Future Immortal Cameron Smith has named a few surprises in his Dally M Team of the Year ahead of rugby league’s night of nights on Wednesday of Grand Final week.
While most of his selections were hard to argue with, Harry Grant beating Api Koroisau to the hooker role was a contentious selection, while just two players from the minor premiers Penrith made the side.
Speaking on SEN Radio, Smith gave his reasons for his selections in a star-studded team that will go close to matching the award winners next week.
Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Read on for Cameron Smith’s Dally M Team of the Year.
FULLBACK: James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)
Smith went for Roosters and Blues skipper James Tedesco over Panthers custodian Dylan Edwards in the No.1 jersey.
“This guy was just out and out brilliant once again,” Smith said on SEN 1170 The Captain’s Run.
“He started off a little bit slowly but once State of Origin came around, he was just unbelievable.
“His form in the back end of the year is why the Roosters found themselves in the finals.”
MORE NRL NEWS
JIMMY BRINGS: Roosters burned by union star; Dragons’ telling ‘12-month’ advice
MISFITS: How Arthur took unwanted stars and turned them into an NRL contender
‘GROUNDHOG DAY’: Panthers coach denies ‘loitering’ tactics to shield Cleary
‘CROSSROADS’: Brutal call from prison cell that turned Raiders star’s career around
WINGERS: Alex Johnston (South Sydney Rabbitohs) and Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters)
Smith selected the NRL’s leading try-scorer Souths flyer Alex Johnston and his Roosters rival and Blues star Daniel Tupou on the flanks.
“(Johnston) has 30 tries this year. That’s almost as many as my entire career,” Smith said.
“Tupou found some great form and the best form of his career for the Roosters.”
CENTRES: Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters) and Valentine Holmes (North Queensland Cowboys)
Smith went with Roosters superstar Joey Manu and reborn Cowboys star Valentine Holmes as his centre pairing.
“Manu played that test match against Tonga and he just exploded,” Smith said.
“He had a licence to roam with the Roosters and dragged that football side into the top eight.
“He is back to career best form in the centres Valentine Holmes.
“Fantastic Origin series as well… he was a standout and was close to player of the series for mine.”
Get all the latest NRL news, highlights and analysis delivered straight to your inbox with Fox Sports Sportmail. Sign up now!!
FIVE-EIGHTH: Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm)
Smith selected his former premiership winning teammate Cameron Munster in the No.6 jersey after his stellar campaign, despite finishing the season as a fullback due to injuries.
“After his troubles he had at the end of last year, he turned himself around and straightened his life out,” Smith said.
“Some of his standout performances were as good as any player this year.”
HALFBACK: Ben Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Dragons skipper and Maroons star Ben Hunt was the best halfback all season, according to Smith, despite his side’s struggles at times and he backed him to take out the top gong.
“In a struggling side, he was one man that gave it all every week,” Smith said.
“He was busting his backside for his football team and he might legitimately win the Dally M medal this year.”
FRONT-ROWERS: James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers) and Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders)
New Zealand front-rowers James Fisher-Harris from Penrith and Joseph Tapine from the Raiders were Smith’s picks up front.
“Two guys that particularly at the end of the year, they were the two best front-rowers in the competition,” Smith said.
HOOKER: Harry Grant (Melbourne Storm)
Smith believes former teammate Harry Grant’s overall output was greater than his rivals Api Koroisau, Reed Mahoney and Damien Cook over the course of the NRL season.
“Looking at the contribution he made to his team this year with try assists, line break assists, his average running metres, he is miles ahead of any other dummy-half in the competition,” Smith said.
SECOND-ROWERS: Jeremiah Nanai (North Queensland Cowboys) and Isaiah Papali’i (Parramatta Eels)
Cowboys breakout star Jeremiah Nanai and reigning Dally M second-rower of the year Isaiah Papali’i from the Eels were Smith’s picks in the back row.
“Nanai could be the best young player in the competition right now,” Smith said.
“He can find the boy near the try line and score tries. I was really impressed with his natural ability.
“Papali’i was back rower of the year last year and he’s a big reason why they are still playing in the competition.”
LOCK: Isaah Yeo (Penrith Panthers)
Smith went with Panthers skipper Isaah Yeo over Cameron Murray and Jason Taumalolo at lock for his ability to lift his side in the absence of halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai at times throughout the season.
“He’s just been a standout for Penrith,” Smith said.
“A lot of things he does for that Penrith side goes unnoticed.
“The work he does for Jerome Luai and Nathan Cleary, he creates time for those players.”
CAMERON SMITH’S DALLY M TEAM OF THE YEAR
1. James Tedesco
2. Alex Johnston
3. Valentine Holmes
4. Joey Manu
5. Daniel Tupou
6. Cameron Munster
7. Ben Hunt
8. James Fisher-Harris
9. Harry Grant
10. Joseph Tapine
11. Jeremiah Nanai
12. Isaiah Papali'i
13. Isaac Yeo