Kiwileaguecentral.com is celebrating the 50 best New Zealand league players on the planet right now, with the release of our annual NZ Top 50.
Spots 10-1 contain the premier New Zealand players of 2017, who excelled across a gruelling club season.
* Note this list is based on Kiwi-eligible players who haven’t represented another tier-one nation, not who a player last played for at Test level. (Main photo: NRLPhotos).
10 – Elijah Taylor
The Wests Tigers’ best player in 2017, whether at lock, second row or hooker, Taylor did his job to perfection with a huge work rate in defence. To go with 42 average tackles per game, the 27-year-old Hawera product made just seven errors in 21 games.
9 – Kodi Nikorima
We finally got a decent look at Nikorima in the halves this season, and it’s where he played his best footy, combining his dynamic skillset with improved set management. A genuine game-breaker now, particularly late in halves when forwards start to tire, Brisbane’s No.7 jersey is his to lose in 2018.
8 – Jesse Bromwich
Despite his well-publicised off-field indiscretion, Bromwich enjoyed another strong year in the middle for Melbourne, where he averaged over 10 metres per carry to maintain his standing as one of the game’s elite props. Ran for over 100 metres in every game where he played more than 25 minutes, and was huge for the Storm come finals time.
7 – Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Frustratingly we still didn’t get to see the best of ‘JWH’ at Test level, but for the Roosters he was a clear standout in 2017. Often playing close to an hour on the field, he was a consistent source of go-forward this year and hade some huge games where he was far and away the best player on the park.
6 – Martin Taupau
On his day one of the most destructive forwards in the world, Taupau was immense for Manly this year in the engine room. In 13 of his 22 games he powered through for over 150 metres, and when he turned it on few could do anything to stop the roll. Backed it up with a solid campaign for the Kiwis at the World Cup.
5 – Simon Mannering
If just half of his club teammates could match Mannering’s 2017 effort, they would have made the finals with a month to spare. Topped the Warriors tackle count with over 200 more than the next closest player (averaging 45 a game), carried for more than any other forward at the club and at 31 years of age continues to be one of the best in the business.
4 – Jordan Rapana
The best winger in the NRL. Scores tries other people can’t, does it more often than most, and can create line breaks for himself or others on any part of the field. In 23 games Rapana scored 21 tries, made 24 line breaks and ran for under 90 metres just twice.
3 – Shaun Johnson
He will always cop unfair criticism when his team struggles, due to the ridiculous idea that he should be breaking the line every game while also managing it like Cooper Cronk. The reality is Johnson is the most important player on the Warriors’ roster and prior to his injury this year had been performing. He laid on 17 try assists in 18 games for a really bad team.
2 – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
A relentless force at the back for both club and country this year. Tuivasa-Sheck had only 10 games all year where he ran for under 200 metres, while he had a hand in 18 tries in 23 appearances. Had plenty of errors in his game this year, but the massive upside you almost always get with ‘RTS’ easily outweighs that. The 24-year-old was one of the Kiwis’ best at the World Cup as well.
1 – Jason Taumalolo
No forward in the world came close to having the impact Taumalolo did this year. Over 26 games the south-Auckland raised powerhouse averaged 206 metres run per game, carrying the ball for 11 metres on average every single time he took a run. Taumalolo was the main reason North Queensland were able to defy the odds and make it through to the NRL Grand Final, excelling as the pressure came on following a host of injuries to other frontline players. After choosing to represent Tonga over the Kiwis, Taumalolo dragged his form over to the World Cup to be one of the best forwards at the tournament.