Back in the day, when hookers wore a different number on their backs, they would actually contest a scrum, but their influence on games was limited to just winning the ball in a scrum and tackling. Fast forward a few of decades, and the crucial battle of the ruck and the emphasis on a fast play the ball and quick delivery from dummy half make the hookers one of the most important positions on the field. Here is Nothing But League’s top 5 hookers.
5.James Segeyaro, Penrith Panthers
Super quick and with great vision, Segeyaro has made a habit of beating veterans for the starting role, first at the North Queensland Cowboys when he unseated Aaron Payne, and then at the Panthers when he overtook Kevin Kingston as the club’s number one hooker. The Papua New Guinea representative has been in great form over the last couple of seasons and was named 2014 Dally M Hooker of the Year.
4.Robbie Farah, Wests Tigers
The heart and soul of the Tigers for many years, Farah is a great playmaker and has often had to take on the role of steering the side around, with a lack of quality halves at the club in recent seasons. A veteran of 221 NRL games, 11 State of Origins for NSW and 8 Tests for Australia, Farah is still one of the leading players in the game with a strong work ethic and smart kicking game.
3.Jake Friend, Sydney Roosters
Back in 2009, Friend was sacked by the Roosters following an altercation with a taxi driver. Fast forward to today, and he is one of the best hookers in the game, having put his off-field indiscretions behind him and he is very consistent. With a premiership ring to his name, and a clean-cut image, Friend looks likely to take over from Cameron Smith at Origin and possibly Test level when the veteran retires. Alongside Mitchell Pearce, he will captain the club in 2105, quite an achievement for a player who looked to be on the scrap heap just 6 years ago.
2.Isaac Luke, South Sydney Rabbitohs
It seems that wherever Isaac Luke goes, success follows, such is his influence on those around him. In his debut year of 2007, the South Sydney Rabbtiohs made the finals for the first time since 1989, followed by preliminary finals appearances in 2012 and 2013. They won their first premiership in 43 years in 2014, with victory over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.Luke has been one of the key figures in making the Rabbitohs an elite team over the last 3-4 years and he has continued his brilliance at international level, helping New Zealand to 2008 World Cup success and the 2010 and 2015 Four Nations titles.
1. Cameron Smith, Melbourne Storm
Over the past 13 seasons, Cameron Smith has revolutionised the role of the hooker, from a reliable workhorse, to another attacking weapon and one that controls the flow of the game around the ruck. Since making his NRL debut in 2002, Smith has won a plethora of individual and team trophies and has been the Storm, QLD, and Australian captain for some time now. A brilliant attacking player with the vision of a half back, his combination with Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater is the best in the business, and Smith has set the standard for all modern-day hookers to reach.