Fullback: Jarryd Hayne
Parramatta superstar Jarryd Hayne has beat out some of the finest fullbacks the game has ever seen to be crowned Dally M Fullback of the Year for the second time.
On many occasions throughout 2014 we marvelled at Hayne’s individual brilliance and drew comparisons with his form five years ago when he was named both the Fullback of the Year and the Dally M Player of the Year.
As the Eels climbed the bottom of the ladder to challenge for a top-eight spot until the very last round of the competition it was Hayne who often inspired them to victory, scoring 20 tries in 21 NRL games and contributing 14 try assists to the cause.
Such was Hayne’s club form that he was selected ahead of a red-hot field to play fullback in New South Wales’ drought-breaking Origin win, sharing the Brad Fittler Medal as Blues player of the series with back-rower Ryan Hoffman.
Winger: Semi Radradra
Eels sensation Semi Radradra has proved that he is no flash in the pan by being named the Dally M Winger of the Year for 2014.
The Fijian flyer gave the NRL a taste of what he was capable of at the back-end of 2013 when he scored five tries in seven appearances but took that to a new level this season, scoring at better than a try a game for much of the season.
He had scored 10 tries through seven rounds – including a spectacular hat-trick against the Warriors in Round 1 – and brought the Parramatta faithful to their feet every time he touched the ball.
He finished the season with 19 tries from 24 games, 82 tackle breaks and 15 line breaks, many of which occurred on the Parramatta side of halfway.
Centre: Jamie Lyon
Inspirational Manly skipper Jamie Lyon has been named the Dally M Centre of the Year for a record fourth time and the fourth time in the past five seasons.
Despite being on the wrong side of 32 years of age, Lyon’s class shines through year upon year as he combines game awareness with the best inside-out line in the business to rack up seven tries, 71 goals, 11 try assists and 14 line-break assists in another stellar season.
Only two players had ever been named Centre of the Year on three occasions with Lyon now surpassing Mick Cronin (Eels), Steve Ella (Eels) and Michael O’Connor (Dragons/Sea Eagles) as a four-time recipient.
Five-Eighth: Johnathan Thurston
His driving motivation to deliver a premiership to North Queensland will wait for another year but there was no denying Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston had a season worthy of being named Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year for the third straight year.
Although he made a mid-season switch to the No.7 jersey for his club side, Thurston’s influence remained consistently high as the Cowboys came within a whisker of a top-four finish in Paul Green’s first year as head coach.
His 32 try assists and 28 line-break assists were both NRL highs for 2014 and his performance in his side’s 22-10 defeat of South Sydney in Round 24 was a blueprint to all young halves about how to control a game of rugby league.
Somehow the best player in the game keeps finding a way to get better.
Halfback: Daly Cherry-Evans
His almost single-handed dismantling of the Canberra Raiders at Brookvale Oval in Round 8 wasn’t enough alone to win Daly Cherry-Evans the Dally M Halfback of the Year award but it was the perfect showcase of his dazzling skills.
He laid on seven of Manly’s nine tries in their 54-18 rout and was seemingly so untouchable that it had many questioning whether he should be chosen ahead of Cooper Cronk for the mid-year Test against the Kiwis.
Cherry-Evans missed out on the No.7 Kangaroos jersey on that occasion but had some consolation when he started for Queensland in Game Two of the Origin Series having been pitched into Origin I after 10 minutes when Cronk broke his arm.
A return of 15 try assists and 10 line-break assists may seem low in comparison to other halves in the NRL but when the big moments need a hero – such as his last-minute field goal against the Knights in Round 10 – DCE is often the man who delivers.
Lock: Sam Burgess
We’ll have to wait until Sunday night to know whether he will leave the NRL with a premiership but Rabbitohs powerhouse Sam Burgess will head home to England with a Dally M trophy as the 2014 Lock of the Year.
While younger brother George claimed the Rookie of the Year award last year this is Sam’s first Dally M trophy as he has dragged the Rabbitohs to within reach of a drought-breaking premiership.
Regarded by many as the best English forward we have seen on Australian shores, Burgess is the only player in the NRL to have run for more than 4000 metres this season and if he can make one more tackle than countryman James Graham in the Grand Final, he’ll top that tally as well.
He has been a whole-hearted performer ever since arriving at Redfern in 2010 but if he and his teammates are victorious on Sunday, it will leave a legacy at South Sydney that will never be forgotten.
Second-Rower: Beau Scott
It was a season that the Newcastle Knights would soon rather forget but there was no questioning the commitment of second-rower Beau Scott who has been named the Dally M Second-Rower of the Year.
At both club and Origin level Scott’s destructive running on the fringes seemed to have even greater potency than in the past and his aggressive defence kept every opposition player on their toes.
When the Knights needed a leader it was Scott who asserted his authority and his re-signing with the club until the end of the 2017 season is exactly what the emerging junior talent needs in their transition to the top grade.
Prop: James Graham
With his silky skills he is often mistaken for the men in the halves but there is no question that Bulldogs front-rower James Graham has had a season worthy of being named the Dally M Prop of the Year.
Unconventional, unrelenting and unfailingly passionate, Graham is a leader among men even without carrying the (c) next to his name.
One of the favourites to succeed Michael Ennis as Canterbury captain next season, Graham touched the ball on more occasions than halves such as Josh Reynolds and Peter Wallace and was always in the middle of the tough stuff, making more metres from hit-ups than any other player in 2014.
We talk of Sam Burgess being possibly the best English import we have seen in Australia, well this lad from St Helens isn’t far behind.
Hooker: James Segeyaro
In 2014 James Segeyaro went from being dangerous impact player to 80-minute lynchpin of the Penrith Panthers and has been rewarded with the Dally M Hooker of the Year award.
Breaking a three-year stranglehold of Storm skipper Cameron Smith, Segeyaro lit up the NRL with his electrifying pace out of dummy half, penchant for putting on a big hit and an eagerness to try his hand from close range at every available opportunity.
How dangerous was he out of dummy half? Of all the players in the NRL to have played at least five games at hooker, Segeyaro topped the line breaks with 15; the next best was Robbie Farah with five.
He scored 10 tries and made 75 tackle breaks but more than anything in 2014, James Segeyaro had the happy knack of creating something for his team out of absolutely nothing.
Top Point-Scorer: Johnathan Thurston
Top Try-Scorer: Jarryd Hayne