Top Five Centres In The NRL
The modern-day centre might not exert the same influence on a side as other members of the backline, but their contribution can't be denied, particularly when remembering just how potent each of Canberra's edge weapons were on their run to the preliminary finals.
Whether they're providing the final pass for their winger or bustling their way through for a four-pointer, these are the best centres in the business as voted by the NRL.com team.
5. Will Chambers
2016 stats: 3 tries, 1 try assist, 3 line breaks, 30 tackle breaks, 114.6 metres per game
Injury restricted Chambers to 17 appearances in 2016, missing the middle portion of the season (including possible selection in the Kangaroos and Maroons sides). While 2016 wasn't his most prolific season, Chambers still played his role in Melbourne's charge to the grand final and is likely to return to the representative arena in 2017.
4. Jack Bird
2016 stats: 6 tries, 6 try assists, 9 line breaks, 81 tackle breaks, 111.8 metres per game
After bursting onto the scene in the halves in his debut season, Bird shifted to the centres to accommodate the signing of Chad Townsend and James Maloney and went on to play his part in Cronulla's maiden premiership. A contender for the No.1 jersey in pre-season, the versatile Shark also spent time at lock and made his NSW Origin debut. Formed a lethal partnership with Valentine Holmes on Cronulla's right edge and will be one of the club's key players in years to come.
3. Blake Ferguson
2016 stats: 11 tries, 8 try assists, 8 line breaks, 73 tackle breaks, 125.7 metres per game
The Roosters' 2016 campaign was one they'd rather forget, but Blake Ferguson had perhaps his most consistent season in first grade. He played in 22 of the Tricolours' 24 games and all three Origin matches as well as all six Kangaroos Tests, and was named Australia's best in the season-ending Four Nations tournament. While he spent the final few rounds of the NRL season on the wing and at fullback, Ferguson is set to return to the centres on a permanent basis in 2017.
2. Jarrod Croker
2016 stats: 18 tries, 7 try assists, 15 line breaks, 75 tackle breaks, 96.3 metres per game
The Raiders skipper has been among the game's highest points-scorers even when his side were failing to make the top eight, so it came as no surprise that he enjoyed another bumper season when the Green Machine finished in second spot after 26 rounds. He surpassed former coach David Furner as the club's all-time leading points-scorer with a whopping 296 points in 2016, also comfortably leading the competition in this area. Has also improved his defence and at just 26, still has plenty of good years ahead of him.
1. Joey Leilua
2016 stats: 11 tries, 10 try assists, 14 line breaks, 130 tackle breaks, 130 metres per game
It's rare that two players from the same club make a top five positional list, let alone those two players occupying the top two spots. But it is indicative of the dominant nature of Canberra's backline that Joey Leilua pipped his skipper as the best centre in the game according to our writers. Leilua finished fourth in the competition for tackle breaks and second for offloads, while his 11 tries and 10 try assists were also highlights. Along with right-edge partner Jordan Rapana, was perhaps the most destructive attacking force in the NRL in 2016 with further representative honours likely to follow next season.
This article first appeared on NRL.com