North Queensland second-row tyro Jeremiah Nanai’s incredible ability to get over the line this 2022 NRL season has revived memories of the great try-scoring forwards of yesterday.
Relive the feats of Burge, McCarthy, Menzies and co. – and see what Nanai has to do to join those luminaries in the record books.
The undisputed king of forward tryscorers and one of the most potent of all time – in any position.
Glebe legend ‘Chunky’ Burge scored 137 tries in 138 games for the ‘Dirty Reds’ before finishing his career in 1927 with a season at St George (nine tries in 15 games).
Burge scored 20-plus tries in a season three times – all in 14-game campaigns – and still holds the premiership record for most tries in a match, crossing eight times against University in 1920.
He also co-holds the all-time record for most career hat-tricks (16) with the great Ken Irvine.
A rampant try-poacher at representative level, one of Burge’s most revered achievements was scoring 33 tries in just 23 games on the 1921-22 Kangaroo Tour.
He remained among the premiership’s top five tryscorers ever until the 1990s and still holds a place in the top 20.
Burge joined the ranks of the Immortals in 2018.
Canterbury great Eddie Burns ranks arguably as the finest tryscoring exponent among players who spent their entire careers at the front-row coalface.
Between 1935 and 1950, the mobile prop scored 61 tries in 215 first-grade games. His career-high tally of 10 in 1942 included a four-try haul against Newtown.
Newtown lock ‘Chicka’ Cahill is one of the few forwards in premiership history to lead the competition’s tryscoring charts, heading the field with 13 in 1945.
Cahill, whose next best total in a seven-season career was just five tries, bagged a hat-trick against Balmain and crossed in six straight regular season games for the high-flying Bluebags.
Another backrower, Easts’ Dick Dunn, was one of three players tied for second on 12 tries – after scoring a modest 16 tries in 91 first-grade appearances prior to that season.
Les ‘Chicka’ Cowie
Another ‘Chicka’ who excelled in tryscoring from the back of the scrum, Champion South Sydney lock Cowie scored 66 tries in a marvellous 176-game career for the club.
Cowie twice managed 10 tries in a season, while his four tries in a 1956 prelim loss to Balmain remained an all-time finals record until 2003.
He also bagged 10 tries in 20 games on the 1948-49 Kangaroo Tour.
The future Immortal’s tryscoring ability is often overlooked in the shadow of his 10 grand final victories, but ‘Sticks’ Provan crossed for 64 tries in 265 games for St George.
The Australian Team of the Century second-rower notched 11 tries in back-to-back seasons (1958-59) and racked up eight tries from 18 Test appearances.
Provan’s second-row partner in the ARL Team of the Century named in 2008, Coote is another forward legend whose tryscoring exploits are often overlooked among their towering achievements.
The Souths and Easts icon scored 88 first-grade tries – behind only Burge, Bob McCarthy and Steve Menzies in history in the forward tryscoring stakes – and bagged 23 ‘meat pies’ across the Roosters’ 1974-75 premiership seasons.
Coote also scored 13 tries in 24 Tests for Australia.
The greatest tryscoring forward since Burge, McCarthy was a revolutionary figure in the late 1960s.
The introduction of the four-tackle rule saw McCarthy, a magnificent tight defender, develop into a wide-running back-row forward the likes of which had never been seen.
McCarthy was integral to four premiership victories for the Rabbitohs and scored 100 tries in a club record 211 games, while he added 19 touchdowns in 40 games in a late-career stint for Canterbury.
His most famous try was a long-range intercept to spearhead Souths’ 12-10 victory over Canterbury in the 1967 Grand Final.
McCarthy, a veteran of 15 Tests (in which he bagged seven tries), scored three hat-tricks during his first-grade career and topped ten tries in a season of six occasions, but his lasting legacy is as a ground-breaking second-rower – one of the best of all time.
The ‘Rockhampton Rocket’s’ tryscoring rate dipped during the second half of his career, but he crossed 53 times in his first seven seasons at St George.
Following up a career-high tally of 12 tries as the Dragons carried off the premiership in 1977, the second-row enforcer followed that up with 11 in 1978 and finished his tenure in the Australian Test team with seven tries in 19 internationals.
‘Mr Perpetual Motion’ scored 10-plus tries in his first four seasons at Parramatta after switching from rugby union in 1976 – including four in a match against Souths in 1978.
The indefatigable lock finished with 78 tries (sixth-most ever in first grade among forwards) for the Eels, while he netted 10 tries in 23 Tests for Australia.
Rangy Kiwi back-rower McGahan scored a modest 20 tries in 118 games for the Roosters from 1985-91, but he wrote his name into forward tryscoring folklore at Test level.
McGahan scored a world record six tries in just his third Test – a 60-20 win over Papua New Guinea in 1983 – and finished his international career with 16 tries from 32 matches, a New Zealand record that stood until 1998.
One of the great tryscorers in the British game, the mercurial Hanley grabbed four-pointers for fun as a centre or five-eighth for much of his career.
But his strike-rate barely slowed at Wigan and Leeds after making a permanent switch to lock – crossing for a ridiculous 149 tries in 173 British club games from the back of the scrum.
Better known as a dynamic centre for Balmain by Australian fans, Hanley also scored four tries in a three-week burst at lock for Western Suburbs Magpies in 1989.
A giant among modern-day tryscorers, ‘Beaver’ retired second on the premiership’s all-time register with 180 tries from 349 games for Manly and Northern Eagles.
Menzies, who formed an uncanny combination with mesmerising five-eighth veteran Cliff Lyons, scored 16 tries in his 1994 rookie season, led the competition with 22 tries in 1995, and dotted down 20 times in the 1996 and ’98 seasons.
The headgeared wonder crossed for 11 tries in his first eight Test matches.
One of the most versatile players of all time, Croker’s 120 tries for Canberra were spread across every position except halfback and hooker. He scored 68 tries in his 211 starts as a back-rower – and even bagged a double in his sole run-on game as a prop.
Croker’s career-high 22-try season as the Raiders surged to premiership glory in 1994 included seven in 10 games in the pack, while he managed two hat-tricks and a four-try haul from the back-row during a 16-season career.
A potent tryscorer out in the centres for Canterbury and Brisbane, Smith could find his way to line from the second-row or lock, where he spent roughly half of his career.
The Queenslander scored 53 tries in 129 games as a starting back-rower for the Bulldogs and Broncos, while he crossed 16 times in 23 Super League matches from the pack at the back-end of his career.
Smith’s NRL-leading, club-record-equalling 23 tries in 1998 for the champion Broncos including six tries from as many games at lock.
Another player whose other qualities – in Tallis’ case, his explosive, inspirational game-breaking tendencies and intimidation factor – overshadowed his tryscoring talents, the ‘Raging Bull’ scored 66 times in a 214-game first-grade career.
Tallis’ most prolific season featured a 12-try tally for St George in 1995, while his reached double figures again for Brisbane in 2002.
The second-row enforcer scored nine tries in 13 Tests for Australia, including a then-record-equalling four tries in a World Cup warm-up against Papua New Guinea in 2000.
Blockbusting back-rower Kennedy’s 70 tries in 195 first-grade games puts him in elite company among the modern era’s forwards.
With 15 tries in just 18 games for Canberra in 1997 (equal-third in the Super League premiership), the former rugby union prodigy became just the fourth forward after Burge, McCarthy and Menzies to notched 15 in a season.
‘BK’ bettered that with 17 tries in Newcastle’s 2001 title-winning campaign, while he crossed for a double on Kangaroos debut against Fiji a year earlier.
The tall back-rower edged into the premiership’s top five tryscoring forwards of all time with 79 in 323 NRL games – racking up 65 of those playing alongside Johnathan Thurston on the Cowboys’ left edge from 2011-18.
Cooper’s career-high tally of 13 in the 2018 season including a run of nine straight matches grabbing a four-pointer, a premiership record for a forward.
With Thurston retiring at the end of that season, Cooper managed just three tries in 2019.
Curiously, Cooper came up try-less in 17 NRL starts at centre.
James’ career tally of 33 tries in 166 NRL games is nothing to write home about, but the Titans stalwart carved a niche in the history books during a sparkling 2016 campaign.
The powerhouse’s 12 touchdowns that year broke the all-time record for most tries in a season by a prop, knocking off the 11 scored by St George’s Jack Holland (1950) and Souths’ Harry Eden (1975).
The shine has worn off former Broncos phenom Fifita on the Gold Coast in 2022 somewhat, but his monster salary appeared to be worth every penny during his first campaign in Titans colours.
Fifita announced himself as a game-breaking freak from the moment he debuted for Brisbane.
After moving down the highway, the second-row behemoth broke the Titans club record in 2021 with 17 tries in 22 games – including two hat-tricks in the space of three games against Newcastle and South Sydney.
Fifita’s overall NRL tally stands at 34 tries in 78 games.
Nanai scored a try off the bench on NRL debut late last season, but he remained virtually unknown heading into 2022.
The towering 19-year-old second-rower has exploded this year, however, scoring 14 tries in 15 games and earning a Queensland Origin call-up.
Nanai ability in the air has been an astonishingly potent weapon for the burgeoning Cowboys and he remains a huge chance of becoming just the third forward after Burge and Menzies to score 20 tries in a season – a remarkable effort from a teenaged rookie.