Issac Luke has been one of the flops of the year.
Issac Luke has been one of the flops of the year. David Rowland

Standouts and flops in our review of NRL year

IT'S brickbats and bouquets time again when we look back on the 2016 NRL season and hand out annual gongs.

As always, these awards are just opinions which will no doubt generate a fair bit of debate among rugby league fans that may agree or disagree, so feel free to add your thoughts and opinions.


This is the toughest of all categories and the one likely to cause the most debate. If you base it purely on expectations heading into the season then Brisbane centre James Roberts tops the list although he has picked up his act heading into the finals.

If your criteria is how much players are being paid then Martin Tapau, Trent Hodkinson, Warriors duo Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke, Dylan Walker and South Sydney's Sam Burgess are among the finalists.

The winner: Issac Luke.


Nathan Cleary of the Panthers passes the ball during the round 22 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Sydney Roosters at Pepper Stadium in Sydney on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. (AAP Image/Paul Miller) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Nathan Cleary of the Panthers. PAUL MILLER


The nominations include Gold Coast halfback Ashley Taylor, Roosters young gun Laurel Mitchell and Penrith teenager Nathan Cleary.

Taylor was the back-up for the back-up when Daly Cherry-Evans bailed on a deal and then Kane Elegy went down injured for the season; Mitchell emerged as one of the finds of the season; while Cleary has done an exceptional job leading the Panthers around the park despite being the youngest player in the NRL.

The winner: Nathan Cleary


Raiders player Josh Hodgson during the Round 16 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Canberra Raiders at CBUS Stadium on the Gold Coast, Sunday June 26, 2016. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Raiders player Josh Hodgson. DAVE HUNT


The usual suspects here, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith, both great competitors; James Maloney, who has been great for the Sharks; Josh Hodgson, the one player who has got the Green Machine rolling; and Aaron Woods and Mitchell Moses who've been the driving force behind the Tigers.

The winner: Josh Hodgson.


Heading the contenders are Elliot Whitehead, who has been terrific on the right edge for the Raiders; and future Kiwi Test player James Fisher-Harris. When you are 20 years old and get spoken about as the next Gorden Tallis then you have a big future ahead.

Then there's Cody Walker. Good judges believe once Walker settles into the No.6 role we will see a special player who is very clever and creative with the ball. There's also big wraps on Ata Hingano, seen as having the potential to be New Zealand's next Test No.7, so keep an eye on him.

The winner: Elliot Whitehead.


The NRL's judiciary needs to get its act together and provide some consistency with players believing its current system on pleas and loadings needs scrapping.

Golden point also will be reviewed. The Bunker's role may change in 2017 with officials experimenting with a captain's challenge for tries only.