Top five second-rowers in the NRL
Second-rowers are the bread and butter of any NRL team. They need to be durable, able to play 80 minutes more often than not while making big tackle counts. The best of the best are often able to run the ball like a prop, marshal an edge in defence while ball-playing like a five-eighth. Here are NRL.com's picks for the best five second rowers in the NRL right now.
5. Ryan Hoffman
2015 stats: metres per game – 109; tackles per game – 20; tackle breaks – 30
Arguably the best line-running forward in the NRL over the past five years, Hoffman's relentless targeting of Daly Cherry-Evans was a key plank of both the Blues' unexpected Origin series win in 2014 and Hoffman's own Brad Fittler Medal win alongside Jarryd Hayne. At club level, over a long career with the Storm, Hoffman has been more understated but arguably as important as the 'Big Three' to the Storm's success and 2012 premiership. Injury curtailed his impact as the Warriors last year but expect him to bounce back in 2016.
4. Sam Thaiday
2015 stats: metres per game – 108; tackles per game – 31; decoys – 125
A good old-fashioned bash-and-barge style of back-rower, Thaiday is also accustomed to wearing the No.10 jersey where he's not afraid to take on the biggest boys in the NRL. He's now one of Queensland's most-capped forwards of all time and has been a key to their decade of dominance, always lifting on the game's biggest stage. He's been an automatic pick for both the Maroons and Kangaroos since 2006 – the year he won a premiership with Brisbane, who he helped to a 2015 Grand Final appearance.
3. Matt Gillett
2015 stats: metres per game – 99; tackles per game – 40; tackle breaks – 32
Gillett looked a likely prospect right from the time he scored a try on debut for the Broncos in 2010. Now a Queensland and Australian representative like clubmate Thaiday, Gillett was an understated member of Brisbane's charge to the 2015 decider. His defensive workrate has skyrocketed in recent seasons – he averaged nine tackles per game more than Thaiday, the next best on this list – while he also remains a dangerous ball carrier. Now 27 and with 131 NRL appearances over six seasons, Gillett has matured into a real leader at the Red Hill club.
2. Wade Graham
2015 stats: metres per game – 144; tackles per game – 28; kicks – 75; tackle breaks – 74
It's hard to believe the former Penrith five-eighth and now Sharks captain-in-waiting has only just turned 25. A genuine ball-player, Graham's attacking stats dwarf all the other players on this list; he has more try assists (five) and line break assists (six) than the other four combined, and topped the list for metres per game (144), offloads (27), total runs (406), charge downs (six) and total touches (653), while holding his own in defence. He has blossomed as a leader at Cronulla and is now one of the most influential second rowers in the NRL.
1. Boyd Cordner
2015 stats: metres per game – 123; tackles per game – 29; tackle breaks – 42.
Cordner is arguably now the most potent ball carrying back rower in the NRL. He has been instrumental in the Roosters' three straight minor premierships as well as a Blues and Kangaroos regular from the age of 21. His probing runs on the Tricolours' left edge produce regular tries and he was at it again in 2015 with seven four pointers – the most of any man on this list. One solitary handling error from 429 touches in 2015, with 42 tackle breaks, highlights his consistency.