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Ranking Super League’s top 10 toughest players of all time

Choosing the ten toughest players to have played Super League is an unenviable task.

The sport itself pushes competitors to the mental, physical and emotional edge, yet some do stand out amongst their rivals.

Here are ten of those.

10. Thomas Leuluai

Without doubt the hardest hitting halfback in 25 years of Super League, Leuluai has put many an 18-stone prop on his back. Taking the statement ‘punching above your weight’ to an all new level, opposition forwards have often chosen to avoid the little Kiwi given his destructive defence. ‘Tommy’ has shed plenty of claret throughout his career, but remains undeterred and will continue to do so until he retires.

9. James Graham

This man would literally do anything and everything to win. Although the flame-haired enforcer enjoyed a stellar spell in the NRL, Graham was a mainstay in the Saints team during the early days and enjoyed a renaissance year in the twilight of his career. He brought a new dimension to the role of a front-rower, playing 80 minutes with more carries and tackles than any other player. Determined, durable and relentless, Graham defined tough in many ways.

8. Barrie McDermott

“Baz is gonna get ya” would be chanted almost every match from the South Stand at Headingley. ‘Big Barrie’ was not a player to get on the wrong side of and he would seemingly always have a running battle with a prop on the opposing team. No-nonsense, uncompressing and just generally a scary bloke, McDermott was willing to take in any ball, back up all his teammates and would leave blood, sweat and tears out on the pitch.

7. Stuart Fielden

Burst onto the Super League scene as an 18-year-old during the glory years at Bradford., Fielden more than matched it with the biggest forwards in the game and was selected for Great Britain at the tender age of 21. His relentless hit ups and fearless nature gave him a huge reputation which is exactly why Wigan signed him for a world record transfer fee in 2006.

6. Sean O’Loughlin

Throughout his two decades in Super League, O’Loughlin displayed toughness in countless ways. His stature alone was enough to strike fear into opponents, with many Wigan players down the years admitting they felt almost unbeatable when he brought the team out. Both psychically and mentally strong, ‘Lockers’ was a dominant figure and consistently set the example for his teammates to follow.

5. Gareth Ellis

Having finally hung up his boots for the last time at the age of 39, Ellis proved himself in both Super League and the NRL. Former Hull boss Lee Radford once said you could hear his hits from the stands – a statement many players and supporters vouched for during the years. Making almost unrivalled post-contact metres throughout his career, Ellis was the ultimate professional and the perfect rugby league role model.

4. Paul Sculthorpe

The former Great Britain captain was as tough as they come. He led from the front for well over a decade at St Helens, helping them win multiple honours while picking up many individual accolades in the process. One of only three men to win the Man of Steel award more than once, ‘Scully’ was made of granite and dominated many an Australian forward at international level.

3. Adrian Morley

‘Moz’ was the most feared player in rugby league for some time. The early days at Leeds saw him mix it with the best Super League had to offer, getting in his fair share of scraps. His six-year stint in the NRL made him revered by the Aussies, before returning home to become a legend at Warrington. Always the ‘first man in’, Morley was oblivious to danger and perhaps careless for his own safety at times, but it meant he was willing to do anything for the team and that’s a trait you can’t buy.

2. Jamie Peacock

Quite simply hard as nails. For almost two decades Peacock was unplayable and would give the opposition nightmares with his unrelenting nature. He was ceaseless and went out and played every game like it was his last, setting a fine example for his teammates, whether that was for Bradford, Leeds or England. ‘JP’ was a born winner, ending his trophy-laden career as Super League’s most successful ever player.

1. Andy Farrell

The ultimate Man of Steel in many people’s eyes. ‘Faz’ really did have it all and possessed  strength, courage and leadership in abundance. The former Great Britain captain’s consistency could be matched by few and his ability to produce his best in pressure situations highlighted his mental toughness. His physicality often came to the fore too as he was prepared to do the ugly side of the game despite his class. Farrell wore his heart on his sleeve and, in many instances, a bandage around his nose. A true warrior and deserving of this ‘toughest player’ title.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Michael

    March 3, 2021 at 6:30 pm

    A joke that Luke Robinson isn’t in this list

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