Who’s leading race for all individual awards

The NRL is just three weeks from the end of the regular season and the race for the Dally M Medal looks like coming down to a battle between two halfbacks and a couple of Panthers stars.

Dragons skipper Ben Hunt is the favourite to win the game’s highest individual honour but will face stiff competition from Penrith duo Isaah Yeo and Dylan Edwards, who have been at the forefront of the premiers’ dominance in 2022.

The dark horse for the medal is Cronulla halfback Nicho Hynes, who has been instrumental in his side’s rise to a share of second spot on the ladder.

Hynes, who was not even guaranteed to be in Melbourne’s first-choice line-up last year, could cap a meteoric rise if he can get his hands on the Dally M Medal.

He was third on 16 behind Hunt (19) and Yeo (17) when the NRL stopped publicising the weekly voting after Round 12. 

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Of the other contenders at the mid-point of the season, Mitchell Moses and Ryan Papenhuyzen have had their campaigns curtailed by injury while Nathan Cleary is no longer in the running due to his dangerous throw ban.

Storm star Cameron Munster has been in fine form over the second half of the season and should rise up the leaderboard while teammate Jahrome Hughes and Roosters skipper James Tedesco will likely poll plenty of votes in the latter stages of the year to be outside chances.

Here’s how the awards are shaping up heading into the final few rounds.

Player of the year

(2021 winner – Tom Trbojevic): Hunt has been magnificent as pretty much a one-man band at the Dragons and will not have the problem of teammates taking votes away.

Yeo and Edwards could harm each other’s chances while Hynes, playing for a Sharks team which has risen into a share of second spot after eight wins in nine matches, is likely to have polled strongly in a lot of those games. 

Hunt will have to overturn recent history to win with St George Illawarra missing out on the finals. 

Isaah Yeo

(Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

The last Dally M Medallist from a team that didn’t make the playoffs was fallen Eels star Jarryd Hayne, when he shared the award with Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston in 2014. 

Knights hooker Danny Buderus (2004) and Dragons five-eighth Trent Barrett (2000) are the only players to have won the award in the NRL era without playing in the finals that season.

Hunt should win but Hynes is a strong chance of an upset – he would have polled plenty of votes as the Sharks have been victorious in eight of their past nine games, plus they have three non-finals teams to finish the season.

Dally M leaderboard (after Round 12)

Ben Hunt (Dragons) 19
Isaah Yeo (Panthers) 17
Nicho Hynes (Sharks) 16
Mitchell Moses (Eels) 15
Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm) 15
James Tedesco (Roosters) 14
Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles) 13
Dylan Edwards (Panthers) 13
Cameron Munster (Storm) 12
Adam Reynolds (Broncos) 11

Coach of the year

(2021 winner – Craig Bellamy): A few coaches have solid claims but the fact that Todd Payten has taken the Cowboys from 15th last season to a top-four finish, likely second spot, means he is a shoo-in for this award.

Captain of the year

(2021 winner – James Tedesco): Always a tough one to pick, this one could go to Daly Cherry-Evans for his efforts in keeping Manly together despite many hurdles they’ve faced this season, particularly the Tom Trbojevic injury and the “inclusivity jersey” boycott fiasco.

Rookie of the year

(2021 winner – Sam Walker): Cowboys second-rower Jeremiah Nanai has blitzed it this year and will run away with this award.

Fullback of the year

(2021 winner – Tom Trbojevic): Dylan Edwards has been the No.1 among the No.1 jerseys this season – while some contenders have flashes of brilliance, his consistent excellence and durability has been at the forefront of Penrith’s success. Roosters skipper James Tedesco is his only rival for this year’s award following Ryan Papenhuyzen’s fractured kneecap last month.

Wingers of the year

(2021 winners – Brian To’o and Reuben Garrick): Alex Johnston must surely top this category for his try-scoring efforts at South Sydney but the other candidate is likely to come down to a battle between Corey Oates, Brian To’o, Daniel Tupou, Josh Addo-Carr and Selwyn Cobbo. Based solely on club form, Oates will probably get the nod for his renaissance at the Broncos.

(Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Centres of the year

(2021 winners – Justin Olam and Matt Burton): Justin Olam is a no-brainer, not just for his bone-jarring defence but his all-round game at Melbourne. Valentine Holmes should be the other centre given his strong form for North Queensland and the Maroons on the left edge after an unhappy 2021 at fullback … although Roosters star Joey Manu will be hard to deny.

Five-eighth of the year

(2021 winner – Cody Walker): Cameron Munster will win this one by the length of the straight. Walker’s form has been solid again this year year at Souths and Jarome Luai has done well but Munster is a class above.

Halfback of the year

(2021 winner – Nathan Cleary): This will be a three-horse race between Hunt, Hynes and Moses. All three have been integral to their respective team’s success and even though Nathan Cleary and Daly Cherry-Evans will be Australia’s two halfbacks in the World Cup, Hunt, Hynes or Moses would not look out of place if an injury to the Origin duo means they’re needed in that role for the Kangaroos.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 06: Nicho Hynes of the Sharks is tackled during the round 21 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the St George Illawarra Dragons at PointsBet Stadium, on August 06, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Nicho Hynes is tackled by Ben Hunt. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Hooker of the year

(2021 winner – Brandon Smith): Api Koroisau has been the form hooker in the NRL this year ahead of his Origin counterparts Damien Cook and Harry Grant, and Cowboys young gun Reece Robson.

Props of the year

(2021 winners – Payne Haas and James Fisher-Harris): The incumbent duo have missed a few games here and there but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they remain top of the props. Canberra’s Joseph Tapine is the front-rower most likely to break their stranglehold.

Second-rowers of the year

(2021 winners – Viliame Kikau and Isaiah Papali’i): Kikau is on track for a third straight spot in the Dally M Team of the Year while Nanai will probably edge out Kurt Capewell, Liam Martin, Angus Crichton and Hudson Young to be his honorary second-row partner. 

Jeremiah Nanai scores. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Lock of the year

(2021 winner – Isaiah Yeo): Yeo, bro, he aint gonna lose this, y’all. Apologies, that was terrible. The Penrith skipper has again been the dominant roving forward in the NRL although Patrick Carrigan is closing the gap.

Top Points Scorer

(2021 winner – Reuben Garrick): Val Holmes (188) has a substantial lead on Roosters half Sam Walker (165). The sharp-shooting Cowboy will be almost impossible to track down.

Top Try Scorer – Ken Irvine Medal

(2021 winner Alex Johnston): He’s used to racking up hat-tricks and Johnston will top the try-scoring charts for a third straight year after hauls of 30 and 23 the past two seasons. He has 27 after Thursday night’s double against Penrith, eight clear of Corey Oates, and could even widen that gap by season’s end. 

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