Is hooker the most influential position on the field?

Forget halves and fullbacks, it is the men in the No.9 jerseys who will have the greatest say over the final six weeks of the NRL season.

Looking at the teams that have had success this year and the way they play, there is a strong argument hooker is now the most important position on the field.

Is it a case of the best hookers just being on the teams or are those teams the best on account of having the best hookers?

The top five teams in the NRL boast some of the best No.9s the Telstra Premiership has to offer.

Men who control the tempo of the game and play with their own adjustable tempo as well.

At Melbourne, Canberra and Souths you'd have to say their best player is their No.9. Cameron Smith, Josh Hodgson and Damien Cook aren't carbon copies of each other but they are equally effective.

Manase Fainu has had a breakout year alongside Api Koroisau at Manly and is a big part of their improvement under Des Hasler.

Smith is very attacking in a more strategic sense, Hodgson is one of the craftiest hookers going around who is always scheming, while both Manly hookers and Fainu in particular love getting out of dummy half and can sniff out an opportunity.

Cook is athletically the most lethal of any hooker in the competition and has learned this year to play slow as well as fast when the situation calls for it. Smith has been the master of that for a long time.

The Roosters are probably the exception among the top teams because Jake Friend has missed so much footy with injury but their other three ball players are all superstars and they have some of the best forwards and best backs in the competition.

With Victor Radley and Sam Verrills providing competent service, it has allowed them to adapt their game plan despite not having a star No.9 on the park.

After those top five, the hookers mostly get less dominant from there. Reed Mahoney is having a good season for the Eels, Jayden Brailey at the Sharks is a more traditional defensive hooker, as is Andrew McCullough at Brisbane.

At the lower end of the ladder, the exception is probably Cameron McInnes, who has been an absolute shining light for the Dragons this year but has been nullified to a large extent and forced to make a mountain of tackles because of the way the rest of the team has gone.

There's also Robbie Farah, who's had another great year for the Wests Tigers, who are on the cusp of the top eight. Issac Luke just hasn't been allowed to play the way he used to at Souths when he had such a consistent and dominant forward pack laying the platform for him.

The Titans, Cowboys, Bulldogs, Knights and Panthers are all crying out for a dominant, attacking No.9.

Because defences are so good these days, no-one is ever out of position and if you don't have a hooker threatening in the middle then that effectively gives you an extras two or three seconds in the defensive line to get yourself sorted because the ball has to go to the halfback or beyond.

Whereas if your team gets on a roll and you've got a good hooker who gets out over the advantage line with their first step, it tends to exaggerate the team's momentum and you can really hammer home the fatigue your opposition is under.

A threatening hooker sucks everyone in, and when they're all sucked in you shift it out wide. The same goes if defences shift early, if they're spread it opens up for a good hooker in the middle.

If you have a dominant hooker the defensive line has to compress in on them to guard in and around the 'A' and 'B' defenders and really tighten up which in turn leaves you vulnerable out wide for a quick shift.

Think about how many tries the Storm score out wide because defences are worried what Smith is doing in the middle. Souths (moreso last year) and the Raiders get the same benefit.

Souths have had a few issues with injury this year and getting all their best forwards on the park but when they're going well Cook is almost impossible to contain. Last year they were lethal on that left hand side and up through the middle.

Gone are the days of a hooker making 100 tackles and giving good service out of dummy half. You need to create and have vision and put teams under threat all the time; even if you don't take it you have to have the opposition on notice.

If not they're going to keep a nice tight defence around the 'A' and 'B' defenders and shut down your options.

If you can throw a crafty fullback into the mix pairing up with the hooker and you've got two lethal ball-players in that little pod around the ruck while the halves are out scheming. Look at what happens when Cook and James Tedesco get together at Origin time.

The advantage of having that creativity at hooker is you're already on the advantage line and you're already at the defence so whatever you can create from there, you're taking away the time defences have to react.

On the flip side of all that, if you have a hooker who just passes, the defence has an extra half a second to get back.

The finals are sure to see the premier No.9s showcasing their skills. The one who enjoys the best September may just do enough to land them a spot in the biggest game of the year.