Category Archives: NRL Editorials

Editorials on the big issues in NRL Rugby League

Greatest Teams Ever Pt 8: Newcastle Knights

Another installment in our series as we preview the Newcastle Knights and what we view as their greatest team ever. They have also been privileged to have tremendous players donning the red and blue Knights jersey as well as several premierships to their name. Despite some lean years at present, their past is rich.

Once again, we must mention, the side is made up of players that have played almost exclusively for the Newcastle Knights throughout their career.

Without further hesitation, here is the Knights side we have chosen as our greatest 17 ever:

1. Kurt Gidley – The Knights won the 2001 NRL premiership but it was a game that Gidley did not play in. His first official game came a few weeks earlier in Rd 24 of the same season before he played in the Knights side that lost the 2002 World Club Challenge.
From there, he slowly became a regular of the side and etched himself into modern Knights folklore. He won the Knights’ first ever golden point game in 2004 but he unfortunately went on to miss most of the 2005 season due to injury. His first representative honour came with the NSW Country side in the City v Country game before he then represented the Prime Minister’s XIII.
After enjoying a solid 2007 season, Gidley was rewarded with Origin duties and in 2008, led the club in both point-scoring and try-scoring. His season was so good that he won the club’s player of the year award. With the departure of Danny Buderus, Gidley was made captain ahead of the 2009 season.
The following year in 2009, he was also named captain and fullback of the NSW side before playing in the NRL All-Stars game in successive years (2010 and 2011).
Gidley then continued to perform and impress for the Knights and forged a reputation as a loyal, hard-working player. His time at the Knights eventually came to an end after 251 games, 80 tries and 452 goals, before he headed to English side the Warrington Wolves where he currently plays.

2. Robbie O’Davis – Growing up in Toowoomba, O’Davis played for the Knights his entire career. Toiling away and performing for the first few years of his career, he played both wing and fullback for the duration of it. At the height of the Super League war, O’Davis played for both the Maroons and the Australian side, impressing for both when given the opportunity.
A popular player among the fans, O’Davis was impressive in the Knights 1997 ARL grand final and won the Clive Churchill Medal as a result. The following year was the opposite, however, after O’Davis as well as team-mate Wayne Richards were suspended for a whopping 22 weeks after testing positive to a banned anabolic steroid.
Slowly making his way back into the side and regaining the trust, O’Davis was also a member of the Knights 2001 premiership success and then in their 2002 World Club Challenge clash.
After a couple more seasons with the club, he retired at the end of the 2004 NRL season.

3. Matt Gidley – Regarded as one of the greatest players to ever don the Newcastle Knights jersey, right from his junior days through to his NRL career, Gidley played solely for the Knights. A youngster at the Wests club in the Newcastle rugby league competition, Gidley’s junior career actually began as a five-eighth. However, with the arrival of Matthew Johns, he was shifted to centre where he went on to forge a fantastic career.
In the end, his debut at the club came in 1996 and from there, Gidley never looked back as he made numerous appearances for both New South Wales and the Australian Kangaroos. He was a crucial player in the Knights charge towards the 2001 NRL premiership and like many other players, he became a very important player and a fan favourite at the club.
One major trait to Gidley’s game was his glorious flick pass that captivated fans and set up numerous tries. His partnership with Timana Tahu became a focal point for much of Gidley’s career as the two developed a playing bond at both club and state level.
He continued to perform well and eventually retired from the NRL and the Knights in 2006 becoming just the fourth Knights player to play 200 games. Gidley finished his Knights career with 221 games and 68 tries.
He then had a stint with St Helens in the Super League. His time with the Knights was not finished, though, as he joined the club as a Business Development Manager in 2011. Later on in the year, he was appointed as the CEO of Football by the Hunter Sports Group.

4. Mark Hughes – All teams need honest, hard-working players and Mark Hughes was all that and more. A genuine person, he had heart, passion and determination for the Knights team for the duration of his time there. A Kurri Kurri junior, Hughes joined the Knights during the 1997 season and enjoyed immediate success, playing on the wing in the club’s 1997 ARL premiership victory.
Eventually, Hughes was then shifted to centre where he enjoyed further premiership success, this time in 2001 when the Knights won the NRL premiership. That same year, he played for NSW in all three games, all at fullback.
As his Knights career wore on, the injuries became more frequent and hampered Hughes, his game and did not enable him to achieve the consistency he would have liked. At the end of the 2005 season, he departed the club and spent a season with Catalans. Knights fans, former players and the team itself gave him much needed support when he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013. Fighting hard against the illness, he set up the Mark Hughes Foundation and continues to make a recovery to this day.

5. Adam Macdougall – Whilst we all know and love Macdougall as a tremendous player for the Knights, his NRL career actually began with the Sydney Roosters in 1995. It was not until 1997 that he joined the Knights and enjoyed immediate success, with the club winning the competition. His good form continued in 1998 and he was rewarded with a maiden Origin jumper for New South Wales. However, later that year, he tested positive to stimulants Ephedrine and Amfepramone indicating the possible use of steroids and he was subsequently banned for 11 games.
It was later revealed that a prior head injury had damaged Macdougall’s pituitary gland and it was imperative that he take Sustanon 250 which included a banned steroid.
After serving his suspension, Macdougall returned to the Knights in 1999 and after just a couple of games, he was selected once again for New South Wales. Many believe that his two best seasons came in 2000 and 2001 where Macdougall scored 30 tries in 41 games before starring for NSW in their Origin series win in 2000. He also played in the 2000 World Cup Final and then won a second premiership with the Knights in 2001. Continuing to perform solidly for the club, he made a surprising move when he departed and signed with the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Playing with the Bunnies for three seasons, MacDougall then returned to the Knights in 2007 and enjoyed a further 6 seasons with the club.
In the end, Macdougall played 158 games for the Knights club and in 2011, he announced his retirement.

6. Matthew Johns – The eldest of the Johns brothers, Matthew was raised in Cessnock and played his junior footy in the region before joining the Knights in 1991. He made his NRL debut in 1992 and played alongside his brother in the halves for nine years. Forming a sound combination with his brother, their play led to success during the 1997 ARL season when they won the premiership before doing it for a second time in 2001, winning the NRL premiership. A part of the 1995 Rugby League World Cup squad, Johns enjoyed success with the Knights and for Australia but played few games with the Blues.
In the end, after 176 games with the club, Johns departed and signed with the Wigan Warriors for the 2001 season. Performing strongly there, he was involved in a grand final which Wigan lost but he returned to the NRL for one more season with the Sharks.
Injuries to his shoulder and neck forced him to retire. He remains a vocal figure in the NRL world and is currently a key member of the Fox Sports NRL team.

7. Andrew Johns – In the eyes of many, he is the greatest player to have ever donned the Knights jersey. A play-maker, a visionary and a tremendous player, the Knights won countless games and two premierships on the back of the form of Andrew Johns.
Like his brother Matt, Johns played his junior footy in Cessnock and it was clear that he had natural ability. At just 15, the Knights signed him onto their junior ranks and he would not have to wait long for a first-grade appearance as injury to the incumbent halfabck saw Johns rewarded with an opportunity. He made a tremendous first impression as he scored 23 points and won the man-of-the-match award.
In 1995, Johns had the chance to play for Australia at the Rugby League World Cup and made the most of that opportunity as he won a man-of-the-match award playing at hooker and was then named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. From here, he became a mainstay across club, state and international teams.
The 1997 grand final could have been very different had Johns not played, as he was entering the game with an apparent rib injury. However, the club stalwart played and was the difference, leading the side to premiership victory that season. He was even better in the 1998 season as the club lost just five games and Johns was instrumental in that fantastic season. He was named the 1998 Dally M Player of the Year.
1999 was much of the same for the play-maker as another impressive season saw him take out successive Dally M Medal’s, the first player to go back-to-back in this regard at the time since Mick Cronin in 1977 and 1978. Named captain after the retirement of Paul Harragon and the departure of his brother, Johns continued to perform and again guided the side to glory, this time in the 2001 NRL premiership.
There was no stopping Johns as in 2002, he continued to impress and perform magnificently. Unfortunately, injury struck that year, after he broke a bone in his back in the finals, ending the Knights hopes of winning the premiership that year. His form throughout the season had been so good, that he won a third Dally M Medal, a feat that has only been replicated by Johnathan Thurston.
This one injury culminated in a turbulent time for Johns over the next few seasons. He suffered a serious neck injury that threatened his career in 2003, injured his ACL and was out for most of the 2004 season and then broke his jaw during the 2005 season.
After that, speculation was rife that Johns would consider a switch to Union but he eventually opted to remain in rugby league and ended up being the shining light that NSW needed to win an Origin series in 2005. He had a short-term deal with the Warrington Wolves after agreeing to re-sign with the Knights.
He then broke a long-standing rugby league record in Australia in 2006, when he surpassed Michael Cronin to claim the the point-scoring record for a player at a single club. He broke another record in the same year, passing Jason Taylor to become the highest point-scorer in the history of Australian rugby league.
2007 would prove to be the last season in the NRL for Johns after he was concussed early on in the season as with scans then confirming that he had a bulging disc in his neck. This injury led Johns to confirm that he was retiring from the game.

8. Tony Butterfield – A durable, hard-working prop, Butterfield’s career began with the Penrith Panthers but after just four games in two years, he made the move to the Newcastle Knights. Joining them in 1988 in their inaugural season, from there, he never looked back as he became a regular in the side up until his retirement from the game in 2000.
At the time of his retirement, he was the club’s highest capped player with 200 games before that record was broken by Andrew Johns. He played one game for the Country Origin side and one game for New South Wales in 1989 and 1998 respectively. His services to the club were honoured when he was named in the Knights Team of the Decade in 1997 and again in 2007 in their Team of the Era.

9. Danny Buderus – Yet another tremendous player to don the Knights jersey, Danny Buderus is the greatest hooker to have played for the club. Playing only for the Knights, his career with the club over two stints saw him play 257 games in total in club colours.
Early on in the 1997 ARL season, Buderus made his debut but that was the only game he would play that year. His game-time increased as the 1998 season wore on and eventually, he become a regular in the side that went on to win a premiership in 2001. 2001 was also the first year that Buderus was picked for both NSW Country and Australia, going on to play 5 games and 24 games respectively.
After another successful year in 2002, Buderus made his Origin debut and played 21 games for his state throughout his career. The 200th game of his career came in that year, as did just rewards for his performances as he took out the Dally M Hooker of the Year and Dally M Representative Player of the Year.
2004 was probably the best season in Buderus’ career as he took out the Dally M Medal – just the second hooker to do so after Mal Cochrane – as well as the Dally M Hooker of the Year Award yet again. He took out the award for a third time after winning it in 2005.
After several more years with the Knights, Buderus departed for a stint with Super League side, the Leeds Rhinos. He returned to the club in the 2012 season and was in the Country Origin side just 7 weeks upon his return. Still performing at a decent level, Buderus played on until the 2013 season before he announced his retirement from the game.

10. Paul Harragon – A Kurri Kurri local, Paul Harragon has been a part of the Newcastle system since his early days as a rugby league player. Joining the Knights in 1988 from Lakes United, he made his first-grade debut in 1989 against Balmain.
A genuine leader and a physical presence on the field, he led from the front and galvanised his team-mates to come together and be the best players they could be. Before long, he became a regular for both the NSW and the Australian sides, representing both on 20 occasions.
His toughness and determination was all the more impressive and noticeable in 1997 when as captain, he led the side to ARL premiership glory in 1997 despite suffering from headaches and seizures for most of that season.
1999 would prove to be Harragon’s last in the NRL as he was forced to retire from the game due to a knee injury. He would not be lost to the game, though, as he started work with NBN Newcastle and then Channel Nine and was at one point a Director at the Knights. He has also been made a life member.

11. Paul Marquet – He might be a household name but Marquet did not have to be one, for he was an honest, hard-working toiler that went on to win three premierships in his career. Adept primarily as a back-rower, Marquet was resilient in his efforts and consistent and in 1990, he was handed his Knights debut. He found a home on the edge at the club and in his final year of his first stint with them, he played a role in their 1996 ARL premiership success.
The following year, he had a stint with the Hunter Mariners before moving to the Storm for several seasons where he won another premiership. He returned home to Newcastle for a final NRL swansong in 2001 and yet again, won a title, with the Knights taking out the NRL premiership that year with Marquet playing off the bench.

12. Steve Simpson – Born in Maitland near Newcastle, the back-rower could also play both prop and lock and played out his entire career with the Knights. With 216 games for the Knights to his name, 3 games for Country NSW, 13 games for New South Wales and 7 games for Australia, Simpson enjoyed a successful career across all levels.
Simpson made his debut in 1999 and was lucky enough to win a premiership just two years later when the Knights took home the title in 2001. He enjoyed much consistency across his career but was forced to retire in 2010 due to a knee injury.

13. Billy Peden – Yet another Newcastle local, Peden hailed from Cessnock much like the Johns brothers and played alongside many of the aforementioned names here. Making his debut back in 1994, Peden played predominantly back-row but was also able to cover both the hooker and lock positions. He was a consistent performer who went on to play 190 games for the club and was a member of two premiership winning sides at the Knights in 1997 and then again in 2001.
He retired in the 2002 season before heading to England for a year to play with the London Broncos. He returned to the Knights as a coach later in his career.

14. Mark Sargent – A skilful prop, the local Newcastle junior started his career with the Canterbury Bulldogs but after just a few seasons that culminated in 19 games, he returned home to play for the Knights and never looked back. He made an immediate impact at the club with his form guiding him to the Rothmans Medal alongside Gavin Miller. His form continued in 1990 and this led to his sole Origin performance in that same year and then for Australia, who he played four games for.
1991 saw Sargent miss a lot of time due to injury but he did bounce back in 1992 to perform strongly and played for Australia at the World Cup that year. In addition to the above, Sargent was also captain of the Knights alongside fellow prop Paul Harragon for the 1995 season. This would be his last season as he then retired from the game.
He was a team manager at the Knights during their 2001 NRL premiership success before leaving the role in 2005.

15. Marc Glanville – A Wagga Wagga junior, Glanville’s first foray into the rugby league world came in a brief stint with the St George Dragons in 1986. Culminating in just 8 games over two seasons, he joined the Knights for their inaugural season in 1988 and never looked back.
He went on to enjoy a long, storied career with the club playing with them until 1997 when he retired. He was a member of the club’s 1996 ARL premiership success, their maiden title, and played for the Country Origin side on three occasions. In total, he played 188 games for the club, before making the move to England to play with Leeds for two seasons.
He is currently a part of the KOFM radio commentary team that calls Knights games.

16. Robbie McCormack – Starting his career with the Knights in 1988, McCormack soon become a mainstay of the team and was a nifty, lively hooker. Always looking to improve, his good form saw him rewarded with a maiden Origin appearance in 1992 and then again in 1993 when he replaced Benny Elias in the role. In total, he played in two games for the NSW side and three for Country Origin. He eventually became captain of the Knights team and was a member of their maiden premiership success in 1996.
The year after, though, he joined the Hunter Mariners for one season before moving to England to play for Wigan where he won the Super League grand final.

17. Sean Rudder – A versatile utility, Rudder was the ultimate professional. Happy to play wherever he was needed, a lot of his performances came from the bench. When he was on the field, he worked hard, played hard and showed heart and a 6-season career with the Knights yielded 131 games and 21 tries. He was a member of the Knights premiership-winning side in 2001 and then made a move to England where he had stints with both the Castleford Tigers and the Catalan Dragons, before returning to Australia to play with Newtown. This culminated in a sole performance for the Roosters.

Greatest Teams Ever Pt 7: Melbourne Storm

In the NRL competition for fewer years than most clubs, the Melbourne Storm have made a tremendous impact on the field. Winning premierships, performing consistently and boasting a plethora of tremendous players, the Storm has become one of the elite sides in the NRL for a number of years now.

In this editorial, we will analyse their best 17 in our view and it has some big names. Will some active players feature? Once again, we send a gentle reminder that our teams are made up of those players who have played almost exclusively for the Storm.

Here we have it, our pick for the best 17 players to have ever donned a Storm jersey:

1. Billy Slater – Commencing with the Storm in 2003, Slater’s talents were immediately on show as a precursor to the dynamic player he would become. His first game started on the wing before he moved to fullback in Rd 2 and he also had a stint at centre during the 2003 season. His debut year was one to remember as he topped the club’s try-scoring list with 19 and won the Dally M Rookie of the Year Award.
Just the next year, he made his first Origin appearance and whilst his debut game was not all that flash, he made up for it in the second as he was named man-of-the-match on the back of a two-try performance.
2004 was another good year for Slater scoring 14 tries from his 22 appearances and he as selected for the end of season Kangaroos tour but had to withdraw from the tour due to injury. He excelled yet again for the Storm in 2005 but he was dropped from the Queensland side for Game 3, a move which angered many fans. He would have to wait a further three seasons before he played Origin again.
From a try-scoring perspective, he finished with 20 tries from 21 matches as he continued to prove his worth. 2006 was a less successful season for Slater. Littered with suspensions – including a 7-week ban for kicking Tigers prop John Skandalis – Slater missed a total of 11 weeks due to suspension that season but did play in the grand final which the Storm was unable to win.
After a quiet start in 2007, it was made worse when Slater broke his cheekbone. Returning in Rd 18, this was the first season that saw Slater control the back-line play and become a crucial cog in the attacking system. He set up 20 tries in 2007 to go with his 12 tries. This time, he would taste success as the Storm made the 2007 grand final and won, with a victory over Manly. He won the club’s Back of the Year award and was named at fullback in their team of the decade.
2008 saw the Storm work so hard only to fall short at the final hurdle but Slater was named as the club’s player of the year. In that same year, he won the Golden Boot and was named the RLIF’s International Player of the Year.
The Storm would win another grand final in 2009 even though it ended up being stripped after the Storm were found guilty of breaching the salary cap but Slater still took out the Clive Churchill Medal and finished as the Storm’s leading try-scorer. Slater continued to assert his dominance on the game and took out the highest honour, the 2011 Dally M Medal of the Year. He drew praise from the likes of Andrew Johns who said Slater was the greatest fullback he had ever seen.
He won another premiership with the Storm in 2012 and continued to play for club, state and country on a regular basis.
In more recent times, Slater has unfortunately been away from the field due to a problematic shoulder injury that has kept him out for some time. He is still looking to return from that injury ahead of the 2017 season.

2. Marcus Bai – A hulking winger from Papua New Guinea, Bai would become a fan favourite and a key player for the Storm during his time with the club. Starting out with English side Hull FC, Bai also played for the Gold Coast Chargers briefly before joining the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998.
Bai settled in smoothly and was named Dally M Winger of the Year in just his first year with the club. He continued to impress in 1999 and played in every game on the wing that culminated in the club’s maiden premiership success after a hard-fought win over the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Hey may have only been at the Storm for five years but Bai was a player that the fans revered, as the Papua New Guinean-born winger impressed with his try-scoring ability and hard-running under pressure. In the end, he finished with 70 tries from 144 games and eventually finished his career with English side, Leeds.

3. Aaron Moule – The Queensland-born centre started his career with the South Queensland Crushers before making the move to the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998. He went on to play in 104 games and scored 58 tries in the process, a handy track record over a five-year period with the club.
Moule played at centre in the Storm’s inaugural premiership success in 1999 and also at the World Club Challenge in 2000.
He finished as the club’s leading try-scorer in both 2001 and 2002 before making the move to England to play with both Widnes and Salford.

4. Will Chambers – Hailing from Gove in the Northern Territory, Chambers made the move to Queensland first where he played his junior footy. Commencing his career with the Melbourne Storm, Chambers has only played for the one club throughout his career. Making his debut in 2007, Chambers was not involved in the club’s 2007 grand final success but he was endorsed by Matt King – who was involved in that success – as the man to replace him moving forward.
Chambers slowly became a regular in the Storm’s first-grade side and was a member of the 2009 premiership success which ended his first stint with the club. He made the move to Super Rugby when he signed a 2-year deal with the Queensland Reds. After that brief stint, he then signed with Munster for a short period of time.
Rejoining the Storm for the 2012 season, he had a successful start to the season upon his return. A key player by this time for the club, he was a member of the club’s 2012 premiership success and their World Club Challenge victory. He earned an Origin call-up during the 2014 season and played again in 2015.
Chambers then went on to captain the Storm’s NRL Auckland Nines side in 2015 before gaining selection for the Indigenous All-Stars in the annual clash. He then became the 800th player to represent the Kangaroos.

5. Matt Geyer – One of the greatest players to don the purple jersey of the Storm, Geyer was an influential figure and leader at the club. A genuine utility in that he was versatile across the park, he actually had a very brief stint at the Western Reds in 1997 before joining the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998.
At the time of his retirement, he was the Storm’s most capped player with 262 tries and amassing 662 points in the total (113 tries & 105 goals). In 1999, he was the first Storm player to lead the NRL in point-scoring and one of his goals – the most crucial of all – secured the Storm’s maiden premiership success that same year.
In 2006, he became the first Storm player to reach 200 career games for the club and was the only remaining player from the Storm’s 1999 premiership winning year to play in the 2006 decider that the Storm lost. They bounced back the year after when they won the 2007 grand final, a game that Geyer was a part of.
As he started to play more games off the bench, that role eventually changed when fellow centre Will Chambers was injured. Geyer replaced him for that season in 2008 and then made the decision to retire upon the season’s completion. Upon his retirement, he left the club as their leading try-scorer.

6. Scott Hill – Born and raised in Dubbo, Hill’s rugby league career began with stints at the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Hunter Mariners before joining the team saw him become a household name, the Melbourne Storm. A tremendous player, many remember Hill for his slight of hand and the swift nature in which he played the game.
Hill was a Storm player from their inaugural season in 1998 and whilst he played a part in the 1999 season, he missed the grand final due to a knee reconstruction. A talented utility, Hill enjoyed a lengthy stint with the Storm and was a consistent performer for the club. He was often criticised for not performing as well as he could have on the representative stage but Storm fans revered him for his efforts with the club.
2006 ended up being Hill’s last with the club as he made the move to England to sign with Harlequins.

7. Cooper Cronk – Starting out as a bench utility in 2004, Cooper Cronk has since gone on to forge a lengthy, successful career as a player with the Storm side. Covering five-eighth, hooker and lock when he started, it was the 2006 season in which he first gained recognition by winning the 2006 Dally M Halfback of the Year.
Due to the absence of Cam Smith, Cronk was captain in the Storm’s 2008 premiership defeat to Manly. The following year, he was instrumental in the club’s grand final success setting up two tries even though that premiership was eventually stripped due to the Storm’s salary cap breach.
Also a mainstay in the Queensland Origin side, it was the 2010 season that his Origin career kicked on after an injury to Johnathan Thurston. He continued to perform at all levels over the next few years before enjoying premiership success in 2012, one of the best seasons in Cronk’s career. He won Dally M Halfback of the Year for a second time and was named the Clive Churchill Medallist on grand final day. He continued his good form in 2013, a year that saw him win not only Dally M Halfback of the Year for a third time but also the Dally M Award for the first time.
In 2014, he played in his 250th NRL game, just the third Storm player to reach the milestone.
Just last year in 2016, Cronk was only the 25th player to reach 300 games and just the 11th to do so playing for one club. He also won yet another Dally M Halfback of the Year Award and the Dally M Award in 2016, tied with the Cowboys Jason Taumalolo.

8. Robbie Kearns – A junior at the Engadine Dragons, Kearns started out with the Cronulla Sharks firstly before a stint at the Western Reds. When the Storm entered the competition, Kearns joined in 1998. In just his first season with the club, he was named as the club’s player of the year. A no-nonsense, hard-nosed, strong forward, Kearns was part of the Storm side that won the 1999 premiership in their second year and of the World Club Challenge success in 2000.
He was captain from 2000 to 2002 and then again in 2005 which ended up being his last year of professional rugby league. At a representative level, Kearns played for both NSW and Australia. He remained with the Storm in a marketing capacity upon his retirement.
In the Storm’s Team of the Decade named in 2007, Kearns was selected at prop.

9. Cameron Smith – Whilst we all know Cam Smith as the best hooker in the game at present, he actually started his career as a halfback in his first two games with the Storm. His long stint with at hooker with the Storm began in 2003 and his first Origin performance came that same year when the Maroons could not decide on a long-term hooker to play for them.
2003 was capped off with Smith winning the NRL Rookie of the Year award. 2005 then saw Smith named the Storm’s Player of the Year before winning the Dally M Medal in 2006, his best year with the Storm and in the NRL up until that point. He made his representative debut in 2006 before helping the Storm win the NRL premiership in 2007. 2008 saw a big shift in the career of Smith when he was named captain. Since that time, he has never looked back and led the Storm side with guidance and genuine leadership.
He had another stint at halfback in the World Club Challenge in 2010 when Cooper Cronk was injured but reverted back to hooker soon after. Continuing to lead from the front and set the tone, Smith was named the RLIF Hooker of the Year in 2011. 2012 was another successful year for Smith as he guided the Storm to a premiership success and won the Dally M Hooker of the Year once again in addition to being named the RLIF International Player of the Year.
Just last year, Smith played in his 300th match and became just the 24th player in history to do so. He continues to guide his younger team-mates on and off the field and is revered by many Storm fans and many fans across the NRL.

10. Rodney Howe – Another player to join the Storm for their inaugural season, Howe previously had stints at both the Newcastle Knights and the Western Reds. His Storm career started somewhat badly, though, after he was banned for 22 games for using stanozolol. Returning in 1999 with a bang, though, he quickly re-established himself as a key forward for the club and he was a part of the club’s premiership success that year.
Howe’s good form continued after he was named the club’s player of the year in 2000 before winning it again in 2002. After a couple more seasons with the club and after continuing to perform well, Howe opted to retire at the end of the 2004 season.

11. Stephen Kearney – Joining the Storm in their maiden 1998 season, Kearney had previously played for both the Western Suburbs Magpies and the Auckland Warriors. A hulking forward, Kearney was a tough player to handle for opposition defences. Many regard him as one of the best on ground in the club’s maiden premiership success in 1999.
He travelled with the Storm to England and was a member in the Storm’s comprehensive win.
A consistent forward, Kearney continued to impress regularly for the Storm and went on to play a remarkable 45 games for the New Zealand Kiwis. He was also the first New Zealander to play in 250 NRL games, a mark that still stands today.
Playing with the Storm until the end of the 2004 season, Kearney had a final season with English side, Hull FC.

12. Danny Williams – Whilst many might only remember him for the way in which he left the NRL, prior to that, he was quite a successful, nifty player for the Storm and the North Sydney Bears. Joining the Storm in 2008, Williams came off the bench in the club’s 1999 maiden premiership success before travelling with the side to England for the World Club Challenge, a game the club won.
Playing in a total of of 146 games for the club, Williams time at the club ended suddenly. In 2004, Williams king-hit Mark O’Neill and was banned for a total of 18 games, an Australian club record ban. After that, he moved to England and played with Harlequins before retiring.

13. Dallas Johnson – Spotted playing for the Storm’s affiliate team, Johnson made the move to the Storm ahead of the 2003 season and played in 20 games in his debut year. A hard-worker, a fan favourite and a player who loved to make tackles, Johnson toiled and performed well for three seasons before his good form culminated in winning the 2007 NRL premiership with the Storm. Although as we all know, this would later be stripped in 2010.
Playing his 150th match for the club in the 2008 season, Johnson would continue to represent both Queensland and Australia up until his Storm departure. The 2009 season was the last one at the Storm that led to another premiership which was also stripped in 2010 due to the salary cap breach.
He then moved to French side Catalans before returning to the NRL with the North Queensland Cowboys.

14. Richard Swain – A talented Kiwi player, Swain made his debut with the Hunter Mariners in 1997 before moving to the Storm for their inaugural 1998 season. In a remarkable feat of durability, Swain did not miss a single game for the Storm from his debut to his final game in 2002. His form was consistent and he was rewarded with a total of 19 games for New Zealand throughout his career.
In just their 2nd year, the Storm won a maiden premiership with Swain an influential part of that team at hooker. He was rewarded for his good form by winning the Storm’s Player of the Year Award in 2001 and was the first player in the NRL to top 1000 tackles in a season.
With 2002 being his final year with the club, Swain then had one year at the Brisbane Broncos, before heading to England to play for Hull FC.

15. Matt Rua – Initially a Manly junior, Rua also joined the Storm in their inaugural year of 1998 and played for feeder club Norths Devils. He won the club’s Rookie of the Year award in 1999 and won a premiership with the club the same year. He also represented New Zealand and played 11 games for the Kiwis over three years.
He quickly became a mainstay of the side and was noted for his determination and hard-running, despite his smaller stature for the position. Lock and second-row were his positions and he continued to play for the club until the 2002 season. In total, he played 100 NRL games for the Storm before being released. He had signed with Canberra but then left to play in the Bartercard Cup.
He returned for one final game with the Storm in 2007 but that is all he would play and he retired at the end of that season.

16. Russell Bawden – A hard-working forward, Bawden was an unsung hero of the Storm side at the time but toiled and impressed many fans. His career started with the Brisbane Broncos but after a couple of games there, he then had a stint at the London Broncos before joining the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998.
He was a part of the Storm’s 1999 premiership success as a forward off the bench before also winning the 2000 World Club Challenge. Over 101 games with the Storm, he also represented Queensland on three occasions. At the end of the 2001 season, Bawden departed and had a second stint with the London Broncos.

17. Ryan Hoffman – A hard-running edge back-rower, Hoffman quickly established himself as a key player in the Storm side after making his debut in 2003. After consistent form, his 2006 season saw him make his representative debut for New South Wales as well as taking out the Storm’s Forward of the Year Award. The sour point of his 2006 season was the Storm’s grand final loss.
He was a part of the Storm’s premiership successes in 2007 and 2009, both of which were eventually stripped from the Storm due to their salary cap breaches.
As a result, the Storm had to shed players with Hoffman being one of them. He joined the Wigan Warriors in England and played with them for one season. In 2012, he rejoined the Storm and played in the club’s 2012 premiership victory as well as the 2013 World Cup Challenge victory.
At the end of 2014, he made the move across the Tasman to the New Zealand Warriors where he currently plays.

Greatest Teams Ever Pt 6: Manly Sea Eagles

One of the most successful teams of the modern era, Manly also had their fair share of success in their earlier days. Both eras had a plethora of talented players which made narrowing down this list into our greatest ever an even harder task.

Though after some digging, some research and some discussion, we narrowed it down to what we felt was the best 17 players to play for Manly. Again, we reiterate that the list is based on players who have played the majority of their games exclusively for Manly.

So here you have it. Our take on Manly’s greatest ever:

1. Grahame Eadie – Regarded as one of the finest players to have laced the boots in the 20th century, Eadie enjoyed a long, lengthy career with the Sea Eagles over 13 seasons. Graded by Manly in 1971, he immediately impressed in the lower grades and his chance came the following year Bob Batty retired. He quickly established himself as a consistent player that Manly could rely on with his powerful running style an attribute of his for the duration of his career.
In full flight, he was hard to stop and defenders struggled to contain him to small amounts of metres. Used sporadically as a goal-kicker in 1972, it was only in 1973 when he took on the goal-kicking duties full-time. In one game against Penrith, he kicked 14 goals and for the following three seasons after that, he finished as the league’s leading point-scorer.
He then became a mainstay of the Australian side for several seasons after that but opted to retire from international rugby league in 1980. 1974 saw Eadie win the Rothmans Medal for best and fairest and in 1978, he produced one of the best performances of the era from a fullback to help Manly to victory in the grand final replay that year. His goal-kicking also got his Manly side over the line during the 1976 season.
His dominance and consistency during the two grand finals was recognised thirty years later, with Eadie awarded retrospective Clive Churchill Medals for his man-of-the-match performance in both years.
Despite the team as a whole declining somewhat, Eadie’s individual form continued despite injury that forced him to miss some of the 1981 season. 1983 proved to be his last as a Manly player but he did go on to break Eric Simms point-scoring record, the highest amount at that time.
He then moved to Halifax where he enjoyed some success. Eadie was selected at fullback in Manly’s 2006 Dream Team.

2. Tom Mooney – Starting out with the Rabbitohs, Mooney made the move to the Sea Eagles in 1975. A prolific try-scorer for much of his career, Mooney enjoyed immediate success in 1976 when he was a part of the club’s premiership success that year. He also finished the year as the league’s leading try-scorer alongside team-mate Bob Fulton.
He also performed strongly in the 1978 grand final scoring a try but in the replay, he failed to cross the try-line. His form was consistent that year and many thought that he was unlucky not to be selected in the Kangaroos tour of 1978 with seven of his other team-mates.
He continued his try-scoring form in 1979 when he finished as the sole leading try-scorer. A further two seasons at the club saw Mooney’s try-scoring exploits decline somewhat and after scoring just nine tries across the 1981 season, he made the decision to retire.
Mooney was then named on the wing in Manly’s greatest team ever in 1990.

3. Steve Menzies – A natural born talent to play rugby league, Menzies had a debut year to remember scoring 16 tries, winning the Dally M Rookie of the Year Award and the Dally M Second Rower of the Year Award. Initially a centre during his junior days with Manly, Menzies started his first-grade career in the back-row. Wearing his trademark headgear, the Manly legend nicknamed ‘Beaver’ caught opposition teams off-guard with genuine pace out wide and a great ability to back up attacking plays.
His good form continued in 1995 as he finished with 22 tries for the season – the first time a forward topped the try-scoring charts since 1945 – before taking out another Dally M Second Rower of the Year Award and representing both NSW and Australia. He was involved in Manly’s grand final loss during the 1995 season and represented Australia soon after.
They would not have to wait long for premiership success, though, with Menzies scoring a try and proving to be a key player in the club’s 1996 grand final win. Making another grand final in 1997, Menzies good form and heroics were not enough as Manly lost this time around.
Menzies was always a tremendous attacking player but his defensive exploits were just as crucial and these are often overlooked based on how well he performed with the ball in hand.
Whilst his try-scoring rate slowed somewhat in the late 90’s, he did pass the century mark for tries during the 1999 season.
An interesting time then arose with Menzies and Manly in the early 2000’s as the side merged with the North Sydney Bears and became the Northern Eagles. In the eyes of some, this should count under Menzies’ career stats as the one team but the history books will state that whilst technically the same, it was actually two separate teams and entities.
When the joint venture ceased at the end of 2002, the Sea Eagles team returned and it made sense to name Menzies as club captain that year.
2004 was another special year for Menzies as he broke a long-standing record held by Frank Burge for most tries scored by a forward in a career. Since that time, he went on to score 180 tries from 349 games, the second most behind Ken Irvine.
He appeared in another grand final in 2007 that the Sea Eagles eventually went on to lose but they got their revenge a year later when they romped home to a comfortable victory the 2008 grand final. After that success and finishing his Manly career on such a high, Menzies departed the NRL and joined Bradford where he finished his rugby league career. He did return for Manly once more, though, but in the Auckland Nines competition.

4. Bob Fulton – Regarded as one of the best players of the 20th century, Fulton signed with the Sea Eagles side in 1966 aged just eighteen, making his debut in the same year. A centre or five-eighth, he made an immediate impact as a youngster and played for NSW in 1967. He became the youngest captain to play in a grand final in 1968 when he led the Manly side out in a game they ultimately lost. He also played in Australia’s successful World Cup campaign that year and had a stint at Warrington in 1969 after completing national service in New Zealand.
He was an integral part of Manly’s 1972 premiership success and finished the year as the season’s leading try-scorer. He emulated that feat again in 1973 and 1974. In the end, he amassed a club record at the time of 129 tries.
He was then a part of Manly’s third premiership success in 1976 before a major shock arose. Fulton, a Manly legend, opted to leave to sign with arch-rivals Easts.
He would return to Manly, though, when he coached the side in 1983. They made the grand final that year but lost to eventual winners Parramatta. They would get their glory, though, winning the 1987 premiership with victory over Canberra. This victory meant that Fulton was the first person at Manly to win a premiership as both a player and a coach. He then went on to stint as Australian coach before returning to Manly in 1993.
Fulton would go on to win a second premiership as Manly coach when the club were successful in the 1996 campaign. At present, he acts as the club’s Head of Football.

5. Ron Rowles – A goal-kicking winger, Rowles is most well-known for breaking numerous point-scoring records at the club throughout his career. He might have played just five seasons with the club but he made the most of it through his try-scoring and goal-kicking.
He was the first player to score more than 100 points in a season and was the season’s leading point-scorer four years running; 1951 (11 tries & 83 goals for 199 points), 1952 (8 tries & 77 goals for 178 points), 1953 (8 tries & 64 goals for 152 points) and 1954 (13 tries & 92 goals for 223 points).
Whilst some of those feats have now been broken, at the time, they were impressive figures to hold.

6. Jamie Lyon – Starting his career at Parramatta, many only remember the way in which he departed that left Eels fans cold and bitter. Heading to England to then play for St Helens, he returned to the NRL with Manly and made his club debut in 2007.
Initially starting in the centres with the club, he was moved to five-eighth and came up against his former side early on which Manly went on to win. In the same year, he played for Australia in the ANZAC Test and for NSW in Games 1 and 2. Manly also made the grand final in 2007 but lost to eventual winners the Melbourne Storm that year.
2008 saw the grand final rematch between Manly and the Storm with the Sea Eagles taking out the premiership this time with a comprehensive win. Switching between centre and five-eighth again in 2009, he became a mainstay at centre with the arrival of Kieran Foran into the Manly side. He also played in the City side in the City v Country clash and for NSW. He was then made co-captain with forward Jason King after the departure of Matt Orford.
The permanent move to centre and co-captaincy spurred Lyon on into arguably his career-best form that culminated in winning the Dally M Centre of the Year Award and again in 2011. Lyon could have played more representative games later on in his career than he did but he opted against it, instead choosing to play for Manly exclusively.
Lyon once again returned to five-eighth for the 2010 season before he shifted to the centres early on to accommodate the debut of Trent Hodkinson. Lyon’s final two representative fixtures came for the Australian side and one game for NSW. In 2011, Lyon was captain when the Manly side defeated the Warriors in the 2011 grand final. He was also named the RLIF centre of the year.
Lyon remained captain up until the end of his Manly career and made another grand final in 2013 which Manly lost to the Roosters. He also won the Dally M Centre of the Year Award in 2013. He replicated that success in 2014 and again took out the award in 2014 as well as Dally M Captain of the Year.
Lyon was just the fourth Manly player to surpass 1000 points for the club. As he played on, his body started to slow down and so Lyon eventually announced his retirement from the NRL and rugby league at the end of 2016.

7. Cliff Lyons – One of the greatest ever to don a Manly jersey, Lyons had stints with the North Sydney Bears, the Leeds Rhinos and the Sheffield Eagles before he eventually joined Manly for the 1986 season. Playing predominantly at lock in his debut year, Lyons impressed and held his spot in the side in 1987 when he was shifted to five-eighth to accommodate the return of Paul Vautin. His Origin debut for NSW came in the same year as did his first taste of premiership success in 1987 when Manly defeated the Raiders.
Lyons’ performance was regarded as the best on ground and as a result was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal. His first appearance in the City v Country game surprisingly came for City, despite Lyons being born in the country region. He represented NSW on two occasions in 1988 before making his international debut for a Rest of the World side. He also the White Rose Trophy for a man of the match performance in Leeds 1988 win in the Yorkshire Cup.
1990 was regarded as his break-out year that culminated in Lyons winning the Dally M Player of the Year Award. It was his ability to set up tries for support players and produce weaving runs to keep opposition players on their toes that led to his personal success in 1990. It all led to numerous appearances for the Australian side and for NSW but 1991, a season that delivered such promise, ended when Manly bombed out in successive rounds.
A remarkable player and talent, Lyons was in his element during during the 1994 Sevens tournament for Manly that saw him win player of the tournament. He then went on to captain an Aboriginal Dream Team in the 1996 tournament. Despite winning a second Dally M Award in 1994 and becoming Manly’s first Rugby League Week Player of the Year recipient, he missed out on representative selection due to his age.
He ignored offers from rivals to stay with Manly in 1995 and played in three consecutive grand finals and winning one – the 1996 premiership success over the St George Dragons.
In 1998, he was used mainly off the bench and he made a decision to depart the club and retire after not being offered a contract for the following year. He made a remarkable comeback in 1999, though, after Manly’s disastrous start to the season that year as he passed 300 first-grade games and was the oldest player to play at that time at 37.
Until Steve Menzies played and finished his career, Lyons was Manly’s games record holder. Lyons returned to Manly in 2012 to coach the NSW Cup side for one year.

8. Roy Bull – A Manly junior, Bull was played in Manly’s inaugural 1947 season as a 17-year old. He was a member of Manly’s winning 1946 President’s Cup team. It was the junior success of Manly at the time that led to a large number of their juniors being promoted to first-grade, Bull being one of those players.
A key player for Manly throughout the entirety of his career, he was playing at prop in all three grand final appearances in 1951, 1957 and 1959. A tremendous prop forward, Bull was a powerful, aggressive player that adapted to the conditions whether it was raining, hailing or full of sunshine. At the time of his retirement, he played in the most games for the club by a Manly player. He was made a life-member in 1962 and as for representative appearances, he played 26 games for New South Wales and 23 for Australia.
He took out the New South Wales Player of the Year Award in 1955 and was named in Manly’s Greatest Ever Team on their 60th anniversary in 2007. At the conclusion of the 1977 season, he became Manly’s Club President in 1978 up until 1987. The club’s best and fairest award has since been renamed the Roy Bull Best and Fairest.

9. Geoff Toovey – One of the smallest players of his era, the champion halfback-turned-hooker played above his size and weight, often putting his body on the line in defence. A local junior who finished his career as the club’s longest serving captain, he copped heavy treatment from his bigger opponents.
Making his debut in 1988, he continued to play above his weight and performed consistently over the next few years for club, state and country, playing regularly for all three. When the 1993 season rolled around, Toovey was made captain but broke his jaw in a trial. After that, he suffered a knee injury and needed a full knee reconstruction but he returned to his best form to lead Manly towards the finals in 1994. 1996 was one of the best in Toovey’s playing career, as he starred for NSW in all three wins, played in the Australian side, won the grand final with Manly and won the Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground.
In 1997, Toovey was shifted around and played hooker, five-eighth and halfback, in a year that saw him pass 200 first-grade games. Toovey was a spirited, determined, nuggety player, that dug deep and never gave up, traits that saw him revered by Manly fans.
He toiled and performed consistently up until his retirement in 2001.
Joining the Manly coaching staff in 2004, Toovey became head coach in 2012 after the departure of previous coach Des Hasler. He remained in that role until halfway through the 2015 season.

10. Rex Mossop – Initially a rugby union player, Mossop joined rugby league in 1952 when he played for English side Leigh. He made his NRL debut in the 1956 season for Manly and became the cornerstone of the forward pack during that time. Playing in two losing grand finals in 1957 and 1959, Mossop went on to play 136 games for the club.
In the 1959 grand final, with rumours that he was suffering from a broken cheekbone, Mossop was targeted by the Dragons players. Eventually, Mossop became so frustrated that he retaliated and stomped on Harry Bath’s head leading to both he and Bath being sent off. Despite his raw, aggressive approach, Mossop won a newspaper’s best and fairest award in 1958.
He was a late bloomer to the international arena, representing Australia at the age of 30 and becoming a dual international in the process.
Mossop went on to play several more years for Manly before retiring in 1963 at the age of 35.

11. Paul Vautin – Graded by Wests Brisbane as an 18-year old, the man nicknamed ‘Fatty’ first played for Manly in reserve grade in 1979 before making his first-grade debut that same year. A fan favourite, Vautin stood out thanks to his bright red hair and he made an immediate impact for the Manly side in the back-row. He played in both the 1982 and 1983 grand finals which Manly were unable to win, but he did enjoy some personal success as he won both the Dally M Player’s Player of the Year and the Representative Player of the Year.
When Fulton became coach in 1985, Vautin was made captain of the Manly team and guided them to victory in the 1987 NSWRL premiership. During his career, Vautin was a mainstay of the Queensland and Australian side playing 22 and 13 games respectively.
His departure from the Manly club was one that disappointed many and Vautin himself departed reluctantly to join the Roosters side.

12. Terry Randall – Those that saw Randall play will know that he was regarded as one of, if not the, hardest tackler in the game at that time. A huge hitter, he acquired the unusual nickname of ‘Igor’, he enjoyed a lengthy 13-season career with the Sea Eagles playing in 208 games for the club.
His debut came in 1970 and as a testament to his toughness and hard-hitting style, Randall did not play a single came from the bench. He was also named as one of the 12 toughest players in rugby league.
Starting out as a centre when he was graded by Manly, he was eventually moved to the back-row in 1972, the same year that Manly won the premiership.
Randall was also a key player in their 1973, 1976 and 1978 successes. In 1978, he was the first player to receive a perfect rating of 10 by Rugby League Week. After his Manly side went down in the 1982 grand final, the hard-man made a swift decision that he would hang up the boots for good. That was the last game of rugby league he ever played.

13. Des Hasler – Known for his free-flowing blonde locks, whilst many are focused on Des Hasler the coach, a lot forget that he was, for a long time, Des Hasler the player. Starting his career with the Penrith Panthers in 1982, a lack of game-time saw him move to the Sea Eagles where he became a household name.
By the time his Manly career was finished, Hasler had played in 255 games for the club and scored 72 tries. Hasler’s start with Manly came in rather fortuitous circumstances while he was a school teacher on the North Shore. He taught the two sons of Manly legend Bob Fulton and after growing tired with the form of current halfback Phil Blake, Bob himself offered Hasler a trial at the club and he was signed in 1984.
He earned an early Australia jersey in 1985 and after a solid season in 1986, he was again selected for the Kangaroos tour. Continuing his good club form for the Sea Eagles in 1987, Hasler was then selected for the NSW Origin side and was the halfback for the club in their grand final success in the same year.
The introduction of Geoff Toovey into the Manly side brought about a significant change for Hasler in his role at the club. Whilst he was still playing halfback regularly, he was being shifted around more often and played a considerable number of games at lock. It was in this season that Hasler became known as more of a utility and not solely a halfback. His utility value was on show throughout his NSW Blues career when in 13 games he played 7 from the bench, 3 at halfback, 2 at five-eighth and 1 at lock.
During the 1993 off-season, Hasler had a stint with Hull FC before returning to Manly. 1995 and 1996 were very good for Manly and for Hasler, who played a key role in their success. Heavy favourites in 1995, Manly fell short at the final hurdle but they made up for it and won the premiership in 1996. Hasler, who started the year at hooker, was then moved to the bench to make way for Jim Sedaris.
This is where his time at Manly ended. Hasler, wanting to play on in 1997, was not given a new contract by Manly and he had one final year in the game as a player with Western Suburbs.
As many know, his Manly career did not end there. Hasler became head coach of the Sea Eagles side in 2004 and led the side to three successive semi-finals in 2005, 2006 and 2007. His premiership success as coach came in 2008, however, when his Manly side cruised to victory against the Storm. The same year, he was named as the RLIF’s Coach of the Year.
He went on to coach the Manly side on more than 200 occasions and enjoyed further premiership success as a coach when his side won the 2011 NRL premiership. Hasler then departed in somewhat shady circumstances in the eyes of some Manly staffers, resulting in his sacking as coach. He now acts as the current Canterbury Bulldogs coach.

14. Alan Thompson – Primarily a five-eighth, the Manly junior was also adept as a halfback and a centre throughout his career. Graded by the Sea Eagles in 1973, he was a member of the club’s reserve grade premiership winning team that year. He then went on to play in both of Manly’s premiership wins in the late 70’s in both 1976 and 1978.
A late bloomer for both Australia and New South Wales, he ended up playing 10 games for the Blues and 7 for the Kangaroos.
1983 saw him rewarded for a good year of captaincy taking out the Dally M Captain of the Year Award.
After successive grand final losses in 1982 and 1983, Thompson played just one more season and retired at the completion of the 1984 season.
He finished his Manly career with 261 games to his name which at the time, was a club record.
He then moved into coaching at the Manly club and took their reserve grade side to the grand final in 1987, a game they did not win but they bounced back in 1988 when they won the reserve grade premiership.
He was appointed as first-grade coach in 1989 but after a year filled with player departures at the end of it and turbulent times on and off the field, he was let go from the role by the Manly board.

15. Max Krilich – A crafty hooker during the 70’s and 80’s for the Sea Eagles, Krilich was a mainstay of the Manly side and the Australian side for much of his career. He captained Australia in 10 successive games and was captain during their 1982 Invincibles tour.
Graded by the Sea Eagles in 1969, Krilich had to initially bide his time at the club with the presence of Fred Jones in the side as the predominant hooker. When the time arose in 1974 for Krilich to impress and make the spot his own, he never looked back.
After the departure of Bob Fulton in 1976, Krilich was named as Manly’s club captain. Leadership and discipline were two key traits during Krilich’s captaincy reign.
In the end, he played 216 games for the club at first-grade level and will be regarded as one of the club’s best ever.

16. John Hopoate – His off-field exploits have always been well known but that aside, the talent of John Hopoate as a genuine footballer was never in doubt. The belief of many is that had he not been involved in so many off-field indiscretions, he could have amounted to so much more.
A proud Tongan, it was Bob Fulton who spotted Hopoate during his days as a Manly Cove junior. Making his debut in 1993, Hopoate was in and out of the side for the first couple of seasons of his career, not becoming a regular until the 1995 season.
He made an immediate impact once he had a chance to start regularly, scoring 11 tries in as many starts before finishing up with 21 tries for the season. His form was so good that he was rewarded with an opportunity to play for the New South Wales Blues. Although Hopoate was having a career-best season, his form and that of his team-mates was not enough to take out the premiership that season.
His try-scoring exploits may have slowed in 1996 but he made up for it in other areas with an improved defensive resolve and technique. Knuckling down, he helped his side produce defence that wins premierships and that materialised, as the Sea Eagles won the 1996 premiership.
He started the 1997 season in a slow fashion as well but be bounced back to score 15 tries throughout the season. Manly again made the grand final but lost to Newcastle.
The beginning of the end for Hopoate and his Manly career came in 1999 when the club fined him for an off-field indiscretion. He was only saved from sacking because his team-mates campaigned for him to stay at the time. In the end, it mattered little, as Hopoate joined the newly formed Wests Tigers outfit.
Not lasting long there, he joined the Northern Eagles before rejoining Manly in 2003. Hopoate failed to get going in his second Manly stint that was littered with controversy and further indiscretions.
From playing in a rugby union game under a false name that breached his NRL contract, to abusing a touch judge, to abusing a 14-year old ball-boy and finally, the incident that broke the camel’s back.
An elbow to the face of then Sharks player, Keith Galloway. This left the Manly club no choice and Hopoate was sacked from the club.

17. Anthony Watmough – A Narrabeen local, Watmough’s career began at the merged entity, the Northern Eagles. His Manly Sea Eagles career started the following year in 2003. A genuine workhorse and a player revered by the fans throughout his Manly career, Watmough was a dangerous line-runner in his early days and capitalised on the good lead-up work from his halves.
A consistent performer for much of his Manly career, Watmough won two premierships during his time ath the club in 2008 and 2011, in which he played a key role.
He was also rewarded with numerous honours in 2007 and 2009, winning the Dally M Second Rower of the Year on both occasions.
As for representative duties, Watmough played two games for City Origin, 14 for New South Wales, 16 for Australia and 2 games for the NRL All-Stars side. Many thought that Watmough would remain at the Sea Eagles for the entirety of his career but it was not to be as speculation was rife that he was not happy and it rang true when he departed the club to join the Parramatta Eels.
He had a short-lived stint there and was forced to retire from the game due to injury.

Greatest Teams Ever Pt 5: Gold Coast

Yet another part in our editorial series of the greatest teams ever. This time, we will be focusing on the Gold Coast region. Initially, we thought we would focus solely on the Gold Coast Titans but given their short history and thus fewer one-team players, we decided to branch out and include players from all previous Gold Coast sides as well.

So our greatest list ever will include players that have played either for the Gold Coast Titans, the Gold Seagulls or the Gold Coast Chargers. Once again, we reiterate, our list will aim to pick players that have played almost exclusively for the Gold Coast club.

So, with all that in mind, here we have it. Our greatest Gold Coast side ever:

1. Clinton Mohr – Starting at the Brothers Club in Brisbane, Mohr’s first venture in the NSWRFL came with a stint with the St George Dragons. In 1990, Mohr made his debut for the Gold Coast Chargers and was one of the club’s top players. In 80 games for the team over five seasons, Mohr scored 19 tries. He did win a Rugby League Week Player of the Year Award for his stint with Brothers in 1987.

2. Scott Mieni – A crafty winger, Mieni played solely for the Chargers side making his debut in 1988. This was his best year as he scored 8 tries despite the club’s relatively poor season. 1989 was slightly better in the wins column but Mieni only managed to score two tries. Eventually, after playing just four games in 1990, Mieni did not play again and retired.

3. Jason Nicol – A handy utility, Nicol’s career started out with a brief stint at Penrith but limited opportunity saw him make the move to the Gold Coast years a few years later. In 1996, his opportunity with the Chargers came and he made the most of it, playing in 51 games over three seasons and scoring 15 tries in that time. His best year as a Chargers player was in 1997 where the club made its only finals series in their history.

4. Brett Horsnell – A Keebra Park High student, Horsnell made the 1988 Australian Schoolboys side and the Junior Queensland side. Making his debut as a five-eighth/centre in 1989, Horsnell moved to the forwards as his career went on and by the time 1992 came around, he was playing an entire season at lock. After six seasons and 82 matches, Horsnell departed the club to join the South Queensland Crushers. He was one of the players to play the most games for the Chargers/Seagulls Gold Coast side in their existence. He finished his career with a brief stint at the Parramatta Eels.

5. Peter Benson – Benson may have played for a total of five NSWRL teams over his career but of his 50 games, 39 of them came with the Gold Coast Chargers. Starting his career with the North Sydney Bears, he then played for the Brisbane Broncos before joining the Gold Coast Chargers for the first time. Over two seasons, he played 38 games for the club and scored 104 points (8 tries and 36 goals). He then had a stint with English side Wakefield before playing for the Raiders in 1994 and rejoining the Charges to play 1 further game in the same year.

6. Preston Campbell – Whilst Campbell is well known for his rather lengthy stints with both the Cronulla Sharks and the Penrith Panthers, his impact on the Gold Coast Titans as an inaugural player, throughout his career and after he retired played a crucial role for the club on and off the field.
Joining the Gold Coast Chargers in their final season (1998), Campbell predominantly played fullback that year and took part in 14 games and scoring 4 tries.
After spending time with both Cronulla and Penrith, he returned to the Gold Coast with the Titans in 2007 as an inaugural player. An early injury to team-mate Chris Walker meant that Campbell spent much of the 2007 season playing at fullback, just like his maiden year in the top flight.
He was in good form throughout the 2007 season and into 2008 and as a result, he extended his contract with the Titans. 2008 was perhaps Campbell’s best year at the Titans with his consistency and inspiring performances leading him to the Paul Broughton Medal, the award for the Gold Coast’s Player of the Year.
He also won the Ken Stephens Medal for his commitment to community service which he is still involved in at present. In 2009, due to injuries to other key players, Campbell filled in at halfback and five-eighth at numerous times throughout the season as well as playing fullback when others were fit. After a couple more seasons with the Titans, Campbell retired at the end of the 2011 season.

7. Geoff Bagnall – Playing with the Chargers for just 4 seasons, Bagnall ended up playing 55 games for the club as a key playmaker in the team. Despite some tough seasons for the club during his time there, Bagnall created numerous opportunities and plays that led to points.
After his stint with the Chargers came to an end, Bagnall joined English side Wakefield and won the Yorkshire Cup.

8. Brendan Hurst – Playing 74 games in total for the Chargers, Hurst joined the club in 1994. A handy, hard-working utility forward, Hurst was also an adept goal-kicker during his years at the club. Kicking at a percentage of 67.93%, he was relatively accurate and by the time his career at the Chargers came to an end, he amassed 285 points (8 tries and 125 goals). This is a record for the now defunct club. Throughout his career, Hurst covered front-row, back-row and lock, depending on the needs of the club and injuries that affected the club.

9. Jamie Goddard – One of the best players to don a Chargers jersey, Goddard played the most games for the now defunct club with a total of 86 games. A handy hooker, he made just one appearance in his debut year (1992) in what was a win.
1993 and 1994 saw him make a handful of appearances but it was in 1995 where he really hit his stride. He cemented his spot as the starting hooker and took the opportunity with both hands.
Once he became a mainstay in the side, Goddard was captain until the Chargers outfit folded from all competitions. For his position, Goddard managed to find the try-line frequently and scored a total of 23 tries from his 86 games with the Chargers. Once the club folded, he went on to enjoy stints with both the North Sydney Bears and then the Northern Eagles where he finished his career.

10. Tony Durheim – Playing for the Chargers for much of their existence, Durheim was perhaps the club’s most loyal player throughout. Playing in 75 total games, he is in the top five for most games played at the club. Not a noted try-scorer, he was a hard runner and a hard worker, often setting the tone and leading the forward pack through the middle. He played just two games in 1992, his debut year but injuries limited him to just 12 appearances in three years from 1992-1995.

11. Michael Searle – Many know Michael Searle as the former Gold Coast Titans CEO but at one point, he actually played for the Chargers. Making his debut in 1988, he went on to enjoy a lengthy career with the club until the end of the 1995 season. He played in 54 total games with his best year being 1990 when he played 18 games and scored three tries. After that, his opportunities decreased and dwindled before he opted to retire as a player at the end of the 1995 season.
He was behind the push to get the Gold Coast back in the NRL in 1999 and acted as the club’s CEO for many years before stepping down from the role during the 2012 season.

12. Mark Minichiello – The only Gold Coast Titans player in our team apart from Preston Campbell, Minichiello was a strong consistent performer for the club for quite a number of years. Playing in 173 games, up there among the best for the Titans in their history, he was also an inaugural member at the club in 2007. Previously, he had stints at both the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Whilst he never played Origin, Minichiello did play 5 games for the NSW City side but he has had the honour of representing Italy on three occasions. He scored 35 tries in his career including three doubles and stayed with the club until the end of the 2014 season.
He made the decision to move to Hull FC in England where he is still an active player at the club.

13. Terry Cook – Playing with the Chargers for just four seasons, Cook’s impact was felt throughout that time. Debuting in 1991, he performed somewhat consistently before having a break-out season in 1993 that saw him play 22 games. That number declined in 1994 when he played just 5 games which prompted a move to the South Queensland Crushers.
In the end, he played 56 games for the Chargers side and scored 5 tries during that time.

14. Greg Whitbread – Playing a total of 52 games for the Chargers over four seasons, Whitbread had previously debuted with the Bulldogs and played there for two seasons. His Chargers debut came in 1988 that saw him play a total of 16 games that year. The number of games slowly dwindled as the seasons wore on with his final season at the club resulting in just 9 games in 1991.

15. Jeremy Schloss – Making his debut during the 1994 NSWRL season, Schloss played only one game that year. As the 1995 season rolled around, his game-time increased and he played in 11 games.
His two career years during the ARL seasons of 1996 and 1997. Scoring 13 tries over that two year period, he took his game to a new level and was one of the club’s most consistent performers.
In the end, he played in 51 games for the Chargers and then had stints at both the Rabbitohs and the Cowboys before retiring.

16. Keith Neller – Initially starting his career in England with Halifax – winning the Challenge Cup final in 1987 – Neller joined the Chargers in the 1988 season.
His appearances throughout the seasons were up and down but he enjoyed some personal success during the 1991 season when he scored three tries over fourteen games.
1992 was his last season with the Chargers and in rugby league when he played just 2 games.

17. Damien Driscoll – Playing for four clubs in total across his career, he played 57 games for the Chargers, the most in his career for any team.
His debut season was with the Western Suburbs Magpies but with just 8 appearances in 1995, he made a decision to head to the Charges side.
That led to consistent appearances over the next two seasons, with Driscoll’s play and form one of the many reasons that earned the Chargers a maiden finals berth in 1997.
Despite producing good form for the Charges in both 1997 and 1998, the Chargers unfortunately folded and that led to Driscoll playing for both the Manly Sea Eagles and then the Northern Eagles.

Greatest Teams Ever Pt 4: Cronulla Sharks

With their fans still on a high following their maiden premiership, the Sharks have been blessed with some tremendous players over the years that have played significant roles for the club.

Again, as previously mentioned, the players selected in this team are those that have played almost exclusively for the Sharks.
Will any active Sharks player make the team or do they just miss out? Do you agree with the side that we’re going to put forward?

Here is our greatest Cronulla Sharks side ever:

1. David Peachey – Starting his Sharks career in the reserve grade squad, it wasn’t too long before Peachey played first-grade on the back of consistent, dazzling displays in the lower grades. His debut eventually came in Rd 1 of the 1994 season and before too long, he established himself as an exciting, regular first-team player.
He impressed not only Sharks fans but rival fans as well, becoming a fan favourite of many across the league. Quick, nifty & with great footwork, Peachey was a welcome addition to the Sharks side, often producing magic plays and running great lines.
1999 saw Peachey win the Dally M Fullback of the Year award before he made his NSW debut in 2000 in Game 1. In addition to his Origin appearance, Peachey played for Australia and also attained several awards of recognition. With every good player, though, comes periods of poor form.
Peachey’s became evident during the transition of John Lang as coach to Chris Anderson, with the usual vibrant and creative custodian going in and out of games. True to form, though, he bounced back and in 2003, he was named in the top ten Cronulla Sharks legends.
Age started to get the better of Peachey but he proved his worth as the 2004 season rolled on, when he produced the sort of form that had so many excited during his early years. The skill and smoothness were back but as the 2005 season came around, so too did rumours that Peachey was on his way out.
Eventually, the man himself confirmed on the Channel Nine Footy Show that he would not be staying at the Sharks. He went to England and had some time with Widnes before returning to the NRL with the South Sydney Rabbitohs halfway through the 2006 season, once again showing that he was a gifted player.

2. Luke Covell – Before he played for the Sharks, Covell had a small stint at the Wests Tigers. As he sought more opportunity, though, he joined the Sharks and made his club debut in 2005. Whilst not the quickest player nor the flashiest, it was heart and determination that made Covell a fan favourite. An adept goal-kicker, Covell ended up with more than 1000 points in his career and produced consistent footy across his career.
Regarded as the slowest winger in the NRL at the time, rather than try to deny it or stay hidden, Covell just embraced it and took it in his stride.
“I know some people out there think I’m too slow for the NRL. Not talented enough. But that’s okay … I’ve always known it too,” Covell once said.
Covell made a sole international appearance for New Zealand but it was unfortunately cut short when he was injured early on in the game. In 2008, though, he won the Dally M Point-scorer of the Year award in what was a solid season for the Sharks team.
His career at the Sharks lasted 6 seasons and it could have been more, however, Covell had to retire at the end of the 2010 season after his attempt at returning to the field after undergoing Ligament Augmentation and Reconstruction Surgery (LARS).

3. Steve Rogers – Unfortunately no longer with us, Steve Rogers name and Sharks legacy will forever be etched in the club’s folklore. A tremendously talented centre, the Sharks named him as one of their five immortals upon his retirement.
A prodigious talent, Rogers made his first-grade debut at just 18 in 1973 with his talent on show. Captain/coach Tommy Bishop described Rogers as a “rare, rare talent – the greatest all-round centre three-quarter I have seen.” Rogers also played in his first grand final that year and also played in his first Kangaroo tour.
The Sharks made their next grand final in 1978 with Rogers as captain and whilst they forced it into a tie and thus a rematch, they lost in the end. 1978 was the first year that saw Rogers move to lock regularly which led to him winning the 1981 Dally M Lock of the Year Award.
1975 was one of Rogers’ best years and his form saw him awarded the Rothman’s Medal for the best and fairest in the NSWRFL. Rogers went on to play 21 games for New South Wales and 24 games for Australia and won a second Dally M Award in 1981, as well as being named player of the series in the 1981 Tooth Cup.
Financial issues at the Sharks then resulted in Rogers departing to the St George Illawarra Dragons for one season before he returned to the Sharks. He only played nine minutes, though, after breaking his jaw. A short stint at Widnes then followed.

4. Andrew Ettinghausen – A local junior, Ettinghausen is one of the greatest ever players to don the Sharks jersey. A fan favourite throughout the entirety of his career, he was scouted and signed with the Sharks at a young age and although his first-grade debut was not until 1983, he did play for the Australian Schoolboys side in 1982 and 1983.
Although he went on to spend the majority of his career as a centre, Ettinghausen made his debut in 1983 as fullback and although it was quite uneventful, he was given another opportunity. The slow start to his career resulted in ET being dropped back to first-grade. 1985 was a better year for Ettinghausen as he scored 10 tries playing across fullback, wing and centre before he then cemented his spot in the Sharks side just a couple of years later.
His first representative appearance came for NSW in 1987 and the rise of ET began as the 1988 season rolled around when he made a permanent move into the centres. His first of eight appearances for the City Origin side came in 1988 before he went on to play for both NSW and Australia in the same year.
With 17 tries to his name that year, he was a big reason behind the Sharks winning the minor premiership in 1988 before they were bundled out of the finals in successive weeks.
A further 13 tries in 1990 continued ET’s good form and he was again rewarded with opportunities and games for both New South Wales and Australia, culminating in a 15-try haul in just 12 games including two hat-tricks.
ET’s personal success and popularity saw him on the cover of his own rugby league game which was released in 1992. Although the 1992 and 1993 seasons were tough for Ettinghausen due to injury and some form issues, he did still play for NSW and Australia at fullback.
1994 saw a changing of the guard with Ettinghausen named at captain to which he immediately responded, scoring 18 tries in just 18 games including a 5-try haul in one game. He also scored his 100th try for the club in 1994 before he enjoyed further success in the Australian test tour.
In 1997, Ettinghausen captained the side to a grand final, one in which they were ultimately unsuccessful in. He went on to play a total of 328 games for the club and held the record for the most games played by one player for one club before this was broken by Brisbane’s Darren Lockyer.
With 165 total tries in his career, Ettinghausen currently sits fourth on the list for most tries scored in a career.

5. Ray Corcoran – A key player for the Sharks during the late 60’s and into the 70’s, Ray Corcoran was a noted try-scorer and finished his career with 63 tries in total, currently the fifth highest by a Sharks player. An adept winger, his debut came during the 1968 seasons and he enjoyed eight seasons with the club before retiring. He made one appearance for the NSW Firsts side in 1970 and was playing on the wing during the club’s grand final loss in the 1973 NSWRFL premiership campaign.

6. Mat Rogers – A name synonymous with the Sharks, Mat is the son of Sharks legend Steve Rogers and a local junior to boot. Excelling at both rugby league and rugby union early on, Mat had to make a choice and chose rugby league.
Debuting in the centres in 1995, he formed a potent partnership in the back-line with Ettinghausen and then David Peachey at fullback in later years. His ball-running and ball-playing held him in good stead when the Sharks were attacking, Rogers ability was on show consistently.
Also a handy goal-kicker, he held numerous Sharks records at one point and scored 75 tries in total for the club that places him in the top five in that category. In 1998 and 1999, he played for Australia and Queensland respectively and went on to play 11 games for Australia and 5 games for the Blues.
Late on in his Sharks career, he expressed a desire to play more centre or fullback and was close to doing so, before he injured his rotator cuff after the Kangaroos successful World Cup campaign in 2000. His Sharks career came to a stagnated end as he was restricted due to minimal games after a shoulder reconstruction.
Rogers then went on to enjoy stints with rugby union side, the NSW Waratahs, and then the Gold Coast Titans.

7. Tommy Bishop – He may have only played 60 games for the Sharks but this British international left a lasting impression on the club, its fans and its legacy. One of their most influential play-makers, Bishop became the club’s captain/coach after the departure of Ken Kearney departed.
Whilst the 1970 season started on a high, the Sharks went on to lose seven consecutive games after that. However, they overcame the adversity and record one of their best wins with a fluid attacking display that would become a trademark of their play over the coming years.
1971 was the best in the club’s history at that time as they went on to win 10 games that year and almost made the finals. The season could have been better had Bishop not been injured after he snapped his Achilles tendon. Bishop was such a key to the Sharks side and they struggled without him, highlighting the importance he had to them and how talented he was.
Bishop eventually returned in 1973 and immediately returned to form as he guided the Sharks to a finals berth, losing just five games across the entire seasons. The same year saw the club make their maiden NRL premiership and whilst Bishop encouraged his young side to play a niggling, unsettling style of play to disrupt Manly, they lost narrowly and lost the grand final.
Despite that loss, however, it was the grittiness and tenacity of the side and the guidance of Bishop that has him forever etched in Sharks folklore as one of their greatest ever. In 2005, he has named as one of the club’s Immortals.

8. Paul Gallen – Love him or hate him, Paul Gallen is a genuine workhorse and revered by many Sharks fans for his leadership and work-rate. Enjoying a lengthy career at the club to date, Gallen made his club debut in 2001 and played two games that year. He made more of an impression in his second year, playing in 21 games and scoring his first ever try in first-grade.
In 2003, he received his first send-off, made 17 appearances and scored five tries. An elbow injury prevented Gallen from starting the 2004 season but he went on to play in 19 games that season and scored five tries in the process.
2005 saw the Sharks make the finals for the first time in Gallen’s career, although they failed to progress past the first round. 2005 was a good year for Gallen on a personal level, recording the most hit-ups and offloads of any player and receiving the Sharks’ Chairman Award as well as making 25 appearances.
Gallen almost failed to start the 2006 season but after opting to have back surgery to save his career, he made a recovery in just nine weeks and amazed the Sharks medical staff as a result. His first ever representative honour came in this year when he was selected for City in the City v Country clash. He also made his Origin debut in Game 3, thus beginning a lengthy stay in the NSW team for years to come.
He was also selected in the Prime Minister’s XIII side that year and went on to win the Sharks Supporters Player of the Year Award.
Speculation then reigned supreme as reports suggested Gallen wanted to depart the club in search of finals football. Despite all of that, he eventually signed a new long-term deal. An early injury during the 2007 pre-season saw Gallen start the season late but it continued to give him trouble in the upcoming rounds. The workhorse impressed as the season went on and was awarded the opportunity to make a maiden Test appearance but was pulled out due to a shoulder injury.
2008 was another tough year for the Sharks but there was reward for Gallen at the end of it, as he made his Australian Test debut at the Rugby League World Cup that year. Currently Sharks captain at that time, an incident in 2009 involving Mickey Paea and potential racial abuse saw Gallen stand down as captain. Gallen remained a mainstay of the NSW side over subsequent years.
In 2011, after further impressive performances for both club and state, Gallen was named the RLIF Lock of the Year. This was followed up in 2012 by the Dally M Lock of the Year Award.
Gallen was named NSW captain during the 2013 series and an incident involving Nate Myles on the field that saw punches thrown prompted the decision send any player who throws a punch to the sin-bin.
In 2014 came arguably the biggest moment of Gallen’s career but perhaps not for the right reasons. After much investigation and research, the ongoing drug scandal at the time came to a head. Gallen plead guilty to having used banned peptides and as a result, he was given a backdated ban from ASADA.
That year also marked the first time that NSW had won the Origin series after eight successive years of QLD glory, with Gallen captain of the side.
In recent years, Gallen has struggled with injury and has frustrated fans as a result by seemingly putting Origin commitments before club commitments. All was forgiven, though, as the greatest moment in Gallen’s career and for Sharks fans arised when in 2016, after years of coming close or falling at the final curtain, they won their maiden NRL premiership.

9. Dean Triester – A local Cronulla junior, Treister was yet another fan favourite during his 9 seasons with the club. Playing exclusively at hooker, he was quite creative in attack and led from the front, helping propel the team towards consistent attacking raids. His ability to control the game and the ruck also helped in making him a fan favourite.
Making his debut in 1995, Treister was a part of the Sharks 1997 team that made the grand final and throughout his Sharks career, he played in 161 games.
After an apparent falling out in 2003 due to club politics, Treister then departed the club and joined Hull FC.

10. Danny Lee – A tremendous tackler that brought fear into the attackers, Lee joined the Sharks in 1988 having previously played for the Country Firsts. The tireless prop gave many years of service to the Sharks club and enjoyed individual success when he won the 1995 Dally M Prop of the Year Award. He was also a member of the Sharks 1997 push towards the Super League grand final. A hard-runner and a hard-worker, Lee played a total of 212 games for the club and is in the club’s top five list for most games played.

11. Gavin Miller – A tale of two halves. That can sum up the career of Gavin Miller across his two NRL stints with a stint in England squished into the middle. Initially starting out with Western Suburbs, Miller then joined Easts before finally joining the Sharks in 1980. He eventually managed to hold down a permanent spot in the Sharks side during his first NRL stint and was selected to play for NSW. Though poor form crept into his game and he moved back to Easts.
Further poor form there led to a move to England with Hull KR and it is here that he became a changed player and a changed man. Showcasing a smooth and silky set of ball skills, his good form eventually led to the Man of Steel Award in 1985. Returning to the Sharks in 1986 a much better and more mature player, he did still start slowly but in 1988 is where things kicked off for Miller.
He developed an offload whilst in England and 1988 saw things kick into gear as his hole-running and offloading led to numerous Sharks breaks, sending players into gaps frequently. Despite his size – he was just 87kg and playing back-row – Miller’s feats and offloading ability led to a litany of tries that resulted in the club winning fifteen of their last seventeen games and the minor premiership.
Miller’s form was so good that despite not being picked to play Origin that year, Test selectors felt his form was too good to ignore and so they picked him for the game v Papua New Guinea.
Miller was at his best at the international level in the above game and was then named man of the match against a Rest of the World team.
Perhaps his finest year in the top flight came in 1989, though, when his ball-playing skills and kicking skills came to the fore, as he produced some brilliant attacking footy to take out the Dally M Player of the Year Award, the Rugby League Week Player of the Year Award and the Rothmans Medal. Unfortunately, injuries took their toll on Miller as the 1990 season came around and whilst he still had the odd glimpse of brilliance, he was eventually dropped back to reserve grade because of inconsistent form.
After his retirement, he was named as one of the Sharks five Immortals.

12. Dan Stains – Making his debut in 1987 for the Sharks, Stains was one of the more under-rated players in the Sharks set-up at the time. The quiet achiever but a hard-worker on the edges, the Toowoomba local enjoyed a career-best period in 1989 and 1990 when he also went on to represent Queensland on four occasions.
After being selected for Australia, Stains played in three minor games and had a brief stint at Halifax over that period. Injury-riddled, the next few seasons for Stains were hard going but he did have the honour of captaining the side in the absence of Andrew Ettinghausen.
Staying with the Sharks until the end of the 1994 season, he finished his career with two seasons at the Sydney Tigers.

13. Greg Pierce – Graded by Cronulla in 1969, Pierce came to the club at the same time as Tommy Bishop after Ken Kearney departed as coach. The first half of Pierce’s career was under the guidance and watchful eye of Bishop who was acting as captain-coach of the club at the time. He was involved in the Sharks 1973 grand final clash, regarded as one of the most brutal grand finals ever.
In 1975 when Bishop departed, Pierce became the club captain, a position he would hold until his own retirement in 1980.
A hard, aggressive player, Pierce was sent off during the finals series against the Western Suburbs and was given a 4-match ban. This resulted in Pierce missing both the grand final and the grand final replay.
Pierce did lead the Sharks to midweek victory in the 1979 Amco Cup but it was to be the only title he would win as a Shark, opting to retire in 1980 to move into coaching. Throughout his career, Pierce played for Australia, New South Wales and City Origin.
He would return to the Sharks and had a brief coaching stint with them in 1981 but after a poor season in 1982, he left the role.

14. Dane Sorenson – Sorenson was one of the rare occasions in which he played for his country New Zealand before playing in the NRL. Signing with the Sharks in 1977, he became the first Kiwi player to represent the side while based overseas. He enjoyed a lengthy career with the Sharks side and played his entire career with them except for one season in 1984 with the Eastern Suburbs team.
His service to the club was respected by many fans and the club itself and by the end of his career, his 228 games was the most by any Sharks player at the time passing Greg Pierce in the process. He then went on to become a club director at the club.

15. Nick Graham – A club stalwart during his stay with the Sharks, the local junior enjoyed a lengthy stint in the side’s team. A spirited performer, he remained true to the Sharks for quite a number of years and was adept as both a back-rower and a lock.
Whilst not a household name, he never sought out to be one. Rather, he went about his work diligently and effectively, establishing himself as a key player for the Sharks when it mattered.
At the back end of his career, he featured for City in the 2002 City v Country clash and could have stayed at the Sharks longer than he had, were it not for an apparent fallout with Chris Anderson in 2003. Graham, along with Dean Triester, were forced to look for new clubs and Graham opted to go to England for a stint with the Wigan Warriors before returning to the NRL in 2004 with the Wests Tigers.
2004 would be his last season in the NRL.

16. Mitch Healey – A new breed of half when he burst onto the scene, Healey excelled at the pinpoint cross-field kick towards towering wingers in a bid to score more tries in the air. Debuting in 1989 for the club, Healey would prove to be one of the club’s most consistent performers throughout the 1990’s as his organisational ability was on show for the entire NSWRL and NRL to see.
The focal point of the Sharks attack during those years, the one thing that eluded the nuggety little half were representative honours. In the end, his career highlight would have been making the 1998 SL grand final, even if it was one the Sharks went on to lose.
After 222 games, three different competitions and 12 seasons in the NRL, Healey departed and joined Super League side Castleford where he enjoyed some success over a three-year period.

17. David Hatch – Graded with the Sharks in 1978, Hatch forged a reputation as one of the most respected players among the Sharks fans at the time and even today. A smaller-framed forward than most, he carried himself above his weight and put his body on the line in attack and defence.
A representative in the Prime Minister XIII’s team in 1985 was a big moment in Hatch’s career but perhaps the biggest was his role in the club’s 1988 minor premiership. The club fought hard that year and their form justified their finish.
As captain, Hatch won two Dally M Captain of the Year Awards in 1985 and 1988. Unfortunately, a fractured cheekbone in 1990 ended his career somewhat prematurely.

Greatest Teams Ever Pt 3: Canterbury Bulldogs

Time for part 3 in our editorials of the greatest teams ever and we cast our eye over the Canterbury Bulldogs. Blessed with numerous premierships over a number of decades, the Bulldogs have always produced quality players that have made a big impact on the field. Just who will make our best ever side, well, you will just have to read on and find out.

Let us preface this editorial and all others that the selected players are those that have played almost exclusively for the Bulldogs. Whilst there may be other great players that had stints at the Bulldogs throughout their history, the 17 players selected are those that have played the majority of their games for the Bulldogs.

We are not intending to keep you waiting much longer, so here it is; our greatest ever Bulldogs side:

1. Les Johns – Playing just 103 games over 8 years with the Bulldogs, the impact and effect that Johns had on the club and its players cannot be understated. A talented fullback, Johns was a tremendously adept goal-kicker and slotted 233 goals in his career as well as 19 field goals.
Regarded as one of the nation’s finest footballers of the 20th century, Johns blond hair made him stand out as did his craft and flair on the field. A sound attacker, he was also remarkably solid in defence for a smaller player at fullback and he was often lauded for his defensive exploits as much as his attacking exploits.
Unfortunately, injuries were a constant threat throughout Johns’ career and it eventually resulted in his retirement in 1971. In the end, chronic knee injuries became so bad that he could not continue playing.

2. Chris Anderson – Enjoying a stellar 15-year career with the Bulldogs as a player, Anderson was best known for his brilliant knack of finishing off attacking moves by either scoring them himself or setting them up for his team-mates from the wing. The Condoblin-born Anderson gave the Bulldogs team at the time a much needed presence on the wing and a genuine try-scorer.
He made his debut in 1971 and became a consistent try-scorer, culminating in breaking Morrie Murphy’s record 1947 record of 16 tries in 1974. He had a brief mid-season stint with English side Widnes before returning to the Bulldogs side and continuing to perform and impress both the club and its fans.
In 1978, Anderson broke the then club record of 65 tries achieved by Eddie Burns, going on to score 94 tries in his Bulldogs career. As for representative honours, Anderson played in 12 games for the Australian national side and four for NSW.
Anderson also became the first ever player to score a hat-trick during an Origin game and set a new Bulldogs record of 19 tries in a season, a record at the time; Nigel Vagana has since broken this record.
As the 1984 season came around, Anderson was slowing down and after struggling with a broken arm throughout the year and dropped to reserve grade towards the back end of the season, he moved to England to become captain-coach of Halifax.
He would return to the Bulldogs, though, coming back as coach for the 1990 season. Enjoying eight seasons at the club that he called home as a player, he guided them to premiership success in the 1995 NSWRL competition. Prior to that, he also coached the Bulldogs U21’s side.

3. Daryl Halligan – Arguably the greatest goal-kicker that rugby league has ever seen, Halligan changed the way goals were taken in numerous ways. The Kiwi-born Halligan started his career with the North Sydney Bears but it was at the Canterbury Bulldogs that put him on the map. Joining the Bulldogs in 1994, Halligan tasted premiership soon after, with the Bulldogs winning the 1995 NSWRL premiership. Throughout his career with both the Bears and the Bulldogs, Halligan was an adept goal-kicker kicking 855 goals at a remarkable accuracy of 80%. In order to achieve his accuracy with goal-kicking, rather than use the older, more traditional style of placing the ball on a mound of sand, he used a plastic tee which allowed him to be as accurate as he was.
During Halligan’s final year in the NRL in 2000, he became the first player to score 2000 points in the NRL and overtaking the previous record held at the time by Mick Cronin. Whilst his record was eventually beaten just a year later, Halligan set the benchmark for scoring a high number of points throughout his career.

4. Andrew Farrar – Signed by Peter Moore at just 17 years old, Farrar went on to become a key player during the 80’s for the Bulldogs and played in their successive premiership victories in 1984 and 1985. The Cowra junior settled into the side and the NRL playing centre or five-eighth, establishing himself as a nifty player who could produce good form.
Perhaps the moment that many Bulldogs fans remember was when Farrar kicked the winning field goal in the Bulldogs 1985 triumph. Farrar represented NSW on numerous occasions but did have to wait 1988 to make an Australian appearance. With the Bulldogs wanting to keep Farrar beyond the 1990 season, he surprised everyone by suddenly leaving the club to join former coach Warren Ryan at Wests. He then had a stint in England with Wigan before returning for one year with Illawarra under Graham Murray.

5. Hazem El Masri – El Masri has had a long association with the Canterbury Bulldogs that started in 1994 after he was spotted at Belmore Boys High School. He was invited for Jersey Flegg trials that year before he made the President’s Cup side the following year.
He then debuted during the 1996 ARL season and whilst he is known for his goal-kicking, he was not the designated kicker when he came into the side as that role belonged to Daryl Halligan. In fact, his first kick at goal did not come until 1997 when Halligan was injured. By the time 1998 rolled around, El-Masri was a regular in the Bulldogs side but surprisingly, he did not play in the club’s 1998 premiership success.
A proud Lebanese player, El-Masri had the chance to play for his home nation for the first time in 1999 and scored 48 points – an international record – in the Mediterranen Cup match against Morocco. He was again involved with the Lebanese side during the 2000 World Cup and was captain, as he played in all three group games. He had the honour of playing alongside his brother Samer El Masri whilst representing Lebanon.
With several offers on the table in 2002, El-Masri ignored those overtures and remained with the Bulldogs, in the same year that he broke the Bulldogs record for the most goals kicked in a game with eleven. Just a couple of years later, El Masri broke an NRL record with the most points scored in a single season (16 tries and 139 goals). The 2004 season was a successful one for both El-Masri and the Bulldogs, with Hazem playing on the wing in their premiership success. He was also a strong performer in their World Club Challenge loss to Leeds.
2005 saw another record broken as El Masri became the Bulldogs highest ever point-scorer. The records continued to tumble in 2006 as well, when he scored the most points by a Bulldogs player in one game (34 points v the Wests Tigers) and the most tries for the Bulldogs with 123. In 2007, he became just the sixth player to pass the 1,900 points mark and in the same year, he made his maiden Origin appearance for New South Wales. He would play just the one game for NSW and the one game for Australia.
2009 was another special year for El-Masri as he broke the NRL point-scoring record giving him 2,208 points. El-Masri also played in his 300th game in 2009, the first Bulldogs player to reach the milestone (note that Terry Lamb did also play 300+ games but he played 88 games for Western Suburbs, whereas El-Masri played all his games for the Bulldogs).
Also in 2009, El-Masri announced that 2009 would be his last season with his 317th and final game coming in the preliminary final against the Parramatta Eels. El-Masri, a loyal player to the Bulldogs and a winger with a lion’s heart, will likely remain one of the greatest ever goal-kickers the modern game has ever seen and it is quite possible that his point-scoring feats and Bulldogs records may never be broken.

6. Terry Lamb – Regarded as one of the Bulldogs greatest ever players, the man nicknamed ‘Baa’ joined the Bulldogs in 1984 having previously played for Western Suburbs. Under coach Warren Ryan and captain Steve Mortimer, Lamb settled in well to the Bulldogs side as he slotted into the pivot role. His support play was a highly regarded part of his game and it was evident, as he ended up with 17 tries to be the joint leading try-scorer in 1984. In his first year with the club, he enjoyed premiership success as the Bulldogs defeated the Parramatta Eels in a hard-fought 6-4 win. Lamb left the field with five minutes to go due to a gash above his eye.
Whilst Lamb played in 22 games during the 1985 season, he was forced to miss the Bulldogs second premiership in successive years due to a groin injury. 1986 was a better year for Lamb as he was moved to halfback with Mortimer suspended at the start of the season before being selected for both NSW and Australia that year. The Bulldogs failed to win three successive premierships, though, as they were beaten by arch rivals the Eels in the 1986 grand final.
Despite a solid person season for Lamb in 1987 where he scored 26 points in one game and finished the season as the leading try-scorer, the Bulldogs failed to make the finals and coach Warren Ryan departed. 1987 was perhaps the most contentious of Lamb’s career with the infamous Ellery Hanley incident that many believe decided the grand final in the favour of the Bulldogs. Despite that, the club went on to win yet another premiership.
The next couple of years were not Lamb’s best as the season was marred by both injury dramas and off-field incidents. In the end, this resulted in another changing of the guard with Phil Gould out as coach and Chris Anderson in.
Lamb was made captain soon after Anderson was named coach and despite a good start to the 1990 season for the club, they eventually faltered and failed to regain a top five spot. As Lamb’s body continued to take the hits, he started to spend less time on the field, plagued by a chronic groin injury. Lamb won three consecutive Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year awards in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Lamb would go on to play his 300th game during the 1994 season and enjoyed a final premiership success in 1995, steering the Bulldogs to victory and picking up a man-of-the-match award as a result.
A final season in 1996 at the height of the Super League era saw Lamb eventually play a total of 349 games and scoring 164 tries, the fourth most tries scored by any player throughout their career.

7. Steve Mortimer – Playing in the Amco Cup on the Riverina in 1975, Mortimer actually played against the Bulldogs in that game and was the best player on ground. Winning four premierships with the club, two of which came as captain, his skills as a play-maker and a cover tackler made Bulldogs fans proud to have him at their club.
In 1980 in particular, he made three crucial cover tackles that coupled with his play-making exploits, contributed to his side winning the grand final. He formed a formidable halves pairing alongside Lamb during the 80’s and the two of them were key players in all four of the Bulldogs premiership victories during the 80’s.
One of the club’s greatest ever halves and players in general, Mortimer almost departed the club in the late 80’s but made the decision to stay and remained loyal to the Bulldogs throughout his career. Upon his retirement, he had played 272 games which at the time, was the most by a NSWRL player for the same club. During the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s, the logjam of halves should have made representative appearances difficult but Mortimer rode the wave out, playing a total of 16 games for NSW. He is credited as the man that brought back the passion to the NSW side during that era. He also played 8 games for Australia over a four-year period.
Playing under coach Warren Ryan in the mid-to-late 80’s, the two, at times, clashed but despite all of it, they won two premierships and finished runners-up in a third during Ryan’s four years as coach. In the end, the two had a professional relationship as captain and coach that guided the Bulldogs to the title on those three occasions.
Post-career, Mortimer was also involved with the Bulldogs as Chief Executive Officer after a tough time for the club when dealing with the 2002 salary cap crisis. He held the role for only a couple of years but he had laid the foundation for the club moving forward.

8. Eddie Burns – A member of the Bulldogs first ever season in 1935, Burns was just a teenager when he made his club debut. Interestingly, in his first game for the club, he was sent off and thus making it a memorable debut in the wrong way. He enjoyed a lengthy career spanning a remarkable 16 years and played in 147 NRL games total for the club. He was a member of the club’s two premiership victories in 1938 and 1942 and as a prop, had an uncanny knack of scoring tries.
At one point, he had scored the most tries for the club before that record was broken by Chris Anderson also in our team. Burns had two stints as Canterbury coach upon his retirement in 1960-1962 and again in 1965. In 1985, he was selected in the Bulldogs Greatest Team Ever and then in 2004, he was selected in the 70 Year Bulldogs team of champions.

9. Fred Anderson – Playing at a time when scrimmaging was a big part of rugby league, Fred Anderson enjoyed a successful career predominantly with the Bulldogs as he played a total of 197 games over twelve seasons. Regarded as one of the best hookers of his era, Anderson was a nippy player that helped the Bulldogs side to perform well.
During his Bulldogs career, he made two appearances for NSW and surprisingly, was asked by South Africa to make two appearances for them at an international level. That request by South Africa came during Anderson’s several year stint with the South Sydney Rabbitohs after he departed the Bulldogs side.

10. Darren Britt – An unsung hero of the Bulldogs side he played in, Darren Britt was a fan favourite due to his workhorse nature. A hard worker with immense heart, Britt eventually went on to play 168 games for the club after previously enjoying a stint with the Western Suburbs Magpies.
Playing mostly at prop, Britt captained the side for the first time in 1996 before becoming the full-time captain in 1998 until the 2001 season when he departed for a stint at English side, St Helens.
Eventually, he captained the side in 98 games, the second most behind Terry Lamb and he enjoyed some representative success, playing in 9 games for the Australian side and one game for the Country Origin team.

11. Steve Folkes – Back-row is usually a position for bigger bodies but telling that to Steve Folkes will do no good now, as the Bulldogs legend weighed just 85 kilograms for most of his rugby league career and yet still performed consistently in the back-row for the club.
A sturdy defender despite his size, Folkes was an adept runner of the ball and was able to hold his own against bigger opponents. Enjoying a lengthy career as a player with the club from 1978 to 1991, Folkes played in a total of six grand finals (1979, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1986 & 1988) winning on four occasions during that time. During that time, he also played in 9 games for New South Wales and 5 games for Australia.
Folkes’ career at the Bulldogs did not finish upon his retirement as a player. In 1996 and 1997, he served as the side’s reserve coach and soon after, he was appointed as head coach of the club. In 1998, he took the side to the grand final before they lost to winners, the Brisbane Broncos.
Folkes was coach in 2002 when it was found that the club had breached the salary cap and were thus stripped of 37 competition points, effectively ending any chance they had to win a grand final. However, as all good sides do, they bounced back and ended up winning the 2004 NRL premiership.
In the end, Folkes was coach of the Bulldogs in 288 games and ended with a winning percentage of 56%.
2004, being the year of the Bulldogs, also saw Folkes win the 2004 Dally M Coach of the Year Award.

12. Andrew Ryan – A local Dubbo junior, Andrew Ryan played for the Bulldogs arch rivals, the Parramatta Eels in 73 games before making the move to the Bulldogs in 2003. Thus, over the course of 9 seasons, Ryan amassed 218 games for the club and scored 52 tries in the process.
The Bulldogs acquired Ryan after the Eels were forced to offload him due to salary cap issues at the time and he never looked back after that, going on to become a fan favourite. 2004 was one of the best years for Ryan as a Bulldog. He was a part of the club’s premiership-winning side, was named for both NSW and Australia that year and was also named captain during the grand final with regular captain Steve Price out.
After Price made a permanent move away from the club to the New Zealand Warriors, Ryan became the club’s full-time captain and led from the front until his retirement with his constant work-rate and hard work on show. He represented NSW, Australia and NSW Country on further occasions during that time and in 2009, was named Dally M Captain of the Year after he guided the club to the preliminary final.
Ryan is still involved with the NRL to this day, working as both an ambassador and a player welfare officer with the NRL.

13. Simon Gillies – Somewhat of an unsung hero over his 11 seasons with the Bulldogs, Gillies was a solid worker and a player that many fans admired throughout his career. A NSW and Australian international, Gillies played a total of 161 games and was a member of the club’s 1995 NSWRL premiership winning team. His older brother Ben Gillies also played for the Bulldogs.
He was also a member of the team during the club’s loss to the Raiders in the 1994 NSWRL grand final as a reserve player.
Apart from the premiership, perhaps his best achievement was being given the captaincy after the retirement of Terry Lamb at the end of the 1996 season. He remained captain of the team for two years after that before he himself made the decision to retire.

14. Glen Hughes – The Hughes name is one that is synonymous with the Bulldogs club. Glen’s father Garry played for the club, as did his brothers Corey and Steven.
Playing with the club for 13 seasons, the utility played a total of 177 games primarily as a lock and five-eighth. He was a member of the club’s 1995 NSWRL premiership success and played off the bench in the club’s other grand final appearance in 1998. A mature player with the ball in hand, Hughes impressed many during his time at five-eighth and his defence was a key factor in his good form, as he helped guide the club to the 1998 grand final.

15. Steve Price – Price burst onto the scene in 1994 as a rookie and played in the club’s grand final appearance in 1994 which they lost. Any disappointment was not around for long, though, as Price was a member of the club’s 1995 premiership success. It was at this time that Price established himself as a premier prop/back-rower, becoming one of the best during his time in the NSWRL and NRL.
His work-rate continued to be on show throughout his career and he was a regular for both Queensland and Australia during his career. He made another grand final appearance in 1998 but that campaign was unsuccessful as the Bulldogs lost.
The next accolade for Price came at the start of the 2002 season when he was named as captain of the Bulldogs side in what was a solid first year for Price in the role. The Bulldogs performed well on the field but it coincided with the salary cap breach that ruled them out of contention for any finals appearance.
2003 was yet another good season for Price as captain with the Bulldogs winning 18 regular seasons games, a semi-final berth and a Player of the Year award by Rugby League Week. In 2004, Price performed well during the Origin series and was awarded the Ron McAuliffe Medal as player of the series.
2004 proved to be the last of Price’s career as a Bulldog and he enjoyed a solid final season with the club as they finished second on the ladder and won the grand final. Unfortunately, Price was not playing in the grand final after he tore his medial ligament ruling him out of the final game.
Ahead of the 2005 season, Price moved to the New Zealand Warriors where he finished his career.

16. Ray Gartner – A five-eighth by trade, Gartner was a mainstay of the Bulldogs side over 11 seasons during the 1950’s and 1960’s. A handy play-maker, Gartner was a natural leader on and off the field and captained a NSW Colts side against Great Britain. He is the son of another Canterbury great Joe Gartner.
Gartner also played a bit of centre during his time at the Bulldogs and was captain of the club in 71 first-grade games. From 1955, he formed a handy partnership in the halves with Ron Thornton that lasted until the 1962 season.

17. Steve Reardon – A handy back-rower and lock, Reardon made his debut in the early 90’s and played in 163 games for the club over a 12-season period. A member of the Bulldogs 1998 grand final appearance in 1998.
His career was not all rosy to start off with as he suffered from a season-ending injury in 1993. For the next couple of seasons, he started in reserve grade as he had to work his way back into the side. He was then in and out of the first-grade side over the next few years but after hard work and grit shown by him, Reardon eventually became a mainstay from 1999.
Starting out mostly as a lock, he eventually found a home on the back-row from 2000 but did switch between the two positions throughout his career.

Greatest Teams Ever Pt 1: Brisbane Broncos

Every team has players that will remain forever etched in the history of that club and in our first installmentt of many, we will look at the Brisbane Broncos and some of the greatest players to have ever played for the club. With so many quality players over the years since their inception to choose from, narrowing it down to just 17 players was no easy task. Also, whilst some of the players selected may have played for other clubs in their careers, these players are chosen based on the impact they had on their team and the game whilst at the Broncos.

Though after hard deliberation among us and careful consideration, we put together who we believe are the 17 greatest players to have played for the Broncos for varying reasons. Without further adieu, here they are:

1. Darren Lockyer: Needing little introduction, Darren Lockyer is regarded as one of the greatest players to have played rugby league in the modern era. Equally adept as both a fullback and five-eighth across all forms of the game (club, state and international), he was revered as a player by many Broncos fans and fans of rival clubs as well. One of few players to have dominated and performed in two separate positions, Lockyer’s time at fullback saw him win a Golden Boot Award, four premierships, a Clive Churchill Medal and a World Cup. After the shift to five-eighth, Lockyer went on to win another NRL premiership, a second Golden Boot award and a record sixth straight Origin series. Starting out as a fresh 18-year old, Lockyer’s first season was solid at the club and he took out the club’s Rookie of the Year award in 1995.
Lockyer received the ultimate praise from many throughout his career, though a quote from another rugby league legend in Tim Sheens resonates with most.
“Darren pioneered the ball-playing fullback, the No. 1 who can play like a second or third five-eighth,” Sheens said.

2. Michael Hancock: A strong, powerful winger, Hancock remained a mainstay of the Broncos side for roughly 11 years, though his role did change as the years went on. Scoring a mountain of tries over the course of his career, like Lockyer and many others to come in this list, they were a part of the Broncos side that dominated the 1990’s winning five premierships across the decade.
To go with his strength and power as a winger, he also had a touch of finesse and pace, impressing many fans and critics. Still only a teenager, he represented both Queensland and Australia after strong performances for the Broncos. He also took out a Broncos Rookie of the Year Award, winning it in 1988. At the turn of the century, a change beckoned for Hancock and in a bid to prolong his career, he became a quality impact player off the bench and increased his playing repertoire to cover back-row. He was one of the first four former players to be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.

3. Justin Hodges – For as long as he was in the league, Hodges was regarded as the elite centre. The centre that every other would aspire to play like and the one that everyone tried to stop but had a hard time doing so. A powerful centre, Hodges was known for his craftiness out of dummy half, trying to catch opposing teams off-guard.
Although many would have wanted to see Hodges play for just the Broncos, he did have a stint of three years at the Sydney Roosters, causing some bad blood with coach Wayne Bennett in the lead-up to it. But no matter what club Hodges was at, when healthy and fit, he was in fine form. He was a part of the Roosters side that won the 2002 NRL premiership and the 2003 World Club Challenge.
Hodges and Bennett then reconciled in a move that saw Hodges return to the Broncos. He maintained his standing as an elite centre over the next period at the club and continued to perform at all levels. With further NRL premierships to boot and Indigenous All-Stars appearances, after a long, successful career, Hodges retired from the game in 2015. His last game was the 2015 NRL grand final.

4. Steve Renouf: One of the best centres to have played rugby league, Renouf was a mainstay of a strong Broncos side throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s. In the process, like so many other Broncos in this list, he won numerous premierships over that period, signifying the dominance the Broncos had at the time. Of Aboriginal and European descent, the centre ended up with a remarkable try-scoring rate of 142 tries from 183 games for the Broncos and 43 tries from 59 games in two years for the Wigan Warriors.
Famous for donning the headgear each week, the man nicknamed ‘The Pearl’ had it all. A brilliant player blessed with speed and ability, Renouf had to dig deeper than most when he was a young player. Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes that could have derailed his rugby league career, he persisted and found a way to cope with the illness to forge a long, successful rugby league career. Renouf was also named in the Indigenous Team of the Century and will forever be remembered as one of the greats of the Broncos.

5. Wendell Sailor: One of the very first big, hulking wingers to come into the NRL, Sailor changed the view on wingers as we know them today and with great effect. A dual code international, Sailor enjoyed an illustrious career spanning 16 years. Although he had a fair share of off-field indiscretions – most notably his run-in with cocaine – he always remained a favourite in Broncos circles and rugby league circles, for his solid all-round play but his larrikin approach and character.
Although Sailor had little involvement across the 1993 ARL season, he did enough to take out their Rookie of the Year award in that same year. His stature and profile grew quickly, though, and soon enough, he was a regular in the Broncos side on the wing. Winning numerous premierships with the Broncos and performing strongly for much of his career there, he eventually departed and opted to play rugby union, where he remained for seven years.
Sailor eventually returned to rugby league to play for the St George Illawarra Dragons where in 2009, he was reunited with his former Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, who joined the Dragons as their coach that year. His final game of rugby league came in the 2010 Indigenous All-Stars clash where he scored a try and celebrated by taking out the corner post and playing it like a didgeridoo.

6. Kevin Walters: The year was 1990 and Kevin Walters returned to the Queensland, opting to play at the Brisbane Broncos alongside brother Kerrod. Slotting into five-eighth that year, Walters form was such that he won the club’s Player of the Year award, on top of playing all three games for QLD off the interchange bench. Playing in numerous tours for the Kangaroos across his first few seasons, the icing on the cake came when he was a part of the Broncos 1992 premiership success. Success followed Walters in the early days as his utility value proved vital to not only an Australian World Cup success in 1992 but a second successive premiership for the Broncos in 1993. Walters then went on to win the 1997 Super League Grand Final at the Broncos before he was handed the captaincy in 1999 after Allan Langer retired. Whilst captain in 2000, Walters guided the Broncos to a premiership success in the same year. After a short stint at Warrington, Walters returned to the Broncos in 2001 before he retired. He was one of the first four players named into the Broncos Hall of Fame and was included in a list of the top 20 players to have ever played for the Broncos in 2007.

7. Allan Langer: The man aptly nicknamed Alfie, was one of the greatest halves the Broncos have ever produced. Making his Broncos debut in 1988, Langer slowly developed his skills and repertoire to become a better player, before unfortunately breaking his leg in the 1989 season.
After a couple of lean seasons, Langer became the Broncos club captain in 1992 and then led the side to their maiden premiership success that culminated in his capture of the Clive Churchill Medal. The club went back-to-back, again on the back of Langer’s form, winning the 1993 premiership.
Langer continued to play for the Broncos during the Super League era and eventually led the side to premiership success in 1997 before again leading the side to back-to-back premierships in the first official NRL season in 1998. Such was Langer’s form in 1998, that many regard it as one of the greatest individual performances by a player in a season.
After a poor start to 1999, Langer surprised everyone when he announced his retirement from the NRL. A brief stint in England then led to a shock return to the Origin arena before playing one final season with the Broncos in 2002 that resulted in a preliminary final appearance.

8. Petero Civoniceva: The Fijian-born prop has always been a fan favourite no matter where he has gone and always performed at the highest level. He went on to win the club’s Rookie of the Year Award in 1998 and played from the bench that same year with the Broncos winning the premiership. Missing out on the 2000 NRL premiership success due to injury, Civoniceva toiled away and maintained his good form for the club that culminated in QLD and Australian appearances.
In 2004, he was named the club Player of the Year and again in 2006, adding a premiership to his name that same year. At the time of his 200th game for the club in 2007, he was just the eighth player to reach that milestone. Salary cap restrictions then forced Civoniceva out of the Broncos, resulting in the Fijian prop signing with the Panthers.
After several years there, he returned to the club that made him famous, playing in a litany of games for the Broncos. He became the 17th player to play 300 career NRL games in 2012 and was also a winning member of Queensland’s Origin-winning series.

9. Shaun Berrigan: 1998 was the year in which Berrigan made his NRL and Broncos debut and over the course of his career, he was shifted around numerous positions to become a genuine utility. A nifty, nuggety player, he quickly became a fan favourite and never let the side down with his determination. Having missed out on the 1998 premiership success, Berrigan was involved in the Broncos 2000 premiership success and enjoyed numerous years of good form and success across different forms of the game and different positions.
2005 was an especially good year for the utility, who ended it as the club’s leading try-scorer before playing his 150th game for the club in 2006. In the same year, he ended up moving to hooker due to other injuries and was praised for his efforts in the role by former greats of the game such as Peter Sterling who said that Berrigan’s shift to hooker brought a new dimension to the Broncos attack.
Such was his form at hooker, he was rewarded with the Clive Churchill Medal in another premiership success for the Broncos in 2016. During the 2007 season, he was then named in the best 20 Broncos players to play for the club. Whilst he will be known for his time at the Broncos, after leaving the club in 2007, he went on to play for Hull FC, the New Zealand Warriors & the Canberra Raiders.

10. Shane Webcke: Regarded as one of the best props of the modern era, from a very young age, Webcke showed just how good a player he was. In 1993, as a schoolboy, Webcke was spotted by Wayne Bennett and after that, the rest is history. Just two years later, he made his Broncos debut and then in 1997, he was a key factor in the Broncos 1997 Superleague success. Also enjoying success on the Origin arena, Webcke was a mainstay in the Queensland number 8 jersey for many years. His resilience was evident when he broke his arm during the 2000 finals series but went on to play in the 2000 NRL grand final, which the Broncos won.
He continued his good form in 2001, taking out the Broncos Player of the Year award, before again winning the award in 2005. After a career spanning 11 years and with three premierships during that time, Webcke announced his retirement in 2006. His workhorse-like nature and his hard work will be forever etched in the minds of Broncos fans.

11. Andrew Gee: Yet another big Broncos forward, Andrew Gee enjoyed a lengthy stint in the first-grade side and at the time of his retirement, he had played the most games by a Broncos forward. Making his debut with the club in 1989, he quickly turned heads and put the NRL on notice, immediately playing Origin games in 1990. Injury and some poor form led to Gee missing out on the Broncos 1992 NSWRL premiership success but he was a reserve when the Broncos won again in 1993.
He fought his way back and was a key player during the Broncos 1997 Super League success and then again in 1998, a year that saw him with the Broncos Player of the Year award. After a brief stint with Warrington, Gee returned to the Broncos side in 2002 along with Allan Langer, before retiring from the game at the end of 2003. He was the first player to reach the 250 game milestone for the Broncos and in 2009, was inducted into the Broncos Hall of Fame.

12. Gorden Tallis: He was a player at the St George Dragons before his Broncos stint and after sitting out the entire 1996 season, Tallis finally joined the Broncos in 1997. Immediately making an impact, Tallis was the most dominant forward in the competition that year, culminating in the club’s premiership success. Returning to the scene of the crime in 1998 – the Dragons home ground – he was excessively booed by Dragons fans but got the last laugh, scoring the final try in a Broncos victory.
His sustained success continued, as the Broncos won again in 1998, with Tallis scoring a try and winning the Clive Churchill Medal. After a high of personal success across club and representative games, Tallis missed out on end of season representative duties.
Tallis continued to go from strength to strength and for many years, was regarded as the best forward in the game. He was dominant in the Broncos 2000 NRL premiership success and again in international matches for Australia. In 2001, Tallis was made captain before severe injury struck when he suffered a career-threatening neck injury.
He did return to the game and announced his retirement from representative football in 2003 to prolong his club career. However, as the 2004 season wore on, Tallis’ impact was significantly affected by the neck injury that led to his retirement in that same year. At the time of his retirement, Tallis had scored the most tries by a Brisbane forward in the club’s history and in 2010, he was inducted into the Broncos hall of fame.

13. Corey Parker: When you think of club stalwarts, Corey Parker would immediately spring to mind. For 15 years, he gave his all for the Broncos and eventually became the heart and soul of the club. Making his debut in 2001, he scored a try in his first game. As he worked his way into the side as a mainstay, representative honours came in 2004 and he was a member of the Broncos 2006 NRL premiership-winning side, playing from the bench. That same year, he was the highest point-scorer for the Broncos with 142 points.
Taking over the goal-kicking in 2007 full-time, Parker again finished as the club’s leading point-scorer in 2007 and in 2008, he broke the club record for the most goals in a match when he kicked ten from ten. Injury struck in 2008 causing Parker to lose his goal-kicking status at the club but after Michael Ennis departed in 2009, he was given the role once more.
2009 marked the first season in which Corey Parker was moved to the lock position, one that made his own up until his retirement. He won the Paul Morgan Medal in the same year as the Broncos Player of the Year.
In 2010, he then reached 200 games for the club, the second youngest to reach the milestone at that time, which was then followed by his being named the best forward at the Broncos in 2011. It was not until 2013 that Parker became a mainstay of the Queensland representative side, becoming a key player in the process. Parker again won the Broncos Player of the Year award again in 2013, as well as International Lock of the Year, the Player’s Player award, the Best Forward award, Dally M Lock of the Year and Rugby League Week Player of the Year.
In 2014, Parker became just the third Broncos player to score 1000 points before becoming the club’s 2nd highest point-scorer later in the year. The milestones continued when in early 2015, he played his 300th game, which was then followed by passing Darren Lockyer to become the Broncos highest ever point-scorer late in the 2016 season.
In June 2016, Parker made a decision that it would be his last, as he retired from the game with numerous accolades to his name.

14. Kerrod Walters – Perhaps the lesser known of the Walters brothers in the eyes of some, Kerrod still added plenty of value to the Broncos side in the time that he was there. Making his debut in 1989 at hooker after overtaking Greg Conescu as first-choice, he soon played for Queensland and Australia, impressing with both sides.
He played a key role in the Broncos NSWRL premiership success in 1992 and was named the Broncos Player of the Year. This was then followed by further strong performances that led the Broncos to more premiership success in 1993, back-to-back titles. Walters remained a mainstay of the Broncos side until the end of the 1995 season, before he was cut, eventually signing with the Adelaide Rams.

15. Tonie Carroll – A fan favourite during his time at the club, the man nicknamed ‘Tunza’ made his debut during the Super League years in 1996 and was named as the club’s rookie of the year. He raised some conjecture when, despite being of Kiwi Origin and with a Kiwi background, he played for Queensland on numerous occasions. Hard-hitting in defence, Carroll won his second premiership in 1998 and his third in 2000 where he played at centre.
Carroll’s international career caused much conjecture, considering that he played for both New Zealand and Australia, a move that outraged many. Despite that, he was the first player in 90 years at the time to have represented both nations. After a brief stint in the Super League with Leeds, Carroll returned to the Broncos once more and picked up where he left off.
He enjoyed further premiership success in 2006, finishing the game off with a leg injury, showing much resolve to do so. In 2007, Carroll was named in a list of the best 20 players to have played for the Broncos. An interesting move came about in 2007 when Carroll was named at five-eighth ahead of others, after an injury to stalwart Darren Lockyer.
Carroll’s first retirement came in 2008 before he returned to the side in 2009 after the Broncos suffered a litany of injuries. At the end of that season, he made his retirement from the game official.

16. Sam Thaiday – At just 18 years of age, Thaiday made his NRL debut in 2003. After toiling hard and working on his game and with the Broncos inconsistent in 2006, coach Wayne Bennett felt like changes were needed. One of those changes brought about a stint in the starting side for Thaiday and it as well as the other changes worked, as the Broncos went on to win the 2006 NRL premiership. Injury disrupted his 2007 season but he hit form once more in 2008 and after back-to-back man-of-the-match performances, he was selected in the Queensland side.
Further years went on and Thaiday continued to produce good footy before he was named captain in 2011. In the same year, he was named the RLIF back-rower of the year. As the years have gone on, Thaiday has interchanged between back-row and front-row, and from the starting side to the bench but no matter where he has played, he has been revered by Broncos fans for his work ethic, his tenacity and his loyalty.

17. Brad Thorn – The Kiwi-born Brad Thorn became an adopted son at the Brisbane Broncos and in the 1994 Winfield Cup, he made his debut. His form was so good, that the club awarded him their Rookie of the Year Award. He began his Origin career with Queensland early on and became a staple of the side in the years that he was involved with rugby league during his first stint.
His first premiership success with the Broncos came in 1997, when the side won the 1997 Super League title. He continued to produce solid play and won another premiership in 1998, and was then further rewarded with representative appearances for both Queensland and Australia before capping off his first rugby league stint with a premiership win in 2000.
A stint in Union beckoned for a few years before Thorn made a decision to move back to Brisbane and rugby league in 2005. During that time, he made further representative appearances for Queensland in 2005, won another premiership in 2006 and was then named as one of the best 20 players to have ever donned the Broncos jersey. At the end of the 2007 season, Thorn returned to rugby union.

2016 NRL Grand Final Preview

Well, here we are. After a lengthy season full of ups and downs, hardships and triumphs, we are at the ultimate game. The 2016 NRL grand final.

In what is the 201st NRL game of the season – a gruelling one at that – two teams will go toe-to-toe to take out the highest honour in Australian rugby league.

Hailing from Melbourne are the Storm, a team that have set the benchmark for success and consistency over the last 6-7 years. Led by master coach Craig Bellamy, the Storm side is full of talented, experienced players, youthful exuberance and unsung heroes, all of whom play a role in the Storm’s system. Boasting players such as Cam Smith and Cooper Cronk, regarded as the best players in their respective positions, shutting them down is no easy feat and the duo are still the most important players in the Storm side.

Their opponents, the Cronulla Sharks, have hit the jackpot. After some lean years in recent times due to off-field issues, the tide has turned. Blessed with a team and a club that have got things in check, they have a chance to break their premiership drought – currently the longest running drought in the NRL. In what will be their third grand final under a unified system, the Sharks boast top performers of their own with James Maloney and Paul Gallen two of their most crucial players.

Both sides will believe they can win the contest, as they enter the game tied at 1-apiece so far this season. Regarded as one of the most flamboyant sides in the NRL due to their attack, the Sharks will look to rattle the Storm with flawless execution. But against any Storm side, executing is always easier said than done, as they grind out victories with resolve in defence and consistent pressure in attack.

The Sharks advantage: Working in the Sharks favour is not only their attacking style but their ability to beat the first man and break tackles. Second overall when it comes to tackle breaks as a team and offloads, their flamboyance comes off the back of crafty second phase play. That sort of play could potentially wear the Storm down if executed properly and the Sharks will look to make the most of the opportunities that come their way.

The Storm advantage: One of toughest teams to beat due to the sheer nature of their grinding style of footy, the Storm are a side that suffocate teams in every facet and make very few errors themselves. As a result, their completion rate is often incredibly high and is the reason why they are able to force so many repeat sets on the back of deft kicking games from Cronk and Smith. Attack is crucial and with an astonishing completion rate of 81.7% for the season, the Storm make the most of their opportunities.

The NRL News View: Just because the Storm have the big-game experience when it comes to grand finals, the game will be no pushover. The Sharks have proven they can go toe-to-toe with the top teams this year and they will believe that they can break the drought. However, despite their confidence, stopping the Storm is a whole different kettle of fish. That is no easy feat and if the Sharks deviate from their own game plan and try to beat the Storm at their own game – that is, a grinding, hard-fought victory reliant on defence – a victory may favour the Storm. One of the more evenly matched grand finals in recent years for the neutrals, many are torn whilst others are not too concerned. For us, whilst the Sharks will put up a valiant fight, coming up against the Storm in a game that has so much riding on it will not be easy and thus we are going with the Storm. Only just, though, with no more than a converted try in the final result.

The NRL News 2016 Team of the Year

Joey Leilua

It’s been a long season but an exciting one as new stars have emerged, whilst others have cemented their spots among the game’s elite with some barnstorming displays and consistency to put the NRL on notice. With so many players performing at such a high level, we thought we would cast our eye over the 17 that we believe were the best 17 in the game this year.

So rather than keep you all waiting, let us get right into it!

Our 2016 NRL Team of the Year is:

Fullback – James Tedesco: His career started out slower than he and Wests Tigers fans would have wanted because of injury but it is safe to say that Tedesco has bounced back. In what was arguably his career best season in 2016, Tedesco was the glue of the Tigers side and the glue that held them together to either win close games or to be in the contest. Blessed with a natural ability not seen in many modern rugby league players, Tedesco can break the line on his own and create an opportunity or he can lay off a pass to a team-mate to set them up for a try or break. A speedster in his own right, Tedesco can and will only get better, particularly after making his Origin debut earlier this year where he showed that he can go toe-to-toe on the international arena. A crucial part of the Tigers team and system moving forward, fans have much to smile about when it comes to the man nicknamed Teddy who will be a staple of their team for years to come.

Winger – Suliasi Vunivalu: Rarely does a winger gain such notoriety and fanfare like Vunivalu has received. A relative unknown when he burst onto the scene earlier this year because of injuries in the Storm’s back-line, he blew everyone out of the water and took the NRL world by surprise, seemingly scoring tries for fun. Much like his Fijian counterpart, Marika Koroibete, Vunivalu is quick, elusive and knows how to score tries. A relative unknown to the game of rugby league just two years ago, Vunivalu worked hard on his all-round game to put himself in the best position and the best shape to play regularly. Playing earlier this year for the Sunshine Coast Falcons and previously the Easts Tigers, both Storm feeder teams, when Rd 7 came around, few could expect what they were about to see. Remarkably, he didn’t just score 1 try in games. There was a string of games where he was scoring two tries and even hat-tricks, as he showcased his ability to the game and its fans. Not bad for a player with a union background and minimal rugby league exposure.

Centre – Joey Leilua: The talent was always there for Leilua as we saw over the years but in 2016, his form and his general play have gone to a whole new level. Incredibly consistent over the course of the season, very few teams have been able to nullify the attack and go-forward of Leilua as he both runs hard at the defensive line or weaves his way in and out. Creating the perfect foil and partnership with Jordan Rapana on their side, Leilua’s offloading ability, uncanny skill and newfound work-rate has seen him emerge as a truly elite centre of the game. Still young by NRL standards, if he maintains this sort of consistency, not only will he remain a crucial part of the Raiders side in years to come but he can start searching for higher representative honours.

Centre – Jarrod Croker: Leilua’s centre partner in crime also joins the team of the year, in what has been an incredible season for him. Breaking several club records this season, Croker’s game continues to go from strength to strength. A nifty, crafty and smart player in his position, he has also heavily contributed to the success of the Canberra Raiders in 2016. An accurate goal-kicker, Croker is yet to experience the accolades of higher honours but with his form and the way he carries himself as a club leader and the captain, they should not be too far away. Not to mention he is well and truly a fan favourite of the club not only for the way he plays but for his leadership and direction on the field.

Winger – Jordan Rapana: No team of the year is complete without Jordan Rapana, the man with the most tackle breaks in the NRL in 2016 and the man who plays outside fellow recipient Joey Leilua every week. Whilst his haircut may not be one that appeals to many, his play on the field does and just like his Raiders counterparts in this team of the year, he has also heavily contributed to their success. Making the most of opportunities thrown his way, he and Leilua have developed what appears to be some sort of telepathic connection. They just know where the other is and have been involved a large number of Raiders tries this season. Just like Whare/Simmons and other centre/winger pairigns of the past, Leilua/Rapana were this year’s best centre/wing pairing.

Five-Eighth – James Maloney: The Sharks always had a talented side but lacked a dynamic, unpredictable presence to guide them around the park in recent years. Enter Maloney, a play-as-you-see-it half who takes the line on regularly with success but a player who can also create a play with some brilliant passing or kicking himself. A crucial core player for the Sharks, Maloney has performed at a high level in 2016 and is a big reason as to why the Sharks finished as high as they did. The small one percenters are also what makes Maloney such a valuable player, as he always works hard, chases hard and tackles hard, adding to his impressive repertoire as a quality player.

Halfback – Johnathan Thurston: It’s a no-brainer when you think about this one. For several years now, Johnathan Thurston has set the benchmark for all halves in the competition and 2016 was no different. Whether he carves up a defence with an array of short and long passing, or whether he tries to catch you off-guard with a deft short kicking game, you never know what the veteran has up his sleeve to help his Cowboys side score points and win games. Still keen to go around for several more years to come, it is likely that Thurston continues to make lists like these over those subsequent years. A natural play-maker, his ability is unparalleled in the sport and in the NRL, and he is always a player that rugby league fans enjoy watching (maybe not against their own side, though).

Prop – Jesse Bromwich – When you think of hard-working props, Bromwich is right at the very top of that list. The Kiwi might seem like a gentle giant off the field but on it, he works tremendously hard in both attack and defence and is capable of performing at a high, consistent level for 80 minutes, even if he does not play 80 minutes every week. A hulking forward, he rarely puts a foot wrong and has always led from the front for the Storm forward pack whether it is through running hard, second phase play via offloads or just in his defence. His efforts galvanise his team-mates in the forward pack and having captained both the New Zealand side and the Storm in the past, it is likely that that mantle be handed down to him once current captain Cam Smith opts to retire, a role that Bromwich is a natural fit for.

Hooker – Josh Hodgson: The English hooker had a bevvy of doubters before the start of the 2015 season about just how successful he was going to be. After a slow but steady start in 2015, it has been this season where Hodgson has truly come into his own. Perhaps the most important player in the entire Raiders team, Hodgson sets the momentum in both attack and defence for the Canberra club with his tenacity, desire and hard work. At the central position of hooker in a game, he dictates the attack and has some of the best game awareness that you will ever see. Whether it is running the ball himself, passing it or finding the best possible option available at the time, Hodgson’s uncanny ability to find and discover those opportunities have put both he and the Raiders on the map.

Prop – Ryan James: Rarely does a prop have such a dominant season for his side like James has had at the Titans. Always touted for bigger things in rugby league, 2016 has been a break-out career-best year for the prop. On top of his usual high meterage rate and work-rate, James equalled a long-standing record in 2016. The most tries by a prop in a season with 11, which is a tremendous feat, given props are not often the beneficiaries of attacking moves to score so many tries. With many believing he should be playing Origin, perhaps that time will come for him soon. Though if he can continue his 2016 form into 2017, he will be equally potent and yet again set the benchmark for his team.

Back-Row – Tohu Harris: One of the unsung heroes of the Melbourne Storm side, Harris is one of the hardest workers not only in the Storm team but the entire NRL. Roaming from left to right to do what is required for the team, he is a true workhorse of the game but also offers plenty of go forward in attack, often on the end of a short ball from half Cooper Cronk to make a break or score. A tremendously talented player, Harris has made a back-row spot his own and has the engine and the tenacity to play 80 minutes at a high level every week both for the Storm and for New Zealand.

Back-Row – Wade Graham: A prestigiously talented back-rower, Graham is a cut above many other back-rowers given his skills as a ball-player and a play-maker. Equally adept in the halves, Graham has shown the game awareness to create plays on the edge through either deft passing or smart kicking that etiher results in points or forces another set. Cementing his spot as a key player on the Sharks edge, Graham can make something happen out of nothing and shapes as a crucial player in their finals campaign. Highly rated by Sharks fans, his representative opportunity came this year when he played for NSW and if his club form continues, you would expect to see him in the team once more in 2017.

Lock – Jason Taumalolo: Many folks would agree when we say that Jason Taumalolo is currently the most destructive player in the game. A literal wrecking ball when he runs the ball up, opposition defences have been left utterly and woefully bamboozled by Taumalolo this year. For almost the entire season, the hulking Kiwi forward has laid the platform for the Cowboys and has gradually increased his overall minutes in the process. Barging into the defensive line like a locomotion, he has single-handedly dashed teams hopes of a win, such is the bruising nature to which he runs. He should be an automatic selection for New Zealand’s Four Nations side.

Bench – Josh Papalii: Yet another Raiders player in the team of the year and deservedly so. One of the most dynamic forwards at the club, Papalii’s work-rate is also up there among the best. Consistently playing 80 minutes, Papalii has also recently added some increased ball skills to his repertoire as his increased try assists tally suggests. A hard-runner at the line, stopping him is no easy feat, nor is stopping his offloads which can often lead to tries or breaks. A QLD and Australian back-rower, Papalii has not hurt his chances of making the Four Nations squad later this year. If anything, he has only strengthened his chances, such has been the consistency in his performances this season.

Bench – Tyson Frizell: A jack of all trades across the forward pack, Frizell also made a NSW debut this season and did not look out of place. A powerful runner of the ball with an unorthodox style, his impact has been seen for the Dragons all season and at the Origin level. With many impressed by the way he carries himself and with his performances this season, he shapes as a very important player across the board in years to come. Rated highly by Dragons fans, they know how crucial it is for them to keep Frizell long-term and have very little bad things to say about the way he plays, as he has been one of their more consistent players in 2016.

Bench – Trent Merrin: Already a handy player for the Dragons during his time there, the move West to Penrith has only seen Trent Merrin’s game move to a whole new level. Perhaps unlucky to have not played Origin this year, Merrin has been a consistent performer for the Panthers across the forward pack but most notably at lock, where he has led from the front consistently and helped set the tone for their charge to the finals. A hard ball-runner with a smart offload, Merrin’s work-rate is through the roof and even after just one year at the Panthers, he is already a fan favourite of many fans for that very reason. He shapes as perhaps the club’s most important forward in their finals campaign.

Bench – Anthony Milford: One of the most exciting players in the game at present, the array of talent and skill that Milford has is enough to please any rugby league fan. Deceptively strong and elusively quick, he started the season on fire as he scored tries, set up tries and did basically everything else as he led from the front for his Broncos side with their attack. Although his form wiltered somewhat in middle parts of the season, he is slowly finding his feet again and getting back to his very best form. On the start to his season alone, his selection is warranted, such was the brilliance and excellence to which he played and led the Broncos towards numerous successive wins.

Do you agree with our team of the year or would you make changes? Let us know what your thoughts are and discuss with us what you would change.

Tipping Point’s View: Rd 9 Tips

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Here is again, the tipping guru, Tipping Point. Coming off a ripper 7 tips from 8 last week, he’s back in business and ready to help you make that crucial choice that can make or break your own tipping season. So sit back, read, and enjoy the tips.

Round 9 Tips
Season: 41/64 (64%); last week: 7/8
At a glance: Rabbitohs, Eels, Panthers, Roosters, Cowboys, Dragons, Storm, Sharks

Rabbitohs v Tigers, ANZ Stadium

Seems like only yesterday these two sides blitzed the opening rounds of the competition and looked certainties for the top eight – but the early optimism for both sides has been replaced with rumours of player unrest and poor team culture, and plenty of coach-sacking speculation for Wests. Since round three these two sides have mustered just one win between them, which is a dismal result for sides with this much talent. The Tigers in particular look shot, with last week’s 60-6 hiding against the Raiders bringing the axe closer to coach JT. I don’t expect life to get much easier for the Tigers against the Bunnies, who gave a decent account of themselves against the Broncos last week and will be primed for a big game. Their superior pack will get them home, though I do expect the Tigers to respond after last week’s capitulation.

Tip: Rabbitohs

Eels v Bulldogs, ANZ Stadium

Ah the quirks of the NRL draw. These two sides met just six weeks ago at the same venue on the same night – yet here they are again duking it out in another even money contest. The Eels got the chocolates in round three, and I expect them to get home again this week. While the two sides are separated by just eight points on differential, the Eels have been significantly more impressive this season and look the better choice, especially coming off a narrow loss to the Cowboys. The Dogs have spluttered their way to five wins in 2016 but they’ve been far from convincing. Based on this year’s win-loss-win-loss trend, they’re due for a loss.

Tip: Eels

Panthers v Raiders, Carrington Park (Bathurst)

Another fixture repeating an early season match-up with the Panthers and Raiders locking horns once again. The Raiders got the job done in round one, but the Panthers look red-hot in this Bathurst clash. With James Segeyaro and Dean Whare returning to first grade the Mountain Men look primed for a massive performance. They were desperately unlucky against the Sharks and in fact have been desperately unlucky most of the year. They’re due for a win, and I think the Raiders will struggle backing up their thrilling victory over the Tigers last week. The Green Machine tend to struggle stringing wins together and the Panthers ought to reverse the round one result.

Tip: Panthers

Roosters v Knights, Allianz Stadium

While I love matches between the game’s elite teams, nothing quite beats a bottom-of-the-ladder desperation slugfest. While these sides have been appalling in 2016, both will throw the kitchen sink at the other in an effort to get off the bottom of the ladder and bring some joy to their fans. There’s no doubt that the Knights will have a crack, but surely the Chookies win this game. With Jared Warea-Hargreaves and Mitchell Pearce back on deck, they are specials to win the game, and probably a good bet to win the penalty count, too.

Tip: Roosters

Sea-Eagles v Cowboys, Brookvale Oval

This is one of those awkward tips where you want to take the default option and side with the Silvertails at Fortress Brookvale, but the form of the Cowboys just stops you in your tracks. With Brett Stewart and Tom Trjbojevic in massive doubt, the Cows look like good things to romp home. Outside of the Broncos they’re easily the best team in the competition and I don’t think Manly can match it with them, even with some decent form on the board and Daly Cherry-Evans back on deck.

Tip: Cowboys

Warriors v Dragons, Mt Smart Stadium

Despite a 42-0 drubbing last week and injuries to Simon Mannering and Tui Lolohea, the Warriors are strong favourites against the Red V who, after stringing together two wins, find themselves just outside the eight. This just seems crazy to me, especially given the fact that the Warriors haven’t beaten the Dragons since 2007. While the Dragons aren’t flashy, they are a tough, grinding side that tend to get the job done against lesser opponents. There’s enough starch in their defence and commitment in their performance to get them over the line and heap more misery on Andrew McFadden’s men.

Tip: Dragons

Titans v Storm, Cbus Super Stadium

It’s déjà vu all over again with the NRL draw dishing up another repeat fixture. The Storm and the Titans went toe-to-toe in round two and it was Melbourne who got the two points that night, however it wasn’t the cakewalk that the 34-16 score line would indicate. The Titans have brought massive physicality and effort to every game in 2016 and they keep sides honest, even though they don’t often get the victories. Tipping-wise this is the perfect example of when you just have to take the away favourites – the Storm are professional enough to knock over the Titans but it’ll definitely be a scrap.

Tip: Storm

Sharks v Broncos, Southern Cross Group Stadium

Easily the match of the round, despite my earlier praise for the battle of the cellar-dwellers. The Sharks and the Eels loom as the main threats to the comp south of the border and this Sunday afternoon clash will give a good indication of Cronulla’s premiership aspirations. This is Brisbane’s first day game all year and with five Broncos set to line-up in Friday’s test match, I give the Sharks a real chance of nailing the upset. With Andrew McCullough missing through injury the Broncos are definitely vulnerable, and I can see the Sharkies bashing their way to a close win in front of their home fans.

Tip: Sharks