Six of the best back-rowers in NRL history

We’ve looked in to the careers of six of the greatest back-rowers in NRL history.

Gordon Tallis

When you talk about a hard-running forwards and sheer aggression out on the field, there was not a player who displayed this more during the late 1990s and early 2000s than the ‘Raging Bull’ himself Gordon Tallis.

The former St George Illawarra Dragons and Brisbane Broncos second rower at the height of his powers was one of the best forwards in the game, excelling at club and representative level. By the end of his career, he had won three titles with Brisbane (one Super League and two NRL) as well as claiming the Clive Churchill Medal in 1998 and Dally M Second-Rower of The Year in 1999.

Craig Fitzgibbon

The former Sydney Roosters back-rower established himself as a highly effective goal kicker in the NRL throughout the 2000s.

Between 1999-04, he went on to appear in five Grand Finals and although he only won one out of five, he was still a highly influential player in guiding the Chooks to a high level of dominance throughout that period. Upon his retirement in in 2011, he finished as the highest points scoring forward in Australian first-grade history with 1,604 and now sits 15th on the all-time list.

Steve Menzies

There is no doubt that Menzies stands as one the greatest back-rowers in the history of the sport and not just in the NRL era.

The headguard-wearing Aussie legend was famed for his prolific try scoring exploits whilst at Manly as well as the Northern Eagles and by the end of his career, he finished with 180 tries to his name. The Sea Eagles legend now sits third on Australian Rugby League’s all-time try scoring charts – only being behind Billy Slater and Ken Irvine, with 109 of those 180 coming during the NRL. Overall, Menzies finished with 349 appearances and is the highest try scoring forward in first-grade history along with being a three-time Dally M Second-Rower of The Year, with his third coming in the NRL’s first ever season in 1998.

Luke Lewis

Just like Menzies, Lewis was a highly effective try scoring forward but what separated him above several top forwards throughout the 2000s and 2010s was his adaptability to play almost anywhere.

Between 2001 and 2018, he played at loose forward, centre, wing, stand-off and scrum-half but was seen more playing at second-row. The New South Wales representative and Australia international played for both Penrith and Cronulla, who he went on to win the 2016 NRL title with along with claiming the Clive Churchill Medal for his performance in the Grand Final. Overall, Lewis made 324 appearances in the NRL and scored 122 tries.

Sonny Bill Williams

At the beginning of the 2004 NRL season, the rugby league world was introduced to Williams as he was unlike many other forwards around at that time. The New Zealand international burst on to the scene with Canterbury where went on to win Rookie of The Year honours and experienced Championship success in his first season by winning the NRL title with the Bulldogs.

After switching codes in 2008, SBW made his return to the competition in epic fashion in 2013 when he signed with the Roosters and went on to claim the RLIF Second-Rower of The Year and another NRL title. After spending more time with the All Blacks in union, Williams now finds himself in Super League for the first time with Toronto and Wolfpack fans will certainly be hoping they see him at this startling best. Although never the biggest try scorer, his explosive running, ability to create second chance plays and hard work in defence made him one of the most famous names in sport and even to this day remains a huge name.

Nathan Hindmarsh

The Parramatta legend was an old school and rugged tackling machine during his time in the NRL and was as hard working and reliable as they come.

During the early 2000s, there wasn’t a better second-rower in the league, with Hindmarsh winning the Dally M Second-Rower of The Year five times in seven seasons between 2000 and 2006. Throughout his career he became a fan favourite after claiming the Provan-Summons Medal five times between 2005 and 2011. Although a championship would allude him during his career, the former New South Wales and Australia star went on to achieve some staggering feats by becoming the first player in NRL history to reach 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 tackles alongside becoming the third player in the competition’s history to reach 30,000 running metres.

Honourable mentions

Sam Thaiday, Simon Mannering, Matt Gillett, Boyd Cordner, Wade Graham, Anthony Watmough and Ryan Hoffman.

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About Zach Holland 295 Articles
Love Rugby League writer.


  1. What about Mal Reilly and Steve Norton? Two English men right at the top of their trade when they each played in Aus, OK it was the ARL then but same comp.

  2. I cant believe adrian Morley is not here.. the enforcer… he has to be in top 3 all time I know he moved to prop bother was a second rower primary.

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