Who are the NRL’s standout players of the season so far?

As we near the mid-point of the 2021 NRL season, we wanted to take this opportunity to take a look at some of the standout players so far and look at some of the favourites for the Dally M Medal this year.

Previous winners of the prestigious Dally M Medal – awarded to the player voted as the Player of the Year over the regular season – include Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders), James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters) and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand Warriors). 

After the opening seven rounds of the season, the leaderboard for the Dally M Medal resembles a who’s who of the NRL with the likes of Tuivasa-Sheck, Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell joined by Ryan Papenhuyzen and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.

Let’s take a close look at the stats that are propelling these players towards end of season glory and making them stand out from the rest.

Scoring

When it comes to points scoring in 2021, Papenhuyzen is leading the way, amassing 80 points from just five games this season including eight tries and 24 goals. Some way behind is the Panthers’ Nathan Clearly with 60 points and Adam Reynolds of the Rabbitohs with 58.

Tries

Brett Morris of the Sydney Roosters leads the way when it comes to try-scoring with 11 tries in five appearances so far this season. Papenhuyzen is second with eight tries and James Tedesco is in third with seven tries for the free-scoring Roosters.

Goals

The Panthers’ Nathan Cleary is the leading goal kicker so far with 25 goals from six appearances in 2021 and a conversion rate of 80.6%. Papenhuyzen is once again in second place, with 24 goals kicked and a conversion rate of 82.8%. Completing the top three is Zac Lomax of the Dragons with 23 goals kicked in six games and a conversion rate of 88.5%.

Attack

When it comes to attacking stats, the table-topping Panthers lead the way with players topping the tables in three out of four categories. Brain To’o is the number one player when it comes to post contact metres with a whopping 672m. Nathan Cleary leads the way in lines engaged with 36 and To’o also leads the way in tackle breaks with 55, someway ahead of the Titans David Fifita on 41.

The only attacking category not dominated by Panthers players is linebreaks where Roosters’ Brett Morris leads on nine, just ahead of Papenhuyzen on eight and To’o also on eight. The Panthers have racked up 184 points in their seven games so far, picking up seven wins on the bounce and only conceding 44 points in those games so it’s no surprise to see them so dominant in attacking stats.

The Panthers are the favourites for the NRL Premiership in 2021 with odds of 5.50 to take out the title this year with online sportsbook Betway

Defence

Despite conceding 166 points in their opening seven fixtures of the 2021 season, the Knights’ Jayden Brailey is the early season pace setter when it comes to tackles made with 385 followed by the Dragons’ Andrew McCullough on 319 and the Eels Reed Mahoney on 310.

Perhaps a more telling story for the Knights is Mitchell Barnett who tops the table for missed tackles with 28 followed by Toby Rudolf from the Sharks on 27 and Chad Townsend also from the Sharks on 25.  The Sharks find themselves in the bottom half of the table after four defeats in their opening six games and they will need to tighten up their tackling to avoid a long season battling for the wooden spoon.

Dally M Medal Favourites

In a recent post on NRL.com, they asked experts to pick out their favourites for the Dally M Medal in 2021 and there were some very common names that kept cropping up:

Ryan Papenhuyzen

“If Melbourne keep being consistent for the majority of the year, Ryan Papenhuyzen will be a shoe-in for the award. He has been in wonderful form so far this year.” – Steve Renouf (Maroons Legend)

“I’m taking Ryan Papenhuyzen. He has the chance to have a few more great nights like last week, and even his average games are still very good.” – Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers Legend)

“Ryan Papenhuyzen. The Storm fullback has risen to every challenge so far in his young career. The reigning Clive Churchill medallist has been a stand-out in his three matches this year and I expect him to continue his strong form for the rest of 2021.” – Zac Bailey (NRL.com Reporter)

Latrell Mitchell

“Latrell Mitchell will win the Dally M because he has got the perfect balance of support play around the ruck and threat out the back. Also, he carries the ball back stronger than any other fullback in the game.” – Jamie Soward (2010 Premiership Winner)

“I said Latrell Mitchell in the pre-season so with the in-form Bunnies fullback notching seven points through four games to sit one off the leaderboard so far, I better stick with him. He looks like he has plenty of improvement in him as well.” – Chris Kennedy (NRL.com Reporter)

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. The Roosters, Rabbitohs, Storm, Panthers and Eels have star-studded rosters with players who are likely to take points off each other whereas RTS is a stand-out for a Warriors team on the rise this season. He is determined to finish his NRL career on a high note. “ – Brad Walter (NRL.com Senior Reporter)

“Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is so influential that he’s collected votes every round despite losing two of four games. He is the heartbeat of a team that will compete strongly most weeks.” – Troy Whittaker (NRL.com Reporter)

With plenty of games left in the NRL 2021 season, there is still plenty of time for a surprise candidate for the Dally M Medal, however, don’t be surprised to see one of the three names above collecting the major prize at the end of season awards.

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