Forward packs are the engine room of every NRL club and their importance can’t be understated to a team’s success.
They lay the platform for every team’s halves and outside backs to produce points and it’s not surprise the competition’s heavyweights boast the best packs in the league.
The reigning premiers, the Panthers, have some of the NRL’s scariest and most consistent forwards in their pack who have helped them to three-straight titles.
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Meanwhile, other teams like the Tigers have solid packs on paper who have been unable to inspire results for their teams.
Here, foxsports.com.au rates every forward pack ahead of the 2024 season with the aid of stats from the Fox Sports Lab!
PANTHERS — A+
Props: James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota
Hooker: Mitch Kenny
Backrowers: Liam Martin and Scott Sorensen
Lock: Isaah Yeo
The Panthers pack is simply the competition benchmark.
For three years now Ivan Cleary’s Penrith side have lifted the trophy at the season’s end, and each of these players delivered throughout 2023.
After losing Apisai Koroisau, Mitch Kenny has become one of the Panthers’ unsung heroes and plays to his own strengths, complimenting the rest of the side.
James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota are also two of the competition’s best props, with Fisher-Harris recently winning the Golden Boot for 2023.
Isaah Yeo has been the NRL’s best lock for several years but does now have competition in the form of Broncos gun Pat Carrigan who pipped him at the post for Dally M Lock of the Year.
However, he was once again brilliant in Penrith’s finals charge alongside Liam Martin and Scott Sorensen who both run hard and dangerous lines on an edge.
Statistically, the Panthers also sit fourth in forwards running metres per game with 749.67, whilst also recording the third amount of try involvements per game and the fourth most support and decoy runs every 80 minutes, tallying 43.22.
BRONCOS — A
Props: Payne Haas and Corey Jensen/Fletcher Baker
Hooker: Billy Walters
Backrowers: Jordan Riki and Brendan Piakura
Lock: Pat Carrigan
The Broncos came desperately close to winning the grand final in 2023, and their forward pack played a crucial role in their finals push.
Outgoing prop Tom Flegler is set to be replaced by Corey Jensen or Roosters recruit Fletcher Baker who has reportedly impressed in his first pre-season.
Payne Haas meanwhile is one of the most damaging players in the NRL and his impact can’t be understated.
Billy Walters’ developed massively last season, with his support play and kicking game improving by leaps and bounds.
Meanwhile, at lock Pat Carrigan was named the NRL’s best after being included in the Dally M Team of the Year after a stellar campaign.
He also represented both Australia and Queensland in 2023, cementing himself as one of the best forwards in the game.
Brendan Piakura, who looks like the man to take over from Kurt Capewell on an edge, had a breakout season in 2023 while Jordan Riki is also a solid backrower.
To back up their grade, the Broncos have recorded the second most forward running metres per game with 785.74 and also tally the third most per run, with the figure sitting at 8.82 metres.
Walters’ forwards also scored the equal second most tries, tallying 31.
STORM — B+
Props: Christian Welch and Tui Kamikamica/Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Hooker: Harry Grant
Backrowers: Trent Loiero and Eliesa Katoa
Lock: Josh King
The Storm’s forward pack seemed to struggle against the elite teams in 2023, but still Craig Bellamy has several superstars to pick from.
Harry Grant is one of the NRL’s best hookers and has the best running game out of the ruck out of the current first grade No.9s.
Josh King is a workhorse, however he could benefit from improving his ball-handling skills and linking play to hand his halves space.
Eliesa Katoa was immense when on the field, but battled with various injuries and scored six tries.
His combination with Jahrome Hughes to close out the year was impressive and the pair signalled their intent for 2024.
Trent Loiero was solid but didn’t set the world on fire in his first season as a regular starter, while Christian Welch is reliable as ever at prop.
That leaves either Tui Kamikamica or Nelson Asofa-Solomona to take the final spot in the front row and both players pack a punch.
Either of these hulking forwards can do the job, whilst the other will serve as an impact bench player.
Melbourne’s forward pack sit middle of the road when it comes to running metres per game, but excel when it comes to linebreaks.
The Storm pack tallied 40 in 2023, the fourth most in the competition whilst also sitting fourth for try involvements per 80 minutes.
WARRIORS — A
Props: Addin Fonua-Blake and Mitch Barnett
Hooker: Wayde Egan
Backrowers: Marata Niukore and Kurt Capewell
Lock: Tohu Harris
The NRL can be a brutal business, and Jackson Ford is set to be brutally demoted in 2024.
The former Dragon was impressive last season under Andrew Webster, becoming one of the rookie coach’s most consistent players.
However, veteran Kurt Capewell’s experience and skills are set to displace him from the starting backrow alongside damaging forward Marata Niukore.
Tohu Harris, the Warriors’ ever-present captain, is a truly skilful lock and his hands rival some NRL playmakers.
Elsewhere Wayde Egan has a career-best year in the No.9 jersey but will be desperate to avoid concussion in the upcoming season.
In the front row Addin Fonua-Blake is one of the NRL’s premier props and was named in the Dally M Team of the Year.
Alongside him will be Knights recruit Mitch Barnett who enjoyed a successful first season across the Tasman.
New Zealand’s forward pack know how to tally on the points and have the most try involvements in the competition with 3.33 per game.
They also lead the way for support and decoy runs, recording 47.37 per game and have the most linebreaks with 51.
KNIGHTS — C+
Props: Daniel Saifiti and Jacob Saifiti/Leo Thompson
Hooker: Jayden Brailey
Backrowers: Tyson Frizell and Dylan Lucas/Kai Pearce-Paul
Lock: Adam Elliott
Adam O’Brien has a big decision to make regarding the make-up of his backrow following the departure of Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
English recruit Kai-Pearce Paul and rookie Dylan Lucas will be both pushing for the spot, whilst Jed Cartwright could also make a case to start.
Whoever gets the nod will partner Tyson Frizell, who is an experienced edge forward.
Elsewhere, the front row trio of Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti and Leo Thompson will all make a dent in opposition defences, with one of the three starting off the bench.
Jayden Brailey will likely also take up his starting spot at hooker and the Knights skipper will be supported by Phoenix Crossland.
That leaves Adam Elliott as Newcastle’s first choice lock, having playing in the role for the majority of the 2023 season.
Statistically, the Knights forward pack are lacking in running metres and recorded the third least in the competition per game with only 656.46.
SHARKS — B
Props: Toby Rudolf and Braden Hamlin-Uele
Hooker: Blayke Brailey
Backrowers: Teig Wilton and Briton Nikora
Lock: Dale Finucane
The Sharks aren’t set to make any changes to their pack for 2024 but will welcome back one key man in the backrow.
Teig Wilton suffered a season-ending knee injuring in July, however he is set to return to the left edge and forge a partnership with Braydon Trindal.
Briton Nikora will once again feature on the right side and his hard line running will once again be crucial to Cronulla’s success.
Toby Rudolf and Braden Hamlin-Uele both are solid front rowers and will make up a solid middle rotation that could include Royce Hunt, Oregon Kaufusi and Tom Hazelton.
Meanwhile, Blayke Brailey will once again be the man to wear the No.9 and 2024 could be a huge season for the gun hooker.
He was included in the NSW squad for Game I but will be desperate to push his case for a spot in the 17 under Michael Maguire next year.
Veteran Dale Finucane once again takes up the lock spot, leading Craig Fitzgibbon’s side around the park.
The Sharks’ pack run for the sixth most per game of any team, tallying 734.32 running metres.
They also recorded the second most linebreaks of any forward pack, with a staggering 46.
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ROOSTERS — B+
Props: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Lindsay Collins
Hooker: Brandon Smith
Backrowers: Siua Wong and Nat Butcher
Lock: Victor Radley
The Roosters pack looks settled once again for 2024, but one off-season recruit will be pushing for a starting spot.
Former Panther Spencer Leniu is a proven danger man off the bench, but the 23-year-old will be desperate to be in the run on side at his new club.
Regardless, Trent Robinson will likely stick with the tried and trusted pairing of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Lindsay Collins before letting Leniu loose.
Marquee man Brandon Smith will also be hoping to build from a strong end to his 2023 campaign where he found his feet at the Tricolours.
Victor Radley’s discipline is improving and rugby league fans know just how good the English international can be when he keeps a level head.
Meanwhile, Nat Butcher is a true workhorse and Siua Wong is one of the most exciting youngsters in the NRL.
Needless to say the Roosters once again will have a damaging forward pack in 2024.
However, they do let themselves down in the statistics department and run for the second least metres of any forward pack, with only 650.08 per game.
They also have the least try involvements per game with only 2.00.
RAIDERS — B-
Props: Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine
Hooker: Zac Woolford
Backrowers: Hudson Young and Elliott Whitehead
Lock: Corey Horsburgh
The Raiders are another team unlikely to make any changes to their starting pack for 2024.
Corey Horsburgh, fresh off an Origin debut, will be hoping to continue his rich vein of form in 2024.
He went from strength to strength last season and emerged as one of the hardest-working players in the NRL.
At hooker, Zac Woolford will likely once again take up the position in a one-two punch with Tom Starling off the bench.
Hudson Young will be desperate to fight his way back into Origin selection conversations after making his Blues debut before being dropped.
Meanwhile, Elliott Whitehead and Josh Papalii have already revealed 2024 will be their last seasons in the NRL.
Joseph Tapine is the final member of this pack and the Kiwis international is another incredibly talented middle forward.
Where the Raiders need to improve is in their support play, tallying the second worst amount of support and decoy efforts per 80 minutes.
They also ran for the fifth least of every team, recording 679.80 running metres per game.
RABBITOHS — A-
Props: Tevita Tatola and Tom Burgess
Hooker: Damien Cook
Backrowers: Keaon Koloamatangi and Jai Arrow
Lock: Cameron Murray
The Rabbitohs boast some of the most dangerous forwards in the competition.
Cameron Murray is one of the NRL’s premier locks and is a consistent representative-level performer, earning Origin and international honours in 2023.
Murray leads the way for South Sydney and is a crucial figure in the club’s potential title charge next season.
Tevita Tatola battled with knee injuries last year but is a solid prop and forges a strong partnership with Tom Burgess in the front rower.
Meanwhile, Damien Cook is also amongst the best hookers in rugby league and his running game is incredibly damaging from the ruck.
Keaon Koloamatangi earnt a Blues debut for Game III of the Origin series after a season of success in Redfern and could be a long-term figure in the NSW outfit.
Elsewhere, Jai Arrow is also a consistent forward and his experience can’t be understated.
The Rabbitohs dominate the running metres statistics and lead the competition with 786.75 per game.
EELS — B+
Props: Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Hooker: Brendan Hands
Backrowers: Shaun Lane and Bryce Cartwright
Lock: J’maine Hopgood
The Eels have an incredibly strong pack on paper, but do have one big weakness.
Following Josh Hodgson’s retirement the hooker spot is up for grabs and young gun Brendan Hands could be the man to take up the vacant jersey.
He had a breakout season in 2023 but will compete with mid-season recruit Joey Lussick to start next season.
Elsewhere the combination of Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard in the front row is one of the best in the NRL and both players have played representative football.
Shaun Lane will be desperate to stay on the field after injuries hurt his playing time last season, but once again the former Manly man is another dangerous player.
Bryce Cartwright did enough last season to keep his spot on the right edge and was one of Brad Arthur’s most reliable players.
Meanwhile, J’maine Hopgood is a true star in the making and was even included in Queensland’s Origin squad for Game III, such is the opinion coach Billy Slater has of him.
The Eels’ forwards record the third most running metres of any team with 771.79, whilst also recording strong try involvements per game with 2.79 every 80 minutes.
COWBOYS — B-
Props: Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess
Hooker: Reece Robson
Backrowers: Jeremiah Nanai and Luciano Leilua
Lock: Reuben Cotter
The Cowboys slumped out of the finals in 2023 after finishing third in the regular season in 2022.
While their forward pack weren’t solely to blame, this group will have to step up if Todd Payten’s outfit want to play post-season footy.
Jason Taumalolo and Reuben Cotter play similar roles in the middle in this team and both could be named at prop or lock alongside Coen Hess.
Cotter is one of the most consistent and hardest-working players in rugby league, while Taumalolo had a dip in form last year.
Reece Robson earnt his first representative call-up when selected at hooker for NSW under Brad Fittler, being rewarded for a solid few seasons in Townsville.
Meanwhile, Jeremiah Nanai is also one of the best ballrunners in the NRL and is also another who played in Origin in 2023.
Alongside him could be Luciano Leilua who is a big body and a hard hole runner who can do damage on an edge.
The Cowboys sit middle of the road when it comes to running metres, but do excel in metres per run, recording the second most at 8.89.
Outside of that, their statistics aren’t overly impressive.
SEA EAGLES — C+
Props: Taniela Paseka and Jake Trbojevic
Hooker: Lachlan Croker
Backrowers: Haumole Olakau’atu and Josh Schuster
Lock: Josh Aloiai
The Sea Eagles pack will welcome one man back to the edge after a season spent in the halves.
Josh Schuster, who was dropped from the Manly side in 2023 twice, will return to the backrow with Luke Brooks taking his No.6 jersey.
Schuster is a talented player and it remains to be seen whether he can maximise his skills in the forward pack.
He partners Haumole Olakau’atu on the edge who is one of the NRL’s scariest forwards, packing a punch and forging a strong partnership with Daly Cherry-Evans.
Both Jake Trbojevic and Josh Aloiai could be named at either prop or lock and both players are consistent performers in the middle alongside Taniela Paseka.
Meanwhile, Lachlan Croker is somewhat of an unsung hero for Manly and always give it his all in the No.9 jersey.
Manly’s pack have a surprisingly good running metres total average, recording the seventh most per 80 minutes with 721.67.
DOLPHINS — C+
Props: Tom Flegler and Jesse Bromwich
Hooker: Jeremy Marshall-King
Backrowers: Felise Kaufusi and Connelly Lemuelu
Lock: Tom Gilbert
The Dolphins have added one marquee recruit to their forward pack for the 2024 season.
Broncos gun Tom Flegler joins Wayne Bennett’s side and will become a central figure in the NRL newcomer’s pack for years to come.
He will likely partner veteran Jesse Bromwich who has played over 300 first grade games and is a key man for the Dolphins.
Jeremy Marshall-King battled shoulder injuries to close out his season but showed he is a genuine quality hooker and the NRL newcomers need him fit and firing.
Felise Kaufusi delivered some of the biggest hits in recent memory to start the 2023 season and Connely Lemuelu also had a breakout year, earning his spot as a starting backrower under Bennett.
Tom Gilbert was a huge loss for the 17th franchise, suffering a shoulder dislocation in Origin Game I.
The former Cowboy led the way from lock and his presence was sorely missed for the rest of the year, so the Dolphins need him firing in 2024.
Statistically, the Dolphins’ forward pack sat in the middle for majority of statistics, but were lacking when it came to support and decoy runners, tallying the third least in the competition per 80 minutes.
TITANS — B-
Props: Moeaki Fotuaika and Keenan Palasia
Hooker: Sam Verrills
Backrowers: Beau Fermor and David Fifita
Lock: Tino Fa’asuamalaeaui
The Titans have added a secret weapon for the 2024 season, with Keenan Palasia a strong chance of starting at prop under Des Hasler.
The former Bronco had a breakout year in 2023 and showed his quality in a strong middle rotation at Red Hill.
He will likely partner Moeaki Fotuaika who is a representative player and makes consistent dents in opposition defensive lines.
Sam Verrills, when fit, is a capable hooker and is a great organiser, leading his pack around the part from the ruck.
Meanwhile, the backrow pairing of Beau Fermor and David Fifita is one of the competition’s most damaging and strikes fear into the hearts of rivals.
Throw in the mix representative superstar Tino Fa’asuamalaeaui and the Titans have a genuinely dangerous pack for 2024.
Last season they led the competition for metres tallied per run, recording 8.91 every time a forward carried the ball.
They also had the most players recording between 150-175 running metres of any team with 18, five more than the nearest best.
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BULLDOGS — C-
Props: Liam Knight and Max King
Hooker: Reed Mahoney
Backrowers: Viliame Kikau and Jacob Preston
Lock: Josh Curran
The Bulldogs have made a mountain of signings ahead of the 2024 season, but only one fresh face could start under Cameron Ciraldo.
The addition of Warriors gun Josh Curran solves their lock headache and the talented forward is a great addition.
However, the Canterbury-Bankstown club do need to bolster their middle forward stocks with Liam Knight and Max King in line to be the current starters.
2023 recruit Reed Mahoney, who is also the Bulldogs’ captain, didn’t have the best season by his own lofty standards.
So expect the gun No.9 to improve with another season under his belt alongside his new teammates.
Meanwhile, Viliame Kikau was restricted to only nine games in 2023 due to a pectoral injury.
However, he and Jacob Preston are two of the most dynamic backrowers in the NRL and both players are true try-scoring threats.
Statistically in 2023, the Dogs were the worst team of any, tallying the least running metres per game with only 613.92.
They also had the last amount of try involvements of forwards per game with only 2.
However, they will be desperate to improve drastically in 2024.
DRAGONS — D+
Props: Blake Lawrie and Hame Sele
Hooker: Jacob Liddle
Backrowers: Jaydn Su’A and Dan Russell/Jack Bird
Lock: Jack Bird/Jack de Belin
The Dragons have added one player to this forward pack for 2024, with Hame Sele likely starting in the front row alongside Blake Lawrie.
Experienced Storm forward Tom Eisenhuth is likely starting off the bench, but will be a key man under Shane Flanagan.
Meanwhile, Jacob Liddle once again takes up his spot in the No.9 jersey, with the backrow and lock spots up for grabs.
Jack de Belin could start in the No.13 jersey, but that depends on talented forward Jack Bird.
Bird has made it clear he wants to play in the centres, but could also be utilised at lock or in the backrow under Flanagan.
No NRL fan can doubt his quality and the Dragons need him firing to push for finals in 2024.
Jaydn Su’A is a lock to start on an edge and he could be partnered by Bird of Dan Russell who had a breakout season in 2023.
As it stands, the make-up of the Red V forward pack could change drastically, which could spark a huge shift in statistical output.
The Dragons ran for the fourth least of any team per game in 2023, tallying only 660.29 running metres.
Meanwhile, they had the worst try involvements per game of forwards with only 2, however did make up for it by recording the second most support and decoy efforts with 46.63.
TIGERS — C+
Props: David Klemmer and Stefano Utoikamanu
Hooker: Api Koroisau
Backrowers: John Bateman and Isaiah Papali’i
Lock: Fonua Pole
On paper the Tigers forward pack is impressive.
David Klemmer and Stefano Utoikamanu are two talented props and both players have represented NSW at Origin level.
Api Koroisau is one of the game’s best hookers and was a NSW Origin representative in 2023 before he broke his jaw in ugly scenes.
Fonua Pole is also an upcoming talent and could grow into a solid lock in the coming years if he’s handed the No.13 jersey.
To round out this pack John Bateman and Isaiah Papali’i make up the backrow.
Papali’i didn’t have the best start to life with the Tigers and will be desperate to make up for it in 2024.
Meanwhile, Bateman is all effort and showed he is a true leader at different stages last season.
Statistically the Tigers forwards also delivered, running for the eighth most per game of any side with 713.79 metres on average.
However, their try involvements were equal worst in the NRL, with only two per 80 minutes.
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