When it comes to professional rugby league, the National Rugby League (NRL) has the most elite players in the field of rugby sports. The NRL has a long history of producing top-tier athletes. Naming the most successful player of all time can be subjective because no universally recognized standards determine the most outstanding or successful NRL player. However, most elements that are frequently considered when choosing an NRL player’s brilliance includes game performance, achievements, influence, and innovation.
A player’s on-field accomplishments are the most evident criterion for selecting the greatest NRL player. This covers statistics like try scoring, kicking, tackling, breaking of lines of scrimmage, and overall impact on the game. At the same time, great NRL players are frequently renowned for their dependable performances over an extended period. Consistency is frequently a sign of a player’s toughness, fitness, and capacity to sustain a high level of performance throughout their career. Some players have a reputation for having creative playing styles, introducing novel tactics or methods that significantly change how the game is played. In addition, Rugby betting allows fans to bring an additional element of excitement to the game. Fans can be place a bet at French betting sites, which makes watching rugby even more exciting
Another factor enthusiasts look for in a great rugby player is their influence on their team and the overall game. This involves their leadership, capacity to motivate others, and contribution to their team’s achievement. Moreover, the players’ titles, honors, and accolades can also be considered when considering the most successful NRL players of all time. Despite these common standards set by sports enthusiasts, the ultimate determination of the greatest NRL player of all time is based on subjective judgments and prejudices and the precise criteria by which their performances were judged. In this article, we will examine the careers of the top ten NRL players of all time and discuss their remarkable statistics.
1. Cameron Smith
When rugby league history was written, Smith would be remembered as the most accomplished player. Cameron Smith is primarily considered among the greatest legendary players in the National Rugby League. He is without question the best player in the first 20 years of the NRL because he is both tough and smart rugby player. Smith played far more club games than any other man, and he played his 400th in 2019. He has made 56 Test appearances for Australia, which ranks second all-time, and 42 Origin appearances for Queensland, which resulted in 11 series victories.
Despite every game analyst’s funny comment on Smith’s physique or lack of it, he has demonstrated that the intellect is the most crucial muscle needed to compete in the NRL, regardless of skinfold tests and weight training measurements. No player has ever been as effective at controlling the tempo of a game from the dummy half as Smith has, and perhaps no one will ever match his consistency in producing winning football. No other player has significantly impacted a team’s ability to win more than the hooker, who also worked well with their halfback, five-eighth, and fullback.
Many honors were bestowed upon him while he was a member of the Melbourne Storm, including two World Cups, two titles, four grand finals, two Dally M Medals, seven Dally M Hooker of the Year awards, four Wally Lewis Medals, three Captain of the Year awards, one RLIF Player of the Year award, and one Harry Sunderland medal. Additionally, he has played in 430 NRL games, which is a historical record. Smith also has the record for most points scored in NRL history with 2,786.
2. Jonathan Thurston
Johnathan Thurston, the guy who made North Queensland famous, was voted the best player during his NRL era by the fans. Thurston began his career at the Bulldogs, where he was a member of the 2004 champion squad, before returning home to Townsville to finish his job with the Cowboys. Whether sporting the No. 7 for his club or the No. 6 for Queensland and Australia, the wiry young guy with the vibrant headwear become one of the best halves in the sport’s history. Thurston played a significant role in Queensland’s remarkable 11 straight series triumphs and the Cowboys’ only championship in 2015.
While a premiership remained elusive for the superstar, despite his achievements at the Origin level, until he won the 2015 Grand Final with one of the most memorable plays in NRL history, Thurston, who is now undoubtedly one of the game’s superstars, acknowledged the fact that he was initially passed over because he was too little inspired him to become a legend.
Thurston played in 323 games, 37 Origins, and 38 Tests, winning two championships in 2004 and 2015. In addition, he won the Wally Lewis Medal in 2008, the Clive Churchill Medal in 2015, the Dally M Medal four times, the Dally M Halfback of the Year three times, the Dally M Captain of the Year three times, and the Golden Boot three times. He is most likely the most skilled player and intimidating opponent. He’s a crowd favorite who, donates his headgear to young fans; he’s a little guy who rules a game made for giants and thrives under pressure. In Origin II, he kicked the game-winning conversion in a play that lives with NSW supporters forever.
3. Andrew “Joey” Johns
Andrew Johns is considered one of the most electrifying players ever to grace a football field. Andrew Johns, better known by his nickname “Joey,” spent his entire professional career with the Newcastle Knights. The legendary halfback helped Newcastle win two championships, saving the club from extinction. He also helped the NSW Origin team win a series. He won two premierships and two Dally M Medals and is widely considered the game’s most outstanding halfback. Johns set the records for most points scored by a halfback in a season with 279 and most goals scored in a season with 121 goals, both of which are still undefeated. Despite his incredible natural talent, Johns worked harder than any other athlete to develop his extensive skill set. His kicking game was scientific, and his passing was unparalleled.
Johns went above and beyond the halfback position, earning him a spot on the Team Of The Century and making him the eighth Immortal in the game. Every time he had the ball, whether through his superb kicking, precise passing, or potent running game, he posed a threat to any opposing team. Johns played under arguably more pressure and criticism than any other player in the modern period, yet he did so with ease.
He gave Knights supporters many memorable plays, including sideline conversions to win games, late comebacks, and blowing teams off the field in 20 minutes, and he also pushed his teammates to go down the blindside when the field goal appeared the only play that made sense. He was unquestionably the greatest defender to ever play the position in modern times, routinely thrashing opponents’ strikers who dared to come after him. He was, without a doubt, the top player in the sport from 1998 to 2002, and he inspired others to emulate him to help the team succeed.
4. Darren Lockyer
Lockyer, a former player with the Brisbane Broncos, is primarily considered to be among the league’s all-time greats. He set a record by becoming the most decorated player in Australian rugby league history. He won four premierships and three Players of the Year awards. Lockyer scored 1,191 points for the Brisbane Broncos, setting a record. Lockyer began his career with the Broncos as a fullback, quickly rising to prominence as a premier defender. However, after he switched to the No. 6 shirt, his play truly blossomed. Lockyer improved his sprinting and passing as he played for his state and country. Still, his fierce competitive spirit was always his greatest strength. Lockyer was a leader by example, and he was never beaten.
Along with Greg Inglis, he was the only player to hold the title of the best player in the world at two distinct positions. Lockyer is the first player in history to receive the Golden Boot title at fullback and five-eighth. He excelled for Australia in the five-eighth and fullback jerseys, winning premierships in both positions. Darren Lockyer altered the fullback position before Billy Slater. With speed unmatched in the game and ball-handling skills that could compete with any top-line playmaker, Lockyer was virtually impossible to stop when he reached his peak in 1998.
He always came up with excellent play when his team needed it the most, regardless of the level at which he played. With late-game field goals and numerous match-winning decisions to send teammates over for tries, so many of Brisbane’s best moments bear his imprint. His Ashes performance against Great Britain in 2003, when more than 30 players were sidelined due to injuries, is legendary. He broke the hearts of the British in three straight Test matches. He retired as the Kangaroos’ most-capped player (59 Tests) and best try scorer (35), leading Queensland with distinction throughout a dominant era.
5. Greg Inglis
Greg Inglis was a certified phenomenon in every sense of the word from the moment he stepped foot on an NRL field. Inglis began his professional athletic career with the Melbourne Storm, entering the scene in the late 2000s as the ideal counterbalance to players like Smith, Slater, and Cronk. The superstar later transferred to South Sydney, where he helped bring Redfern its first championship since 1971. Greg Inglis has developed into one of the greatest fullbacks in history and possibly the finest center of the contemporary era. He was undoubtedly the most unstoppable player of the first 20 years of the NRL. The most terrifying and beautiful thing to see on a rugby league field is Inglis in full flight.
He began to terrorize teams at every level as a wiry 18-year-old and showed tremendous promise. During his prime as a professional rugby player, he bagged the following prestigious awards Golden Boot, Clive Churchill, Wally Lewis, and Harry Sunderland. Additionally, he also received the award of Dally M Rep Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009, and Dally M Five Eighth of the Year winners. He played for Queensland in 10 Origin and 15 Test matches.
The move of Inglis to South Sydney rank as the top individual signing of the NRL era, comparable to that of Thurston. The Rabbitohs won their first premiership in 43 years in 2014 after he rapidly raised the club’s prominence and turned them into a contender. He is a part of the elite club of 250 club games, 30 international games, 100 tries, and a premiership with Slater and Fittler.
6. Billy Slater
Billy Slater’s joining the Melbourne Storm had assisted in transforming the team into a ruthless winning machine. Billy Slater was a member of the Storm and Queensland golden generation. He is one of the most remarkable players who made an incredible record of 319 games, 31 Origins, 30 Tests, and two premierships in 2012 and 2017. He also managed to bag prestigious awards such as two Clive Churchill Medals during the 2009 and 2017 seasons, one Dally M Medal in 2011, three Dally M Fullbacks of the Year in 2008, 2011, and 2017, one Dally M Representative Player of the Year in 2010, one Golden Boot Award, and 2 Wally Lewis Medals. Without question, he is the best fullback of the past 20 years, if not all-time. Slater raised Darren Lockyer’s standard for the position in the modern game to an unattainable altitude that may never be surpassed.
Throughout their careers, Slater worked effectively alongside Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, winning two NRL championships. He always maintained a full pace and appeared to have excellent timing for where to be and when to run. The fabled account of his driving 20 hours for a reserve grade trial when he received five tries exemplifies his devotion to his art.
Slater could instantly arrive on any square meter of turf on any NRL field to complete a fantastic Melbourne try. He has always succeeded in making a broken defensive line on a kick-chase pay dearly. With 190 tries scored to go along with his two championships, he ranks second all-time in try scoring. He has won an astounding 70% of his club games for the Storm and hasn’t been a part of an Australian squad that has lost since 2010. On top of the absurd level of excellence, he played a crucial role in eight Queensland series victories during a successful career that included dominating Melbourne, Queensland, and Australia; he was one of the greatest defensive line generals and an attacking master. Billy Slater won’t ever appear again. He is a part of the elite club of 250 club games, 30 international games, 100 tries, and a premiership with Greg Inglis and Brad Fittler.
7. Brad Fittler
One of the most comprehensive and adaptable players to ever play the game was Fittler. He began playing for the Panthers as a schoolboy in the centers. Soon after, he was representing New South Wales and Australia. Before joining the Roosters, where he became one of the best five-eighths in the sport’s history, he won premierships with the Panthers. Fittler, who was occasionally forced into the pack at the representative level, dazzled with his footwork, pace, and passing ability while still being able to defend with the forwards.
Moreover, Fitter had also set records for 336 games, 31 Origins, and 38 Tests. He got two premierships; the Rothmans Medal; two Dally M Center of the Years, one Dally M Lock of the Years, three Dally M Five-Eighths of the Years, and the Golden Boot Award in 2000. Brad Fittler led his club and state to impressive victories after memorable victories, making him one of the best leaders to ever compete in the NRL.
Fittler was only 18 years old when he won his maiden premiership. Fittler’s 38 Test appearances for the Kangaroos, in which he scored 17 tries, demonstrate how magnificent he was globally after serving as one of the game’s most motivating leaders. Fittler has had great success as a coach, leading NSW to two consecutive State of Origin series victories.
8. Cooper Cronk
The best athletes always find a way to finish strong, and Cooper Cronk is doing just that during his final campaign with the Melbourne Storm. In a sport frequently dominated by pure natural athletes, Cronk is the NRL’s best illustration of the adage “practice makes perfect” thanks to his obsessive training philosophy. He is the game’s most successful halfback at the club, state, and international levels. Unsurprisingly, Cronk ended his Melbourne career with a premiership and a World Cup victory. As the best organizing No. 7 in the game, Cronk is a reliable player capable of producing magic moments.
Cronk established the following notable NRL records 38 Tests (16 tries), 22 Origins, 372 games, 5 Dally M Halfback of the Year awards (2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016), and four premierships (2012), 2017, 2018, and 2019; Clive Churchill Medal (2012); 2 Dally M Medals (2013, 2016); and Golden Boot Award (2016). Unquestionably successful, Cronk played a crucial role in the last three NRL championships, and that is most definitely no coincidence.
Brad Fittler commended Cronk’s incredible work ethic. Cronk has been the ultimate fighter for the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters. According to him, Cooper’s most significant accomplishment was making the most of himself. Cronk led the Roosters in the Grand Final after departing the Storm at the end of 2017 while wearing the No. 23 jersey and nursing a significant shoulder injury that would require surgery.
9. Jason Taumalolo
Cooper Cronk and Taumalolo shared the Dally M Medal in 2016. In March of the same YearYear, Taumalolo inked a hefty 10-year contract with the Cowboys. The 24-year-old lock has improved in some way since then. Taumalolo took it upon himself to lead from the front when teammate Matt Scott was injured for the season, and he’s done that like no other forward, racking up the most yardage of any player in the NRL with an absurd 200 meters per game. Given his exceptional combination of physical fitness, footwork, and raw power, it is easy to understand why the Cowboys will be constructing their squad around Taumalolo for the foreseeable future.
He established a fantastic record with 182 games, 23 Tests, a premiership (2015), the Dally M Medal (2016), and three consecutive years as the Dally M Lock of the Year (2015, 2016, and 2018). North Queensland Cowboys great Jason Taumalolo is the youngest player on this list. According to Andrew Johns, Taumalolo’s extraordinary combination of size, speed, and athleticism has made him a force to be reckoned with. According to Johns, he moves around with the agility of a big man who weighs 90 kg.
According to Phil Gould, Taumalolo’s career is a fantastic example of perseverance for young players who are learning to play while seeing him experience the highs and lows of the game. If you recall, Jason was dynamic throughout the Under-20s competition. Even when he initially entered his first YearYear in the league, he appeared to have any potential. He emerged from being a rookie and began to put his skill forward, believing in himself. He also stopped listening to people criticize him.
10. Wally Lewis
Australian-born former professional rugby league footballer Wally Lewis is hailed as one of the game’s all-time greats. He was born in Hawthorne, Queensland, Australia, on December 1, 1959. Lewis played for the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Chargers between 1980 and 1992, leading Queensland to the State of Origin throne in the 1980s and winning two Dally M Medals.
Lewis’ domination in the State of Origin and international rugby league led many to rank him higher. Still, at the NRL level, his career reached a different height than others. Before stints with the Broncos and Gold Coast Seagulls, Lewis had his best years in the Queensland club league. He was a game-winning ball runner with a long, deadly passing game at his peak. Additionally, he had among the best short-kicking skills ever.
Lewis was a skilled player who could play in the halves, centers, and the back row. On the field, he was renowned for his toughness, originality, and leadership, garnering the name “The King” and the respect of spectators and other players. Throughout his career, Lewis received numerous individual and group honors, including the Dally M Medal for the top player in the NRL in 1984, 1986, and 1988. In 1984 and 1988, he also took home the Rugby League World Golden Boot Award. Between 1982 and 1991, Lewis participated in 33 State of Origin games for Queensland, scoring ten tries and leading the team to eight series victories.
Lewis worked as a television commentator, coach, and head coach of the Gold Coast Chargers in the NRL after his playing career ended in 1994. He was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Queensland Rugby League nominated him to their Team of the Century in 2000. He continues to be regarded as a rugby league legend and an inspiration to upcoming generations of players.
In conclusion, throughout rugby league history, the National Rugby League has been blessed by the presence of the most brilliant and successful players. These players have not only shown their extraordinary skills on the field, but they have also shown that they are leaders, resilient, and committed to excelling. Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Wally Lewis, Darren Lockyer, and Andrew Johns are some examples of the best players in NRL history who have left an indelible mark on the sport and inspired subsequent the younger generations of players. Taumalolo and Cronk are also among those guys. Their accomplishments and contributions have permanently established them as game legends. They will continue to be honored by fans and others passionate about rugby league in every corner of the globe.