Who is the NRL’s best number nine?
With representative rugby league just around the corner, I thought I’d pick my top 10 in each position. I am starting with the hookers.
10 Jake Friend (Roosters). Due to off-field issues, his NRL career nearly didn’t get off the ground. But he has turned everything around to be a regular in the Roosters side, averaging over 40 tackles a game.
9 Kevin Kingston (Panthers). Reliable is a good word to describe former Parramatta grand finalist Kevin Kingston. He has a dig every week, even when his side is under the pump.
8 Aaron Payne. He played his 200th game at the weekend, and while his best years may be behind him, every now and then he produces the form which helped the Cowboys to the 2005 grand final.
7 Robbie Farah. He is a vital part of a Tigers team that is not firing. Inconsistency is why he is ranked seventh. Sure he can be as good as any on his day, but he doesn’t have too many of those good days. I’m sure Tigers fans would disagree, but his team’s results speak louder than words.
6 Matt Ballin. He is one of those players that can go unnoticed every week. He may be at number six on my list but, to be fair, not much separates him and the next couple of players.
5 Michael Ennis. Players love playing with him and hate playing against him. His early season form is off a little, but he is good enough to be Ricky Stuart’s first choice hooker for NSW. Expect some big games in the next few weeks as debate heats up over who should be the Blues hooker.
4 Isaac Luke. The current Kiwi hooker has his good and bad points, but the good outweighs the bad. He can kick goals, take on the bigger man and put him to shame, plus he has an eye for a try out of dummy half. On the bad side, he can cost his team dearly with cheap penalties that come with his aggressive style of play.
3 Danny Buderus. You would think after three seasons out of the NRL it would be hard for him to get back into the groove. However, this is not the case for Buderus. He has been one of the Knights best so far this season. I’d have Buderus ahead of Ennis just at this stage for the Blues jersey. But it’s a long season and time will tell if he can keep up with the weekly grind of the NRL.
2 Andrew McCullough. Ok, I can hear you all blowing up, except the Broncos fans. This kid is getting better with each game. His vision from dummy half is up there with the best. He knows when to run, when to kick and when to steady things. He is in the same mould as the number one hooker in the game, and is a reason why the Broncos are second on the ladder.
1 Cameron Smith. Do I really need to explain? He is probably the best dummy half the game has seen. He ticks all the boxes that make a quality number 9. He reads the game better than most and can control the tempo of a match. The current test hooker will soon be the Australian captain.
Well that’s my top 10. What do you think, Roarers? Have I got it right?
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