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Top five forwards in Super League history

Super League has seen some incredible forwards down the years, but who are the best? In this article we rank the top five forward players to have played in Super League since the inaugural season in 1996.

5. Gareth Ellis

Ellis came out of retirement as a 37-year-old in 2019 to fill in for one game after Hull FC were short of players – he went on to play for another two years! His second stint at professional rugby league came 16 months after his first where he built up an incredible legacy. Ellis broke through with Wakefield before a big move to Leeds allowed him to become a huge part of their golden generation – winning back-to-back Grand Finals with the Rhinos. He then went Down Under to join Wests Tigers, with his no-nonsense style going down a treat with the Sydney club’s fans as he won the Tigers’ Player of the Year award three years running.

Ellis then returned to Super League to help Hull FC end their Wembley hoodoo, winning back-to-back Challenge Cups in 2016 and 2017. ‘Gaz’ continued to make huge metres and produce bone-shattering big hits, despite his aging years and he will be remembered as a legendary player at all the clubs he represented.

4. James Graham

Despite spending a large chunk of his career playing in Australia for Canterbury Bulldogs and St George Illawarra Dragons, James Graham spent the top and tail of his illustrious playing days representing his hometown club St Helens in Super League. He was part of the Saints team that won the treble in 2006 before reaching a number of major finals on both sides of the world. Although fourth in this list, he would rank at number one for modern day players who have achieved greatness on both sides of the world, something made clear by bookmakers in Ireland. In his time, Graham built up a fearsome reputation and was also England and Great Britain captain for a period. He ended his career back at Saints in the best possible style as they beat Wigan in the 2020 Grand Final with a last-gasp try, meaning ‘Jammer’ bowed out with a league title in his final game of rugby league.

3. Paul Sculthorpe

At his peak Paul Sculthorpe was pretty much unplayable as he enjoyed a trophy-laden career and was the leader of a dominant St Helens team through the late 90’s and early 2000s. ‘Scully’ was a two-time Man of Steel winner and he epitomised everything you would want from your captain, leading by example both vocally and physically. He played 30 times for his country and in 2001 put in one of the greatest performances of any Great Britain forward in the first test victory against Australia – a display that made him well know down under. However, Sculthorpe, who also possessed superb skill and speed, rejected the advances of the NRL and despite an injury-hit last few years which cut his career short, he will be remembered as an exceptional all-round rugby league player who lit up the field every time he took to it.

2. Andy Farrell

Now an elite level coach in rugby union, Andy Farrell will always be remembered as a legend in rugby league when it comes to playing. He is a Wigan and Great Britain Rugby League legend and amassed well over 3,000 points in a glittering career that saw him win multiple trophies. The goal-kicking loose forward was a natural born leader and in 1996 was named Great Britain’s youngest ever captain at just 21. ‘Faz’ then won Super League’s Man of Steel award later in 96 and his career went from strength to strength from that point. He perhaps didn’t win the vast number of trophies his talents deserved, with the men either side of him in this list having double his number of winners medals, but Farrell was not only strong and durable, but he possessed superb natural skill and was one of the most talented players in the game for just short of two decades.

1. Jamie Peacock

It’s actually astonishing when you look at the number of trophies Jamie Peacock won in his career as he stood right at the heart of both Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos golden generations. ‘JP’ is Super League’s most successful player and when you look at his character it is very easy to see why. He consistently played at the top of one of the toughest sports for two decades, and he produced his best pretty much every time he stepped out onto a rugby league pitch. Durable, resilient and at times unstoppable, the 2003 Man of Steel was frighteningly strong and the way he floored ‘gobby’ Aussie prop Willie Mason in the 2006 Tri-Nations will never be forgotten. Peacock came out of retirement to try save Hull KR in 2016 and again put his body on the line and led by example, but he will be remembered for the times that preceded that, playing well over 500 games for club and country. Peacock is and will remain the greatest forward Super League has seen for some time.

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