One-on-one strips: The best and worst exponents

Stealing the ball has been in the news for the wrong reasons lately but when it comes to the contentious rule, Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson is the king of the one-on-one strip.

Canberra co-captain Hodgson leads the competition in 2019 with nine steals, while Raiders teammates John Bateman (2) and Jarrod Croker (2) also rank in the top 10.

Surprisingly, musclebound Eels forward Manu Ma'u has had the ball stolen from his grasp on three occasions, the most of any player in the Telstra Premiership.

The stripping rule in rugby league is one of the oldest plays in the book.

Previously players were penalised for stripping the ball in a one-on-one situation if another defender had made any contact in the tackle leading up to the ball being raked.

However in 2018 the NRL changed the rule, allowing players to strip the ball in a one-on-one situation regardless of any previous contact made by teammates in the tackle.

The officiating of the rule earned the ire of Warriors coach Stephen Kearney last weekend following his team's loss to Parramatta. NRL head of football Graham Annesley on Monday admitted there were errors made in the match and the officials involved were relegated for this week's round 20.

NRL.com Stats has taken an in-depth look at which clubs and players have been the best and worst at turning over or regaining possession through the one-on-one steal this season.

A total of 76 one-on-one steals have taken place in 2019, already an increase of eight compared to last year's figure of 68 with six rounds of the regular season remaining.

Bateman produced arguably one of the steals of the year on Reagan Campbell-Gillard in Sunday's 30-18 over the Panthers with an effort before full-time to swing momentum back into the Raiders' favour late in the contest.

"They're the best in the business at it," said Panthers coach Ivan Cleary of the Raiders, after his players were victims twice in Sunday's loss. 

"There were a couple of big ones straight after a try and off the scrum play on tackle one. They were big momentum changes."

Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster started the season strong with a three-steal show against the Panthers in round three but he is yet to improve on his overall total of four.

It is indeed the Panthers who have struggled most to handle the old play with a total of 10 steals conceded in 18 games.

The Roosters (8) join the Rabbitohs and Eels (7 each) as next worst at conceding strips, while the Broncos and Sea Eagles are at the lower end of the spectrum with two conceded apiece.

Knights utility Connor Watson has taken advantage of his move to hooker in recent weeks with three one-on-one steals over the past six weeks.

Apart from Ma'u, Angus Crichton, Brian Kelly, Dylan Edwards and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak are among the names who have turned the ball over twice through the one-on-one play.

"We haven't been training for them but have noticed a lot of teams are doing them and are quite good at it," Wests Tigers skipper Moses Mbye said.

"It's obviously not a new rule, it's just more people are mindful of it and have witnessed teams get results from it and are jumping on board.

"It's in the name, one-on-one strip, if people drop off and you've got an opportunity to drop off it should be allowed. In my opinion you either ban it completely or leave it how it is right now.

"It's risky play as well because you can come up with a lot of errors."

In terms of positions, players coming off the interchange bench have been most vulnerable at conceding one-on-one steals with 16 in total, according to the data.

Wingers (12) and props (11) are next most prone to having the ball stripped from their grasp.