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.
In this instalment we feature a handful of current Kiwi internationals, an up-and-coming unit and a forward who has grabbed his second chance with both hands.
50 – Zane Tetevano
One of the bargain buys of the year, Tetevano appeared in 21 games for the Roosters through the regular season, becoming a staple of their bench. Made only three errors in 2017 and was a reliable performer for coach Trent Robinson.
49 – Tuimoala Lolohea
It’s unlikely Lolohea ever saw season 2017 going this way for him, with a drawn out battle between himself and the New Zealand Warriors resulting in a lengthy stint playing reserve grade and eventual release to join the Wests Tigers. He arrived at his new club overweight and had some shockers early on, but gradually got better as his running game returned.
— NRL (@NRL) June 11, 2017
48 – Iosia Soliola
While many will dwell on his hit on Billy Slater, which earned him a lengthy ban, ‘Sia’ had another solid year despite his minutes at the Canberra Raiders often being reduced due to the emergence of some younger players in the pack. Soliola played 19 games and averaged 30 tackles.
47 – Gerard Beale
Hardly ever stands out, but Beale is super consistent and managed to hold down a spot in what is a very talented backline at the Cronulla Sharks. The fact that he makes minimal mistakes is why he has been signed to play for the Warriors, and why he continues to be selected at Test level
46 – Matt McIlwrick
The Canterbury product enjoyed his best season since cracking the NRL back in 2012, becoming the first-choice No.9 at the Wests Tigers and earning himself a contract extension in the process. McIlwrick averaged 27 tackles and missed only one game all year for Ivan Cleary’s side.
45 – Kenny Bromwich
Got a rare opportunity to be a starting forward in coach Craig Bellamy’s side to start the season and looked at home in the back-row. His minutes dropped off at the back end of the year, but he remained a reliable presence, whether used on the edge or in the middle of the park.
44 – Thomas Leuluai
Playing in the Super League these days, but Leuluai remains an NRL-quality player. Set up 11 tries for the Wigan Warriors and troubled teams with his running game, breaking 42 tackles. A classy presence whether in the halves or at hooker.
43 – Herman Ese’ese
The big boy from Mangere East started to make his mark this year, forcing his way into the starting side at the Broncos for a number of games. Ese’ese had 10 regular season games where he surpassed the century mark in yardage, and across the season averaged 10 metres per carry.
42 – Dean Whare
Managed more than 13 games for the first time since 2014, appearing predominantly at right centre for the Panthers and forming a strong edge combination with fellow Kiwis Corey Harawira-Naera and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. A sound reader in defence whose footwork in attack is a point of difference.
41 – Bryson Goodwin
An underrated back who was one of South Sydney’s most consistent in 2017. The Leigh-bound centre/wing averaged over 100 metres and scored nine tries for the Bunnies, in a backline which suffered a number of injuries and personnel movements.
(Photo: Tuimoala Lolohea. Credit: weststigers.com.au).