If there’s one thing that rugby league players love, it’s a tradition.
From the cold showers after the game, mad Monday celebrations and the dangerous practical jokes in the dressing room to the post-training night drinking sessions, it’s all fun and games, even if somebody does get hurt.
Frankly, it’s the real reason why players put themselves through the pain and life-threatening injuries to turn up to play every week.
But the most time-honoured rugby league tradition of them all is the nudie run, where players who have failed to score a try during the season are required to run a lap of the oval in the nude, to the vocal support of some fairly inebriated onlookers.
It is a tribal celebration of failure and mediocrity. Some players who are not even required to do the run will chose to do it anyway, just to support their mates and tick it off their bucket list. Other players seem to be flashing past the finish line year after year.
Let’s take a look at your club’s top nudie runners for 2021, and also pay tribute to those players from your club deserving of recognition for past services to the run. Today, we’ll have a look at the top eight.
The purple army will be disappointed to learn that there won’t be much nudity required south of the border this year, as Melbourne scored so many tries in 2021 that even two trainers and a ball boy crossed for a four-pointer during the season.
In the end, only a couple of interchange players failed to get across the line, and they didn’t play enough minutes to warrant a run.
But we should acknowledge a couple of former Storm players in Garrett Crossman and Nathan Friend for their services to the nudie run.
Crossman played 35 games for the Storm across two seasons without ever troubling the scorers, while Friend spent four years in the bleak city, notched up 34 games and failed to score a single try. Talk about dedication!
Crossman’s performance was no fluke either, as he also played 29 games for Penrith and 18 for Souths during his career without getting across the stripe.
In fact, his only career try came during his 29-game stint with Hull Kingston Rovers in 2008, proving that anyone can score a try in the Super League. Crossman is a legend.
Again, not much to see here for nudie run fans, as only back-up hooker Mitch Kenny will be donning the birthday suit this year after failing to score in his 18 appearances, including seven off the bench.
It should be noted that Kenny played 18 games prior to the 2021 season and didn’t score then either. My advice to Kenny is to run the ball more, and pass less.
From a historical perspective, the Panthers have some well-known try-shy players.
Big boppers Martin Lang and Craig Greenhill played 67 and 61 games respectively without either of them notching a four-pointer, while former hooker Sione Katoa played 48 games over five years without registering a try.
In defence of both Lang and Greenhill though, it should be pointed out that they did manage a try or two each with other clubs before hanging up their togs, but the unlucky Katoa has now played a total of 76 first grade games without a try to his name.
Big Tevita Tatola will be doing the honours for the Rabbitohs at this year’s run, as despite being a frightening sight for any defender, the 114-kilogram monster couldn’t ground the ball over the line once in his 21 games in the top grade this season.
Look for Tatola to spend some time out wide on Souths’ lethal left edge next year in order to jag a four-pointer.
Souths have been around for a long time, too long some fans say, and naturally they’ve had quite a few try-less players over the years, particularly back in the day.
The daddy of them all was Owen McCarthy, a forward who remained try-less over 65 games for the club between 1912 and 1917.
Some more recent nudie run regulars you may be more familiar with are giant prop Ian Rubin, who had 45 games and no tries, and hooker Jason Death, who went 44 games for Souths without scoring.
Despite the fact that over 54 per cent of the total tries scored by Manly last season were scored by just three players in Tom Trbojevic, Jason Saab and Reuben Garrick, only Taniela Paseka (zero from 24 games) and Josh Aloiai (zero from 16 games) will qualify for the nudie run this year.
Perhaps Aloiai could fight Paul Gallen nude instead of the run?
Historically, 1990s backrower Chris White with 46 games looks to hold the record for most games without a try, while in recent years Nate Myles played 26 games over two years without scoring.
Of the current players, big Morgan Boyle has now played 25 games for Manly over the last three years without troubling the scorers, and is positioning himself for a big future in the run of the year.
The injury-riddled Roosters went through some 34 players last season, and remarkably, most of them got across the stripe at some point.
The notable exceptions were their two big boppers in Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sio Siua Taukeiaho, who played 23 and 21 games respectively without running in a four-pointer.
At least Taukeiaho kicked some handy goals. Let’s hope big Jared can get through the run without any disciplinary issues.
The Roosters are another foundation club, and with their long history have a host of players who haven’t registered a try while wearing the red, white and blue.
But the absolute try-less legend is former NZ Test prop forward Jason Lowrie, who played an incredible 105 games for the Roosters in six years without ever scoring a try. That’s Hall of Shame stuff right there!
The Eels scored 107 tries during the season, with their back three of Clint Gutherson, Maika Sivo and Blake Ferguson accounting for some 37 per cent of the total.
Surprisingly, leaving out the couple of bench players who only played a handful of games, there wasn’t one player eligible for this year’s nudie run.
They do feature more heavily from a historical basis though, with three hard heads in first, second and third place on their list.
Mitch Allgood played 70 games without looking like scoring, Darcy Lussick played 53 games, and Terry Leadbetter played 48 games. These three brawlers would not only prefer a fight to a good feed, but apparently also prefer nudity to scoring a try.
The Knights scored around 20 per cent fewer tries than the rest of the teams in the top eight, but somehow spread them across most of the 31 players that took the field for them during the year.
It looks like the only Knight making the run this year will be big David Klemmer, who didn’t score a try in any one of his 21 appearances for the club.
It should be noted that Klemmer is fast becoming one of the most experienced nudie runners in the NRL era, as this is the fourth season on the trot that he hasn’t managed to score a try. That is truly some effort!
I guess it won’t come as any real surprise then that Klemmer also holds the Newcastle record for most games played ever without scoring, currently sitting on 63 games.
Only now retired back-rower Joel Edwards with 45 games goes anywhere near Klemmer’s mark, and you sense that if big Dave can avoid the try line once again next season, that he could set a Newcastle record that will never be beaten.
The Titans are another team who look like being without a runner this year, as no player who started ten games or more failed to score a try.
Retiring winger Anthony Don went scoreless in his nine games, but won’t be required to run, and big Sam Lisone went scoreless in his 16 starts from the bench, but didn’t play enough minutes to qualify. So keep your gear on, Titans.
From a historical perspective, front-rower Eddy Pettybourne holds the club record with 34 try-less games for the club between 2015 to 2017.
In the next article we’ll take a look at the 2021 nudies in the bottom eight. Be prepared for some clubs to field relay teams.