NRL Dally M 2022 Contenders – Mid Season Update

The Dally M Medal is the most prestigious individual accolade in the NRL, being awarded to the best player in the league throughout the course of the regular season every year. The list of past winners reads like a who’s who of rugby league royalty, with Tom Trbojevic the reigning champion on the back of one of the more dominant runs of form in league history. Recent years have seen fullbacks dominate the award, but while there are a number of them in the hunt again this year, there are players from all over the park who are in with a chance as we enter the last couple of months of the season. Let’s take a look at some of the best hopes to win this year’s Dally M Medal. 


Ben Hunt

Ben Hunt has long been one of the best halves in the NRL, but at the age of 32 and nearing 300 games he might be having his best season yet. The captain of the Dragons has been instrumental in the somewhat unexpected form of his side, which sees them a $3 shot to make the finals with a couple of months to go in the season after winning just eight games in 2021.

Hunt has polled well in the Dally M plenty of times in the past, most notably finishing fourth in 2014, while he also finished in the top ten last year with 18 points. This year, however, he seems poised to go even better. At the conclusion of Round 12 – after which point voting goes behind closed doors – he was sitting atop the leaderboard having already accumulated 19 points. If the second half of his season is anything like the first and the Dragons keep winning, he’ll be right in contention for the Dally M Medal. 


Isaah Yeo

Isaah Yeo has long been a pivotal piece of the Panthers’ puzzle, playing a major role in their 2021 Premiership – a season in which he was named Dally M Lock of the Year for the second consecutive time. The Panthers have been even better this year and are a $2.30 favourite to go back-to-back, and the co-captain has been a significant reason why. He has again been at his consistent best, and if the first 12 rounds of Dally M Medal points are anything to go by, it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.

 Yeo has spent much of the first half of the season right up the top of the count, and looked likely to be leading the charge when the points stopped being broadcast after Round 12. A three-vote performance by Ben Hunt saw the Dragons’ skipper grab the lead, but nonetheless, with 17 points already to his name, the Panthers likely to keep winning and Yeo’s apparent inability to put in a down performance, he should be right in the hunt come the end of the season.


Ryan Papenhuyzen

Were it not for injury, Ryan Papenhuyzen would likely be sitting atop the count as it stands, and potentially by a long way. The Storm superstar racked up 15 points in just seven rounds, racing away to a significant early lead, but he played just one and a half more games before injury sent his season grinding to a halt.

 Despite having missed Rounds 10 through to 15, however, arguably the most damaging fullback in the game is still well and truly in the Dally M Medal hunt. Following Game 2 of the State of Origin series he is just about ready to return to the fray, and based on how rapidly he accumulated points in the first few weeks of the season, if he is fit he is likely to come home like a freight train.  


Nicho Hynes

The Sharks have been one of the biggest improvers in the 2022 season, and boom recruit Nicho Hynes is one of the major reasons why. After three seasons with the Storm, Hynes joined Cronulla this year and was touted as a foundational piece in the club’s attempt to work their way up the ladder. It’s safe to say that so far, it’s working out pretty well for the Sharks.

He’s relished the move to halfback, and was rewarded with 16 points in the Dally M Medal in the first 12 weeks of the year. Just 50 games into his NRL career, Hynes still has plenty of room for growth, but even in only his fourth season he appears likely to be a major challenger for the biggest award in the game.


James Tedesco

James Tedesco is no stranger to success, and while neither he nor his Roosters side have enjoyed their finest season to date, he is still more than capable of making an impact on awards night. The champion fullback has won the Jack Gibson Medal for Sydney’s best player in all four of his seasons with the club, with a couple of Premierships and the 2019 Dally M Medal thrown in for good measure.

Last year, he accumulated 23 points to finish in a tie for fourth in the award, and while he only picked up four points in the first seven rounds of this season, ten over the course of the next five weeks suggested he is beginning to find something nearing his best. The Roosters are mired in the middle parts of the NRL ladder entering the back half of the season, but if they get going Tedesco will likely be a major reason behind it, and a second Dally M Medal will not be out of the realms of possibility.


Cameron Munster

Cameron Munster has well and truly stamped himself as one of the best players in the game this season, and his dominant performance in Game 1 of this year’s State of Origin series was illustrative of just how damaging he can be. The Storm star was a little way off the pace after Round 12 – seven points, to be exact – but the 12 points he’d accumulated to that point are still sufficient to have him in the race in the back half of the season.

Unfortunately, he copped a shoulder injury in Origin Game 2 which will likely see him miss at least one game for the Storm, but with over two months left to go in the season he still has plenty of time left to make a charge. The Storm will be fighting for a top two spot throughout that time and will be winning far more games than they are losing, and with Munster likely to play a major role for them heading towards the finals, he will come home with a wet sail.


Nathan Cleary

Nathan Cleary has been as pivotal as anyone to the Panthers’ success over the past few years, as evidenced by the 30 points he amassed in last year’s Dally M Medal count – a number which would have been enough to win the award in many other years. He instead found himself behind Tom Trbojevic – whose dominant season saw him pick up 35 of his own – finishing second in the count the year after he finished third behind Jack Wighton and Clint Gutherson.

Somewhat surprisingly it has been teammate and fellow co-captain Isaah Yeo who did the bulk of the polling for the Panthers over the first 12 weeks of this season – a period during which they dropped just one game – but Cleary still did enough to stay in the hunt, picking up ten points in that time. He’ll need to poll better in the back half of the season if he’s to challenge, but as he has shown before, he is more than capable of doing just that. 


Daly Cherry-Evans

There’s little that Daly Cherry-Evans has left to prove at the top level, but the addition of a Dally M Medal to his resumé certainly wouldn’t go astray. The Sea Eagles’ halfback was one of the five finalists named last year in a revamped format, ultimately finishing in a tie for fourth for the award alongside Tedesco. 

The Sea Eagles haven’t had things go entirely to plan so far in 2022, but nonetheless their 33-year-old captain picked up 13 points and was sitting in seventh place in the voting at the conclusion of Round 12. With Tom Trbojevic set to sit out the rest of the season, Cherry-Evans will need to play an even bigger role than he otherwise would have if Manly is going to make a charge for the finals. If they get there he will almost certainly have been a major reason why, and will once again be there or thereabouts in Dally M voting.

With more than two months to go until the conclusion of the NRL regular season, there is still plenty of water to go under the bridge before a Dally M Medallist is decided. After 12 rounds it was 32-year-old Ben Hunt leading the charge, but there is no shortage of quality players nipping at his heels. The votes will remain under wraps for the remainder of the season, and come Dally M Awards night in September, there are plenty of names set to be in contention for the biggest individual award in the NRL.