In the illustrious history of the National Rugby League (NRL), there have been forwards who have redefined the game with their exceptional skills, unwavering commitment, and sheer physical dominance. This article pays tribute to the 5 best NRL forwards of all time, exploring their career statistics, physical attributes, defining career moments, and what made each of them truly special.
- Cameron Smith
Career Stats: Cameron Smith’s career is a masterclass in longevity and consistency. As the Melbourne Storm’s legendary hooker, Smith amassed an incredible 430 appearances, the most in NRL history. His career stats include 108 try assists, 13,289 tackles, and 2,785 points, setting records for a hooker and confirming his status as one of the greatest players in NRL history.
Player Physical Stats: Standing at 6’0″ and weighing around 202 pounds, Smith was not the biggest forward on the field, but his incredible football IQ, pinpoint passing, and impeccable game management made him a standout performer.
Best Career Moment: Smith’s crowning achievement was captaining the Melbourne Storm to multiple NRL premierships, solidifying his legacy as one of the most successful and influential players in the game.
What Made Him Special: Smith’s exceptional leadership, tactical acumen, and unmatched durability set him apart. His ability to control the tempo of the game and make crucial decisions under pressure were unparalleled.
- Glenn Lazarus
Career Stats: Glenn Lazarus’s career spanned three decades and three different clubs, during which he secured four NRL premierships, earning him a place among the all-time greats. He played 254 NRL games and displayed incredible consistency in his performances.
Player Physical Stats: Lazarus was a formidable presence on the field, standing at 6’3″ and weighing approximately 245 pounds. His size, combined with his work rate, made him a dominant force in the forwards.
Best Career Moment: Lazarus’s most memorable career moment was becoming the first player to win premierships with three different clubs, an accomplishment that may never be equaled.
What Made Him Special: Lazarus’s ability to adapt to different teams and his unyielding work ethic made him an invaluable asset to every side he represented. He was a reliable performer in big games and a true leader on and off the field.
- Paul Gallen
Career Stats: Paul Gallen’s career with the Cronulla Sharks spanned 19 seasons, during which he played 348 NRL games. His stats include 64 tries and an impressive 1,463 tackles.
Player Physical Stats: Gallen was a rugged forward, standing at 6’0″ and weighing approximately 235 pounds. His physicality and relentless work rate in the middle of the field set him apart.
Best Career Moment: Gallen’s crowning achievement was captaining the Cronulla Sharks to their first-ever NRL premiership in 2016, ending decades of heartbreak for the club and its fans.
What Made Him Special: Gallen’s never-say-die attitude, unwavering commitment, and leadership qualities made him an inspirational figure in the NRL. He was known for leading from the front and never backing down from a challenge.
- Steve Menzies
Career Stats: Steve Menzies is renowned for his remarkable try-scoring prowess as a forward, with 180 tries to his name. He played 349 NRL games and represented the Manly Sea Eagles and the Northern Eagles.
Player Physical Stats: Menzies stood at 6’1″ and weighed around 213 pounds. While not the biggest forward, his incredible footballing instincts and athleticism allowed him to be in the right place at the right time.
Best Career Moment: Menzies’s best career moment was winning two NRL premierships with the Manly Sea Eagles in 1996 and 2008. His try-scoring ability made a significant impact on both occasions.
What Made Him Special: Menzies’s unique ability to find the try line as a forward was unparalleled. His football IQ and versatility to play both as a second-rower and in the centers made him a nightmare for opposition defenses.
- Arthur Beetson
Career Stats: Arthur Beetson was a pioneering figure in the NRL, playing 318 games for Balmain Tigers, Eastern Suburbs Roosters, and Parramatta Eels. His impact extended beyond the statistics, as he was a trailblazer for Indigenous players in the league.
Player Physical Stats: Standing at 6’1″ and weighing around 238 pounds, Beetson was a powerful and skillful forward. His ball-playing ability revolutionized the role of a forward in rugby league.
Best Career Moment: Beetson’s career pinnacle was leading the Eastern Suburbs Roosters to their first premiership in 27 years in 1974, and he remains an iconic figure in the club’s history.
What Made Him Special: Beetson’s groundbreaking style of play and leadership as a captain were revolutionary. He was the first Indigenous player to captain an Australian national side and inspired generations of players.
The 5 best NRL forwards of all time have left an indelible mark on the sport, each in their own unique way. Whether it’s Cameron Smith’s longevity, Glenn Lazarus’s adaptability, Paul Gallen’s unwavering commitment, Steve Menzies’s try-scoring prowess, or Arthur Beetson’s pioneering spirit, these players exemplify the qualities that make rugby league such a compelling and enduring sport. They are not only legends of the game but also inspirations to future generations of players and fans alike, etching their names in NRL history with their exceptional contributions.