It is one thing to score a lot of tries but it is another altogether to do it consistently – statistics reveal a handful of the game’s current stars are doing all they can to leave their footprints on the game’s history books.
St George Illawarra winger Brett Morris has 17 tries in 16 games this year and Penrith’s star centre Michael Jennings has tallied 14 in 13, giving them a better than a try-a-game average in 2009. But how do they compare when pitted against the history of this great game? How are their career strike rates tracking against the likes of noted try scorers Ken Irvine, Harold Horder, Reg Gasnier, Nathan Blacklock or Dave Brown?
Morris crossed for an impressive double against the Warriors last weekend to move his career tally to 37 tries from just 53 games, which gives him a strike rate of 0.70 – the third best of any currently active player in the NRL (with a minimum 20 tries).
Jennings blazed over the line three times against the Cowboys to move his career mark to 41 tries in 59 games, the fourth best of all current NRL stars at 0.69.
This sits him just behind injured Bronco Israel Folau, who in his short career has already crossed for 48 tries in just 66 games to be at 0.73.
But the top dog of the current crop of players by far is the injured Sea Eagles custodian Brett Stewart. Out with a knee injury until Round 24, Stewart has only played two games this season – yet has five tries! His career tally is an ultra impressive 97 tries from 114 games to be batting at 0.85, the same rate exciting Dragon Blacklock carved out in his 142-game career.
While those numbers sound great, how do they compare with the record books? With 20 tries set as the minimum standard, Stewart, the game’s current best, only comes in at equal 22nd. And no, it’s not the above-mentioned champions of our game who lead the way: it is in fact former South Sydney premiership winger Les Brennan who has the honour of the game’s best strike rate.
In his two seasons at the Rabbitohs in 1954-55, Brennan crossed the line 32 times in just 24 games to post an impressive 1.33 try-scoring strike rate. While obviously his career was shorter than others, historical reports have Brennan as one of the game’s great finishers.
Another Souths player, Don Manson, who played in the 1930s is next on the list with 24 tries in 21 games to be at 1.14.
But perhaps the most impressive is the man officially at number three: Harold Horder, the South Sydney and North Sydney great who played from 1912 to 1924 is arguably one of the game’s best wingers who must have been millimetres away from being included in the Team of the Century last year.
In a massive 136 premiership games, Horder crossed for 152 tries (and kicked 150 goals for good measure) to post a strike rate of 1.12. To be able to be this prolific, for that long, shows why he was lauded as the game’s best winger in those formative years and why almost a century later he is still revered as a hero among the fans of the Bears and Rabbitohs in particular.
The great Dragon Reg Gasnier also managed to score more than a try a game (seven players in history have done this, four others scored one a match over a career) with his tally reading 127 tries from 125 premiership games and a 1.02 strike rate. (See below to find who else makes the top 20 of all time.)
In terms of the 2009 season, others to impress outside of Jennings and Morris are Brett’s twin brother Josh, who has 13 tries from 13 games for the Bulldogs for a 1.00 average. Then there is Bulldog team-mate Bryson Goodwin (15 tries from 16 games at 0.94), Wests Tigers man mountain winger Taniela Tuiaki (16 tries from 18 games at 0.89), Folau (12 tries in 14 games at 0.86) and Nathan Merritt (14 tries in 17 games at 0.82).
All-Time Top-20 Try-Scoring Strike Rates (20-try minimum)
Top-20 Best Current Players (20-try minimum)
0.85 – Brett Stewart (Manly): 97 tries in 115 games; 0.73 – Israel Folau (Melbourne & Brisbane): 48 tries in 66 games; 0.70 – Brett Morris (St George Illawarra): 37 tries in 53 games; 0.69 – Michael Jennings (Penrith): 41 tries in 59 games; 0.66 – Greg Inglis (Melbourne): 59 tries in 90 games; 0.65 – David Williams (Manly): 20 tries in 31 games, Shaun Kenny-Dowell (Roosters): 33 tries in 51 games; 0.64 – Rhys Wesser (Penrith & South Sydney): 114 tries in 179 games; 0.63 – Billy Slater (Melbourne): 93 tries in 148 games; 0.62 – Nathan Merritt (South Sydney & Cronulla): 79 tries in 129 games; 0.60 – Manu Vatuvei (Warriors): 53 tries in 89 games, Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta): 45 tries in 75 games; 0.58 – Wendell Sailor (Brisbane & St George Illawarra): 125 tries in 214 games, Phil Graham (Canberra): 61 tries in 106 games; 0.57 – Ty Williams (North Queensland): 77 tries in 134 games, Chris Lawrence (Wests Tigers): 34 tries in 60 games; 0.56 – Mat Rogers (Cronulla & Gold Coast): 97 tries in 172 games, Steve Turner (Penrith & Melbourne): 55 tries in 98 games, Matt Utai (Bulldogs): 71 tries in 127 games, Josh Morris (St George Illawarra & Bulldogs): 33 tries in 59 games, Joel Monaghan (Canberra & Roosters): 84 tries in 151 games.