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The NRL Match-Up: Top tacklers


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We run the stats to compare some of the game's best tacklers.

With the NRL back bigger and better than ever, we thought we'd do what we do best at Finder and start comparing everything NRL. Each week we take a look at one aspect of the game, from the spectacular to the silly, to see who comes out on top.

Ahead of the Tigers' trip to Brisbane to kick off Round 5, we take a look at the NRL's top-performing tacklers.

Tonight's Thursday Night Football: Brisbane Broncos v Wests Tigers, 7:50pm, Suncorp Stadium

Most league fans could argue until the cows come home over what makes someone the game's best tackler: is it technique or total tackles; try-savers versus biggest hits; one-on-ones versus team tackles?

Using the NRL's data on career tackles, average tackle count and effective tackle rate, we've crunched the numbers to pick out the players who've dominated the tackle stats in the NRL era.

The contenders

Alex Twal running with the ball Image: Supplied

Alex Twal (Wests Tigers)

The young Tigers prop may be an unexpected choice, but the stats don't lie when it comes to his tackling.

In the 2018 season, Twal made a total of 598 tackles with an effective tackle percentage (ETP) of 95.32% (which is tackles that are completed and aren't broken or allow an offload). This was the highest ETP of any player with more than 100 tackles in a season and left him almost 1 percentage point better off than his closest competitor.

Since his debut in 2017, Twal has maintained an ETP above 94%, making him one of the most consistent tacklers around. His side could do with more of the same when they take on the Broncos tonight.

Jake Friend passing the ball Image: Supplied

Jake Friend (Sydney Roosters)

The Roosters captain makes the list as the player with the most entries in the top 10 for highest individual tackle count in the NRL era.

Amazingly, the hooker features 3 times in the top 10, with a career-best 73 tackles against the Broncos in August 2018. He's also one of only 2 players to make 70 tackles in a game on at least 3 occasions, along with a certain mop-haired back-rower.

Nathan Hindmarsh getting tackled Image: Supplied

Nathan Hindmarsh (Parramatta Eels)

The former Eels second-rower was the first player in NRL history to reach 10,000 tackles and finished his career with 12,150, a record tally at the time.

He also managed a staggering average tackle count of 49.11 over that time, meaning he made a tackle once every 98 seconds on average throughout his career. Like Jake Friend, he also managed a tackle count in the 70s on 3 separate occasions.

Cameron Smith passing Image: Supplied

Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm)

It's maybe a tad unfair to everyone else to include Smith on the list (after all, there are few individual records he doesn't hold), but in terms of raw numbers, it's hard to argue that he doesn't deserve a mention.

The Storm captain has made 15,311 tackles in 387 games and has managed an ETP of at least 90% in every year of his distinguished career. His personal best came in the 2016 grand final, when he made 73 tackles in the loss to the Sharks, so he's also a tackler for the big occasions.

While it's early doors, he's already made 129 tackles with an ETP of 95.73% so far this season, so it also doesn't look like he'll be slowing down anytime soon.

The verdict

Nathan Hindmarsh

It's a tough call, but we can't go past Hindy. Along with being the first player to break the 10,000 mark, the fact he averaged almost 50 tackles a game for a decade and a half makes him inarguably one of the hardest-working defenders the game has ever seen.

And here's a word from the man himself.

Don't agree with our picks? Have your say below.

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