Player of the 2020s: NRL.com experts have their say

With a new decade rapidly approaching, it's time to wonder which player will dominate the next 10 years. The panel of NRL.com experts have their say: Who will be the best player of the 2020s?

NRL.com's experts view

Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)

My player of the next decade is Latrell Mitchell. What a machine. With his speed strength and agility, he is the ultimate rugby league athlete. Even if the Blues don’t want him in their team he will dominate for his club and the Kangaroos. He can also kick goals. He has it all.

Brett Kimmorley (Former NSW halfback)

Kalyn Ponga. He's a great player, he can play five-eighth as well or become the best fullback in the game. His ball-playing skills will only continue to develop, he's a strong defender and a big athlete. He's already proven he's a good player at Origin level. He has got it all.

Jamie Soward (Former NSW five-eighth)

Tom Trbojevic. Has the ability to play anywhere in the back five. Add to that he'll remain one of the top three fullbacks in the game. If I'm starting a club today, I'm buying him first.

Zac Bailey (NRL.com reporter)

Tom Trbojevic. He's soon to be the game's next million dollar man and is worth every cent. The influence he has on matches at not only club level but representative level is phenomenal – and that's at 22. Trbojevic has been the most consistently influential young player in the game in 2019 and will only get better in the future.

Joel Gould (NRL.com reporter)

Broncos prop Payne Haas is set to take the NRL by storm over the next decade and follow in the footsteps of Arthur Beetson and Glenn Lazarus. It is not often that a front-rower is the best player in the game but Haas has all the attributes to be exactly that. His physical presence is one thing, but combined with his speed, work ethic and competitive drive the 19-year-old will continue to dominate and improve.

Brett Keeble (NRL.com reporter)

Kalyn Ponga. Presuming he continues to play in the NRL - and he is talented enough to make his mark in multiple sports - Ponga can dominate the game for a decade. His sleight of hand, footwork and acceleration keep defenders guessing and fans gasping at his range of skills. He also loves tackling, and is strong enough to defend in the line and quick enough to chase down run-away outside backs.

Margie McDonald (NRL.com senior reporter)

They are much-overlooked – unless you are a Cameron Smith or Damien Cook – but hookers touch the ball the most in a game. Let's go back to round 14 at GIO Stadium. Blayke Brailey is starting at No.9 instead of his brother Jayden (out injured) and the 20-year-old plays 80 minutes, makes 45 tackles and misses one. He's a 15-game NRL rookie this year and has earned a three-year extension at Cronulla. His older brother is off to Newcastle in 2020. Just watch him go.

Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)

The obvious ones are Kalyn Ponga, Tom Trbojevic and Payne Haas; those freakish youngsters are the hottest property in the NRL right now. So in the interests of going left-field, I'll say Mitch Moses. As a half, Moses at 24 is still a few years from reaching the age where halves really start to mature and dominate and there's no question the light switch has flicked on for Moses this year. He easily leads the NRL for try assists and kick metres with the most tackle busts of any No.7. 

Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)

Payne Haas. The teenage Broncos prop has size, strength, stamina, skill and remarkable speed for such a big man. Not since Sonny Bill Williams have we seen a young forward make such an impact and he has a huge work-rate. Haas has already played Origin and has a huge future ahead of him.

Maria Tsialis (Big League editor)

Broncos prop Payne Haas scarily showed what he's capable of last week against Penrith. Not only did he go above and beyond in his role, he proves a new breed of forward with limitless endurance, speed and silky skills exists. Considering he's only 19, he'll be a cornerstone of their pack for years to come.

Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)

Cameron Munster is already a very good player and he's just entering his prime. He has the potential to be Queensland and Australia's five-eighth for many years to come with shades of Wally Lewis emerging in his game in the way he can put his stamp on a game, especially in the matches that count. 

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)

My player for the next decade is Payne Haas. Some might think this is premature, but considering his age, I cannot remember a forward that has the strength, physicality and speed that he does. Additionally for a young player he doesn't give away penalties, makes few mistakes and is exceptional in defence. I haven't seen a better player under 20 in the time I have been watching rugby league. 

Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter)

Payne Haas. Still just 19, Haas has a motor unlike anything I can remember in a front-rower. You'd say he has the potential to change the way props play, except I can't imagine many, if any, being able to match what he's capable of. It took Jason Taumalolo four years to reach the level Haas is at right now.

Tanisha Stanton (NRL.com reporter)

Kalyn Ponga. He is a unique talent that makes him not only exciting to watch but difficult to contain on the field. We only need to look at the time the 21-year-old has spent at Newcastle to see how integral he is to that club.

Lone Scout (NRL Fantasy expert)

Payne Haas is well on his way to becoming the most dominant forward in the game but players in the spine tend to be more influential on their team's success. For that reason I'll tip freakish fullback Kalyn Ponga to dominate the decade – his natural talents are there for all to see but his positional awareness and playmaking nous will only improve with experience.  

Troy Whittaker (NRL.com reporter)

Already one of the game's faces at age 21, it's scary to think Kalyn Ponga has likely just scratched the surface of his limitless potential. Even at the end of the next decade, the livewire Queensland and Newcastle fullback could still be in his prime.

Tony Webeck (NRL.com reporter)

He may not just be the most dominant player of the next decade but Latrell Mitchell has the potential to become one of the most important athletes in Australia. Young people love him, his conduct in the past week was an impressive show of character. He can do things on a football field few in history can match. It's Latrell's time.

Corey Rosser (NRL.com reporter)

Payne Haas​. At 19 he's already played State of Origin and is footing it with the best props in the game. Right now, injuries appear to be the only thing that could stop Haas from inflicting a decade of destruction on opposing forwards. 

Michael Chammas (NRL.com chief reporter)

Kalyn Ponga. He's shown already that he has superstar qualities. The biggest question isn't whether he will be the best player of the next decade, it's how many years he will be playing rugby league in that decade. If he remains in the NRL, he will be the best in the business for a long time.

Kenny Scott (NRL.com podcaster)

He might have a name that sounds like a Swiss greeting card company but Ryan Papenhuyzen is a player with enormous talent and has shown this year he is a lot for opposition teams to handle. He has starred as full back, five-eighth and from the bench scoring a try in every position he has played. 

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.