense front-rowers of old. He runs hard, he hits hard, and he's got the job done in 22 State of Origin clashes and 18 Tests for Australia.
13. Sam Burgess (New entry)
Rated the third-best player in the game by NRL.com in 2014 after leading the Rabbitohs to the NRL Grand Final – a few days before he won the Clive Churchill Medal in one of the toughest grand final appearances in recent memory – Burgess remains a powerhouse player after returning to league following a stint in English rugby. He hasn't been the one-man saviour Souths fans hoped for but he did get through a mountain of work, ranking third in the league for total runs, fourth for offloads and 14th for tackles.
12. Billy Slater (2015 rank: 8)
One of the more contentious decisions for this year's NRL.com top 50 was where to rank Billy Slater. Having played eight NRL games in the past two years and just one this season, some argued for him to drop out of the top 50 altogether. On the other hand, Slater when fit remains the incumbent Queensland and Australia fullback. The best positional No.1 rugby league has to offer and a brilliant attacking weapon alongside Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk at all levels of the game, Slater takes a small slide in our rankings due to his injury problems but there will be a lot of interest in how his performances hold up if and when he returns in 2017.
11. Darius Boyd (2015 rank: 38)
With Slater out of the picture this season, Darius Boyd has become the undisputed No.1 for Queensland and Australia in what has also been a super-consistent campaign at NRL level with the Broncos. Boyd has scored nine tries and produced 13 try assists and 15 line-break assists for Brisbane in 2016 and has been arguably his team's best player over the past couple of years.
This article first appeared on NRL.com