Tom Trbojevic Photo: Sea Eagles - Website

Ahead of night two of the Dally M awards the team of the year nominees were announced, The Inner Sanctum has selected its team of the year for 2021.

Ahead of night two of the Dally M awards the Team of the Year nominees were announced with the top four teams dominating the pool of talent. The Inner Sanctum has selected its team of the year for 2021 including a four-man bench.


Photo: NSWRL – website

Tom Trbojevic (Sea Eagles) might have missed the first five rounds of the season but he has dominated the fullback role all year and corrected Manly’s course when the season was looking bleak, he’s already the favourite to win the Dally M tonight and is the top candidate for the fullback role. The 24-year-old proved himself not only to be a strong defensive leader but was a try-scoring machine scoring 28 tries for the year (including finals) and providing an additional 28 try assists.

Other Fullback nominees: James Tedesco (Roosters), Kalyn Ponga (Knights), Will Kennedy (Sharks) and Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm)


Photo: NRL – Website (Johnston) NSWRL – Website (To’o)

Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs) backed up his stand out season in 2020 with another phenomenal year, finishing the home and away season as the leading try scorer and at 29 tries for the year total, he’ll end the season in the top five of the all-time try scorers in a single season, he also leads linebreaks for the season with Ruben Garrick with 38. The 26-year-old has also been crucial to South Sydney’s defensive pressure, ensuring the left-hand side is just as dominant in defence as well as attack.

Brian To’o (Panthers) doesn’t have the speed or scoring prowess as some of the other nominees in the wing but has consistently been one of the hardest workers in the competition this year. Leading run metres and post-contact metres for the competition despite having 27 fewer runs than the Roosters’ Daniel Tupou.

Other Winger nominees: Reuben Garrick (Sea Eagles), Josh Addo-Carr (Storm), and Jason Saab (Sea Eagles)


Photo: NRL – Website (Manu and Olam)

Joseph Manu’s (Roosters) season came to an early end but from his 23 games, the 25-year-old was crucial to the Roosters’ attack, producing 92 tackle breaks and averaged 141 run metres. Defensively Manu made 317 tackles at 84.8 per cent efficiency, his best match defensively coming in round 22 where he made 25 tackles with zero missed tackles.

Justin Olam (Storm) was a key piece to Storm’s 18 game win streak scoring 12 tries for the season and had a stand out performance in the Round Nine match against South Sydney providing three try assists and making five tackle breaks. Ever consistent in defence, Olam averaged 9.52 tackles per match.

Other Centre nominees: Matt Burton (Panthers), Bradman Best (Knights) and Dane Gagai (Rabbitohs)


Photo: NRL – website

Jarome Luai (Panthers) has had an outstanding season that saw him elevated to the New South Wales Origin team. The five-eighth has been the perfect foil for his halfback Nathan Cleary showcasing his passing ability, with 18 try assists and 24 line-break line assists. Whilst not the Panthers primary kicker, Luai also showed he can get his team out of trouble with 19 forced dropouts and 105.6 average kicking metres.

Other Five-Eighth nominees: Adam Doueihi (Wests Tigers), Cameron Munster (Storm) and Cody Walker (Rabbitohs)


Photo: NRL – Twitter

Nathan Cleary (Panthers) has shown he is the premier halfback of the competition with his all-around playmaking ability. The 23-year-old proved he can score, pass and kick crossing for 10 tries and kicking 91 goals, while forcing 21-line dropouts and averaging 543.2 kicking metres as well having 21 try assists and 14 line-break assists.

Other Halfback nominees: Jahrome Hughes (Storm) Daly-Cherry Evans (Sea Eagles) Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs)


Photo: NRL – Website (Waerea-Hargreaves and Fisher-Harris)

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters) A 13-year veteran of the game, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves slowly made the prop position his own in the second half of the season for the Roosters. His 1,280 post-contact metres was a career-best for him, as he was regularly on the attack, outlined by claiming an average 148 running metres across the year. On defence, he held 654 tackles, making him a threatening presence anywhere on the field.

James Fisher-Harris (Panthers) enjoyed a great 2021 season as the starting prop for the Panthers in each of his 23 appearances. A relentless work ethic saw him complete 683 tackles on defence at an efficiency of 94.3 per cent. That prowess continued on the attack too, as he gained 154 average running metres with ball in hand, going forward and closer to the goal line, crashing through the opposition lines, breaking 39 tackles over the course of the year.

Other Prop nominees: Daniel Saifiti (Knights), Payne Haas (Broncos) and Christian Welch (Storm)


Photo: NRL – Website

Brandon Smith (Storm) appeared in more games for the Storm in 2021 than any other season, the hooker contributing to the team in a multitude of ways. On the scoreboard, he contributed 11 tries including a stretch between Round Eight and Round 16 where he averaged one a game. As well, he had 10 try assists including three against the Raiders in Round 11. He averaged 20.66 kicking metres and made 623 tackles on defence, showing his power in all areas.

Other Hooker nominees: Apisai Koroisau (Panthers), Harry Grant (Storm), and Damien Cook (Rabbitohs)

Second Row

Photo: Penrith Panthers – Website (Kikau) NRL – Website (Papali’i)

Viliame Kikau (Panthers) only missed one game for the Panthers all season, the second-rower dominant and able to break games open at any chance. He scored nine tries for the year including three games where he scored twice. He regularly broke the line and ran for an average of 114 metres as his passing and offloads were strong throughout the year, also sticking 554 tackles when in defensive mode.

Isaiah Papali’i (Eels) had a solid year after crossing from the Warriors, helping his team book a finals berth in 2021. Always in the thick of the action, he scored five tries in four weeks from Round Three to finish with seven for the year. He broke through 109 tackles for 1,500 post contact metres – and 150 average running metres overall -, signifying an ability to move forward with brute force and pace. He was also a link-up player with 30 offloads and made 809 tackles when on the defence.

Other Second Row nominees: Haumole Olakau’atu (Sea Eagles) and Sitili Tupouniua (Roosters)


Photo: South Sydney Rabbitohs – Twitter

Cameron Murray (Rabbitohs) only made 19 appearances in 2021 but he was a key piece to the Rabbitohs’ success. The 23-year-old gave off 23 offloads for the year and averaged 11.3 hit ups. Murray also starred in defence making 679 tackles at 96.6 per cent efficiency, Murray has started to become a leader in the South Sydney forward line and while he doesn’t have the massive runs like other nominees his ability to read the play and set up teammates such as Cody Walker making him one of the more dangerous locks in the league.

Other Lock nominees: Isaah Yeo (Panthers), Dale Finucane (Storm) and Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)


Photos: NRL – Website (Walker) NRL – Website (Garrick) NRL – Website (Welch) Penrith Panthers – Twitter (Yeo)

Despite the Dally M Team of the Year not featuring a bench, The Inner Sanctum has elected to acknowledge the unlucky four who are all equally worthy of making the Team of the Year and would be an all-star bench should the team ever play a game together.

Cody Walker (Rabbitohs) was a huge part of the Rabbitohs success in 2021, and routinely was the instigator for many of the plays the team made throughout the year. He led the league in try assists (33) while also scoring 15 tries of his own. The five-eighth also lead the league in linebreak assists (44) – claiming the league record for the most in a single season. His attacking exploits were also complemented by his 118.08 average kicking metres with 149 kick return metres, as well as many tackle breaks, in a season where he also laid 344 tackles.

Ruben Garrick (Sea Eagles) had a career-best year and is unlucky to miss out on selection in this year’s team. The 24-year-old winger was a point-scoring machine amassing 23 tries and 121 goals, breaking the record for most points scored in a season with 334. Garrick also had three try-assists, 38 line-breaks and averaged 156 run metres a game.

Christian Welch (Storm) despite suffering an ACL injury midway through the season, was still able to perform well for the ladder-leading Storm. The prop was in the thick of the action all year, regularly playing a part in the passing chains, going forward with 45 offloads and 24 tackle breaks. An average of 139 running metres and 685 kick return metres helped the side move towards goal while also stopping the opposition in their path, making 528 tackles.

Isaah Yeo (Panthers) The Panthers co-captain has been a pivotal cog in the Panthers machine and is unlucky to miss out on the starting lock position. Yeo provides strength through the middle for the Panthers and makes his outside backs even more dangerous. The 26-year-old was enormous at both ends of the field laying 836 tackles, busting through defences for 1,074.4 post-contact metres and averaged 120 run metres a game.

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