Sydney superstar James Tedesco is in line to further add to his already stacked trophy cabinet after being nominated as one of five finalists for the RLPA Players’ Champion award.
Storm pair Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster join Payne Haas, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Tedesco as the top names voted by fellow peers and opponents for the honour.
Every NRL-contracted player had the chance to vote between four contenders from each club, with votes falling under the 3-2-1 polling system.
Tedesco took out the Player’s Champion two seasons ago, with Kalyn Ponga, Jason Taumalolo and Jonathan Thurston all previous winners.
The winner will be announced on October 14 at the Foxtel on Oxford in Sydney, with the ceremony celebrating the RLPA’s 40th anniversary.
Tedesco has already taken out the Wally Lewis, Brad Fittler and Dally M Medals across outstanding State of Origin and club campaigns and could top off his stellar season with a potential premiership on Sunday before being crowned Player’s Champion.
Cronulla captain Wade Graham believes the honour could be the most important Tedesco receives all year.
“To win an award voted by the guys you play against every week, there can’t be any more ultimate praise than that,” Graham told NRL.com.
Graham paired up with the fullback for the Blues earlier this season and added impressive Tedesco has been to improve on his astonishing 2018 form.
“He’s at the peak of his powers, the best player in the game,” Graham said. “He’s topped last year and doubled down on it. He’s been unbelievable.”
Competing with Tedesco for the honours is Storm veteran Cameron Smith, who captained Melbourne to their third minor premiership in four seasons.
“Everyone’s running out of good things to say about Cameron Smith,” Graham said. “He reached his 400 games – he’s probably been the best player I’ve ever played against.”
Smith’s teammate Cameron Munster also boasts certain rights to the award after filling the five-eighth void left by Billy Slater in Melbourne.
“Another class year from Cameron. He just seems to be getting better and better down there at Melbourne,” Graham said.
“He’s the key to success, not just for Melbourne but for Queensland. No doubt he’ll be pushing for Australian selection as well.”
New Zealand’s Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been one of the competitions most consistent in 2019, a factor that had him voted into the final five for the award.
“Roger probably has the biggest influence on his team in the NRL,” Graham said.
“A lot of the time the way Roger plays determines how the Warriors compete throughout every game.”
Exciting Broncos prop Haas – who is also a finalist for the RLPA rookie of the Year – stunned Graham following a strong first year.
“The scary thing is it’s his first year and he’s only going to get better. He had a wonderful year,” Graham said.
The competition between the five finalists is tight, but Graham believes Tedesco will be the victor.
“After the season he’s had, an RLPA Players’ Champion award would just top it off.”
Tedesco is in line for a second consecutive premiership on Sunday when the Roosters play Canberra in the Grand Final at ANZ Stadium, and is one of the favourites to take out the Clive Churchill Medal for the games best player.
“It would be the Holy Grail. I don’t think anyone would have ever had a season like that,” Graham said.