Api, Cookie, Grant, Mahoney, Brandon, Robson

Apisai Koroisau, Brandon Smith, damien cook, featured, Harry Grant, Josh Hodgson, League, Mitch Kenny, NRL, Reed Mahoney, Rugby League, Sam Verrills

With the 2023 NRL season kick-off looming closer, The Roar is counting down until the footy starts with a ranking of each position on the field.

Not just who had a great 2022, but those that are the best in their role currently in the NRL. 

Next on the list, those annoying little guys in the middle – Hookers.

1.Harry Grant (Storm)

Grant is the best all-round hooker in the game, and you can see why Wests Tigers fans did not want to let him go while he was on loan in 2020.

Causing havoc out of dummy half, quick to put someone through a gap or burrow through for a try himself, the 24-year-old is everything you want and more in your hooker. In just five short seasons in the top grade, Grant is already well on his way to becoming a legend of the game.

With 17 try assists, the most from any hooker last year, the Storm star proved just how valuable he is to his side. He also scored seven of his own. Along with 40 tackle breaks, 19 offloads, and eight line breaks, Grant proved hard to pin down.

He was once again sensational for the Maroons and looked like a veteran running around for the Kangaroos.

In a team with the Bromwich brothers and Big Nelson, Grant took home the Storm’s Best Forward of the Year award for 2022. Nuff said.

2.Damien Cook (Rabbitohs)

While not his best season, Cook is still one of the top hookers running around.

One of the best readers out of dummy half, he is great at getting his opposition offside and on the back foot. He scored eight tries and had a hand in nine others.

Always hard to stop, this year was no different. Showing he can mix it with the young guys, the 31-year-old led the way for dummy halves with the most tackle busts with 70, along with ten offloads and eight line breaks.

The 2018 Dally M Hooker of the Year has just signed a two-year extension to keep him at Redfern until the end of the 2025 season. Losing his spot as hooker for the Blues – Cook will be ready to gear up for a huge 2023 to get his crown back.

Damien Cook takes a run in the NRL grand final

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

3.Api Koroisau (Tigers)

And here is the guy who took said crown!

Stamping his name on the number nine jersey, Koroisau pushed his way into the starting role for NSW ahead of Cook.

The 30-year-old continues to rise the ranks as one of the game’s best hookers over his nine years in the NRL, and has been an integral part of the Panthers’ success over the past two years.

He was solid in defence with 937 tackles and was hard to put down with 31 tackle busts and eight offloads. He scored five tries and made 13 assists.

Towards the end of the season, he started coming off the bench, making a huge impact as soon as he took to the field.

He will be out to show that he can make it without his former teammates, joining the Tigers for 2023.

4.Reed Mahoney (Bulldogs)

After five seasons with the Eels, Mahoney was back to his brilliant best last year after injury robbed him of the end of 2021 and showed just how tough and determined he is.

He made the most tackles out of ANYONE in the competition this year with a whopping 1130. He also made 17 tackle busts, 12 offloads and put in 37 kicks in play for an average 40m. He scored eight tries and had a hand in seven others.

Like Koroisau, another one stepping out of his comfort zone and heading to a team a bit further down the ladder, Mahoney will be looking to showcase his talents at Belmore this season.

5.Reece Robson (Cowboys)

This guy is good.

In his fifth season in the NRL, the 24-year-old hasn’t looked back since making the move from the Red V to the Cowboys in 2020.

Labelled as ‘the best defensive hooker in the comp’ by his coach Todd Payten, Robson proves time and time again to be a tough-as-nails tackling machine.

He racked up 1101 tackles, 35 tackle busts, and 12 offloads for the season. He was also quick out of dummy half, making 1964 metres for the year at ease.

With names like Reuben Cotter, Valentine Holmes and Jason Taumalolo around him, Robson just went about his business and did his job. But boy did he do it well. Part of the fabric that saw his team skyrocket up the ladder this season, things will only get better for Robson.

6.Brandon Smith (Roosters)

While his mouth gets him into a bit of trouble, his footy skills are always a delight.

The 2021 Dally M Hooker of the Year had a mixed bag in 2022 but is still one of the top 10 dummy halves heading into the new season.

After seven years at the Storm, ‘Cheese’ is gearing up for a fresh start in Bondi. Following on from all the drama surrounding the announcement of his signing on a podcast, as well as getting suspended for his blow-up at a referee, he will be wanting to get back to let his footy do the talking.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 07: Brandon Smith of the Storm warms up during the round 17 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at PointsBet Stadium, on July 07, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Brandon Smith. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

7.Sam Verrills (Titans)

Making way for Smith, Verrills is trading one beachside suburb for another, joining the Gold Coast in 2023.

Spending his early days learning under former Roosters great Jake Friend, Verrills declared earlier this year that he wanted to be the Rooster hooker for ‘the next ten years’.

It wasn’t to be, and so he will take his skills at dummy half to the Titans, where he will join forces with Kieran Foran in their new look spine. Verrills will bring some much-needed experience to the club, and do his best to show the Roosters what they let go.

8.Mitch Kenny (Panthers)

From groundskeeper to premiership winner, Kenny is living out his NRL dream.

Yet another local talent, Kenny just finished his first full season in the top grade for the Panthers after joining in 2019.

Sharing the dummy-half duties with Korosiau in 2022, the 24-year-old would do the hard yards early then switch to lock when Korosiau would come on.  Kenny heads into 2023 with the role all to himself and will be wanting to prove he is the right man for the job.

9.Lachlan Croker (Sea Eagles)

Not flashy, nor a big name, but this guy has so much potential.

He was one of the shining lights in a woeful season for Manly. Consistent and hardworking, it was no surprise he took home the Sea Eagles Best and Fairest Player of the Year award.

Always putting his body on the line, Croker finished with 911 tackles, 18 tackle busts and seven offloads. He also finished the year with four tries and six assists.  

After six seasons in the top grade filled with injury drama, the former five-eighth has found a home at dummy half, and will be out to show everyone he can be one of the best-starting hookers in the game in 2023.

10.Josh Hodgson (Eels)

Don’t let the fact we didn’t see him all year make you forget what a talent he is.

The 33-year-old has a career spanning over 14 years between English Super League club Hull and the Canberra Raiders in the NRL.

After an ACL injury ruled him out for 2022, the veteran will be ready to prove he’s still got with his new club Parramatta, and show he can more than fill the shoes of departing number nine Mahoney.

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