As part of the NRL 2020 Annual, historian David Middleton names his NRL Team of the Year.
Maintaining consistent performance across a fragmented 2020 season was as much about winning the mental battle as it was the physical.
Players had little opportunity to find their groove at the start of the season when the entire competition was shut down amid uncertainty and fears of a catastrophic financial outcome.
Players were forced to cope with a new reality of training solo, adhering to biosecurity measures that were far more onerous than the general public were expected to deal with and then, when the comp restarted after almost 10 weeks, players were asked to hit the ground running and keep going for 18 weeks without a break … even longer for those whose teams reached the playoffs.
Meanwhile, there were new travelling protocols and some clubs were forced to relocate, far away from families and the comforts of home.
When the dust settled on a season unlike any other, it was hardly surprising many of the players who were regarded as the elite talents before the pandemic, rose to the challenges that confronted them in 2020 and remained among the best of the best.
And front and centre in the Team of the Year is one of the game’s most resilient stars, Melbourne captain Cameron Smith.
Despite living with constant speculation over his future, Smith remained a wonder of the game, steering the Storm to a second premiership title in four seasons and reserving a place in the Team of the Year for the 12th time in his career.
Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr made the select team of 2020 for the second year running after again finishing as Melbourne’s leading try scorer before crossing four times in the opening two Origin games.
Wally Lewis Medallist Cameron Munster beat a hot field to return as five-eighth for the third straight season while fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and prop Cameron Welch earned their first selection in the Team of the Year.
Others new to this select line-up in 2020 are Panthers Nathan Cleary, Viliame Kikau and Isaah Yeo, along with Roosters duo Daniel Tupou and Angus Crichton.
Roosters centre Joseph Manu earns his second consecutive selection, while teammate Josh Morris returns to the Team of the Year for the first time since 2012 when he was a Bulldog.
Canberra prop Josh Papalii rounds off the Team of the Year with his second straight appearance.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.