We hear often enough that rugby league is a young man’s game.
Who’d argue with that when you see both the speed of the game under the new rules and the collision impact that players are subjected to week in, week out? You only have to scroll through the injury list to gain some appreciation of the physical stress the modern player receives. To illustrate, there are currently over twenty players who have sustained season-ending injuries.
A quick Google tells us that the average length of an NRL player’s career is just 43 games. So, players starting out at age 20 could expect to be doing something else with their weekends well before they reach 25 birthday. Despite that, many players manage to defy the odds, avoid the worst injuries, and enjoy long careers.
I was surprised to find that currently there are around 60 players aged 30 years or over going around each week in the NRL. We’re not talking hack players here either. Quite the opposite, as these players are invariably the best of the best.
Here’s a team made up of players who are currently 30 years of age or older:
1. Josh Dugan (30) has represented both his state and country and plays his best football at fullback.
2. Blake Ferguson (30) is still one of the most effective wingers in the game, despite currently going through a try drought.
3. Michael Jennings (32) has really hit some form this year and is playing well enough to have re-signed with the Eels for another two years.
4. Josh Morris (33) is possibly the best player in his position at the moment and always capable of making the big plays.
5. Brett Morris (33) see Josh Morris.
6. Kieran Foran (30) is currently injury-free for the first time in a while and showing how it’s done each week despite playing in beaten sides.
7. Daly Cherry-Evans (31) is the incumbent Queensland and Australian halfback and in good form for Manly.
8. Jesse Bromwhich (31) is still among the best front-rowers in the world and a large contributor to the Storm’s success this year.
9. Cameron Smith (37) – nothing needs to be said.
10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has led the Roosters pack to back-to-back premierships and continues to dominate his opponents.
11. Kevin Proctor (31) the New Zealand international is doing good things at the Titans.
12. Mitch Aubusson (32) is a super-reliable competitor who never plays a bad game.
13. Josh McGuire (30) is a tough competitor who never takes a backward step. Wouldn’t the Broncos like him back?
14. Ben Hunt (30) a Queensland and Australian representative who plays well off the bench.
15. Andrew Fifita (31) is still one of the most destructive forwards in the game on his day.
16. Marty Taupau (30) is an unstoppable international who is feared by opposition forwards, possibly with the exception of Jack Hetherington.
17. James Tamou (31) has a new lease of life this season and may very well lead the young Panthers team to a premiership this year.
I reckon they’d be hard to beat.