Every team needs its grafters, its share of cool heads and steady veterans. Not the All-Entertaining team though, which needs nothing but the game’s most electrifying, compulsively watchable talent. Here are our picks for the players with a licence to thrill in 2017.
1. James Tedesco (Tigers): A speed machine with great footwork, an instinct for support play and high level ball-playing skills, Tedesco always seems just one play away from another highlight reel moment.
2. Bevan French (Eels): Sheer blinding pace is the Tingha product’s most eye-catching attribute and he already boasts an average of greater than a try per game.
3. Jarryd Hayne (Titans): Sure, he’s picked out of his usual position in this team, but Hayne has the outrageous ability to be a hit anywhere in the backline. With size, speed, phenomenal acceleration and a love of the big stage, he is unlikely to be out of headlines or highlights packages for long this year.
4. Jordan Rapana (Raiders): Emerging from relative obscurity last year, Rapana led the competition in tries (23) and line breaks (26) and was second in tackle breaks (138), confirming his arrival as a multi-dimensional attacking weapon.
5. Tom Trbojevic (Sea-Eagles): Moved to fullback this year and now finally injury free, expect even more of Trbojevic’s eye-catching open field running and elusive ability.
6. Anthony Milford (Broncos): His dancing feet and knack of wriggling free of tackles and exploding into the back field have already made him one of the game’s most lucrative assets. His best, however, is surely yet to come.
7. Shaun Johnson (Warriors): Jonathan Thurston may be the best halfback week in and week out, but Johnson has a crazy high ceiling and the most wicked step in the game.
8. Andrew Fifita (Sharks): A controversial figure, but also a cracking player capable of steamrolling his way through even the most impenetrable of goal-line defences. Just ask the Melbourne Storm.
9. Jake Granville (Cowboys): Explosive out of dummy-half and always asking questions of the defence, Granville injects huge amounts of energy and unpredictability into an already potent Cowboys attack.
10. Ryan James (Titans): The Titans front-rower crossed for 12 tries last year, the most in the game’s history for a prop. Many of these four-pointers showcased not only his strength but a surprising level of skill for such a huge man.
11. Bryce Cartwright (Panthers): Blessed with exquisite passing and off-loading skills and an instinctive, off-the-cuff approach, Cartwright is the epitome of Penrith’s youthful, freewheeling style that always makes for essential viewing.
12. David Klemmer (Bulldogs): While opponents often seem riled up by his aggressive approach and penchant for bone-rattling tackles, fans love the fire in his game and his apparent disdain for self-preservation.
13. Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys): His rampaging runs and ability to hit the ball like a runaway train are a joy to behold. He easily led the NRL in metres gained last year, many of which were accumulated with hapless defenders hanging off him.
Valentine Holmes (Sharks): Beautiful running style, balance and acceleration. A pure athlete and classy finisher who is likely to be more prominent this season.
Sam Kasiano (Bulldogs): A giant human with a knack for dainty passes, Kasiano has trimmed down this year but remains an intriguing player.
Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs): Even in a lean year by his standards, Burgess regularly bent the line back in 2016 and left attackers reeling from the impact of his granite-like shoulders.
Dylan Napa (Roosters): Expected to bring his brutish style to the Queensland team this year, the hard-hitting Napa has all the makings of a classic Origin villain.