Everyone knows that rugby league players are tough, but sometimes that toughness goes above and beyond what is expected of a sportsman. Here are the five most heroic individual performances in Super League history.
Almost every man read of Paul Wood’s experience during the 2012 Grand Final and cringed in horror. The then 30-year-old ruptured a testicle during Warrington’s Grand Final defeat by Leeds, injuring his pride and joy just a minute into the second-half – an event which led to Wood having to have one removed. Even more remarkable was the fact that the forward stayed on the field for an extra 20 minutes before being hauled off by Tony Smith.
A Super League record for the most tackles was held at 69 by both Malcolm Alker in 2010 and Danny Houghton in 2014. But, that tackle count was shredded by Wigan youngster Morgan Smithies when he was just 18 back in 2019. In the first round of play-off fixtures, Smithies made a gargantuan 72 tackles in their clash with Salford Red Devils. It’s a record which baffled viewers, especially when considering that the forward was only on the field for 62 minutes.
One particular image of Andy Farrell is engrained in most rugby league fans’ mind: that of a brown strapping covering the forward’s face from ear-to-ear as Wigan beat Leeds 26-22 in a nailbiting affair. Farrell had collided heavily with Wigan teammate Danny Sculthorpe in just the 31st minute and, despite leaving the field in a bad way, returned after half-time to lead the Warriors to victory. Hardly being able to breathe through his nose, Farrell remarkably completed the game, playing masterfully to help Wigan across the line.
In 2002, Australian Jamie Ainscough got more than he bargained for when tackling Martin Gleeson in a fiery Wigan-Saints derby. One of Gleeson’s teeth had become embedded in Ainscough’s arm, with the three-quarter having it stitched without realising the full extent of his injury. Ainscough continued to play, until complaints about lingering pain led to an x-ray. The centre’s arm had refused to heal with the tooth still inside, creating an infection. In fact, the Aussie was close to losing his arm and retired at the end of the 2003 season because of it. You can only imagine the pain he went through during the game and after.
The former Leeds winger has had his fair share of horrendous injuries, but one which was perhaps the most harrowing came in 2010 when Ben Jones-Bishop was playing for Harlequins RL against Wigan when he clashed heads with Lee Mossop. Jones-Bishop had fractured his skull yet continued to play on for the 25 minutes up to half-time and it was only until the winger complained of a headache that doctors fully examined his head. Incredibly, Brian McDermott revealed in the post-match press conference that Jones-Bishop had played on “with a hole in his head”.