2019 Dally M Preview

We’ve got a top five list of Dally M candidates to look into – some are high-priced value, others perennial contenders, while one is our hottest tip to win the 2019 Dally M Medal.

James Baxter
 | 
Wed, 6 Mar, 12:00 AM

The Dally M is the NRL’s highest individual honour – the player voted as the league’s best player by an expert panel through its season.

In 2018 history was made as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck became the first New Zealand Warrior to win the award, the fullback overcoming challenges from Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights) and Luke Brooks (Wests Tigers) to earn the gong.

We’ve got a top five list of candidates to look into before the season start and the market reacts – some are high-priced value, others perennial contenders, while one is our hottest tip to win the 2019 Dally M Medal.

LATRELL MITCHELL ($61 – BetEasy)

Mitchell is a genuine superstar, earning representative honours, an NRL Premiership victory and becoming a face of the game – not bad for someone who’s still 21*.

If the Dally M was awarded on pure footballing ability alone, Mitchell would be single figures to win. Instead, he is considered longer odds than Melbourne halfback Brodie Croft ($51) or Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita ($51). The reasons for this are two-fold. First – Mitchell is a centre. The position has been devalued by the game’s list managers in recent years, seen as a way of sticking in a young-priced rookie or cut-price veteran so that money can be spent elsewhere. It’s no longer the glamorous position it once was (think back to the 80s where Mal Meninga and Gene Miles) and thus doesn’t lend itself to standout, attention-grabbing, Dally M-vote-earning performances. Second – Mitchell is a superstar in a superstar team. The Roosters roster is stacked to the brim with talent, which can present itself with a huge challenge as teammates risk cannibalising the vote.

Mitchell can overcome these challenges, however. He’s capable of standing out in the centres – just remember his barnstorming run over James Roberts in 2017 or his palm to Will Chambers in the 2018 Grand Final. Mitchell isn’t a ball-playing centre – if he sees a chance at the line, with his size and speed he’s going to back himself to score every time. His reputation is growing exponentially and his composure will continue developing with further representative experience. He’s also the goalkicker for the Premiership favourite – a potential wildcard for vote-getting if the pressure is on.

He's got a lot to overcome, but at $61* Latrell Mitchell is worth considering if you’re after value.

JAKE TRBOJEVIC ($41 – Unibet)

Manly aren’t considered a Premiership favourite – they’re not even a top right favourite – but this may not be a factor for Jake Trbojevic. Manly’s lock forward is the straw that stirs the Sea Eagles' drink. He sets the tone for their defence and is instrumental in their attack. He averaged 41 tackles a game in 2018 – more than any teammate. He also averaged over 54 involvements per game – more than any teammate. This isn’t just about a superstar standing out from his team, however – although this does help Trbojevic’s medal chances.

Trbojevic possesses an all-round game and will influence his team’s result more than any other teammate – halfback Daly Cherry-Evans may disagree with this! He’s established himself in the New South Wales and Australia teams in a highly-contested field, meaning Trbojevic cannot afford to rest on his laurels. He is capable of winning games for Manly with his own brilliance and with fewer vote-grabbing contenders to deal with on his side, Trbojevic is impressive value.

LUKE BROOKS ($26* – BetEasy)

Brooks finished third in last year’s Dally M, so maybe it’s fitting he’s at third on our list here. Brooks is a serious contender again in 2019. He plays the game’s most glamorous position – halfbacks have won the Dally M more than any other position. He is head and shoulders the most important playmaker in a Tigers side who again will be a finals contender. He has a Premiership winning coach in Michael Maguire who will improve his game, just as “Madge” did for Adam Reynolds when at Souths.

Brooks is unlikely to play Origin and is reliable – he played every game last year for the Tigers. Moses Mbye at fullback will ease some of the attacking pressure off Brooks but make no mistake – with a freshly signed long-term deal in his pocket, the Tigers are the Luke Brooks show and as shown last year, Brooks is capable of stealing judging attention and racking up votes. $26* for a proven contender is strong value.

ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK ($15* – Sportsbet)

He’s the man to beat! The superstar Kiwi fullback earned last year’s medal in a dominating club season. The Warriors’ captaincy was an inspired move as Tuivasa-Sheck stepped up his on-field involvements and in turn took the spotlight. This season he’ll need to do it again – long-term halfback Shaun Johnson has left the New Zealand side leaving a huge experience void in the club’s spine.

While Blake Green will bear the front line playmaking pressure at halfback, Tuivasa-Sheck will become even more important for the Warriors as a playmaking fullback, almost as a second five-eighth. We know from 2018 judges are impressed with Tuivasa-Sheck and he no doubt will be hard to beat in 2018.

JAMES TEDESCO ($13* - BetEasy)

Let’s clear this up – James Tedesco is already a superstar. He’s the Premiers’ big-money fullback, the incumbent New South Wales and Australia fullback who with the media spotlight brightly upon him delivered the best season of his career in 2018. We’ve mentioned in Latrell Mitchell’s profile of the difficulty in standing out in a superstar-team, but Tedesco is capable of this. The Roosters have changed their coaching structure in the off-season, with Adam O’Brien joining from Melbourne to guide the Tricolours’ attack. O’Brien is familiar with gun fullbacks - he happened to coach a certain Billy Slater in his time with the Storm.

With Cooper Cronk potentially playing his final season, Tedesco’s playmaking ability will escalate in 2019 and in turn means he’ll get the ball in hand more often. And with Tedesco capable of show-stealing tries, line breaks and cutout passes for the Premiership favourites, he’ll be arguably the key for the Roosters in attack – and our hottest tip to win the Dally M Medal in 2019.

 

*Prices correct at time of publishing

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