Written by Joshua Dean
In the modern game, the fullback position in Rugby League is one of the most important in the game.
Since 2009, 5 out of 11 Dally M Player of the Year winners have played in the fullback position. This article ranks all 16 of the starting fullbacks in the 2020 NRL Season. These rankings are based on 2019 and 2020 form, as well as some prior form as well.
16. William Kennedy
William Kennedy has been given a few opportunities to be the starting fullback for the star studded Sharks with major injuries to Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan. He has only played four games and hasn’t set the world on fire yet, however he has played well in the NSW Cup. Kennedy played 48 games for the Newtown Jets and scored 30 tries, a great return for a fullback.
15. Caleb Aekins
It seems ridiculous that a guy who ran 303m on his NRL debut, the most ever, is 15th on this fullback ranking. Caleb Aekins also won 2018 NSW Cup Player of the Year, due to his incredible running game, where he ran 187m a game on average. He seems to have a big future in the game of Rugby League.
With AJ Brimson out with a stress fracture, Phillip Sami had to become the makeshift fullback for the first two rounds. Obviously, this isn’t permanent, but I believe Sami has the try scoring ability that makes him better than the other two players below him, who haven’t yet proven themselves in the NRL.
13. Matt Dufty
Matt Dufty looked very good in his side’s four-point loss against the Panthers in round two of this season, scoring two tries. He has a big opportunity this season to become the Dragons full time number one.
12. Jamayne Isaako
The 2018 Dally M Rookie of the Year has failed to take another step up from his breakout rookie season. He has proven to be a dependable fullback for the Broncos, with his goalkicking being very handy. 2020 is a big year for Isaako, who could cement the number one jersey for the Broncos as his own for the long-term future.
Thompson is seen by many to be one of the most underrated players in the NRL. He has made the number one jersey at the Tigers his own, after scoring bucket loads of tries as a winger. Out of all the fullbacks on this list, Thompson is one of the most solid and all round, making him a bargain buy fullback for any club.
10. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
The former Kiwis Captain has had an interesting few years. His move to the Bulldogs surprised many and he played very well in his 10 games for the blue and white jersey last season, impressing with his fearless running and leadership. His running game for a fullback is incredible, in just two games this season he has hit 383 running metres.
9. Latrell Mitchell
To have a player that has the amount of talent as Latrell Mitchell at number nine on a position ranking list seems insane. Obviously he is incredibly skillful, however his switch to the Rabbitohs and to the fullback position has put his career’s potential at high risk. Hopefully, he can figure it out and again prove to the world that he is a genuine superstar in the NRL.
8. Clint Gutherson
Clint Gutherson is Mr Dependable for the Eels. It is hard to believe he is only 25 years old, it feels like he has been in the league for longer than that. His consistency has kept the Eels fighting, even in the darkest of times. 2020 has been superb for Parramatta, with Finals Football looking very likely, as long as Gutherson stays healthy.
7. Ryan Papenhuyzen
Papenhuyzen had a breakout season in 2019, where he showed that he could be one of the game’s next great fullbacks. He averaged 126 running metres, 17 line breaks, nine tries and five try assists in a groundbreaking 2019. His incredible pace and fearlessness in attack makes him a great attacking fullback for the Storm.
Deciding on Valentine Holmes’ position in these rankings was one of the most difficult. His prior form with Cronulla was incredible and he was looking very good for the Cowboys in the first two rounds of the 2020 season. The thing that makes Holmes so good is that he has the X Factor. He can win games on his own and was a major part of Cronulla’s maiden title in 2016.
5. Kalyn Ponga
Kalyn Ponga is one of the most exciting young stars in the game. His electrifying footwork and skillful attack is daunting for any defence. He has had a blistering start to 2020, where he has posted two tries, one line break and ten tackle breaks in two wins for the Knights. The question becomes that will he be good enough to lead the Newcastle outfit back to finals football.
4. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Nicoll-Klokstad had an incredible 2019 campaign, where he burst onto the scene for the Raiders. His underlying stats last year were up there with the best and he became a major part of the Raiders Grand Final run. It will be interesting to see if CNK can back up his performances this season, or will second-year syndrome get to him.
Considering he is only 23 years old, it is incredible the talent and skill that Tom Trbojevic possesses. He is such an outstanding player, because he is an all-round fullback. His 2019 was cut short due to injury, so hopefully for Sea Eagles fans 2020 is the year he pushes past RTS as a Top two Fullback in the NRL.
2. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
In a struggling Warriors side, RTS is a shining light. His 2018 Dally M Season was incredible and he backed it up with even better stats in 2019. Incredible footwork and speed is what sets Tuivasa-Sheck apart from the rest of the pack.
1. James Tedesco
This is an obvious selection. The reigning Dally M and Wally Lewis Medalist had a record-breaking 2019 season. Even though the Roosters have had a poor start to 2020, it is still clear that Teddy is the best Fullback in the NRL.