Just eight teams remain in the NRL and after a gruelling season, they each have a chance at glory. Some teams are carrying different levels of momentum compared to others and within that are players who are essential to their side’s success. If their team is to capture the 2023 NRL Premiership, they need to be at their best and lead the way.
The team at Before You Bet have taken a look at some key players for each team and how important their impact will be with just four weeks remaining in the competition.
Dylan Edwards – Penrith Panthers
The obvious choice would be Nathan Cleary – he is the conductor and can kick his team out of trouble or create unique attacking opportunities, but do not overlook Edwards’ contribution. The Clive Churchill Medal winner from the 2022 Grand Final, Edwards is a key contributor to his team on both sides of the ball. The Panthers are renowned for having the best defensive record in the competition and it is Edwards who is organising this at the back.
Payne Haas/Patrick Carrigan – Brisbane Broncos
A lot of attention will go to Walsh and Reynolds – their impact is crucial. However, they will not be given the opportunity to perform well if Haas and Carrigan are not leading the way in the middle. Carrying the ball strongly and bruising opponents in defence, both should play long minutes. If opponents want to defeat the Broncos, they have a tough task of stopping these two.
Addin Fonua-Blake – New Zealand Warriors
Shaun Johnson gets the accolades, but AFB is leading the pack of forwards strongly. Leading with his actions, he has a high work rate on both sides of the ball. An unrecognised ability to get a quick ‘play the ball’ allows his team to generate momentum for Johnson and the outside backs to create off.
Harry Grant – Melbourne Storm
It’s been a quiet few weeks for Grant in this team, with Munster and Hughes leading the way. Underpinning the Storm’s success has been the form of Grant. He is a strong ball runner, picking his times wisely and rarely misses tackles. His work rate is high, and he will look to exploit the weaknesses of his opponents around the ruck.
Kaylan Ponga – Newcastle Knights
It is no surprise that Ponga is on this list. He is a superstar attacking weapon who needs the ball in his hands as much as possible. It has been a long wait, but Knights fans (and all rugby league fans) are seeing just how good he is on a consistent basis. Expect teams to target him in defence though and the edge defenders will need to offer their playmaker support.
Sam Walker – Sydney Roosters
Hitting form at the right time, Walker’s ball playing ability has returned to the standard which he set when his career first began. More importantly, the Roosters are again trusting his ability to exploit defensive errors and are hitting the right holes at the line. On top of that, he has a great kicking game which can build pressure at the end of sets.
Nicho Hynes – Cronulla Sharks
The 2022 Dally M Medal winner is hitting form again and it appears as though his confidence has returned. It is no secret that he is crucial to the Sharks success, but the way the players around him also increase their contribution is something to be admired.
Elliot Whitehead/Hudson Young – Canberra Raiders
The Raiders need to drag teams into an arm wrestle if they are to progress any further and there are no two better players to do this than their edge backrowers. Running the ball strongly is one thing, leading their defensive line is another. They will also have a job of protecting their halves and ensuring they are not targeted too much.
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