Andrew Fifita and David Klemmer are arguably the two best front rowers in the NRL. So who would you rather have on your team?
While both play at the highest levels of the game, they have very different, contrasting styles.
Klemmer is the huge body that makes ground at will, able to lead a team forward, whereas Fifita uses footwork to create second-phase play.
Klemmer was third in post-contact metres last season, gaining just over 1600 from 22 games. Fifita was 17th for this stat, with just over 1100 metres from 26 games. Clearly, Klemmer has an advantage in his ability in making ground when he has been met by the defence, which is even more impressive considering the forward packs they both played in the season just gone.
Both featured in this season’s top five for total runs, with Fifita making the second-most, Klemmer at fifth. This shows they both have huge engines and are willing to work.
Next was perhaps where Fifita has the biggest advantage: offloads. The Shark is the premier offloader in the NRL, as his size and footwork allows him to free his arm regularly and find support players. Fifita had 82 offloads for the year, first in the league. Offloading makes any forward much more dangerous and a defence can never truly settle when Fifita has the ball.
Klemmer mustered 23 offloads for the year, well behind Fifita, and shows how different their styles truly are.
This becomes more evident when looking at their tackle-bust numbers, as Fifita made 87 and averaged 128 metres for the year, while Klemmer busted through just 30 tackles but averaged a monster 175 metres a game.
These numbers show how dominant a ball runner they both can be, but do you want a front rower who can go forward through people and make ground, or a man who breaks tackles and pops offloads?
When it came to the other side of the game, Fifita gave away more penalties than anyone, with 39 offences from just 26 games – well over one per game. Add in his much higher error rate and he certainly has his drawbacks.
While they are easily the two best running front rowers, neither are dominant defenders. They hit hard and don’t miss a huge amount of tackles, but neither have ever struck me as putting fear into the opposition.
While this is not a vital skill for a front rower, especially when looking at the forward pack as a whole, it can be a valuable skill. This pair are ball-running front rowers, as opposed to being a defensive front rower.
So who would you rather?
Fifita may be able to win a game with a line break or an offload that Klemmer just does not posses, but if you’re looking for a man to set a platform and just get ahead in the most simple way possible, then there is no better front rower than David Klemmer.