Revealed: Our NRL team of the year

Jason Taumalolo has terrorized opposition sides with his powerful runs and late footwork. Photo / Getty
Jason Taumalolo has terrorized opposition sides with his powerful runs and late footwork. Photo / Getty

NZME league experts Allen McLaughlin, Michael Burgess, David Skipwith and Dale Budge name their NRL team of the year.

Fullback: Matt Moylan (Panthers)

Tigers fullback James Tedesco missed some time with injury but was electric when he was on the park. Youngster Tom Trbojevic (Sea Eagles) and Cameron Munster (Storm) went close but our experts couldn't ignore the late season form of Penrith's Matt Moylan. Moylan was instrumental in the Panthers' run to the second week of the finals and made his NSW Origin debut this year.

Wingers: Jordan Rapana (Raiders), Valentine Holmes (Sharks)

Storm rookie Suliasi Vunivalu's try-scoring feats have to be recognized while Josh Mansour played well for the Panthers and NSW. But Canberra flyer Jordan Rapana was terrific all season for the Raiders, showing speed, scintillating footwork and more power than people realise. For the Sharks Valentine Holmes showcased his talents on a regular basis - scoring some spectacular tries and dazzling fans with his incredible speed.

Centres: Jarrod Croker (Raiders), Joseph Leilua (Raiders)

The Raiders centres have set the benchmark this season, playing totally different styles to earn their spots. Croker has been a point-scoring machine and has come up with some huge plays for the Green Machine while improving what has been a shaky defensive game. Leilua has been about pure power and he has wreaked havoc on opposition defenses. Warriors centre Solomone Kata got a mention for a fine individual season while the versatile Tyrone Peachey (Panthers) played well having been moved to the backs halfway through the campaign.

Five-Eighth: James Maloney (Sharks)

The former Warrior has enjoyed a superb first season with the Sharks combining well with halfback Chad Townsend. He has controlled play well and more often than not turns four points into six with his accurate goal-kicking. Maloney beats out the likes of Canberra's Blake Austin and Brisbane's Anthony Milford.

Halfback: Johanthan Thurston (Cowboys)

Rookies Nathan Cleary (Panthers) and Ashley Taylor (Titans) had incredible seasons and will battle out a hotly contested rookie of the year category but miss out according to our experts. Two icons of the sport stood out in the key halfback role - Melbourne's Cooper Cronk and the Cowboys' Johnathan Thurston. The Cowboys playmaker was fantastic again for the defending premiers and he edges Cronk, who got better and better throughout the year.

Props: Jesse Bromwich (Storm), James Graham (Bulldogs)

Bromwich has been a standout again up front, carrying the Storm to the minor premiership and to within a game of the grand final. Kangaroos stars Cam Smith and Cronk might get the headlines but Bromwich has been equally important to the Storm with his strong carries and fast play-the-balls. Despite good competition Bromwich is the best in the world right now. Englishman Graham gets the other starting prop spot with his relentless work ethic and superb ball skills. He holds off Tigers and NSW star Aaron Woods and Sharks wrecking ball Andrew Fifita.

Hooker: Josh Hodgson (Raiders)

Hodgson has had a season for the ages. He has almost single-handedly carried the Raiders into a top two finish during the regular season. The England international has provided the start of an impressive Raiders attack with his quick feet out of dummy half, his ability to ball-play and a dangerous kicking game. Hodgson may well have been the best overall player in the NRL this season. He beats out Sharks veteran Michael Ennis, who has enjoyed a brilliant final season in the game as well as Storm skipper Cameron Smith.

Second Rowers: Josh Papali'I (Raiders), Tohu Harris (Storm)

Papali'I has been a brute with and without the ball this season, trampling over defenders and hitting as hard as any player in the competition. Kiwi and Storm second rower gets the other spot with his ball-playing ability and solid all-round game seeing him beat out the NSW Origin pairing of Tyson Frizzell (Dragons) and Josh Jackson (Bulldogs) as well as hard-working Cowboy Gavin Cooper, promising Panthers star James Fisher-Harris while Eels second rower Manu Mau'u deserves a mention as well.

Lock: Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)

The Kiwi wrecking ball wins the lock spot unanimously after another fantastic season in Townsville. Taumalolo has terrorized opposition sides with his powerful runs and late footwork. He beats out impressive Manly lock Jake Trbojevic, South Sydney star Sam Burgess, Warriors work horse Simon Mannering and veterans Paul Gallen (Sharks) and Corey Parker (Broncos).

How our experts voted

McLaughlin's team
1 Matt Moylan
2 Josh Mansour
3 Jarrod Croker
4 Joseph Leilua
5 Jordan Rapana
6 Johanthan Thurston
7 Cooper Cronk
8 Jesse Bromwich
9 Josh Hodgson
10 James Graham
11 Gavin Cooper
12 Tohu Harris
13 Jason Taumalolo
Bench - Andrew Fifita
Bench - Sam Burgess
Bench - Trent Merrin
Bench - Tyrone Peachey

Budge's team
1 - James Tedesco
2 - Suliasi Vunivalu
3 - Jarrod Croker
4 - Joseph Leilua
5 - Jordan Rapana
6 - James Maloney
7 - Johnathan Thurston
8 - Jesse Bromwich
9 - Josh Hodgson
10 - James Graham
11 - Tyson Frizzell
12 - Josh Jackson
13 - Jason Taumalolo

Bench - Aaron Woods
Bench - Jake Trbojevic
Bench - Manu Mau'u
Bench - Ash Taylor

Skipwith's team
1 - Matt Moylan
2 - Valentine Holmes
3 - Tyrone Peachey
4 - Joseph Leilua
5 - Jordan Rapana
6 - Blake Austin
7 - Johanthan Thurston
8 - Jesse Bromwich
9 - Josh Hodgson
10 - Aaron Woods
11 - James Fisher-Harris
12 - Tohu Harris
13 - Jason Taumalolo

Bench - Jake Trbojevic
Bench -Josh Papali'i
Bench -Corey Parker
Bench - Ben Barba

Burgess' team
1 - James Tedesco
2 - Valentine Holmes
3 - Solomone Kata
4 - Joseph Leilua
5 - Jordan Rapana
6 - James Maloney
7 - Cooper Cronk
8 - Jesse Bromwich
9 - Cam Smith
10 - Andrew Fifita
11 - Josh Papali'i
12 - Tohu Harris
13 - Jason Taumalolo

Bench - James Graham
Bench - Paul Gallen
Bench - Simon Mannering
Bench - Matt Moylan

- NZ Herald

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