Stats Insider: The toughest men to tackle

From the dawn of rugby league one of the classic questions thrown at elite players has been: Who is the hardest player to tackle? <br><br>In recent years the likes of Petero Civoniceva and Tonie Carroll would be served up as common answers due to their rock-hard physiques and hard-running styles. The likes of Matt Bowen would also feature due to his ability to turn on a coin and accelerate and sidestep quicker than a politician in the midst of a scandal.<br><br>These three great stars are still involved in the NRL and are still extremely tough to bring down – but, according to exclusive statistics, they do not fall into the competition’s top 10 when it comes to tackle-breaks – which remain the perfect measure of just how hard it can be to bring a man down.<br><br>It would come as no surprise to many league fans to see Wests Tigers behemoth winger Taniela Tuiaki as the player leading the way in the category so far in 2009. This man-mountain of pure size, strength, speed and skill would be hard enough to bring down as a front-rower running into the teeth of the defence, so what chance do opposition wingers have when he comes at them one-on-one? <br><br>According to his official NRL bio Tuiaki tips the scales at 105 kilograms and is 183 centimetres tall – but those who try to tackle the big man swear he’s closer to 120 kilos! <br><br>Having missed the early season Test match against the Kangaroos after the Kiwis stayed loyal to their World Cup squad, Tongan-born Tuiaki – with a whopping 96 tackle-breaks to his name – wants nothing more than to find his way into the New Zealand squad for the end-of-year tour to Great Britain and France. <br><br>Imagine the Kiwis having Tuiaki on one wing and Manu Vatuvei on the other… ouch!<br><br>Only two tackle-breaks behind is fellow Kiwi and the man keeping Tuiaki out of a Test jumper, Roosters fullback Sam Perrett. He might be much smaller than the Tigers’ flanker at just 92 kilograms but Perrett has the heart of a lion and the agility of a cheetah. He takes countless runs from dummy-half as well as making good ground from kick returns and is rarely brought down by the first defender.<br><br>Rounding out the top three is Test, New South Wales and Sea Eagles pocket rocket Anthony Watmough. <br><br>Watmough has 93 tackle-breaks to be clearly the hardest forward to bring down in the competition, with the next best non-back being Newcastle’s Zeb Taia who with 60 tackle-breaks is ranked equal 18th in the NRL.<br><br>Manly back-rower Watmough has a low centre of gravity and his hip shape is perfect for bumping off defenders. When you add his speed to the mix and some great strength it’s no wonder he is so difficult to topple. <br><br>St George Illawarra fullback Darius Boyd is next on the list (85 tackle-breaks) and while it comes as no surprise to those in his corner, the truth is you’d never pick Boyd out of a line-up if you were clueless to his talents. With all due respect to the Australian and Queensland winger, Boyd doesn’t look like the type of player who would burst right through you and even watching him run you don’t get the air of anticipation you might get with a Tuiaki- or Bowen-type player. But somehow Boyd does beat the first man over and over again. His subtle footwork and hidden strength make him one of the buys of the season.<br><br>Parramatta superstar Jarryd Hayne comes in fifth at the present time with 84 tackle-breaks, ahead of Billy Slater (80), Wade McKinnon (78), Brett Morris (72), Kurt Gidley (69) and Luke Patten (69).<br><br>The list is obviously littered with fullbacks, as these players get a chance to run at a staggered line and pinpoint who they’ll run at but you still have to be good enough to break on through.<br><br>A glance at the top tackle-breakers by position (see below) reveals a big surprise with the inclusion of young Sharks prop Kade Snowden leading the front-rowers. Snowden has always been a player of promise and it appears he is starting to fulfil it as his opponents struggle to pull his strong frame down. He leads from Eels cult hero Fuifui Moimoi and Rabbitohs’ skipper Roy Asotasi.<br><br>Young Raiders centre Jarrod Croker also deserves special mention for being the second most prolific centre in his rookie year, only fractionally behind Greg Inglis.<br><br><b>Tackle-Breaks Top 10</b><br><br>1. Taniela Tuiaki (Wests Tigers) 96; 2. Sam Perrett (Roosters) 94; 3. Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles) 93; 4. Darius Boyd (Dragons) 85; 5. Jarryd Hayne (Eels) 84; 6. Billy Slater (Storm) 80; 7. Wade McKinnon (Warriors) 78; 8. Brett Morris (Dragons) 72; =9. Kurt Gidley (Knights) 69; =9. Luke Patten (Bulldogs) 69. <br><br><b>Best Three In Each Position</b><br><br>Fullback: Sam Perrett (Roosters) 94, Darius Boyd (Dragons) 85, Jarryd Hayne (Eels) 84.<br><br>Wing: Taniela Tuiaki (Wests Tigers) 96, Brett Morris (Dragons) 72, Blake Ferguson (Sharks) 66.<br><br>Centre: Greg Inglis (Storm) 68, Jarrod Croker (Raiders) 66, Michael Jennings (Panthers) 60.<br><br>Five-eighth: Lance Hohaia (Warriors) 68, Ben Roberts (Bulldogs) 53), Jamie Soward (Dragons) 49.<br><br>Halfback: Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) 46, Tim Moltzen (Wests Tigers) 44, Ben Hornby (Dragons) 41.<br><br>Prop: Kade Snowden (Sharks) 42, Fuifui Moimoi (Eels) 37, Roy Asotasi (Rabbitohs) 34.<br><br>Hooker: Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) 55, Paul Aiton (Panthers) 49, Ian Henderson (Warriors) 35.<br><br>Second row: Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles) 93, Zeb Taia (Knights) 60, Bronson Harrison (Raiders) 50.<br><br>Lock: Corey Parker (Broncos) 58, Glenn Stewart (Sea Eagles) 46, Luke Lewis (Panthers) 35.<br><br><b>Your Team’s Top Tackle-Buster</b><br><br>Broncos: Corey Parker 58 (=24th in NRL); Bulldogs: Luke Patten 69 (=9th in NRL); Cowboys: Matt Bowen 59 (=22nd in NRL); Dragons: Darius Boyd 85 (4th in NRL); Eels: Jarryd Hayne 84 (5th in NRL); Knights: Kurt Gidley 69 (=9th in NRL); Panthers: Michael Jennings 60 (=18th in NRL); Rabbitohs: Nathan Merritt 51 (32nd in NRL); Raiders: Jarrod Croker 66 (=13th in NRL); Roosters: Sam Perrett 94 (2nd in NRL); Sea Eagles: Anthony Watmough 93 (3rd in NRL); Sharks: Blake Ferguson 66 (=13th in NRL); Storm: Billy Slater 80 (6th in NRL); Titans: Preston Campbell 64 (16th in NRL); Warriors: Wade McKinnon 78 (7th in NRL); Wests Tigers: Taniela Tuiaki 96 (1st in NRL).