The representative period may be over but the hard work never stopped at NRL clubs as the race heats up in the VB Hard Earned award for 2019.

The five players at the top of the rankings remain set in stone but some fresh faces are beginning to make their mark with two months of the regular season remaining. 

Only four clubs – Manly, Penrith, Canterbury and Wests Tigers – feature in the top eight in July with two players from each club dominating in the effort areas. 

With no star playmaker or highly-paid outside back in sight, the VB Hard Earned award recognises the true workhorses of the NRL.

Based off an index point-scoring system, the players' efforts are calculated with a focus on runs, tackles, offloads, tackle busts, support and decoy plays plus charge-downs.

Players will lose points for negative plays including one point for every missed tackle and four points per error or penalty conceded, while a sin-binning will cost them eight points.

Stay tuned to NRL.com for updates on the Hard Earned Award each month to see who will challenge for award.

The VB Hard Earned Leaderboard

8. Josh Jackson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

Canterbury leader Josh Jackson drops from seventh to eighth spot on the overall leaderboard with a 45-minute stint against the Roosters and the side's bye week in round 16 not helping his cause. Jackson was a crucial component of the Bulldogs' last two wins with 80-minute games, churning out 70 tackles and more than 200 metres over the past fortnight, but will need to to keep it up or risk dropping out of the rankings next month. 

7. Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles)

Powerful Sea Eagles prop Marty Taupau enters the top eight for the first time in 2019 after an increase in metres and workload over the past month of the competition. A season-high 59 minutes against the Dragons in round 14 was backed up with 54- and 53-minute stints over the next fortnight. The Samoan international is averaging 155.9 metres across the season with 56 tackle busts and 30 offloads to solidify his status as one of the most damaging runners in the game.  

6. Ryan Matterson (Wests Tigers)

If Alex Twal is Mr Consistency at Concord then back-rower Ryan Matterson hasn't been too far behind with the former Rooster making a late charge into the list for the first time in 2019. Matterson hasn't missed a game and has managed to play all but nine minutes for the club this season with a 92.5% tackle efficiency and an average of 118 run metres to match. 

5. James Tamou (Penrith Panthers)

Panthers skipper James Tamou maintains in fifth spot on the leaderboard after cracking into the top eight last month. Penrith have been running hot over the past month after notching up back-to-back wins in May. Tamou has limited his missed tackle count too with just five in the past four games, along with a try, two line breaks and nine tackle breaks to keep his name in and among the best. 

4. Aiden Tolman (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

Canterbury veteran Aiden Tolman slips from third spot on the leaderboard through a direct swap with Alex Twal. A nasty rib injury against the Knights in round 17 could see Tolman drop further with the forward to miss at least the next week, possibly longer. Tolman was again dominating with hard work prior to injury with a 72-minute effort against the Sharks in his 250th game. Usually not known for his tackle-breaking ability, the 30-year-old has five in his past three outings.

Wests Tigers prop Alex Twal.
Wests Tigers prop Alex Twal. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

3. Alex Twal (Wests Tigers)

Wests Tigers prop Alex Twal continues to keep producing in frightening statistics that continue to improve. The Lebanon international hasn't missed a single tackle since round 10 of the competition, an incredible seven weeks ago. A season-low 39 metres against the Eels last week didn't help his cause but he backed it up with 48 tackles in a mammoth defensive effort. He's still a big chance to finish on top at the current rate he's going.

2. Jake Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)

Reigning champion Jake Trbojevic remains in second spot on the leaderboard despite a heavy Origin campaign and being taken from the field early in two of the past three club games to manage his workload. Trbojevic is yet to be rested by Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler which could have a say on his chance to knock off James Fisher-Harris from top spot over the coming weeks. Despite workaholics like Marty Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake in the Sea Eagles line-up, Trbojevic continues to churn out insane numbers – 138.9 running metre average and 42 tackles per game.

1. James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers)

Ladder-leader James Fisher-Harris sits on top for a consecutive month after another three games of consistency. Fisher-Harris has dramatically improved his defensive numbers in recent weeks after he was once ranked the competition's biggest missed tackler. The Penrith forward has missed just four in the past three games, a vast improvement after averaging 4.8 per game for the opening 13 rounds of the NRL season. His move to prop over the past month hasn't impacted his overall numbers either with the Kiwi international easily on track for his biggest season yet.