Okay, okay, we’ve had this topic before on The Roar. And it was recently done for the cricket.
But with the Auckland Nines whetting the appetite, and the new season just around the corner, I’m going to detail my own take on those characters that fans love to hate – the NRL villains.
To ensure a list that didn’t go for miles I’ve only included current players and others involved in the game, but feel free to chime in with any oldies.
Blake Ferguson, Russell Packer and Robert Lui
It is debatable if anyone guilty of a serious assault should be allowed back in the competition, but Lui is already back at the Cowboys earning good coin as if nothing happened, Ferguson is set to run out for the Roosters in the trials, and it is looking inevitable Packer will eventually sign somewhere.
These guys earn villain status for reasons that have nothing to do with footy, yet their actions leave many NRL fans eagerly anticipating a big hit coming their way on the field.
Villain Type: violent – Freddy Krueger.
Ah Gal, his numbskullery knows no bounds! With a long rap sheet, from dirty on-field antics, to racial vilification, to alleged banned substance abuse, to using profanities against the game’s governing body, even captaining his state to a breakthrough Origin victory can’t save Gal from being on this list.
His “two-heads” jibe at Queenslanders, light-hearted as it was, earned him the hatred of a whole state, and even NSW supporters can’t stand the guy when he’s not sporting a Blues jersey. Some Cronulla supporters have also questioned his worth to the team, where he is probably the top earner but has only turned out for minimal games in previous seasons due to injuries and representative commitments.
Villain type: mix of buffoonery and thuggery – Sideshow Bob.
For many NRL followers, particularly south of the border and in the Newcastle area, he’s starting to use up his credits. Sure, he got the Dragons a premiership, but took some players with him and left them a rabble. And now he’s done the same at the Knights (minus the premiership), bailing out when they needed him most to go back to the Broncos and renege on his famous ‘I’d never go to a club that already has a coach’ principle.
Not to mention coaching out the season after announcing his defection, much to the ire of the Novocastrians and anyone that can remember him benching Justin Hodges for the season after signing with the Roosters. And how does a coach have so much power that the administration lets him be part of a rule interpretation change that turned every team’s off-season defensive training on its head, knowing well before any other coach (except Trent Robinson) about the change?
No one can take his premierships and prior greatness away from him but a failure at the Broncos will no doubt impact his legacy, no matter what the Bennett lovers (including Ben Ikin) say.
Villain type: he’s almost getting Emperor Palpatine like, seducing players to the dark side (Dragons-Knights-Broncos) and diabolically pulling the strings of the Empire (the NRL) for his own devious purposes (a premiership). Even looks a bit like him too!
Michael Ennis and Josh Reynolds
I’ve grouped these two together because, apart from the fact they play different positions and are now at different clubs, are they long lost brothers? They possess an in-your-face and get-under-the-skin style, employ devious antics to rile the opposition, and are basically viewed in exactly the same, mischievous light.
Reynolds particularly confirmed his villain status north of the border with that upending tackle on Tate in Origin last year, cementing it by avoiding any suspensions. Classic villain antics like tripping, kicking and getting sent to the sheds in a game against the Broncos fuelled fans’ dislike of him.
With Ennis moving into a role on Fox Sports he is starting to have more of an elder player-statesman type aura, but after years of baiting other players, and by association opposition fans, he has earned his place on this list. When someone manages to upset one of the most loved players in Nathan Hindmarsh, and get called a grub in the following press conference by Hindy, then they are indeed a certified villain.
Villain type: always cunningly plotting villainous acts – Dr Evil.
This one may be controversial, but while many view him as one of the best, most articulate, non-stereotypical footy player and a deserved national captain – I agree with all of that – I also see him as a conniving, scheming, manipulative scoundrel who gets away with murder on the field.
He often has the refs eating out of his palm – remember Origin 2 when Shane Hayne stopped play to ask “are you okay Cam?”. When things aren’t going his way he is prone to some cheap shots – that elbow in a game early last year that deserved a few weeks surely.
Villain type: as smart as villains come, Cam Smith lookalike Kevin Spacey’s Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects.
When he pulls on the sky blue at Origin time, the whole NSW state is undoubtedly cheering for him. The rest of the time? For anyone, apart from the most ardent Tigers supporter, he just comes across as a whining sook.
In the ‘Tallis Debacle’ last year, he could’ve just come out and said ‘that was a year ago, Gordon is entitled to his views but I can’t recall saying it, I support Potter now and moving forward so let’s get on with’ and that aspect of the saga would’ve been over. Instead, he acted like a child and brushed training and press conferences, effectively cruelling the Tiger’s chances of making the eight and certifying him as a rugby league villain.
Villain type: mild villain, more annoying than anything else – Jar Jar Binks.
A true rascal. I actually like him, but I included him as a villain because pretty much every non-Broncos fan I know loves to mention how much they hate him every time he gets the ball, hoping that someone will end his career with a high shot. Loves a sledge, a prized villain attribute, always involved in some niggle, and never far from where a brawl erupts. He’s an antagonist of the highest order.
Villain type: enjoys being the bad guy and the work it entails – Dick Dastardly.
Yep, commentators included. I am yet to meet someone who enjoys his ramblings/commentary, and if anyone out there does then I’m pretty sure you’re either (a) a friend, relative, or of his ilk, or (b) belong in a mental asylum. Honestly, does anyone, anywhere, seriously like Hadley?
Villain type: just a real spiteful, cruel bloke – Game of Thrones‘ King Joffrey Baratheon.
ah, the men in pink have it tough don’t they? Every decision scrutinised and dissected by rabid commentators and controversy-thirsty media with the benefit of super slow-mo replays, and condemned to being damned if they do, damned if they don’t in regards to using the video ref.
In the Nines there were plenty of dodgy calls, but with the understanding of no reviews being available everyone just got on with it, resulting in Gavin Badger and co. not needing security out the front of their hotel and having their best night’s sleep in years.
Villain type: more the incompetent, bumbling style villain – Wyle E. Coyote.
The Daily Telegraph
This newspaper in particular does more to destroy the image of rugby league than any player. ‘But people want to read about it’ is always their defence. Sure, they do, and yes, controversy sells more papers, fair enough, but how about just easing up on the sensationalism a bit? I’m looking at you Phil Rothfield.
Villain type: looking to cause trouble and controversy, but really just a clown – the Joker
Over to you Roarers, who else deserves to be on this list?