Nowadays, we continue to see a large number of players who are capable of performing in many positions across the park. This is particularly true when it comes to second-rowers where many are able to turn out in the centres, in the front-row, at lock, which makes defining who is a “second-rower” problematic.
In ranking the top second-rowers in the game, I restricted the candidates solely to players whom started in the second-row more than any other position during the 2014 NRL season. As a result, a number of excellent players who have proven to be well adept in the second-row have been excluded, including former Dally M second-rower of the year winners Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker, Paul Gallen and young gun Aiden Guerra, all of whom would present very valid cases for inclusion in the list had they been eligible under the criteria decided upon.
- Simon Mannering (New Zealand Warriors)
The longstanding Warriors and Kiwi captain may not find himself in the spotlight as often as some of his contemporaries, but he remains one of the most consistent, hard-working players in the competition. Still just 28, Mannering, who debuted in 2005, has eclipsed the 200 game plateau, and is one of the most capped Kiwi internationals of all time, quickly closing in on Reuben Wiki’s record of 55 appearances. Previously seen as something of a “tackle bot”, Mannering showed some of the attacking exploits in 2014 that have made him a viable threat in the centres over the years as he cruised in for nine tries while making close to 30 tackles a game with over 90 metres before leading his country to Four Nations glory.
- Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys)
Many people are surprised when they realise that the Kiwi and Cowboys bulldozer is just 21 years old, it feels like we’ve been hearing about Taumalolo for a long time. That’s because we have, Taumalolo made his debut as a 17 year old back in 2010, and since then we’ve patiently waited for the man dubbed the “next Sonny Bill”. In 2014, we saw his coming out party, 348 hit-ups and 2889 punishing metres serving as the Cowboys battering ram, along with being a key component in the Kiwis triumphant Four Nations campaign. Taumalolo’s mix of his 191cm 113kg frame, coupled with enviable speed and footwork seldom seen in a man his size make him one of the most intimidating sights in the competition with the ball in hand.
- Matt Gillett (Brisbane Broncos)
26 year old Matt Gillett has only been on the scene since 2010 when he won rookie of the year, but it feels as though he’s been an anchor in the Broncos and Queensland sides for a long time. Having just topped the 100 game mark last season, Gillett has turned out for Australia, and already amassed nine Origin games, having played in all three Origin contests each year for the last three years. There’s a degree of smoothness in everything Gillett does, he’s a natural footy player, making the outstanding look so simple and basic. Adept anywhere on the field, in 2014 he showed his full repertoire scoring 10 tries, averaged 101 metres a game and 27 tackles.
- Beau Scott (Newcastle Knights)
The 2014 Dally M second-rower of the year is another whose name isn’t often in the limelight, but is tougher than overcooked Kangaroo and is as reliable and dependable as they come. His return to the Origin arena in 2014 played a large part in the Blues finally breaking their Origin drought, standing tall defensively while also lifting the physicality of the Blues with his no-nonsense approach, his exploits in Origin also led to his return to the international stage for Australia. Delivering consistency in a Knights team that struggled mightily for it, Scott also showed some spark in attack at times with 39 offloads in 20 appearances for the Knights along with five tries. Many were surprised to hear his name read out at Dally M time, but not those who serve beside him.
- Greg Bird (Gold Coast Titans)
One of the most polarising figures in the game, love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Greg Bird is one of the toughest players in the game, most hard working players in the game even if his at times underhanded tactics may leave you wanting to strangle him. Bird’s club sides may have struggled for success over the years, but his tenacity has never wavered, his follow me type approach makes him one of the better leaders in the game who rises to the occasion. These traits are best exemplified in the Origin arena where Bird has been the preeminent forward of the NSW pack for many years. He’s physical, aggressive, he gets under your skin, but yet has the skills to fill in in the halves if required, something he has done even at Origin level. When it comes to second-rowers, there’s none more annoying, but also none better than Greg Bird.