Six of the greatest hookers ever in NRL

Zach Holland

We’ve looked in depth at six of the greatest hookers during the NRL era.

Cameron Smith

Smith still continues to defy father time and remains one of the best hookers in the league. Although he does not possess the speed and agility of some of the more modern day hookers, Smith continues to have one of the sharpest rugby league minds that has made him one of the greatest ever in his position.

Although two of the Storm’s title wins during the mid-2000s were stripped due to salary cap breaches, Smith was still a vital part in two legitimate Grand Finals victories in 2012 and 2017. The former Queensland and Australia favourite’s career has also seen a whole host of individual accolades that feature two Golden Boot wins, two Dally M Player of the Year awards, eight Dally M Hooker of the Year titles, five Dally M Captain of The Year awards and four Wally Lewis Medals. The Melbourne legend is the only player to have ever played more than 400 NRL games and last year, he overtook Hazem El Masri as the all-time highest points scorer in Australian first-grade history.

Josh Hodgson

The gap at the top continues to get narrower and now Hodgson may be the one who is hot on the heels of Cameron Smith in the quest to be dubbed the number one hooker in the NRL right now despite only being in the league five years.

The England international has been a tackling machine for the Raiders since joining in 2015 and his in-game kicking ability, great vision and killer pass also makes it seem as though he is playing half-back on most occasions. The 30-year-old also fought off an injury to become a vital player in Canberra’s run to the 2019 Grand Final.

Jake Friend

The Sydney Roosters number nine may not set the rugby league world alight but one thing is for sure: you can always count on the 30-year-old to do his job.

Since making his debut in 2008, he has gone onto to win three NRL titles with the Sydney Roosters and even though he may not have a whole host of individual honours to his name, he has still been one of the best nines over the last 10 years when you look at his stats.

Robbie Farah

Over the last 20 years, Benji Marshall is most probably regarded as the best Wests Tigers player ever but one man who is certainly up there is Robbie Farah.

The Australia and Lebanon international spent the majority of his NRL career with the western Sydney club and his impact throughout that time shouldn’t go unnoticed. The 2000s and 2010s may have seen Cameron Smith completely make the hooker spot his own but Farah was up there. In 2005, his influence throughout the season played a big factor in the Tigers claiming their first and only NRL title.

In those early years during the 2000s, he was deceptively quick off the line, had a fantastic grubber kick and possessed a sharp pass that completely revolutionised the hooker role alongside players such as Smith and Michael Ennis. Between 2006 and 2019, Farah became one of only four men to win the Dally M Hooker of The Year that was not Cameron Smith as he took home the honours in 2007 and 2010.

Michael Ennis

In an era dominated by players such as Cameron Smith and Robbie Farah at the number nine spot, there was also Ennis who throughout his time in the league had developed a reputation as a somewhat a bit of a nuisance. Even though he may not have been the most well liked player during his playing days, he was still one of the standout hookers of the 2000s. In his 14-year career, he spent time with Newcastle, St George Illawarra, Brisbane, Canterbury and Cronulla.

In a rather fitting end to his career, he went onto claim his first and only NRL title in his last ever season whilst at the Sharks. Alongside Farah, the New South Wales representative was one of four men to secure Dally M Hooker of The Year honours between 2006 and 2019 that was not Cameron Smith as he claimed the accolade in 2009 and 2015.

Danny Buderus

Before Cameron Smith began to dominate the number nine role there was Danny Buderus, a player who will no doubt go down in history as one of the best hookers in the history of the sport.

The former Newcastle star was as tenacious in defence as he was strong a ball carrier and he went on to become one of the Knights’ leading lights alongside Andrew Johns in the late 1990s and early 2000s. After starring in Newcastle’s triumphant 2001 season, he went onto become a three-time Dally M Hooker of The Year (2002, 2004 and 2005) and recipient of the Dally M Player of The Year in 2004. The former New South Wales captain played in a record 21 consecutive games for the Blues and 24 tests for Australia before giving up his spot to Smith in 2006. Overall, there is no doubt that Buderus will go down as one of Australia’s finest players since the turn of the century.

Honourable mentions

Issac Luke, Damien Cook, Mark Riddell and Peter Wallace.

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