NRL’s top six loose forwards of all-time

Zach Holland

We look at six of the best loose forwards who have played in the NRL.

Paul Gallen

The former Cronulla lock’s longevity is without question as he holds the record for most seasons played in the NRL with 19 and has 348 first-grade appearances under his belt.

Between 2001-19, Gallen became a constant presence – not just at the Sharks but at representative level for New South Wales and Australia, going on to win three Dally M Lock of The Year awards in 2011, 2012 and 2017. In 2016, he finally achieved the NRL title that alluded him as his side took home the honours after narrowly beating Melbourne.

Jason Taumalolo

Now that Sam Burgess has retired, there looks to be hardly any doubt that the Tongan wrecking ball is the best 13 in the world.

Even at 26-years-old, it feels like Taumalolo is already somewhat of a veteran after making his debut in 2010 at the age of 17 and since then, his exploits whilst at North Queensland have been nothing short of sensational as he continues to be the driving force on both sides of the ball. The 2016 season saw him at his very best after claiming the Dally M Medal for his exceptional performances over the season. So far in his career, he is a three-time Dally M Lock of The Year and tasted Championship success with the Cowboys back in 2015.

Corey Parker

The former goal kicking forward spent his entire 16-year career with the Broncos and to this day has made the second most first-grade appearances as a Brisbane player with 347.

The best of Parker came in the 2010s where he became a mainstay for Queensland and earned his first international call-up to the Kangaroos in 2011. Alongside being a top goal kicker, Parker showcased an incredible work ethic and showed great fluidity on the offensive side of the ball as well as becoming an influential leader amongst his team-mates. By the end of his career, he finished as Brisbane’s all-time top points scorer and is also the second highest points scoring forward in Australian first-grade history.

Ben Kennedy

In his 11-year NRL career, Kennedy played for Canberra, Newcastle and Manly and saw a decent amount of success along the way. Throughout that time, his ability to breakdown his opposition and gritty defence saw him become one of the standout loose forwards of the early 2000s. After making his debut in 1996, he went on to make 67 appearances and score 31 tries for Canberra before signing with Newcastle in 2000 and whilst there, he would go on to be a vital part of the Knights side that won the 2001 NRL Premiership. The year itself saw Kennedy at his very best after scoring 17 tries in 29 appearances over the course of the season.

The 2005 and 2006 seasons would be the last of his career and in that time he would turn out for Manly and again showed a great level of skill as a ball handler and a defender, winning the Dally M Lock of The Year in both of his last two seasons. Upon his retirement in 2006, the former Australia international finished with 195 first-grade appearances and 70 tries to his name.

Jason Croker

Even though Croker would make his debut six years before the league became what it is today, he would still go on to be a hugely influential and versatile player throughout the NRL era’s early years.

The former Australia international spent his entire time in Australia with Canberra and his capability to play in a variety of different positions throughout his career made him standout amongst other forwards. In his 16-year career, Croker saw playing time in the back-row, centre, wing and stand-off and excelled at each spot. The 2000 season saw his hard work and consistency pay off after earning selection to the Kangaroos’ victorious World Cup squad alongside winning the Dally M Lock of The Year. In his last season with the Green Machine in 2006, he became the first Raiders player to reach 300 games and to this day, Croker holds the club record for most first-grade games with 318 whilst also having the second most tries by a member of the men in lime green with 120.

Sam Burgess

As far as British NRL imports go, then a case can be made that ‘Slammin Sam’ is one of the very best to ever make the trip to the southern hemisphere. After impressing in four seasons with Bradford, Burgess signed with South Sydney in 2010 and the rest is history. The former England and Great Britain international went on to become as ruthless as he was polarising, whether it was a hard-hitting tackle or bulldozing run from a kick off.

The 2014 season will go down in rugby league folklore for Burgess as his highly inspirational displays for the Rabbitohs throughout the season and that year’s Grand Final saw him claim the Dally M Lock of The Year and the Clive Churchill Medal. The 31-year-old’s career may have ended prematurely due to injury, but he will still go down as one of the finest players of his generation and proved to be one of the sport’s biggest trailblazers.

Honourable mentions

Jake Trbojevic, Glenn Stewart, Greg Eastwood and Jim Dymock.

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