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Opinion

Life begins at 30: The best of the NRL’s 2022 golden oldies

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Roar Guru
24th March, 2022
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We hear often enough that rugby league is a young man’s game, and who’d argue with that when you see both the speed of the game under the new rules, as well as the collision impact that players are subjected to week in and week out?

You only have to scroll through the injured players list to gain some appreciation of the physical stress the modern player receives. To illustrate, we are barely two weeks into the 2022 competition and there are already half a dozen players with season-ending injuries.

Google tells us that the average length of an NRL player’s career is just 43 games, so players starting out at say age 20 could expect to be doing something else with their weekends well before they reach 25 years of age.

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 just under 60 players aged 30 years or more going around each week in the NRL. We’re not talking hack players here, either. Quite the opposite, as these players have generally made it this far and for this long for a reason.

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Here’s a team made up of players who are currently 30 years of age or older.

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1. Jordan Rapana (32)

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Canberra’s irrepressible winger who just hates to lose and puts many of the Raiders forwards to shame with his physical approach to the game.

2. Daniel Tupou (30)

Totally unflappable, and now in his 11th season with the Roosters and steadily edging his way up the all-time try scoring list.

3. Dane Gagai (31)

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Souths’ loss is Newcastle’s gain as Gagai remains one of the game’s most accomplished outside backs and is the ultimate competitor.

4. Jarrod Croker (31)

Croker has scored over 2200 points for the Raiders in his 13 years with the club and will be hoping to shake off his current injuries and go past the 300-game mark this season.

5. Corey Thompson (31)

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Thompson has been among the top half a dozen wingers in the game for many years and is underrated by many, but he rarely makes an error and knows the way to the try line.

6. Cody Walker (32)

Enigmatic, polarising and simply brilliant when he puts his mind to it. While ever Walker’s on the field for Souths, they’re in with a chance.

7. Adam Reynolds (31)

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After ten years at Redfern, Reynolds was one of South Sydney’s favourite sons, and by season’s end, he’s likely to be the best Broncos halfback since Allan Langer.

Adam Reynolds of the Broncos runs the ball.

Adam Reynolds of the Broncos runs the ball. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

8. Mark Nicholls (32)

There’s nothing fancy about Nicholls, just good old fashioned bump and grind that you expect from a front rower. He must have impressed Wayne Bennett along the way, as he’ll be joining him at the Dolphins next season.

9. Damien Cook (30)

Cook may have lost a yard of speed over the past few years but he’s still the most dangerous running dummy half in the NRL.

10. Siosiua Taukeiaho (30)

Big Sio has been one of the best forwards in the game for some time and has been a key component of the Roosters’ run of success.

11. Tohu Harris (30)

Harris is a giant of a man with a high skill level to go with it, and has been the Warriors’ best forward since joining them in 2018.

12. Elliott Whitehead (32)

Now entering his seventh season with the Raiders, it’s easy to forget that Whitehead hails from England. Tough and skilful, he’s been one of the best English forwards to come to the land down under.

13. Dale Finucane (30)

Finucane is highly rated by everyone in the game – coaches, fans, teammates and the opposition alike. He could make all the difference for the Sharks this year.

14. Ben Hunt (31)

The older he gets, the better he seems to play, and the Dragons captain won plenty of admirers for his form last year both for the Red V and for Queensland in Origin.

15. Isaac Liu (30)

The NZ and Samoan international has been doing a very consistent tradesman’s job for the last ten years and his experience will be invaluable in the young Titans side this year.

16. Jesse Bromwich (32)

Thirteen years in the top grade and rapidly approaching 300 games, Bromwich is a Melbourne Storm favourite and remains one of the best front rowers in the game.

17. Ryan James (30)

Despite a career interrupted by injury, James is one of the smartest front rowers going around and adds a lot to the Broncos’ forward power this season.

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