Nathan Cleary's redemption after Dally M shock

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read
Nathan Cleary (pictured) celebrating after a Penrith win.
Nathan Cleary (pictured) was voted as the best player from his peers. (Getty Images)

He missed out on the Dally M but Nathan Cleary has been declared the NRL's best in 2020 by his peers after claiming the Players' Champion award.

The Penrith halfback was named the Rugby League Players' Association's top gong before kick-off to Sunday night's grand final.

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The 22-year-old edged out reigning champion James Tedesco for the top prize, after steering the Panthers to their first decider in 17 years.

In doing so, he becomes the first Penrith player to win the prize outright, after Petero Civoniceva tied with Braith Anasta to claim it in 2008.

It comes after Cleary, despite being the heavy favourite going in, was beaten to Monday night's Dally M by Jack Wighton, with Clint Gutherson second.

"Nathan has produced an exceptional year for the Panthers, leading them to the minor premiership and Grand Final in the most challenging of conditions," RLPA boss Clint Newton said,

"He will go down in our history books as the best player in the eyes of those who take the field after a season like no other.

Cleary was not presented the award in person as he prepared for the decider, with that put back to after fulltime.

The 22-year-old led the NRL for try assists with 24 this season and scored seven of his own while also kicking double the amount of 40-20s of any other player.

Cameron Smith named hooker of the year

The award is determined on player votes, with each polling 3-2-1 points while unable to vote for their teammates.

Cameron Smith was named the hooker of the year, while his protege Harry Grant was named the rookie of the year for his work on loan at Wests Tigers.

Viliame Kikau was the only other Panthers player named in the team of the year alongside Cleary, while Smith was the stand-alone Storm player.

Meanwhile, Sydney Roosters second-rower Hannah Southwell was named the NRLW player of the year, presented the award after their grand final loss to Brisbane.

"Hannah had an exceptional year for the Roosters and was integral in their resurgence to book a place in the decider after missing out in 2019," Newton said.

"The votes were close again this year, with Hannah receiving the ultimate recognition after a stellar season with the tricolours."

RLPA Award winners:

  • NRL Players' Champion: Nathan Cleary (Penrith)

  • NRLW Players' Champion: Hannah Southwell (Sydney Roosters)

  • Rookie of the Year: Harry Grant (Wests Tigers)

  • The Players' 13 Dream Team: James Tedesco, Brett Morris, Kotoni Staggs, Brian Kelly, David Nofoaluma, Luke Keary, Nathan Cleary, Josh Papalii, Cameron Smith, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Viliame Kikau, Tohu Harris, Cameron McInnes.

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