Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston is the favourite to win his third Dally M medal and join Andrew Johns as the only three-time winner of the award.
A brilliant late season surge that took North Queensland to within a whisker of playing off for a grand final berth is set to deliver Johnathan Thurston his third Dally M medal for the NRL player of the year.
If Thurston adds the honour to his 2005 and 2007 triumphs at Star Casino on Monday night, he will move alongside Rugby League Immortal Andrew Johns as the only three-time winner of the award.
Thurston was equal leader on 19 points with Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt when voting went behind closed doors after round 16.
Queensland’s greatest ever pointscorer then missed the Cowboys round 17 fixture against St George Illawarra, ahead of State of Origin III.
The Cowboys then enjoyed a round 18 bye, before winning seven of their next eight games with captain Thurston featuring heavily as they claimed fifth spot on the NRL ladder at end of the regular season.
The Broncos had a round 17 bye, but only won four of their next nine games, meaning Hunt is unlikely to have polled the necessary votes to keep pace with Thurston.
British prop James Graham could be a dark horse to claim the award after helping inspire Canterbury to their second grand final in two seasons.
Graham was 10 votes behind Thurston and Hunt with 10 rounds to play and despite the Dogs indifferent from in the lead-up to the finals was consistently one of the best players on the park.
If Graham does take the honours he will be the first non-hooker forward to win the gong since Cronulla back-rower Gavin Miller won back-to-back awards in 1988 and 1989.
South Sydney back-rower Sam Burgess’s impressive late season form could also see him feature.
Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne was among the favourites as Parramatta attempted to charge into their first finals appearance since the 2009 grand final.
But late losses to Newcastle and then Canberra over the final two rounds not only cost the Eels a playoffs berth, but could also cost the NSW fullback his second player of the year award after his win in 2009.
DALLY M WINNERS
YearWinner 1980Robert Laurie 1981Steve Rogers 1982Ray Price 1983Terry Lamb 1984Michael Potter 1985Greg Alexander 1986Peter Sterling 1987Peter Sterling 1988Gavin Miller 1989Gavin Miller 1990Cliff Lyons 1991Michael Potter 1992Gary Freeman 1993Ricky Stuart 1994Cliff Lyons 1995Laurie Daley 1996Allan Langer 1997No winner due to Super League split 1998Andrew Johns 1999Andrew Johns 2000Trent Barrett 2001Preston Campbell 2002Andrew Johns 2003Not awarded due to industrial action 2004Danny Buderus 2005Johnathan Thurston 2006Cameron Smith 2007Johnathan Thurston 2008Matt Orford 2009Jarryd Hayne 2010Todd Carney 2011Billy Slater 2012Ben Barba 2013Cooper Cronk