When it comes to punting on team sports, serious punters have migrated to individual player models to rate each game.
Depending on exactly who lines up for each team, the line and odds could change markedly.
This leads to extremely accurate player ratings in terms of who are the most influential and important players across each team and the whole league.
So we thought it’d be interesting to get our professional analyst’s views on who are the best players around. We started with our NRL Tips expert, Steve Green.
Steve is a long-term winning punter on the NRL, meaning his ratings must be accurate.
Understandably, he wasn’t too keen on giving away a huge number of players or their exact rankings on the eve of a new season. But he was happy to share his top ten in no particular order. So here it is!
My Top 10, as at Round 1 2019
Martin Tapau (Sea Eagles)
One of the most improved players in the NRL, big Marty makes about 150 metres a game and has one of the best offloads in the NRL. He often gets a quick play-the-ball and takes a lot of juice out of defenders.
Most people wouldn’t have this guy in their top 10, but most people don’t know how valuable a rampaging front rower like Taupau is. He has pretty low error and penalty rates for someone doing so much work, and also makes nearly 25 tackles a game.
Cameron Smith (Storm)
In my opinion, Smith will instantly be made an immortal of the game when he retires. People talk about Andrew Johns dominating the competition when he played, but I think Smith has done so for twice as long as Johns did.
Even heading into this season, he still makes my top 10 due to his flawless defence and overall strategic brilliance. His running game isn’t what it used to be, but his kicking and passing game gets better with age.
Unlike any player I have ever watched play, Smith just knows how to win footy games for his team.
Tom Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
I will admit that when Turbo Tom came into first grade on the wing, I was a little slow to pick up just how good he was.
However, it wasn’t long before I was calling for him to replace Brett Stewart, and now I think he’s one of the most valuable players in the game. He creates chances out of nothing with his amazing speed and strength, and as he matures his positional play and defensive guidance at the back is improving.
Can make a mistake and needs to watch this aspect of his game if he wants to remain at the elite level, and perhaps one day play for the Blues at fullback.
James Tedesco (Roosters)
Probably the most damaging attacking weapon in the game, Tedesco’s blistering speed is impossible to contain. He had problems earlier in his career with injuries and durability, but he’s improved his running style and still has the speed and strength to get past even the best defenders.
His defence and hardness is something I think many people underestimate. I just feel sorry for Tigers fans that have to see him run around for the Roosters nowadays.
Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)
Without a doubt the hardest man to put to ground in the NRL, the Cowboys superstar continues to show why he signed one of the most lucrative contracts in the NRL.
Similar to Taupau, it’s not just what Taumaolo does with his own runs that makes him so good, it’s the speed that he plays the ball and the opportunities this creates for his team mates.
I would like to see him improve his offloading game, however he has to be in your top 10 players on yardage alone.
Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
Another valuable big man, Fifita is one player that can swing a game for his team. Although he still has discipline issues and can make a howler of an error, the good stuff he does is so valuable that overall, he makes my top 10.
He’s the best off loader in the game and for a player that looks like he’s out of shape, he has a terrific motor.
Damien Cook (Rabbitohs)
2018 was a breakout season for Cook, who in 2017 wouldn’t have been in my top 100 players.
Siebold’s use of Cook’s speed at hooker has the potential to revolutionise the game and I expect future number 9s to be a lost faster off the mark than they have been in the past.
Cook’s end of the season was fairly poor however, so I will be watching his form with interest as he is likely to drop out of the top 10 – it w’ll be difficult to maintain his 2018 form with defences alert to his running game.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors)
The 2018 Dally M medallist was sensational last year, with his superb running game providing the Warriors with the perfect start to each set.
He also pulled off some amazing tackles to save tries, is safe under high balls, and great at cleaning up kicks. Will be interesting to see how he plays in 2019 after his knee injury. I’ll watch with interest.
Kalyn Ponga (Knights)
I know a lot people think Ponga is over-hyped, but I definitely don’t.
Sometimes fans fall into tall poppy syndrome and although the kid can make an error, his attacking brilliance is plain to see. With 5.4 tackle breaks per game, he outscores Tuivasa-Sheck, Tedesco and Taumalolo on this important metric.
While a lot of people think he won’t succeed at 5/8th, I think he will do what Lockyer did and make people forget he ever played fullback!
Gareth Widdop (Dragons)
One of the most underrated players in the game, Widdop is wonderful competitor and all-round natural rugby league player.
He is solid in defence, has a great running game and knows when to give it to his outside men. It seems like his time in Australia will end after 2019, but his 2018 form puts him in the most valuable players in the NRL on my system.
Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
Anthony Milford (Broncos)
Cameron Munster (Storm)
David Klemmer (Knights)
Angus Crichton (Roosters)
Josh Hodgson (Raiders)
Luke Keary (Roosters)
Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
Steve will cover every NRL game for the season, as well as State of Origin and Internationals.
New to this season, Steve will also be recommending some half-time plays on selected games.