The following is a list of most valuable players (MVPs) for each NRL club currently languishing in the bottom eight of the ladder.
The main criteria in making each selection is in the event your NRL team qualifies for the 2020 grand final and this player for whatever reason was unable to play in the premiership match, whether through injury or suspension, then that team cannot win. Simple.
The full list of MVPs is made up of four hookers, three props, three five-eighths, two fullbacks, one halfback, one second-rower, one lock, and one winger.
Canterbury Bulldogs: Kieran Foran
Reportedly on a $1 million contract for the 2020 season, Kieran Foran has proven time and time again that Canterbury are not the same team without him on the pitch – something their fans know all too well in his frequent absence. The Kiwi halfback was signed to the club in 2018 and has since played 34 of a possible 59 games, being sidelined for one whole season (and if it wasn’t for COVID this number would be higher). Yet in the games he has been fit to play, Foran has lived up to his price tag, with his controlled game management and direct attacking style as well as proving how fearless he is when he puts his body on the line to create opportunities for his team. In the very off chance the Dogs make the grand final this year, they won’t be winning it without a fit and healthy Foran.
Brisbane Broncos: Payne Haas
At just 20 years of age and already an Australian Kangaroos and New South Wales State of Origin representative, Payne Haas can only be described as a shining light in the worst Broncos team ever. Starting in each of the Broncos’ 2020 matches and averaging 72 minutes per game, Haas has certainly displayed a very impressive work rate with an average of 170 running metres and 43 tackles with his missed tackle rate clocking in at just over five per cent, the motor on this giant-shaped kid is limitless. It is a shame that his teammates cannot display the same passion as he does. As a hypothetical only, considering how woeful their team is this year, if the Broncos were to contest the grand final then they’d better ensure this future superstar is the first player selected in the side.
Gold Coast Titans: Anthony Don
In a squad rather thin for quality in 2020, the winger with the most tries scored in Titans history can usually create something out of nothing and spark a resurgence in his team. Easily the club’s most consistent player each week, Don stands out by playing with his heart on his sleeve and having the ability to sniff out a try nearly every game despite the club continuously under-performing, only qualifying for a top-eight spot once since 2011. Averaging at 1.67 tries per game, he is the only outside back mentioned on the MVP list, with the Titans winger a go-to and a must for their unlikely grand final appearance in 2020. Is Don, is good.
New Zealand Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Undoubtedly in the top three fullbacks in the game, Tuivasa-Sheck is an all-round attacking and defensive beast and definitely a player you want barking orders at you from the back. The young Warriors captain is a metre eater, averaging 211 running metres per game. He is the first player to ever reach 367 metres in a single NRL match – the current record. Blessed with the fiercest ankle-breaking step in the game and making the highlights reel for his explosive footwork, magnificent tries as well as pulling off countless try-savers, Tuivasa-Sheck is an integral player to the New Zealand Warriors’ squad and a must-have if the Warriors were to have any chance of winning this year’s premiership, which unfortunately they won’t be contesting with the cards they’ve been dealt this season.
North Queensland Cowboys: Jason Taumalolo
The new JT for the Cowboys is 100 per cent effort each and every week, setting a solid platform nearly every run and tackle he makes. He is hands-down the stand-out player in what is a very underwhelming Cowboys side in 2020. The three-time Dally M lock of the year has clocked an average of 224 running metres from 18.5 runs per game in 2020 and is on track to break his previous 5000 total running metres effort in the 2017 season – this is despite 2020 having four less season games and Taumalolo playing on reduced minutes to previous seasons, recording a 67-minute game average this season. The Tonga and New Zealand international is unequivocally rugby league’s current greatest lock, and it is hard to argue when the motor on this six-foot-three, 117-kilogram mountain of a man is limitless. To put it into perspective, the Cowboys would probably be anchored to the bottom of the ladder without Taumalolo so I couldn’t imagine them winning the premiership without the bloke. They would be no chance whatsoever.
St George Illawarra Dragons: Cameron McInnes
Although not the club’s try-scoring X-factor like Zac Lomax currently is – he is the in-form centre of the game at the moment – Cameron McInnes’ work off the ball is absolutely phenomenal. A prominent leader, the Dragons’ captain has made 507 tackles in nine games this season, only missing 21 of them. For an 89-kilogram, five-foot-ten body that is sizing up against some monsters in the game by playing in the middle, McInnes shows no mercy. He is pure, old-school toughness and all heart. The hooker and make-shift lock forward is a tireless defender playing 80-minute games, and is a vital addition to the Dragons’ line-up. He is crucial to their season resurrection and potential grand final berth.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: Damien Cook
The incumbent NSW and Australian Kangaroos hooker, Damien Cook is in complete control of the ruck and always creates problems for the defence with his darting running game and elusive footwork, not to mention his defensive efforts in the middle of the field for such a small-framed player. The bloke is a machine, making 50 tackles per game at 93.1 per cent completion. Considered the fittest player in the NRL, I fail to see the Rabbitohs going anywhere without their 80-minute dummy-half. With Cook working off the back of a forward pack that has inconsistently set the platform in 2020 thus far, he always injects himself into each game and gives it his all, utilising his speed to create a quick roll-on for the rest of his teammates. Rest assured, if one of the premier hookers of the NRL isn’t in your starting line-up for the grand final match for whatever reason, then forget about winning it.
Wests Tigers: Harry Grant
Awarded the best Queensland Cup player in 2019, the Wests Tigers pulled off the first ever player trade in NRL history when they acquired Harry Grant from the Melbourne Storm for the entire 2020 season. The double-edged sword to this deal? Grant is currently leading the NRL in Dally M points and the Tigers want to keep him – and rightfully so. Who wouldn’t? Harry Grant has revitalised the attack of this Tigers team, being a constant burden for the opposition throughout the game and displaying skills from a hooker that every fan can appreciate. His spark out of dummy-half is amazing and his creativity and vision is all class, with his pin-point delivery from the ruck creating time and space for his side to calculate their move each tackle. It would not shock me one bit if the Wests Tigers threw a blank cheque book at Grant – this is definitely a player that you would revolve your club around. He is the future Australian Test hooker.