Storm back-rower Kenny Bromwich has edged out Titans halfback Jamal Fogarty to win the fan vote for the most underrated player of 2020.
Each of the pair has had to work their way to the top, with 29-year-old Bromwich and 26-year-old Fogarty seeing results for years of hard work in their 2020 success.
Bromwich finished with 23 per cent of the vote, with Fogarty and Roosters winger Daniel Tupou rounding out the top three.
Top 10 – underrated players
(in alphabetical order)
For years a handy bench option, Bromwich has now nailed down a spot on the edge for the premiership-winning Storm. An extremely reliable performer, the younger of the brothers has become just as important to Melbourne as fellow Kiwis representative Jesse. The possessor of a burgeoning ball-playing game, Storm coach Craig Bellamy would rest easy as night knowing Kenny Bromwich is at his club.
The results haven't been great for the Bulldogs in recent years, but Faitala-Mariner's development has been a highlight. In 2020, he played all 20 matches, scoring six tries and completing his tackles with an impressive 92 per cent efficiency rate. He also averaged more than 100 running metres per game – not bad for an edge back-rower. New coach Trent Barrett will be hoping for that development to continue in 2021.
Faitala-Mariner extends lead for Bulldogs
The Titans needed a steady hand on the tiller, and Fogarty proved to be that and more. With just two NRL games to his name heading into 2020, the mature-aged newcomer from Beaudesert proved the perfect halves companion for Ash Taylor as the Titans surged to a ninth-placed finish. On a personal note, Fogarty had 10 try assists, nine line-break assists and forced 11 dropouts in 18 matches.
Fogarty with the jet boots
With a slew of stars around him, Hunt has established himself as a reliable member of the Knights backline. He averaged 143 running metres per game and scored eight tries while predominantly being used as a winger in 2020. Over the last two years he has played 44 of a possible 46 matches.
In 2015 Leota was named the Panthers' under 20s player of the year in a title-winning team that also included Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Dylan Edwards. In 2020 he proved his worth in the NRL, with his input as predominantly a bench prop behind James Tamou and James Fisher-Harris proving extremely valuable. With Tamou off to the Wests Tigers, Leota's importance in the Panthers' set-up will increase in 2021.
After being part of the Queensland side that won the State of Origin series, Lui won't be underrated heading into 2021. But that was the case for much of the season gone. While the like of Papalii, Tapine, Whitehead and Bateman took most of the headlines at Canberra, the consistently high standard of Lui's performances quickly made him an automatic selection in the Raiders' game-day 17.
That two NRL teams (Sharks and Warriors) were fighting over his contract says it all. The Warriors thought they had him only to see Cronulla convince him to stay where he was. A prototype for the modern middle forward, Rudolf played every match in 2020, turning in some memorable performance. The Sharks will want increased consistency and more minutes out of him next year.
What a time to score your first NRL try!
South Sydney started the year with doubts over their middle forwards after the departures of Sam and George Burgess, among others. But the emergence of the likes of Tatola gradually put those concerns to rest. Along with the likes of Liam Knight and Tom Burgess, the ability of Tatola and the South Sydney middle forwards to win the battle in the middle of the park allowed the club's wealth of attacking talent to do their thing. Tatola's tackle efficiency rate of almost 95 per cent is something every coach wants from his men in the middle.
While it can, at times, get the better of him, the feistiness Tevaga plays with is something the Warriors need. Was limited to just 12 appearances in 2020, but whenever he was on the field the opposition knew all about it. For those who like the niggling side of the game, his running battle with Eels enforcer Nathan Brown in round 17 was a sight to behold.
Air Tupou flies high
Yes, he played Origin football in 2020, but Daniel Tupou still doesn't get the credit he deserves. As well as being a great finisher he open play, he arguably remains under-utilised when it comes to his prowess in turning attacking kicks into tries with his timing and leaping abilities. In 2020 he averaged 181m per game and scored 11 tries in 15 matches. The Tonga Test star also had 59 tackle breaks and 10 line breaks.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.