Top Five Wingers In The NRL
Wingers have always been the glamour boys of rugby league; a speedster streaking down the sideline or launching acrobatically into the in-goal to ground a crucial four-pointer millimetres inside the dead ball line is the type of thing that brings fans through the gates. They were once referred to as "those guys that hang around with footballers" but the modern-day winger needs to be a powerful metre-eater and tackle-breaker coming out of trouble to take pressure off the forwards as well as a noted finisher.
5. Brett Morris
2016 stats: 11 games; 10 tries; 31 dummy-half runs; nine line breaks; 96.5 metres per game
It's not so long ago the 30-year-old Kiama product would have been a unanimous pick for best winger in the world, but some flirtations with fullback at new club Canterbury and more than half a season out with a knee injury – combined with the emergence of the next generation of star flankers – has bumped Morris down to fifth on this list. Still, his explosive return from injury in 2016 – scoring seven tries in three games after nearly a year out – proved his class had not diminished while on the sidelines.
4. Valentine Holmes
2016 stats: 26 games; 19 tries; 23 dummy-half runs; 20 line breaks; 130.5 metres per game
One of the aforementioned next generation of wingers, fleet-footed Townsville product Holmes burst into the limelight with some astonishing feats at the 2015 Auckland Nines. His two seasons of excellence since have netted him a grand final win and a spot on Australia's victorious 2016 Four Nations tour of the UK. Holmes bagged 15 tries in his first full season in 2015 and almost broke the club try-scoring record on his way to 19 tries in the 2016 premiership run.
3. Jordan Rapana
2016 stats: 27 games; 23 tries; 71 dummy-half runs; 26 line breaks; 146.4 metres per game
New Zealand-born and Queensland-raised of Cook Islander and Maori descent, former journeyman Rapana exploded in the 2016 season as one half of Canberra's irrepressible "Leipana" duo, forming the most destructive right edge in the competition with inside man Joey Leilua. A career once postponed by a two-year Mormon mission well and truly hit the big time in Canberra's impressive run which saw him bag the year's equal-most tries and second-most tackle breaks, earning him an end-of-season Four Nations call-up and Kiwi debut.
2. Semi Radradra
2016 stats: 19 games; 12 tries; 6 dummy-half runs; 15 line breaks; 153.7 metres per game
Injury and off-field issues restricted Radradra from repeating the utter dominance he exerted in his breakout 2015 season when he broke the Parramatta season try-scoring record (with a whopping 24 tries in just 18 games). However his 2016 highlight reel still included moments of jaw-dropping brilliance, including beating the entire Rabbitohs team in an epic length-of the field try in Round 15 which was made more impressive by the fact it started with an astute intercept with Souths camped in Eels territory. The season also included the Fiji international's green and gold debut in the May Trans-Tasman Test.
1. Josh Mansour
2016 stats: 25 games; 16 tries; 47 dummy-half runs; 22 line breaks; 174.4 metres per game
Popular Penrith flanker Mansour had a career year in 2016, going from fringe rep player looking to bounce back from an injury-interrupted 2015 to the best winger in the country. He finished the NRL season with the most metres of any back and second-most of any player behind co-Dally M Medallist Jason Taumalolo. He played all three Origins for NSW and was an automatic selection for the Four Nations tour (though unfortunately broke down with a knee injury at training which has sidelined him for nine months). One of the hardest-working wingers ever to lace on a boot, Mansour frequently roams infield looking for work and his charges out of territory have been vital to Penrith's recent success.
This article first appeared on NRL.com