With over 100 players completing NRL.com’s Players’ Poll for 2018 prior to the Origin period, the following lists are representative of the thoughts of those who know the game the best.
Players and coaches associated with the Melbourne Storm feature prominently in Part 1 of the survey, with the players asked to name the best coach, fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker in the NRL.
Almost 50% of those surveyed believe Craig Bellamy is the game’s best coach, with Wests Tigers boss Ivan Cleary the only other boss to receive over 10% of votes.
Billy Slater was an easy selection for the game’s best fullback according to the players, with six in every 10 suggesting there’s no one who wears the No. 1 jersey better. It looks as though the players believe Kalyn Ponga is the fullback of the future.
With votes coming before the representative period, James Maloney’s tally could have been every greater, given he led the Blues to an impressive Origin series win. Gareth Widdop was a close second, with the Dragons getting off to a flyer to start the season.
It looks as though most players are getting better with age, as Johnathan Thurston is still the greatest halfback in the game in 2018. It might not be long before Nathan Cleary steals that mantle, given the 20-year-old is already rated among the top three players in his position.
Finally, Cameron Smith is still the best hooker in the game, and may be one of the best No. 9’s the game has ever produced. In the most lop-sided position in terms of voting, Smith gathered two-thirds of all the votes, with Kiwi Issac Luke rated his closest competitor.