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Aqua men: The all-time aquatic-themed rugby league team

Roar Guru
26th November, 2021
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Roar Guru
26th November, 2021
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Rugby league has quite an affinity with aquatic creatures. The NRL has the Sharks, Eels and Sea Eagles, and is about to add the Dolphins.

There’ve also been plenty of rugby league players with names that relate to the aquatic world in some way. Here is the pick of them.

Fullback: Gary ‘Crayfish’ Kemble, Hull FC
It’s not clear how Kemble came to be almost universally known as Crayfish.

Whatever the case, he was very comfortable at the port city of Hull where he made 192 appearances for Hull FC between 1981 and 1987.

Kemble represented New Zealand on 19 occasions, including in their famous 18-0 victory over Australia in 1985, and coached the Kiwis five times in 2007.

Winger: Jack Fish, Warrington
Fish played three Test matches for England between 1904 and 1908.

However, it appears Fish’s presence was not a good omen as England failed to win any of them, despite him scoring on debut and crossing for a double in a loss to Wales in 1908.

Fish played 321 games for Warrington between 1898 and 1911, scoring an impressive 214 tries and winning the Challenge Cup twice.

Centre: Mark Shipway, North Queensland, Manly and Salford
Shipway was a versatile edge player who made 126 appearances for North Queensland and Manly between 1997 and 2003, and 45 more for Salford in 2004 and 2005.

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He burnished his aquatic credentials with two Queensland Cup premierships at the Redcliffe Dolphins.

Centre: Richard Whiting: Featherstone, Hull FC, Leigh and Toronto
Whiting had a distinguished career, spending 12 seasons at Hull FC and making 258 appearances in Super League. He also helped the Toronto Wolfpack to promotion in 2018.

Whiting was good enough to represent England three times and scored a try on debut in a 98-4 victory over Russia at Moscow in 2004.

Winger: Wendell Sailor, Brisbane and St George Illawarra
Sailor played 189 games for Brisbane in the 1990s and early 2000s, winning two premierships and representing Queensland and Australia.

He switched to rugby union in 2002 and played in the 2003 World Cup Final, before an ignominious exit from the code after a positive drug test.

Sailor returned to rugby league for two seasons and 33 games at the Dragons, before making way for Jason Nightingale to chart a course to premiership glory in 2010.

Wendell Sailor inaction in the celebrity game of touch on day two of the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines rugby league tournament at Eden Park in Auckland on 16 February 2014. Photo: www.photosport.co.nz

Wendell Sailor Photo: www.photosport.co.nz

Five-eighth: Merv Whale, Newtown
The wonderfully named Whale played 38 games for Newtown between 1935 and 1940.

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According to testimony on his Rugby League Project page, he was a milkman in the Newtown area and coached Johnny Raper in his formative years.

Halfback: Perry Haddock, Cronulla, St George and Illawarra
Haddock played 138 games for the Sharks, Dragons and Steelers between 1981 and 1989. He was the Dragons halfback when they won the minor premiership in 1985 before losing the grand final 6-7 to Canterbury.

After retiring, Haddock founded Oztag Australia.

Prop: James Fisher-Harris, Penrith
After 134 games for Penrith, two grand finals, one premiership and six Tests for New Zealand, Fisher-Harris is widely regarded as one the game’s best props.

James Fisher-Harris looks to pass

James Fisher-Harris. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Dummy half: Ray Herring, Brisbane, Gold Coast and South Queensland
Herring debuted for Brisbane in 1988 but made only five appearances due to the presence of Kerrod Walters.

In 1991 he moved to the Seagulls, where he made 56 appearances over four seasons, before becoming an inaugural member of the Crushers in 1995.

Herring’s main claim to fame is passing the ball that hit Crushers teammate Mario Fenech in the head and led to widespread appreciation of ‘falcons’.

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Prop: Nelson Bass, New Zealand
Bass played four Tests for New Zealand in 2019 and 2020 and captained the Auckland representative team against touring Australian and Great Britain teams from 2020 to 2025.

Second row: Glen Boatswain, Norths
Boatswain played 48 games for Norths between 1976 and 1980 and was part of the Bears 23-14 victory over Souths in the 1978 Channel Ten Challenge Cup Final.

Second rower: Tony Antunac, Manly and Wests
Antunac played for Manly and Wests between 1965 and 1971. He’s best remembered for being one of seven players sent off in an infamous pre-season game between Manly and Balmain at Brookvale Oval in 1968.

Lock: Owen Trout, Leeds and Huddersfield
Trout is a promising young back rower who’s played 23 games for Huddersfield after debuting for Leeds in 2019.

His Twitter feed introduced me to the most unlikely try ever scored by a prop.

Bench: Mikhail Sharkov, Danny Seal, Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Jaeman Salmon.

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