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Opinion

The need for speed: Is this the fastest line-up in the NRL?

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Roar Guru
14th January, 2022
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1912 Reads

Bigger, faster, stronger. This seems to be the mantra for the modern-day rugby league player, and under the present rules, the faster the better.

Nearly everyone has an opinion about who are the fastest players in the game, and technology like the Telstra Tracker claims to be able to provide the answers.

But unless every player is being measured on a continual basis and over the same distances, results can be misleading. I’d prefer to rely upon my own observations.

So I’ve picked the following team who I believe were the fastest players going around. The only criterion is that they must have played at least five NRL games in total, and have played in the position that they are selected in at least once.

Fullback – Tesi Niu (Brisbane)
There’s some very quick fullbacks running around but the former Australian Schoolboy representative looks to have them covered.

Just 20-odd games into his career, the Broncos flyer is beginning to unlock his undoubted try-scoring potential since being handed the number one jersey.

Fellow Broncos speedster Selwyn Cobbo would also be a contender anywhere in the outside backs, as would Reece Walsh from the Warriors and the electrifying Ryan Papenhuyzen from Melbourne.

Wingers – Josh Addo-Carr (Melbourne) and Jason Saab (Manly)
At the ripe old age of 26, Addo-Carr has a number of contenders vying for his fastest man on the paddock title but he hasn’t lost any of his pace.

Jason Saab had a break-out season for Manly in 2021 and it’s hard to see anyone ever running down this flying giant any time soon.

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Jason Saab of the Sea Eagles runs the ball

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Xavier Coates from Melbourne is also right up there for pace and the more I see of Newcastle’s Dominic Young in his limited opportunities to date, the faster he looks.

Centres – Phillip Sami (Gold Coast) and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (North Queensland)
Sami now has over 70 first-grade games for the Titans but has been largely wasted on the wing.

He has the size, footwork and speed to be one of the best centres in the game, and who can forget his effort in running down Addo-Carr in 2019.

Tabuai-Fidow reminds me a lot of Cowboys great Matty Bowen. He has sensational outright speed complemented by a great swerve, balance and footwork.

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Other contenders include Melbourne’s Reimis Smith, Waqa Blake from Penrith and the Tigers’ James Roberts, who looks to have lost a yard or two of pace in the last couple of years.

Five-eighth – Luke Metcalf (Cronulla)
With just a half-dozen games under his belt, Metcalf barely qualifies for this side but just shades Parramatta’s Dylan Brown for outright speed in my book.

I don’t see anyone running Metcalf down if he gets into the clear. Let’s hope he doesn’t disappear from view at his new club.

Halfback – Mitchell Moses (Parramatta)
Moses has always been one of those polarising players, but on his day there’s just no better player in the game.

Mitchell Moses breaks away.

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

There’s no doubting his speed though, and when he gets into the clear, throws the head back and puts the foot down, you are not going to catch him.

Jake Averillo from Canterbury is another halfback with great pace.

Hooker – Tom Starling (Canberra)
The little Raiders hooker can really motor, has both great acceleration and can go the length of the field.

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He just shades Souths’ Damien Cook now, while Cowboys veteran Jake Granville remains surprisingly fast.

Front rowers – Jack Hetherington (Canterbury) and Ethan Bullemor (Brisbane)
Hetherington is better known both for the mayhem he can cause on the field and the length of time he’s spent off it while suspended, but under that combative exterior is a very fast forward waiting to shine.

A move to the edge might see him produce his best form for the Dogs.

Jack Hetherington of the Bulldogs

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Ethan Bullemor is a young forward with a big future ahead of him, and one attribute he already has in abundance is great natural speed. Once he gets going, he’s going to be more than a handful for any defence.

A couple of other fast-moving front rowers worth watching are Payne Haas from the Broncos, who is right up there, along with Josh Kerr from the Dragons.

Second rowers – Heilum Luki (North Queensland) and Sitili Tupouniua (Sydney Roosters)
Luki looks like a special talent in the making, and who can forget him running down the Warriors’ Reece Walsh last year. What an effort.

Tupouniua has been one of the quickest forwards going around for a couple of years now and his trademark runs on the Roosters’ right edge are a problem for any defender.

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Penrith’s Liam Martin is also quick, as is converted centre Euen Aitken from the Warriors.

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Lock forward – Cameron Murray (South Sydney)
The lock forward position is going through somewhat of a transformation under the new six-again rule, as the big bopper is being replaced by players with speed and ball skills.

Cameron Murray is one of the best locks in the business and certainly looks the fastest of the current batch.

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That’s how I see it, but what do you think? Who are the fast movers from your club that should be in this 13?

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