Shocks as big names miss ultimate team
THE new voting criteria has thrown up a Dally M team of the year that left the experts with egg on their faces.
Each player is selected according to their overall Dally M points total, which has opened the door for a number of unexpected outcomes, although none of the winners are undeserving by any means.
Dally M player of the year Roger Tuivasa-Sheck took home fullback of the year in a stacked field ahead of James Tedesco, Valentine Holmes and overall runner-up Kalyn Ponga.
Blake Ferguson took home winger of the year, Damien Cook was an easy pick at hooker as was Andrew Fifita at prop and Jason Taumalolo at lock.
After his stellar season for the Roosters Ferguson will be a popular winner. He's enjoyed the best season of his varied career and is one of just two grand final players to earn a start.
It's Taumalolo's third lock of the year prize in the last four seasons and would be his fourth straight had he not lost points to suspension last season.
He now joins Ray Price, Jim Dymock and Paul Gallen as the only lock to win the award more than twice.
Cook's victory marks just the third time since 2011 Cameron Smith has not won hooker of the year.
Fifita has now won prop of the year twice, the first coming in 2013 and joins Shane Webcke and Aaron Woods as the only man to win the award twice this century.
Cameron Munster got the five-eighth role ahead of fellow luminaries Gareth Widdop and Cody Walker in one of the most hotly contested categories.
Picked by some to take out the top gong, Munster promises to be a contender for the Dally M for many years to come.
In a shock result, Canberra's Joey Leilua claimed centre of the year honours ahead of Roosters and New South Wales star Latrell Mitchell.
The much-maligned Leilua was a shining light for the Raiders all season but the result is an unexpected one, with 13 of the 14 News Corp experts selecting Mitchell as their centre of the year.
It's Leilua's second centre of the year gong in three years and he joins legends like Mal Meninga, Michael O'Connor, Mick Cronin, Brad Fittler, Stephen Ella and Jamie Lyon in winning the award more than once.
His enigmatic ways may obscure his contribution and effort in the eyes of some, but to the Dally M judges he is the premier centre in the game.
Second row was another curveball with honest Canterbury second rower Josh Jackson earning the medal ahead of Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims and Tohu Harris.
Jackson was tireless in his efforts for Canterbury in a difficult season for the Bulldogs and his victory is apt reward for his refusal to give anything less than his best.
It's his second victory, the first coming in 2015.
After winning rookie of the year four seasons ago, Luke Brooks capped the best season of his career by earning the spot at halfback.
After a decade of domination of the award by Queenslanders, Brooks is the first New South Welshman to earn the prize since Matt Orford in 2008.
He's also the first halfback to win the award in a team that missed the finals since Gary Freeman in 1992.
Brooks was at the heart of the Wests Tigers valiant and ultimately unsuccessful push for the finals and began to deliver on his enormous potential after several tough seasons with the joint venture.
He held off the challenge of another young prodigy, Ash Taylor, and a couple of wily veterans in Mitchell Pearce and Cooper Cronk.
The Warriors earned another gong with Jazz Tevaga taking out interchange player of the year.
The award was only instituted last season and Tevaga is a worthy recipient - at just 88 kgs he mixes it up with some of the biggest men in the game and was an offloading wizard for the Warriors all season.
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