Peter Badel’s top 50 NRL players: 20-11
A year is a long time in footy, as highlighted by those players who have rocketed up Peter Badel's top 50, and those who have taken a tumble down the list.
For the next four days The Courier-Mail's chief rugby league writer will countdown the NRL's hottest talent, before revealing the top 10 at Monday's NRL Season Launch.
But who makes that top 10 when the field is stacked with so much talent? Does Latrell Mitchell find his way to the top after a year that saw him win a premiership and guide New South Wales to Origin glory?
Does Queenslander young gun Kalyn Ponga announce himself as the NRL's best player, after proving he belonged in the Maroons jersey?
Is it Dally M winner Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, Cowboys big bopper Jason Taumalolo, or all-conquering captain Boyd Cordner?
Last year we saw Storm veteran Cameron Smith take out the top spot from Taumalolo, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Cordner rounding out the top five.
From six to ten we saw Cooper Cronk, Michael Morgan, Tom Trbojevic, Matt Gillett and Jesse Bromwich.
With a couple of retirees and some players whose form has slipped, we're bound to see some new names.
Today, we start with the players ranked 20 to 11.
20. Tom Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
What a talent. Tall, fast and powerful, Tommy Turbo toyed with the Maroons in his maiden Origin campaign. At club level, the 22-year-old was in supreme form, making a staggering 115 tackle busts.
KEY STAT: 19 line breaks and 19 try-assists underline his ability to score and set-up tries.
19. Anthony Milford (Broncos)
Brisbane's player of the year last season despite playing through the pain of a shoulder injury. That shows Milford's toughness. Kicking game improved out of sight last year. Deadly in attack. Now just has to improve his consistency.
KEY STAT: 16 try assists, 14 secondary assists and 19 forced drop outs in 2018.
18. Nathan Cleary (Panthers)
Already one of the game's stars at the tender age of 21. Steered NSW to victory in his first Origin series and has the composure and game management skills to play 10 years of rep football. He can take the Panthers to a premiership.
KEY STAT: Eleven try assists, six secondary assists and four tries last season.
17. Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
Does the dirty work but still finds the energy to show some finesse in the midfield. Old-school tough guy with the smarts to produce match-turning plays in attack and defence.
KEY STAT: Averaged 78 minutes per game in 2018 and scored seven tries (equal third for Manly).
16. Gareth Widdop (Dragons)
No.45 last year, Widdop has rocketed up the list thanks to the best season of his career in 2018. Became a genuine match-winner for the Dragons, giving the side composure and tactical awareness.
KEY STAT: 19 try-assists and 10 forced dropouts for the Dragons.
15. Luke Keary (Roosters)
Has surged into the top 20 with his outstanding premiership-winning season. Sharp, clever with the ball and when the Roosters needed him to stand up to help Cooper Cronk in the grand final, Keary delivered.
KEY STAT: Celebrated his Test debut last year thanks to 21 try assists and 15 secondary assists.
14. Damien Cook (Rabbitohs)
Poised to succeed Cameron Smith as the code's No.1 hooker. Cook ignited the Rabbitohs last season with his scorching speed off the mark and had the temperament to shine in his first Origin campaign.
KEY STAT: The most line-breaks (11), run metres (2246) and tackle busts (74) of any starting hooker.
13. Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
Reviled by many for his antics but there is no disputing his natural talent. Few forwards of the past 30 years have his size, mobility and ability to offload under pressure. A match-winner in midfield.
KEY STAT: 79 offloads and 87 tackle busts last season.
12. Boyd Cordner (Roosters)
Has developed into a quality leader and capped a fine season by captaining Australia after skippering the Roosters to title glory in 2018. His form wavered at times but he runs a brutal line on the Roosters' left edge.
11. Latrell Mitchell (Roosters)
On the cusp of breaking into the top 10 and could one day be the top dog. The new Greg Inglis with his speed, strength and lethal fend. Tormented Will Chambers in the Origin series and grand final.
KEY STAT: Scored 42 per cent of the Roosters' points last season, including 17 tries.