Our great game is riddled with incredible superstars, freakish talents and athletic specimens.
However, there are players at every level of the game, in every team, that do not get their due credit publicly and are likely to be much more appreciated in the inner sanctum of the club.
These are the unsung heroes, the players that consistently do their job week in and week out, on and off the field. They are not necessarily the most underrated players on each team, but rather the players that go unnoticed and unrecognised for the contribution and consistency.
The following is a list of the top 5 unsung heroes in the NRL.
5. EUAN AITKEN
The young gun centre from the Illawarra was quite the star through his junior career, donning the Australian jersey at the schoolboy and U’20 level and being named Dragons NYC Player of the Year in 2014.
Since his debut in 2016, the Red V junior has been a regular inclusion in the Dragons starting 13 at the right centre position. A lot of what Euan Aitken does on a weekly basis goes unnoticed as the spotlight has mainly fallen on the likes of Gareth Widdop and now ex-teammate Josh Dugan.
However, Aitken has been excellent during his time in the top grade and has quickly become one of the most reliable players in the Dragons outfit. Despite being rather undersized for the modern centre role, Aitken has proven to be a more than a competent defender in arguably the toughest defensive position on the park often marking some of the best players in our game.
Whilst being a great defender, Aitken is also an offensive weapon, being a sufficient decision maker on the edge of the youthful backline and more often than not beating the first defender, he faces during his regular early set carries. Along with his skills and strength, Aitken is also incredibly durable and has missed only a handful of games in his two-year career.
Expect this kid to be something special in the future.
4. ALEX GLENN
Alex Glenn debuted for the Broncos in 2009 as a fresh-faced utility. Since then the Kiwi international has played 218 games for the club and has become a leader and a mainstay at Red Hill.
During his time at Brisbane, the Gold Coast native has been an excellent leader, brilliant role model and absolute professional. Despite his consistent form for the Broncos, Glenn has never been one of the bigger names in the team and has often had his consistent form go unnoticed.
However, for almost his entire career, Alex Glenn has been incredibly consistent, remarkably versatile and insanely durable. In recent years, Glenn has formed quite a lethal combination with star five-eighth Anthony Milford which has seen the great line runner cross the stripe for many a four-pointer over the years.
He also possesses the skill and footwork to often put the men to his outside in great attacking position and has proven to be a key part of a dangerous right edge for the Broncos.
Along with his tremendous offensive ability, Glenn is also an excellent edge defender which has seen him become the near-perfect fit to aid the less than perfect No.6 in the defensive line. Glenn also boasts an incredible work rate week in and week out whilst proving insanely durable, missing only a small handful of games through injury throughout his near decade-long career.
Lastly, the Broncos junior has proven to be one of the most versatile players in the competition. Despite being a hardnosed, edge backrower on a regular basis, Glenn has often covered the centre position and the centre of the park as a lock and always making the transition look almost seamless.
3. NATHAN BROWN
Since joining the Eels in 2017, Brown has been a revelation for the blue and gold.
Being shopped around to different clubs in the past due to on and off-field indiscretions, Brown has never really looked at home before the 2017 season. Although much of the stardom in Parramatta has fallen on the shoulders of the likes of Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses, it cannot be denied how large a role Brown has taken up in the Eels side.
In an extremely short amount of time, it seems the young lock has become the enforcer in the Parramatta forward pack, pulling off damaging tackles on a weekly basis and intimidating the opposition.
Along with his brutal defence, Brown has produced tireless efforts in attack consistently with an impressive work rate whilst averaging over 10 metres a carry throughout the 2017 season. On top of his work rate, Brown possesses silky ball skills for a big man and has become one of the best forwards in the competition at playing at the line and offloading to teammates.
Lastly, the Eels lock has an incredible motor for his size and is capable of playing huge minutes in the engine room, averaging a huge 67 minutes a game and 31 tackles.
Despite possessing this skill, work rate and toughness, much of what Brown does goes unnoticed, making him one of the most unsung heroes in the NRL.
2. DALE FINUCANE
Craig Bellamy is renowned for bringing average players to Melbourne and turning them in to incredible ‘role players’. Due to this, it is fair to say that the Storm have several unsung heroes.
However, there is probably none more deserving of the title than Dale Finucane. Since leaving the Bulldogs and joining Melbourne in 2015, Finucane has become an absolute beast. In a team with the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk it is always going to be difficult to be seen as a star.
However, the Melbourne lock simply does not receive the recognition he deserves. Finucane’s greatest trait is his consistent Trojan like carries through the middle that almost always bends the opposition defensive line.
With his huge upper body and incredible leg drive, Finucane has proven to be one of the toughest men in the competition to bring to the ground. On top of his immense carries, Finucane boasted one of the best tackle counts in the NRL during the 2017 season, averaging a whopping 31 tackles a game.
Consistently playing at a high tempo, Finucane lifts the energy of his teammates time and time again with big efforts and 1% plays week in and week out. Much like the other players in this list, Finucane is also incredibly durable, playing almost every game for Melbourne in the last three years.
Lastly, Finucane has developed quite a dangerous combination with skipper Cameron Smith when close to the line. Smith’s sleight of hand combined with Finucane’s freakish strength has resulted in several four-pointers for the lock, including one pivotal try in 2017 Grand Final.
1. RICKY LEUTELE
Yes. The other centre for the Sharks.
Over the past 3 years, the Cronulla Sharks have been one of the premier teams in the NRL. They have possessed incredible talents such as Valentine Holmes, Jack Bird, James Maloney, Wade Graham and the list goes on. However, one player who is never mentioned in the same sentence is Ricky Leutele.
Although his efforts may not always show up in the stat columns, the left centre for the Sharks is one of the most consistent players in the club and a more than valued member of the team. Leutele in recent years has formed a deadly combination with Graham and Maloney to his inside whilst linking countless times with his winger Sosia Feki to score points.
The Samoan international is also a more than a competent defender, often being required to mark some of the most dangerous centres in the competition such as James Roberts, Joey Leilua and Will Chambers, and almost always doing an excellent job.
The most important part of Leutele’s game is his consistency, he performs to a great standard every week and never lets teammates down. This seems to be the reason that he is not given the credit that he is due, simply because it is expected that he will do his job.
Lastly, Leutele, much like all players on this list, is incredibly durable and very rarely misses games through injury.
Matt Prior, David Nofoaluma, Michael Gordon, Frank Winterstein