The 2021 Dally M medal race is officially reduced to five players, with four True Blues vying for the best gong in the game.
Penrith Panthers half-back Nathan Cleary led the tally for a vote after the votes were tallied through to the 19th round but missed playing time after that with a shoulder injury .
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles full-back Tom Trbojevic has closed the gap and is expected to dominate the vote count in the games he’s been in; Sydney Roosters full-back and Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues captain James Tedesco kept his team in the final race; while South Sydney Rabbitohs eighth, Cody Walker, has also had an unforgettable season.
Manly half-back Daly Cherry-Evans rounds out the five players vying for the prize. The winner will be announced on Monday September 27 at Howard Smith Wharves in Brisbane.
Nathan Cleary (24 voices)
Panthers star Nathan Cleary has had a great 2021 so far after leading his team to another preliminary final with their relentless 8-6 victory over rivals the Parramatta Eels on Saturday night.
One of the big favorites to win the award before a ball is kicked this year, Cleary picked up where he left off, leading the Panthers to a 12-0 NRL record to start the season. Their unbeaten start to the year included two wins over the Sea Eagles as well as wins over the Knights, Roosters and Rabbitohs.
Despite the mid-season setback, Cleary’s game has taken it to another level this year and his stats back it up. In just 20 games, Cleary has a winning record of 94%, 223 points, 10 tries, 536 yards of average kicks, 20 assists as well as a career record of 113 yards of average running.
Throw the NSW Blues to their most dominant series victory in Origin history as well as the opportunity to win his first NRL Premier and it has been an unforgettable season for the Panthers playmaker. .
Tom Trbojevic (23 voices)
Turbo’s 2021 season will undoubtedly be one of, if not the best, individual seasons in NRL history.
Rugby League fans have marveled at the Sea Eagles keeper since his scintillating return to the NRL after missing the first five rounds with a hamstring injury. In his first comeback, Trbojevic led his side to a 36-0 victory over the Titans with one try, two assists, two line breaks and two assists.
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Since then, Trbojevic has had a record breaking season and guided Manly to their first Top 4 since 2014.
To date, he has scored 27 tries, had 28 assists, 33 line breaks, 117 tackle saves and an average of 216 running meters. Turbo also brought his unstoppable club form to the state area, where he received the Wally Lewis Medal for his role in the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues 2-1 series victory over Queensland.
Cody Walker (17 voices)
True Blue Cody Walker has been in the best career shape so far in 2021 and the South Sydney left edge has certainly reaped the rewards. Walker’s ability to come up with massive play just when his team need it has helped Souths finish in the Top 4 as they play their fourth straight preliminary final.
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Walker currently leads the NRL in tryout and line break assists with 33 and 44, respectively, as well as 13 tries and 33 forced retirements to his name.
James Tedesco (15 voices)
It has been a miserable year for Tedesco and the Roosters after their squad was decimated by retirements and injuries to key players.
Despite the Roosters lacking the experience of Boyd Cordner, Luke Keary and Brett Morris, they still managed to finish in fifth place and Tedesco didn’t miss a beat.
The 2019 Dally M medalist carried the team on his back in several games in 2021 and finished the season with nine tries, 22 assists, 145 tackles, 17 line breaks and 182 yards of average run.