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Tapine, Papa, Haas, RCG, JFH, JWH, Asofa-Solomona: Who are the NRL's best 10 props for season 2023?

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28th January, 2023
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With the 2023 NRL season kick-off looming closer, The Roar is counting down until the footy starts with a ranking of each position on the field.

Not just who had a great 2022, but those that are the best in their role currently in the NRL. 

Next on the list, we head into the engine room – Props.

1. Joseph Tapine (Raiders)

What. A. Player. Despite playing his ninth season in the top grade, Tapine seemed to come out of nowhere last year.

The 28-year-old established himself as one of the most dominant forwards of the NRL, taking home the 2022 Dally M Prop of the Year award as well as the Mal Meninga award for the best player at Canberra.

He has represented his native New Zealand eight times, playing four games for them in the World Cup.

He made 676 tackles, 74 tackle busts and 46 offloads. The Kiwi forward ran for 3763 metres, the most from any prop in 2022, and made a monster 1596 post-contact metres.

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Fast, strong and hard to tackle – everything you want in the front row.

James Fisher-Harris looks to pass

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

2. James Fisher-Harris (Panthers)

Known as the heart of the Panthers forward pack, Fish is an unstoppable force that any player would be happy to follow onto the battlefield.

Now entering his eighth season at the foot of the mountains, he was named Dally M Prop of the Year in 2020 and 2021.

Last season may not have been his best so far, but he was still a wrecking ball. 585 tackles, 32 tackle busts and 15 offloads, along with 1309 post-contact metres.

Another Kiwi international who led the way in his five appearances at this year’s World Cup, Fish will remain a leading front-rower for years to come.

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3. Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Eels)

Just like Foxx in the top ten wingers list – look away Freddy!

Another rock-solid forward, after eight years in the NRL he never shies away from the hard stuff, and you know exactly what you are going to get from him each game.

His 420 runs was the most from any prop and he also made 640 tackles, 33 tackle busts and 15 offloads for the season.

The debate will continue regarding his Origin snub, but his Kangaroos jersey cannot be denied, making 383 metres and 93.3 per cent tackle efficiency during his four games at the World Cup.

4. Payne Haas (Broncos)

Injuries and attitude affected his 2022 season, but this guy remains an absolute machine, and still took home Dally M Prop of the Year with Tapine.

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The 23-year-old has a reputation for being one of the toughest men in the NRL.

Running 3020 meters with 1542 post-contact metres – only second to Tapine – along with 47 tackle busts and 21 offloads, Haas once again showed how hard he is to put down. Add to that 524 tackles and you can see why even after a mixed year he is still one of the best.

5. Junior Paulo (Eels)

This tough Samoan keeps getting better and better.

Always in the discussion as one of the hardest men in the NRL, after ten seasons at the top Paulo had one of his best last year, forming a solid wall with fellow top ten list maker RCG.

He made the third most running metres from the props on this list with 3164, with a huge 1253 post-contact metres. Along with 47 offloads – third in the entire comp – and 33 tackle busts, Paulo made it look easy to stop others but hard to be stopped himself.

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The ball-playing prop played in every game for Samoa at the World Cup, as well as all three for NSW in the Origin series.

6.Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm)

Love him or hate him, there is no denying the brute force of Big Nelson.

While sitting at the top of the props for penalties with 19, he never seems to get suspended for anything so they must cancel each other out.

But when he is not avoiding the judiciary off the field, he is causing havoc on it.

This season alone he made 91 tackle-breaks, 2593 running metres with 1,221 post-contact metres and 450 tackles with a 93% efficiency. Add to the list 78 tackle busts and 36 offloads.

He was back in black and white for New Zealand at the World Cup and will be ready for another destructive year for Melbourne in 2023, his ninth in the NRL.

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Nelson Asofa-Solomona. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Nelson Asofa-Solomona. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

7.Reuben Cotter

Talk about unlucky, but still so god-damn talented.

The 23-year-old is just a naturally gifted footy player, with his only mission in life to be out on the field.

Unfortunately, he missed three seasons of the Queensland Cup with ACL injuries and a season cut short for the Cowboys thanks to a Liscranc injury.

Cotter is now on his way to becoming a legend after last season. Whether it be at prop, lock or at dummy half, he could do anything he wanted to while everyone around him watched in awe. He is that good. But after earning a debut for the Maroons he did his hamstring ruling him out for the rest of the series.

He did make it back to play a vital part in the Cowboys’ surge for the finals. He made 644 tackles 35 tackle breaks and 6 offloads.

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If he can stay fit, he will be unstoppable.

8. Josh Papali’i (Raiders)

Another veteran who cannot miss out on this list.

Big Papa has been a stalwart for Canberra for the past 12 seasons, wreaking havoc and causing destruction wherever he goes.

His partnership with Tapine up front was rock solid and helped the Raiders late-season surge to the finals.

Papali’i was third from all the props for tackle busts with 69, and also made 37 offloads and five line breaks. He finished his 25 games with 534 tackles and 2862 running metres with a huge 1140 post-contact metres.

He’s taken home the Mal Meninga award a record four times, was the 2020 Dally M Prop of the Year, and won the award for Best Tackle in the same year for his try-saver on Jamal Fogarty.

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And it will forever live rent-free in many NRL fans’ minds.

9. Christian Welch (Storm)

Known as one of the good guys in the NRL, there used to be concerns that he was too nice for the game.

But after a move from the centres to the forwards early on in his career, he showed that the harder the conditions got, the better he got.

In 2021 he made 528 tackles, 2937 metres and 1031 post-contact metres. He has played six games for the Maroons.

He hasn’t had a good run with injuries, doing his ACL in 2017 and 2019. Welch only played one game in his eighth season for the Storm, rupturing his Achilles and getting ruled out for the rest of 2022.

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This guy will come back in 2023 with a vengeance.

10.Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters)

There is no list without this guy.

The most senior player in Bondi, JWH still manages to instil fear in the opposition even after 14 years in the top grade.

He may have had less time on the field each game last year, but everyone knew when he was out there. Making 2241 metres, 881 post-contact metres and 406 tackles Waerea-Hargreaves always made the most of his minutes.

Part of three Roosters premierships, along with 33 appearances for the Kiwis, not many would have any issues picking him in their side.

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