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Tackling machine Hindy voted best defender of modern era

There have been many tireless tacklers in the modern era of rugby league - from the big hitters to the workaholics racking up 50 tackles a week.

Across every position on the field there have been some classic defenders who you'd trust alongside you in the proverbial trenches.

After the newsroom put out a 10-man shortlist to find the best defender, the race for the title came down to Eels legend Nathan Hindmarsh and Trevor 'The Axe' Gilmeister.

Hindy and Gilly fought out a great battle and when the final votes via this article and polls on the official NRL Instagram account had been tallied it was the workhorse Hindmarsh who was judged to be Simply the Best defender. recently launched the search for the Simply The Best players from 1990 to now to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the iconic Tina Turner promotional campaign, which was again featured in this year's advertisement for the Telstra Premiership, and is calling on the fans to have their say on a range of topics on the modern era.

Such was the strength of the defensive linemen, there was no room in the shortlist for the likes of Matt Cooper, Cameron Smith, Peter Ryan, Dallas Johnson, Simon Mannering, Bradley Clyde, Luke Priddis, Nigel Plum and Micheal Luck.

Best defender of modern era

(in alphabetical order)

Former Brisbane and Queensland forward Tonie Carroll.
Former Brisbane and Queensland forward Tonie Carroll. ©NRL Photos

Tonie Carroll

As Darren Lockyer said in Rugby League Week’s "Dynasty" tribute to the all-conquering Maroons side of 2006-13 that "Tunza brought an intimidation factor and he was probably the best hitter I’d seen in the game from a technical point of view".

Carroll was often tasked with being Lockyer’s defensive minder for the Broncos and Queensland – a role he clearly enjoyed and handled with aplomb.

Former Raiders forward Shaun Fensom.
Former Raiders forward Shaun Fensom. ©NRL Photos

Shaun Fensom

The hard-working back-rower joined the exclusive 70 Club in 2011 when he chalked up a phenomenal 75 tackles for the Green Machine against Canterbury.  Fensom’s appetite for hard work was legendary at Canberra and just for good measure he also made 16 runs in that game.

His tackle and run tally of 91 in that game remained a record until 2019 when Warrior Jazz Tevaga had 72 tackles and 22 runs in a match against the Broncos.

Trevor Gillmeister

Unfashionable and unflinching, Gillmeister made every tackle count during his time at the Roosters, Brisbane, Penrith and the Crushers. Built close to the ground and blessed with great technique, he shortened up plenty of rivals with his powerful defence.

Trevor Gillmeister on Queensland Origin duty in 1995.
Trevor Gillmeister on Queensland Origin duty in 1995. ©NRL Photos

He has since become one of the leading defensive coaches in the NRL with his emphasis on technique over size.

Nathan Hindmarsh

Chalked up a ridiculous 11,981 tackles during his 330-game career, including 75 in one match against the Storm in 2007.

Nathan Hindmarsh was a stalwart for Parramatta in the second row.
Nathan Hindmarsh was a stalwart for Parramatta in the second row. ©NRL Photos

"Hindy" was the glue that held the Eels together for 15 seasons and never once shirked a defensive assignment. His relentless work ethic endeared him to fans and coaches alike.

Gary Larson

The heart and soul of the North Sydney Bears and Queensland Origin sides in the 1990s, Larson left nothing in the tank. Regularly worked himself to a standstill in defence and somehow still found the energy to hit the ball up 15 times a game.

Maroons legend Gary Larson.
Maroons legend Gary Larson. ©NRL Photos

Equal parts warrior and workhorse, Larson earned the respect of teammates and rivals alike for his commitment to the cause.

Josh Morris

Widely regarded as the best defensive centre of modern times, J-Moz was regularly handed the unenviable task of trying to nullify Greg Inglis at Origin level and the reliable Blue never let his side down.

Josh Morris hops away for the Kangaroos.
Josh Morris hops away for the Kangaroos. ©NRL Photos

A great reader of the play and a copybook tackler who is rarely beaten for pace and still going strong well into his 30s.

Dean Pay

One of the most feared hitters of his era, Pay etched his name in Bulldogs folklore when he broke Broncos behemoth Glenn Lazarus’s ribs during the 1995 finals series with a brutal shot.

Eels forward Dean Pay on the charge in 1999 against Newcastle.
Eels forward Dean Pay on the charge in 1999 against Newcastle. ©NRL Photos

Built close to the ground, Pay - who was also the cornerstone of Parramatta's packs in his stint there to finish his career - would line up his victims and drive up under their ribs and stop them in their tracks.  

Victor Radley

Even though Victor The Inflictor is only 62 games into his career, already he’s earned a reputation as one of the game’s most potent defenders.

Roosters forward Victor Radley.
Roosters forward Victor Radley. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

The Roosters hitman possesses excellent technique honed when he was a little bloke and parents of opposing players in the under 8s and 9s would ask his coaches if they could get him to tackle softer. No such problems now that he’s playing with the big kids in the NRL.

Geoff Toovey

Toiled manfully for his entire career despite often being the smallest player on the field. He would upend opponents much bigger than the Manly halfback, who was such a good defender he made the transition to hooker with relative ease, handling the extra workload with a minimum of fuss.

Geoff Toovey takes on the Steelers during his Manly playing days.
Geoff Toovey takes on the Steelers during his Manly playing days. ©NRL Photos

His courage and work ethic were the sort of traits that made him such a respected competitor.

Jake Trbojevic

Just when it seemed the ugly four-man grapple tackle would spell the end for defenders with a classic technique, along came Manly’s inspirational lock to remind us how effective a driving one-on-one tackle can be.

Manly lock Jake Trbojevic.
Manly lock Jake Trbojevic. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

Trbojevic gets through a mountain of work every week and it’s all quality. He drives in low and hard and stops attackers in their tracks and gets up quick and does it again ... and again.

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