The Roar
The Roar


Mug lairs, thugs, grubs, nigglers and smug buggers - who are the players you really love to hate?

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Roar Guru
14th May, 2024
2147 Reads

No matter how impartial or even-handed you try to be as an NRL fan, there are always those players who really rub you the wrong way, the players you just don’t like, and maybe even hate. Why is this so?

Sometimes it’s nothing more than good old tribalism and traditional team rivalries, like Souths and the Roosters for example, with their very own Book of Feuds, and where every Souths player is despised by the Chook Pen until they are enticed by Uncle Nick and his bag of treats to don the red, white and blue at Bondi.

Of course, Souths fans in the Burrow are more than happy to reciprocate, and there are none that that they hate more passionately than the likes of Angus Crichton and Luke Keary, who sold their souls to the latte lapping devil and defected to the Roosters. Roosters and Souths fans hating both each other and each other’s players is a tradition as old as the game itself and shows no sign of ever letting up. Tribalism in rugby league is part of the game’s fabric, and what better reason to hate a player than the mere fact that he’s wearing the wrong coloured jersey.


(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Then there’s hate based on good old envy, and players who seem to get paid far too much money for seemingly doing so little can really get under the skin of battling league fans who have to work hard for a living. Players like David Fifita, who became a multi-millionaire on the glitter strip by largely impersonating a linesman, or Newcastle’s hot and cold star Kalyn Ponga, somehow the NRL’s highest paid player, who spends far too much time on the sideline to justify his pay packet. Players appearing to be on easy street are easy to hate, particularly if they don’t play for your club and earn more money in a year than you do in a decade.

Now what about the players who are just too smug and too successful for their own good. Almost anyone from the all-conquering Panthers has a long list of haters, at least until they sign on for either the Bulldogs or the Tigers, and how dare a club build a conveyor belt of talented players that sees them winning premierships year after year? Of course, hate in this instance intensifies when youthful exuberance is perceived as arrogance, as Jarome Luai can well attest. Surely, he’ll be far more likeable when he heads towards the bottom of the table with the Tigers next year.

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 04: Jarome Luai of the Panthers runs the ball during the round 23 NRL match between Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm at BlueBet Stadium on August 04, 2023 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Jarome Luai. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The Roosters players, and to a lesser extent those from the Storm, also fit into this category. After all, it’s common knowledge that every Roosters player is being paid well over their salary cap entitlement, giving them an unfair advantage, and in the case of the Storm, they were infamously caught with the brown paper bags in their hands, and many fans just aren’t prepared to either forgive or forget. Just more envy I hear you say, and you’re probably right, but some fans love a conspiracy. Haters are just going to hate, right?


Possessing far too much personal talent is another way to get you onto some fans’ hate list, as no league supporter likes to see their team taken down by a player who can do it all with ease. Players like Reece Walsh and Nathan Cleary can not only win a game entirely on their own if they feel like but do so with an air of arrogance that makes them hard to like.

And that brings us to the thugs, grubs and nigglers. Every club has them, but some clubs like Souths, the Roosters and Melbourne seem to have more than their fair share. Some thugs and grubs just can’t help responding to the baiting by the nigglers, while others are just downright dirty players from the get-go who deliberately go out to hurt the opposition without any provocation. Any rugby league fan could no doubt rattle off a long list of opposition players who would probably benefit from a quiet word in the carpark after the game, and these mugs are on the top of the tree when it comes to players to hate.

Now, if you’re entirely new to this player hate thing, here’s some names you can safely drop into the conversation with your mates when required.

1. Clint Gutherson – One of the biggest referee whingers in the game. If he’s not careful he’ll poke someone’s eye out if he keeps waving his arms around all the time. His windmill double-act with Mitchell Moses is something to see.

2. Taane Milne – If there was a Dally M Thug of the Year medal Milne would be odds on to win it. Only Souths could think having Milne on your roster is a good idea.

3. Zac Lomax – Lomax has spent most of his overpaid career playing in second gear and in cockney rhyming slang, could best be described as a “merchant banker”. He’ll fit in fine at the Eels next year.

4. Latrell Mitchell – The most polarising player in the game. I’m not even sure that Souths’ fans like him at times, and his arrogance, cheap shots and apparent laziness make him the biggest target in the game.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 06: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs reacts following the round five NRL match between South Sydney Rabbitohs and New Zealand Warriors at Accor Stadium, on April 06, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Latrell Mitchell. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

5. Joseph Suaalii – Hard not to be green and envious of a youngster about to earn $4.8m over the next three years for touching the ball just two or three time a week.

6. Cody Walker – A constant niggler and dirty tricks merchant who never looks happy unless he’s upsetting the opposition.

7. Nathan Cleary – Too good, too wealthy, three premierships, plays for Penrith, Tik Tok….need I go on?

8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – Once upon a time the game was full of thugs like JWH but now he’s almost the last of a dying breed. How does he keep getting fined for sins that see other players suspended?

9. Reed Mahoney – One of the best nigglers in the game and fast becoming an irresistible magnet for the unhinged amongst the opposition. A graduate from the Michael Ennis Pest Academy.

10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona – NAS will no doubt become the biggest grub in the game when JWH retires. A player who could do with a lengthy suspension at some stage.


11. Hudson Young – Eye gouger…..enough said.

12. David Fifita – You knew that Lazy Davy would be here somewhere, and moving to the latte lapping Roosters next year isn’t going to make him any more popular in a hurry.

13. Victor Radley – Another Roosters’ cheap shot merchant who’s completed his apprenticeship under JWH, and choosing to play for England over Australia is not forgivable.

14. Harry Grant – Harry always has a wry smile on his face even when pushing the boundaries in order to gain an advantage for his team.

15. Matthew Lodge – Why any club would sign a player with his off-field record is a total mystery to me.

16. Jason Taumalolo – With three more years after this one on his multi-million dollar contract, JT 13 reduces his effort and output with each passing game. Could soon become the highest earning reserve grader since Josh Schuster.

17. Corey Horsburgh – Red head, Queenslander and a history of some grubby play doesn’t make him everyone’s favourite player.


So, who are the players you just love to hate?