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.
Players 31-40 include a former Kiwi captain, a handful of dynamic backs along with some next generation forwards who have come of age in 2017.
* 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.
40 – Benji Marshall
While it appeared to have been one of the weirdest transfers of 2017, Marshall’s move to Brisbane ended up working well for both parties. After some early injury issues, Marshall played much of the back half of the season for the Broncos off the bench, and was a starting half on six occasions. We saw some vintage Benji, which was enough to earn him a contract with the Wests Tigers for 2018.
39 – Brad Takairangi
A reliable presence at centre, feeding ones of 2017’s best attacking weapons in Semi Radradra. While he’s not the most dangerous attacking back, the 28-year-old Kiwi international works hard out of yardage and is a strong defender.
38 – Kenny Edwards
It can be really hard to like Kenny, really hard. A professional pest and achieved agitator, he’s also a very good footballer who complimented Parramatta’s pack nicely this season when coming off the bench. Can ball play at the line and is a tough tackler.
37 – Te Maire Martin
Unwanted at Penrith, Martin made a mid-season switch to effectively become Johnathan Thurston’s replacement, and slotted in seamlessly. Has plenty of errors and missed tackles in his game, but once he finds his groove on the run he’s a real danger. Starting to fine tune his kicking game and pass selection.
📈 2017 REVIEW | Te Maire Martin
📌 19 games
👉 8 line breaks
➡ 8 tries
🎯 4 try-assists
— KiwiLeagueCentral (@KiwiLeague) October 3, 2017
36 – Addin Fonua-Blake
Appears to have sorted things off the field and is reaping the rewards on it. In his second year of first grade ‘AFB’ became an important part of the Manly bench, playing all but three games and running for over 90 metres on 13 occasions. Has a nice confrontational style which is always appreciated in a young forward.
35 – Bodene Thompson
Couldn’t match the form he displayed over the last two seasons and was at times uncharacteristically bad in defence. But Thompson continued to run excellent lines and get through plenty of work, averaging 36 tackles before tearing his pectoral in Round 21.
34 – David Fusitu’a
Started the year with three tries, and they kept coming in a season where he scored 12 in 24 games. While the initial plan was to use Fusitu’a as a centre in 2017, he was at his best when playing on the wing, averaging 123 metres per game and clocking 11 line breaks.
33 – Konrad Hurrell
It was another season somewhat disrupted by injury, but Hurrell started to show glimpses of the form that once had him tipped as a Kiwi international in the making. The powerful centre was selected in the Rugby League Players’ Association ‘Dream Team’.
32 – James Gavet
A shining light for the Warriors despite their forward pack as a whole tending to struggle most weeks. Gavet brought aggression, a quick play the ball and a desire to succeed which saw him average 112 metres per game. Had his season ended prematurely by injury but looks set to play an even bigger role for the New Zealand club in 2018.
📈 2017 REVIEW | James Gavet
📌 13 games
💪 112.3 avg run metres
➡ 21 tackles per avg
— KiwiLeagueCentral (@KiwiLeague) October 18, 2017
31 – Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Very busy on the right flank, showcasing a work ethic which sets him apart from many NRL wingers. Failed to run for over 100 metres just four times in 24 games this year, and averaged a line break every two games.
(Photo: Kenny Edwards. Credit: parraeels.com.au).