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Candidates announced for 2021 RLPA Players' Champion award

Nathan Cleary will again be a contender for the Players' Champion when the RLPA award is announced on grand final day.

The Panthers halfback will have plenty of opposition as he looks to defend his crown with the likes of Manly star Tom Trbojevic, Rabbitohs playmaker Cody Walker and Storm duo Jahrome Hughes, Brandon Smith also putting in career-best seasons.

The RLPA launched this year's award campaign on Monday with four players nominated from each of the 16 Telstra Premiership teams.

Reflecting on the sacrifice of the players this season, which included the unprecedented relocation of 13 teams to South-East Queensland, RLPA CEO Clint Newton said it had been a dynamic and challenging period.

"The sacrifices of players and many others connected to the game have been necessary given their impact on fans, clubs, and each other, but they are not forgotten.

"We have witnessed players continually do their best even though the demands have repeatedly increased with players continuing to support each other throughout the season."

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The peer-nominated honour will again recognise the best players from the NRL- as voted by those who take the field each week.

Alongside The Players’ Champion award will be The Players’ Rookie of the Year, The Players’ Dream Team and The Dennis Tutty Award. 

A six-week multichannel campaign will be produced and distributed in partnership with the Nine Network, culminating on the biggest day of the season as The Players’ Champion is crowned during Nine’s live grand final day broadcast. 

In addition to the continuation of the theme Yours, Theirs, Ours, which encourages rugby league supporters to celebrate and embrace their players’ vote through the hashtag #OurChampion.

Raiders veteran Josh Hodgson said despite the intense rivalry at NRL level, the players shared a common bond.

"I love our game because no matter how intense the rivalry, there’s still great respect for each other’s ability. What someone can do on the field commands the respect of not only their teammates but opposition players," he said.

"That’s what makes The Players’ Champion awards so great; players aren’t just voting for their teammates, they’re voting for the players they genuinely believe are the best, no matter what jersey they wear." 

The contenders for The Players' Champion award

Brisbane Broncos: Payne Haas, Jake Turpin, Herbie Farnworth, Alex Glenn
Canberra Raiders: Josh Hodgson, Jordan Rapana, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: Jake Averillo, Luke Thompson, Nick Cotric, Nick Meaney
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks: William Kennedy, Connor Tracey, Blayke Brailey, Tody Rudolf
Gold Coast Titans: David Fifita, AJ Brimson, Moeaki Fotuaika, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles: Tom Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans, Keiran Foran, Reuben Garrick
Melbourne Storm: Christian Welch, Jahrome Hughes, Brandon Smith, Nicho Hynes
Newcastle Knights: Jacob Saifiti, Connor Watson, Jayden Brailey, Daniel Saifiti
New Zealand Warriors: Reece Walsh, Addin Fonua-Blake, Tohu Harris, Marcelo Montoya
North Queensland Cowboys: Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Reece Robson, Jason Taumalolo, Scott Drinkwater
Parramatta Eels: Clint Gutherson, Isaiah Papali'i, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Reed Mahoney
Penrith Panthers: Nathan Cleary, Issah Yeo, James Fisher-Harris, Jarome Luai
South Sydney Rabbitohs: Adam Reynolds, Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker, Cameron Murray
St George Illawarra Dragons: Blake Lawrie, Ben Hunt, Jack Bird, Tariq Sims
Sydney Roosters: James Tedesco, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Joseph Manu, Angus Crichton
Wests Tigers: Luke Brooks, Adam Doueihi, Daine Laurie, Stefano Utoikamanu