Fourteen players who will feature in Sunday's Telstra Premiership grand final have been shortlisted for the positional awards that will make up the Dally M Team of the Year.
Eight Panthers and six Rabbitohs are among the who's who of Telstra Premiership players after the NRL announced the positional candidates for Monday night's Dally M Awards.
Of the 40 players named across the nine positions, only three were from teams that didn't make the NRL finals.
Sharks fullback William Kennedy is joined by Wests Tigers five-eighth Adam Doueihi and Brisbane prop Payne Haas in select company.
The members of the Team of the Year will be announced as part of the Dally M Awards ceremony on Monday night at the Rivershed at Brisbane's Howard Smith Wharves.
Five contenders were announced last week for the Dally M Medal player of the year - Nathan Cleary, Tom Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans, Cody Walker and James Tedesco.
Among the other awards to be announced tonight will be for the best rookie, captain and coach, the headline moment of the year and the Provan-Summons Medal, while the four nominees will be named for the Ken Stephen Medal recognising work in the community.
Grand final rivals Wayne Bennett and Ivan Cleary, along with Des Hasler, Trent Robinson and Craig Bellamy are on the shortlist for coach of the year.
The main contenders for the Dally M Medal
Dally M Team of the Year nominees
- James Tedesco (Roosters)
- Kalyn Ponga (Knights)
- Will Kennedy (Sharks)
- Tom Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
- Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm)
Arguably the strongest position in the NRL, the absence of South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell from the five contenders provides some indication of the level of play that was supplied in 2021.
- Reuben Garrick (Sea Eagles)
- Josh Addo-Carr (Storm)
- Brian To'o (Panthers)
- Jason Saab (Sea Eagles)
- Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs)
A superb list of wingers, the sheer hard work of To'o comes in contrast to the speed of Addo-Carr and Saab, the finishing ability of Johnston and the point-scoring matching that is Garrick.
- Matt Burton (Panthers)
- Joseph Manu (Roosters)
- Bradman Best (Knights)
- Justin Olam (Storm)
- Dane Gagai (Rabbitohs)
The nomination of Bulldogs-bound Matt Burton caps a brilliant season for the talented youngster. Predominantly a five-eighth, his ability to transfer his skills to the outside backs has played a major role in Penrith reaching the grand final.
Who will win the Dally M Medal?
- Adam Doueihi (Wests Tigers)
- Cameron Munster (Storm)
- Cody Walker (Rabbitohs)
- Jarome Luai (Panthers)
Grand final combatants Walker and Luai have enjoyed stellar 2021 campaigns while Munster will likely be on this list every year barring injury. Inclusion on this list is a reward for Doueihi following a strong season for a Wests Tigers side that didn't have a lot to smile about.
- Jahrome Hughes (Storm)
- Daly-Cherry Evans (Sea Eagles)
- Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs)
- Nathan Cleary (Panthers)
Such is the importance of the player that wears the No.7 jersey in modern-day rugby league, it is little surprise the four nominees played for the top that filled out the top four spots at the end of round 25. The showdown between Reynolds and Cleary in Sunday's grand final should be something special.
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- Cameron Murray (Rabbitohs)
- Isaah Yeo (Panthers)
- Dale Finucane (Storm)
- Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
Such is the rude health of locks available for NSW on the State of Origin stage, the four nominees for this award all featured for the Blues in their 2021 series victory.
- Haumole Olakau'atu (Sea Eagles)
- Viliame Kikau (Panthers)
- Sitili Tupouniua (Roosters)
- Isaiah Papali'i (Eels)
Kikau aside, at the start of 2021, few would have come up with this list if asked to nominate the finalists prior to round one. Papali'i, in particular, enjoyed a breakout campaign after moving from the Warriors to the Eels.
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- Daniel Saifiti (Knights)
- Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters)
- James Fisher-Harris (Panthers)
- Payne Haas (Broncos)
- Christian Welch (Storm)
Amid the pain the Broncos have gone through in the last two years, the tireless performances of Haas has been noteworthy. Kiwi duo James Fisher-Harris and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves also enjoyed strong 2021 campaigns.
- Apisai Koroisau (Panthers)
- Harry Grant (Storm)
- Brandon Smith (Storm)
- Damien Cook (Rabbitohs)
They haven't qualified for the grand final, but the form and versatility that the Smith/Grant combination offered at the Storm was a sight to behold. Rabbitohs No.9 Damien Cook just keeps on churning out impressive seasons in one of the most important positions on the field.