Revealed: Every NRL club’s fastest, fittest and strongest

 

These are the most closely guarded secrets in rugby league.

The numbers that every NRL club holds close and protects to keep in-house.

Fatima Kdouh, Nick Campton, Chris Honnery and Gilbert Gardiner take you behind the locked doors of NRL gyms around the country to reveal the amazing feats players are churning out in the weight rooms.

Like in Sydney's west, where Parramatta's Maika Sivo strains under a weight bar packed with plates bending on his thick, broad shoulders as he squats an NRL record 285kg. He could go heavier, if only there was more room on the already overloaded bar.

Over on Sydney's northern beaches, Sea Eagles winger Abbas Miski stuns renowned Manly strong man Martin Taupau by outlifting him on the bench press, despite weighing in 12kg lighter than the powerhouse prop who owns almost every other record in the Silvertails' gym.

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Maika Sivo can squat an incredible 285 kgs. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Maika Sivo can squat an incredible 285 kgs. Picture. Phil Hillyard


Inside Brisbane's $26 million centre of excellence, Broncos players compete for the King Kong Award, a gong which rugged forward Joe Ofahengaue has made his own over the past two years.

While at the foot of the mountains, Penrith's roster is littered with "freakish athletes", led by in-form halfback Nathan Cleary and relentless forward James Fisher-Harris.

But it's not all about brawn.

Rugby league clubs are also packed with pace - and we have every team's quickest back and forward of 2020. Brisbane teen sensation Xavier Coates and South Sydney flyer Alex Johnston can't be split after both were clocked at 36.9km/h during games this season.

But the quickest of them all could be 18-year-old North Queensland rookie Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who is yet to find open space in his six NRL games.

Not even Cowboys officials can confirm how fast 'The Hammer' really is because, according to them, Tabuai-Fidow only ever runs as fast as he needs to, not as fast as he can.

These are the superheroes of the NRL.

BRONCOS

Fittest: Darius Boyd

Fastest: Xavier Coates

Strongest: Joe Ofahengaue, Kotoni Staggs

Quickest back in 2020: Xavier Coates 36.9km/h Round 6

Quickest forward in 2020: David Fifita 33.2km/h Round 1

Payne Haas revealed the club has the King Kong Award for their best performer in the gym and it's no surprise the man teammates describe as an animal has held the title for the past two seasons. It's rumoured Joe Ofahengaue can bench an unbelievable 190kg, to go with his 210kg squat.

Joe Ofahengaue can push out a 190kg bench press rep. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England
Joe Ofahengaue can push out a 190kg bench press rep. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England


Youngster Xavier Coates dreamt of becoming an Olympic long-jumper before being led to play rugby league. His sprint training in his junior days has paid off, having been clocked at an NRL 2020 season record of 36.9km/hr.

BULLDOGS

Fittest: Raymond Faitala-Mariner

Fastest: Nick Meaney

Strongest: Raymond Faitala-Mariner, overall. Adam Elliott, pound for pound.

Quickest back in 2020: Jake Averillo 34.4km/h Round 6

Quickest forward in 2020: Josh Jackson 31.4km/h Round 8

Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Adam Elliott are the leaders of the pack in the gym. Both can produce a full squat of 240kg and a dead lift of 260kg. But it's the unassuming lock, Elliott, who stunned his teammates with a powerful pre-season effort.

"Only 240? I thought it was 250kg," Faitala Mariner said with a laugh.

Adam Elliott is one of the kings of the gym at the Bulldogs. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty Images
Adam Elliott is one of the kings of the gym at the Bulldogs. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty Images


"Renouf To'omaga comes close to what I am benching at the moment but it's Adam Elliott who is strongest at the club pound for pound, he squatted 280kg in pre-season."

Speedster Nick Meaney wasn't always a sprint specialist. During his high school days he actually excelled at the 800m. But the fleet-footed outside back has clocked 11.3 seconds in the 100m - the fastest at the club and even quicker than flyer Reimis Smith.

Smith is nipping at Meaney's heels in the speed stakes but his pace was blunted after snapping his tibia and fibula in 2016.

COWBOYS

Fittest: Coen Hess, Reuben Cotter and Tom Gilbert

Fastest: Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Coen Hess

Strongest: Corey Jensen, Francis Molo and Coen Hess

Quickest back in 2020: Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 35.7km/h Round 6

Quickest forward in 2020: Coen Hess 33.9km/h Round 2

He's lightning quick but the trouble is, no one actually knows how quick Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is. The club's head of performance Michael Dobbin hasn't seen anyone as fast as this 18-year-old which is why the club jumped at signing him as a 16-year-old rugby schoolboy. Meanwhile, Dobbin says the "Hess Express" is steamrollering all of his teammates in all three categories. The 114kg backrower came out of the COVID lockdown in better shape than anyone - with lower skinfolds and better run times than his teammates. Cowboys captain Michael Morgan said earlier this year Hess had been squatting eight reps of 150kg, for eight sets.

DRAGONS

Fittest: Zac Lomax

Fastest: Matt Dufty

Strongest: Cam McInnes

Quickest back in 2020: Jason Saab 35.3km/h Round 11

Quickest forward in 2020: Tyson Frizell 34.2km/h Round 9

Not only is skipper Cam McInnes versatile on the field, switching between hooker and lock, he also excels across the board in the gym. McInnes averages out to be the strongest across all lifts at the Dragons, while Tyson Frizell and Jackson Ford have the biggest bench, where they couldn't be separated, maxing out at 176kg for a single rep.

Tyson Frizell dominates at the Dragons. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Tyson Frizell dominates at the Dragons. Picture. Phil Hillyard


Ford also scores very well on the Yo-Yo test, which measures endurance - along with Jack de Belin he has the best score pound for pound at the club.

Zac Lomax is the Yo-Yo king - his score of 20.5 is the best of any Dragon - but rookie halfback Adam Clune ran him close with a 20.3, which may have been boosted given he'd just returned from spending three weeks at high altitude after a volunteering trip to Kenya.

Jai Field used to run Matt Dufty close in the speed stakes, but with his departure to Parramatta the fullback is the speed king and his work ethic around the training paddock stands out to the rest of his teammates.

"The coach gave him a wrap for being first to get there and last to leave," said backrower Tyrell Fuimaono.

"He's very diligent when he's training, he's 100 per cent mind on task."

EELS

Fittest: Clint Gutherson

Fastest: Jai Field

Strongest: Maika Sivo

Quickest back in 2020: Dylan Brown 35.9km/h Round 7

Quickest forward in 2020: Nathan Brown 31.5km/h Round 6

In the gym, 110kg winger Maika Sivo set an Eels - and possibly NRL - record with an astonishing 285kg squat.

Not that he could lift anymore.

"I wanted to try for 300," Sivo told The Daily Telegraph. "But on the bar, there was no more room on it."

The Eels have actually stopped Sivo from getting any stronger.

"We've had to really pull back on his weights because he's so big and strong, and he doesn't carry any body fat," coach Brad Arthur revealed.

"He's still running around at 110-111 (kg) as a winger, so that's very imposing, very strong in the gym.

Maika Sivo’s hard work in the gym pays off on the field. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Maika Sivo’s hard work in the gym pays off on the field. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images


"When the boys were doing full weights sessions in the pre-season he was doing two or three, and a lot of extra conditioning."

How fit is Eels skipper Clint Gutherson? His teammates end up in the back of an ambulance on their way to hospital when they try to match it with him. Like rising playmaker Dylan Brown did during his first NRL pre-season in 2018. In a desperate bid to dethrone King Gutho in the 2km time trial, Brown collapsed while out in front, was forced to watch Gutherson pass him and he ended up with a drip hooked to his arm in hospital.

"Some of the boys might match him for one lap and then that's about it," hooker Reed Mahoney said. "It's pretty unbelievable to be honest, I definitely don't … well, I do try but there is no way I'm getting close to him in the fitness department. He's a fit lad."

There are no shortage of speed demons at Parramatta, winger Blake Ferguson and playmaker Jai Field both have explosive speed over 40m, while Waqa Blake is the standout over 100m.

KNIGHTS

Fittest: Mitchell Pearce

Fastest: Edrick Lee

Strongest: Connor Watson, pound for pound

Quickest back in 2020: Bradman Best 34.6km/h Round 8

Quickest forward in 2020: Lachlan Fitzgibbon 33.2km/h Round 11

Connor Watson gave an example of his toughness this week when, the day after rupturing his Achilles, the Knights utility turned out at a press call to discuss special Indigenous designs on footy boots for this weekend.

Edrick Lee burning up the turf at the Knights. Picture: AAP Image/Darren Pateman
Edrick Lee burning up the turf at the Knights. Picture: AAP Image/Darren Pateman

 

That toughness doesn't stop there. The utility can bench press 160kg, almost double his 87kg body weight. Before his injury, Watson was putting the challenge to powerhouse teammates the Saifiti brothers, Herman Ese'ese and David Klemmer in the gym, squatting an astonishing 220kg. That effort makes him, pound for pound, Newcastle's strongest player.

In the yoyo test, which is a 1.2 kilometre time trial, veteran halfback Mitchell Pearce was the last man standing. Pearce, who is notorious for his ability to heal quickly from injury, was also the fittest player at the Roosters during his time at Bondi.

PANTHERS

Fittest: Dylan Edwards

Fastest: Charlie Staines

Strongest: Viliame Kikau, overall. Nathan Cleary, pound for pound.

Quickest back in 2020: Stephen Crichton 34.1km/h Round 8

Quickest forward in 2020: Liam Martin 33.0km/h Round 2

In the words of Penrith's head of performance Hayden Knowles, the Panthers roster is littered with "freakish athletes". But there are two players in particular that stand out - Nathan Cleary and James Fisher-Harris. "Nathan Cleary is very strong, if not the strongest half I've ever worked with," Knowles said. "He's lifting a hell of a lot more than last year and you can see it on the field where he's breaking more tackles. His power clean lift of 130kg, to put in perspective, some forwards can clean 150kg."

Nathan Cleary’s strength is building. Picture: Nick Walshaw
Nathan Cleary’s strength is building. Picture: Nick Walshaw

 

The star halfback threw his added weight around in round 10 against North Queensland, when he cut down Justin O'Neill and big man Coen Hess in a matter of seconds. Cleary said his improved strength had given him the confidence to go after a game changing or inspirational play.

"The kind of aggression in the Cowboys game, I just couldn't control it … it came back to trying to be a leader and have an impact on the team. A bit of weight helps in defence, I'm still getting bumped off a fair bit so I'll try to fix that," Cleary said.

Knowles also labelled Fisher-Harris "a beast" - not for the form forward's strength but his work ethic, in which he is leading the way at the foot of the mountains.

"If you tell the boys 'hey listen, just go have a sweat up get yourself ready for training', he'll go straight to the rowing machine and start flogging himself," Knowles said.

"I had to call him every day during the COVID break to make sure he wasn't overdoing it."

RABBITOHS

Fittest: Damien Cook

Fastest: Alex Johnston

Strongest: Cam Murray, pound for pound

Quickest back in 2020: Alex Johnston 36.9km/h Round 6

Quickest forward in 2020: Cameron Murray 30.2km/h Round 1

A monster on the field, unsurprisingly forward Tom Burgess leads the way in the gym. His 160kg bench press leads the way, closely, followed by fellow forward Patrick Mago. But it's the man next on the list that raises eyebrows. Winger Campbell Graham, at 197cm and 95kg, has the third strongest bench overall.

Damien Cook is blessed with both speed and endurance. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England
Damien Cook is blessed with both speed and endurance. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England

 

From James Roberts to Cameron Murray and Damien Cook to Dane Gagai, South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett presides over one of the most athletic rosters in the competition. NSW Blues stars Murray and Cook are easily the two fittest players at the club and according to Rabbitohs head physiotherapist Eddie Farah, the pair are also the strongest pound for pound. James Roberts might be 'Jimmy the Jet' for the way he burns defenders with his blistering pace, but he still isn't the quickest at Redfern. That crown belongs to Rabbitohs junior Alex Johnston, whose pace was on display against St George Illawarra on Thursday night as he scored a hat-trick.

RAIDERS

Fittest: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

Fastest: Bailey Simonsson

Strongest: Tom Starling (pound for pound), Kai O'Donnell (absolute)

Quickest back in 2020: Curtis Scott 33.1km/h Round 4

Quickest forward in 2020: Joseph Tapine 32.4km/h Round 3

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is the Raiders’ fittest. Picture: John McCutcheon
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is the Raiders’ fittest. Picture: John McCutcheon

 

At 170cm, Tom Starling is the third shortest player in NRL history. At just 82kg the Raiders' hooker is pound for pound one of the strongest at the club - over three reps he benches 135kg, squats 190kg and dead lifts 210kg.

Starling is also one of the leanest players at the club.

"We had our dexa scans, it measures how much body fat you have," said prop Dunamis Lui.

"He's only got 7kg of fat on him, whereas boys like me I've got about 40kg of fat on me.

"I know he's a smaller bloke, but 7kg - I was like man, you've got to eat something."

ROOSTERS

Fittest player: Jake Friend

Fastest player: James Tedesco

Strongest player: Brett and Josh Morris

Quickest back in 2020: Josh Morris 34.5km/h Round 8

Quickest forward in 2020: Angus Crichton 33.0km/h Round 5

Don't let the sprinkles of grey hair on the heads of Brett and Josh Morris fool you. The twins might be the oldest players in Trent Robinson's squad but the evergreen outside backs, who have played 558 games and scored 303 tries between them, are the strongest pound for pound.

Just like their antics where they kept the seriousness of Cooper Cronk's injury secret before the 2018 grand final, the Roosters were unwilling to give any insight into how much their players lift. Although superstar fullback James Tedesco revealed one Morris brother was stronger.

"Josh is a beast," Tedesco said. "He's so fast and strong. He's the strongest at the club already - the oldest and the strongest.

"He's been around for so long you forget just how good he is. If I'm attacking against him at training it's hard to get a pass out, he's such a good defender. Brett is fast and strong too but I reckon Josh is a little stronger."

SEA EAGLES

Fittest: Daly Cherry-Evans

Fastest: Tom Trbojevic

Strongest: Martin Taupau over all, Lachlan Croker pound for pound

Quickest back in 2020: Reuben Garrick 34.3km/h Round 3

Quickest forward in 2020: Joel Thompson 30.0km/h Round 3

Powerhouse 112kg forward Martin Taupau is a well-known dynamo in the gym, bending metal bars for fun. But he's been shown up by a relatively unknown outside back in Abbas Miski, who holds a record not even Taupau could break. The winger gives away 12kg to Taupau but set an 183.5kg bench press record in the pre-season that still stands.

Abbas Miski has even shown up Marty Taupau in the gym. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Abbas Miski has even shown up Marty Taupau in the gym. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt


Surprisingly, there's another backline member of Des Hasler's roster who is able to mix it with Taupau. Playmaker Lachlan Croker's strength, pound for pound, came as a surprise to everyone at the club. It's little wonder, however, as he is the nephew of former Canberra, NSW and Australian star Jason Croker, whose strength exploits out of the gym in Belconnen are legendary.

SHARKS

Fittest: Connor Tracey

Fastest: Ronaldo Mulitalo

Strongest: Jack Williams

Quickest back in 2020: Sione Katoa 33.1km/h Round 10

Quickest forward in 2020: Braden Hamlin-Uele 31.6km/h Round 6

For as long as Sharks legend Paul Gallen was at the club he led the way in the weightlifting department. That crown now belongs to young forward Jack Williams, who completed a 220kg full-range squat and can power clean 140kg.

"I go in different weight groups so I don't have to watch Jack, it makes me sick, some of the stuff he does. I lose a bit of confidence when I watch him shift weights around," Sharks skipper Wade Graham said with a laugh.

Ronaldo Mulitalo is unmatched in the speed stakes. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Ronaldo Mulitalo is unmatched in the speed stakes. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

 

That's not the only mantle to fall. Former Sharks forward Kurt Capewell stunned everyone by beating the backs to set the club's time trial record during his time at the Shire. But one mere second is all it took for that record to fall when super-fit Connor Tracey joined the club in the pre-season.

In the speed stakes, rookie winger Ronaldo Mulitalo is unmatched.

"Ronaldo hits a peak speed of 9.8/9.9 metres per second and he hits that both at training and in games. There's a lot of fast players in the NRL but what sets Ronaldo apart from everyone else is he can repeat those high speed efforts continuously over 80 minutes," Cronulla's head of athlete performance Matt Jay said.

STORM

Fittest: Cameron Smith

Fastest: Josh Addo-Carr

Strongest: Jesse Bromwich

Quickest back in 2020: Josh Addo-Carr 36.8km/h Round 2

Quickest forward in 2020: Tui Kamikamica 29.1km/h Round 1

Josh Addo-Carr owns the NRL's fastest top speed of 38.5km/h, according to Telstra Tracker. The 'Foxx' was clocked at 34.7km/h in Round 9 - the second fastest of the round - during his intercept 70m try.

No surprises who the fastest is in Melboure. Picture: Brett Costello
No surprises who the fastest is in Melboure. Picture: Brett Costello


"I don't even think he got into top gear," a Storm insider said. "I think he had a few gears left to get through." Forwards Jesse Bromwich and Dale Finucane are the resident gym kings from Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Tui Kamikamica. "Tino's a real kid aye, a really happy fella, loves the gym and working hard," teammate Albert Vete said. "100 per cent (power). He's a freak, him and Dale are probably the fittest forwards but Tino's got seven or eight kilograms (body weight) on Dale. He's a pretty powerful boy, really fast and fit, definitely showing signs of Nelson early in his career with how powerful he's running."

You can do all the fitness tests in the world but ultimately it is about being game fit and Cameron Smith is the epitome of that. At 37 he makes 40-odd tackles a game, touches the ball every time Storm has possession and plays 80 minutes each week at a consistently elite level.

TIGERS

Fittest: Josh Reynolds

Fastest: David Nofoaluma

Strongest: Thomas Mikaele, Josh Aloiai

Quickest back in 2020: David Nofoaluma 33.3km/h Round 8

Quickest forward in 2020: Luke Garner 31.3km/h Round 7

Thomas Mikaele and Josh Aloiai are the kings of the gym at the Tigers, to the point where mid-season recruit Shawn Blore was in awe when he first arrived at the club from the Panthers.

"My first gym sessions, literally everyone was throwing around ridiculous weights. I was so far off the pace, not gonna lie. It's taken me a few months just to get up to par," Blore said.

"Tommy Mikaele man, he is ridiculous. Not just with one exercise, with everything. He's crazy. "His bench is up around the 170s. It's crazy, I don't understand how he can be that strong, it makes me sick."

David Nofoaluma is the Tigers’ speed demon. Picture: AAP Image/Craig Golding
David Nofoaluma is the Tigers’ speed demon. Picture: AAP Image/Craig Golding


David Nofoaluma is the fastest ahead of Luke Brooks with a surprising bronze medallist in dummy half Jacob Liddle.

A highly-touted junior, Liddle's NRL career has been blighted by injuries - the 23-year old has played just 38 games in four seasons in first grade and he's currently rehabbing an ACL tear. Along with Josh Reynolds, Liddle is also one of the fittest at the club.

"He had one of those magic balances of fitness, a little like Clint Gutherson who I had at Parramatta," Tigers performance coach Ronnie Palmer said.

"They can lead all the long distance stuff but they're also lightning quick with their speed.

"He possesses both, Liddsy. It was a horrific injury he's had but he's really looking the goods, moving freely and hopefully we'll get him back soon."

TITANS

Fittest: Nathan Peats

Fastest: Phillip Sami

Strongest: Greg Leleisiuao, Mitch Rein

Quickest back in 2020: Anthony Don 32.4km/h Round 7

Quickest forward in 2020: Bryce Cartwright 32.2km/h Round 1

Check out these monster numbers from little known Gold Coast winger Greg Leleisiuao. The 104kg wrecking ball joined the club this season and now holds four records in the gym, led by a one-rep max bench press of 195kg. He can dead lift 330kg and squat 220kg. Not to mention his 165kg clean. Gold Coast hooker Mitch Rein admitted no one could handle the powerful winger. "He's virtually impossible to tackle one-on-one and he's fast and he's taken all the records in the gym," Rein said.

The Titans’ Greg Leleisiuao is breaking all kinds of records in the gym. Picture: Gold Coast Titans
The Titans’ Greg Leleisiuao is breaking all kinds of records in the gym. Picture: Gold Coast Titans

 

However, Titans head of performance Dan Ferris admits Leleisiuao isn't the strongest, pound for pound, with that title going to Rein.

Nathan Peats is by far the club's fittest, completing the 2km time trial in 6 minutes 30 seconds. While "The Hound" Phillip Sami holds the club's fastest sprint time with 9.98 metres per second (35.93km/h) and a 4.5-second sprint over 40 metres.

WARRIORS

Fittest: Lachlan Burr and Eliesa Katoa

Fastest: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Pat Herbert and Paul Turner

Strongest: Bunty Afoa (absolute), Pat Herbert (relative strength), Adam Keighran and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (non-traditional)

Quickest back in 2020: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 34.5km/h Round 6

Quickest forward in 2020: Eliesa Katoa 30.4km/h Round 10

Back-rowers Lachlan Burr and Eliesa Katoa push each other along at the head of the pack in the fitness stakes while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Pat Herbert are the fastest, along with an undercover speedster in rookie half/five-eighth Paul Turner. Herbert himself nominated another rookie, Fijian winger Selestino Ravutaumada as right up there with Turner in the speed stakes.

"Probably Pauly Turner, or Selestino, he's another of the younger boys (are the quickest)," said Herbert.

"They haven't played first grade yet but they're pretty quick around the park."

Despite being ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury Bunty Afoa has the largest absolute numbers on both the squat and the bench press and Herbert has the best relative strength numbers in the same exercises. Tuivasa-Sheck and Adam Keighran have the highest levels of "non-traditional" strength as measured by things like the reactive strength index and in jumping, change of direction and acceleration tasks.

Originally published as Revealed: Every NRL club's fastest, fittest and strongest



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