The NRL is full of established stars but which players have made the biggest leap in 2019? The NRL.com experts have their say.
NRL.com's experts view
Jamie Soward (Former NSW five-eighth)
Kenny Bromwich. The Storm second-rower has emerged as a quality, skillful edge forward – kind of the Kiwi version of Wade Graham.
Brett Kimmorley (Former NSW halfback)
Kurt Capewell. Can play on the wing , at centre or in the back row. His versatility is great, fast, skilful and has great game awareness for the position he is playing in. Took his game to the level of Origin and he was rewarded with being in camp during the season.
Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)
Felise Kaufusi for me. I think he has been playing great footy over the years however I think he has stepped it up a couple of notches with his aggression in and attack and more so his defence.
Margie McDonald (NRL.com senior reporter)
Sione Matau'tia played all of 2018 at centre but playing the majority of 2019 in the second row (and a few games at centre) and hasn't let his standards slip. He has made five line breaks already in 14 games and scored three tries. He's a real threat on the edge and a greatly improved defender.
Zac Bailey (NRL.com reporter)
Charnze Nicoll Klokstad. For a bloke that didn't play any NRL matches in 2018, the Raiders fullback's form has been incredible this year, and he is a big reason behind the Green Machine's resurgence. Prior to his arrival in Canberra in February – just a month out from the start of the season – CNK had only played seven NRL games for the Warriors in 2017. He is now one of the in-form fullbacks in the game and one of the most exciting players to watch.
Michael Chammas (NRL.com Chief Reporter)
The Manly forward pack has relied on Jake Trbojevic and Marty Taupau for a number of years, however, Addin Fonua-Blake has improved enormously under Des Hasler and has regularly been one of the Sea Eagles' best forwards this year.
Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)
Veteran Souths back-rower Ethan Lowe. Even before his incredible Origin debut, Lowe was a vital cog for the Bunnies having been dropped to reserve grade at the Cowboys just last year. Plugging holes at centre, back row and coming off the bench, the 28-year-old has enjoyed a real resurgence at Redfern which was capped off by a monumental Origin debut for Queensland in their narrow loss in the decider. Shout out to Lowe's clubmate Braidon Burns, who has been sensational either side of a nasty hamstring injury.
Lowe eager to bring Origin performance back to clubland
Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)
Kurt Capewell. The 26-year-old only made his 50th NRL appearance for Cronulla this season but he was on the cusp of Queensland selection for the opening State of Origin. Now in his fourth season with the Sharks, Capewell has cemented a regular starting berth in the second row after moving between wing, centre or the bench for most of his NRL career.
Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)
Curtis Sironen is finally reaching his potential and producing career-high numbers that talent scouts spoke about when he was a junior coming through the Wests Tigers system. Seems to be relishing the opportunity to play under a coach like Des Hasler.
Corey Rosser (NRL.com reporter)
Ken Maumalo. The hulking 25-year-old has gone from being a makeshift winger to a player who is now central to the Warriors' game plan. Heading into round 18 he sits equal first on the Telstra Premiership try-scoring chart and is among the favourites to win the Warriors' Player of the Year.
Maria Tsialis (Big League editor)
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad only played seven first grade games for the Warriors (all in 2017), but with a fresh start in Canberra he has flourished in the fullback role. He's consistently one of the strongest Raiders on the field and opens up plenty of attack for his team.
Nicoll-Klokstad catches the Dragons out from close range
Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)
James Fisher-Harris has been a solid contributor for the Panthers over the past couple of seasons but he has grown into arguably their most important forward apart from Viliame Kikau. Unlike his hot-and-cold team, his form had not wavered this year and he should become a permanent fixture in Kiwi sides for many years to come.
Brett Keeble (NRL.com reporter)
After a handful of games for the Warriors in 2017, Canberra fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has been a stand-out as the NRL's most improved player in 2019. A threat in the back-field and on the edges, he has played an integral role in the Raiders' revival. Honourable mention to Knights prop Daniel Saifiti, an Origin-series winner who started the past two games for NSW after beginning the season on the Newcastle bench.
Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter)
Jahrome Hughes. He copped a rocket from Craig Bellamy upon returning the Kiwis tour of the UK and took it on board. His fullback play has improved markedly to keep Ryan Papenhuyzen from the Storm's No.1 jumper while proving himself a vital cog in Melbourne's imperious run at the top of the ladder.
Lone Scout (NRL Fantasy expert)
After Braidon Burns played 10 games on the wing in 2017 and five games on the bench or at centre in 2018, few would have expected he'd become one of the Rabbitohs' best strike weapons this year. Burns clearly outshone fellow Souths centre Greg Inglis early in the season, and after recovering from injury he's returned to his tackle-busting best in recent weeks and wouldn't look out of place in a NSW jersey in a year or two.
Bunnies unsurprised by Burns form
Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)
Jack Wighton is my most improved player this year. Whilst he is still prone to the occasional brain snap, his move to five-eighth has been far more successful than I thought it would be at the start of the year. A Blues jumper was a fitting reward for his great season so far.
Joel Gould (NRL.com reporter)
Broncos utility Jake Turpin was gone from a bit-part option at the Broncos to an integral member of the top 17 in the space of a few months. Whether at hooker, in the halves or off the interchange bench Turpin has provided energy, grit and game smarts. It is why the off-contract 22-year-old is now one of the most in-demand utilities in the game.
Tony Webeck (NRL.com reporter)
Very few people would have expected the pre-season signing of Warriors reserve grade winger Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to have such an influence on the Raiders' rise into the top four. He's not only the most improved player of 2019 but also the bargain buy of the year.
Tanisha Stanton (NRL.com reporter)
For anyone who stepped into Billy Slater’s Storm No.1 jersey it was never going to be an easy task, but Jahrome Hughes has made a seamless transition. He wasn't Melbourne’s first choice for the fullback duties for round one this year but once given the opportunity has made the spot his own.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.