featured, League, NRL, Rugby League

The top 50 NRL players of 2018: 40-31

In the second part of my series running through the top 50 players in the NRL, we move through players 40-31 on the list, with more big changes from the start of the year.
» Part 1 (50-41)
40. Anthony Milford (Brisbane Broncos)
Rank at start of season: 12
Milford has taken one of the biggest drops on this list, but maybe it was always going to happen. The criticism of Brisbane coming into the season was the lack of creativity in their halves. I put Milford up so high because he was the key man in overcoming those issues, but evidently, he wasn’t able to with any consistency throughout a tough season for the Broncos, despite their end result of making the final.
39. Paul Gallen (Cronulla Sharks)
Rank at start of season: 47
Gallen rises a little bit at the end of the season. He is one of the hardest workers to ever lace up a boot in this competition and proved it again throughout 2018, running hard and tackling hard.
He might be getting older and showing a few signs of slowing down, but if you needed someone in a team playing for your life, Gallen is just about the first person you’d have picked.
38. Andrew McCullough (Brisbane Broncos)
Rank at start of season: 19
McCullough’s form wasn’t quite where it needed to be during the first half of 2018. Despite that, he played State of Origin and was better at the back of the year.
He’s such an important player that he has to be back at the top of his game next year if Brisbane are going to give the competition a shake.
37. James Graham (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Rank at start of season: 23
Graham drops back a little bit at season’s end, but was still a leader up front for the Dragons. He rocks up to play every single game with the same intensity and work rate, and while the numbers don’t make for the most outstanding reading, he inspires everyone around him to step up and play better footy.
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
36. Tom Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Rank at start of season: N/A
Tom is the second of the Burgess brothers to appear on the list. He only made nine errors which in itself is a small miracle, while he only just finished behind Sam in running metres.
35. Matt Moylan (Cronulla Sharks)
Rank at start of season: N/A
The Cronulla fullback-cum-half struggled early in the season, but become one of the better players in the competition after the Origin period. If the Sharks were going places, Moylan needed to be at his best, and it showed during the semi-final effort against former club Penrith.
34. Joey Leilua (Canberra Raiders)
Rank at start of season: N/A
While his wing partner Rapana has disappeared from the list, Leilua gets his start. While he is still susceptible to the odd brain explosion, he scored 14 tries and stamped his authority as one of the most damaging ball runners in the competition during 2018.
33. Alex Johnston (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Rank at start of season: N/A
Johnston really came of age at the back for the Rabbitohs this season. He finished with eight tries and, more importantly, 14 try assists and was a key cog in the left edge which gave opposition defences headaches all season.
32. Paul Vaughan (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Rank at start of season: 32
Vaughan became one of the most consistent performers in the competition this year, earning a State of Origin debut which was long overdue. His injury at the back-end of the year cost the Dragons. The big prop ended the season with 15 offloads, 30 tackle busts and more than 100 metres per game.
31. Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles)
Rank at start of season: 33
If there is one skill which Taupau has in spades, it’s offloading. He finished the season with the second most – 70 – while also averaging almost ten metres per run across the season. Such a dominant player.