Thurston aiming for record fifth NRL award

Johnathan Thurston is in the running to be named rugby league’s players’ player for an unprecedented fifth time.

Thurston is among the leading contenders for the Rugby League Players’ Association Players Champion award to be presented at The Star casino on Tuesday night.

Thurston has won the award, which was previously known as the Players’ Player, a record four times.

He is the current holder and also won the title in 2005, 2013 and 2014.

Ben Barba was the last player to win other than Thurston, in 2012.

The RLPA has put forward a list of 20 contenders for this year’s award.

Cameron Smith, James Tedesco and Matt Moylan are among those likely to challenge Thurston for what many believe is the NRL’s highest individual honour.

As the RLPA continues to grow in prominence and influence, CEO Ian Prendergast moved to have the award named the Players’ Champion for the first time this year and for the night to be a regular event on the NRL calendar.

The winner will be announced at a black tie (with sneakers) event at The Star.

“It is the highest accolade in the game, an award voted on by your peers,” Prendergast told AAP on Monday.

“We want to deliver an event that shows how important this award is to the players and to the game.

“It is a true reflection of who is the best performer on a week-to-week basis in the NRL.”

Players vote on the best performed opposition player after every game over the 26 NRL rounds.

The RLPA Rookie of the Year award will also be handed out.

Bevan French, Daniel Saifiti, Nathan Cleary, Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell and Ash Taylor are the contenders.

The Australian representative men’s and women’s player of the year will be named as well, along with New Zealand’s. A Rest of the World representative player of the year will also be awarded.

Top 20 contenders for the Players’ Champion are Matt Moylan, James Tedesco, Sam Burgess, James Maloney, Tom Trbojevic, Jason Taumalolo, Dane Gagai, Greg Bird, Semi Radradra, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Josh Mansour, Johnathan Thurston, Shaun Johnson, James Graham, Greg Inglis, Mitchell Moses, Tyson Frizell, Anthony Milford, Joey Leilua and Cameron Smith.

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