Ranking the five best hookers in Super League with Castleford Tigers, Leeds Rhinos and Hull FC represented

THE name hooker comes from the pre-summer era when the number nine was responsible for ‘hooking’ the ball out of a scrum.

However, since then, the number nine role has developed into something a lot more intrinsic – they are, essentially the hub of everything a team does well.

Without quick passing off the floor, a team’s attack would break down, making the hooker an increasingly important cog in a team’s wheel.

Here are five of the best in Super League.

5. Paul McShane – Castleford Tigers

If Paul McShane had enjoyed 2022 in the way he had enjoyed previous years in a Castleford shirt then it would have been a certainty that he would have been picked for England – and would have been higher up this list, too. As it was, McShane hit a blip in form which led to even him saying it was expected that he missed out on selection for the World Cup. The number nine is, however, pivotal to everything that the Tigers do well and if they are to make the play-offs in 2023 then McShane will be the guy leading them around the park.

4. Brad Dwyer – Hull FC

It was a surprise to all that Leeds were willing to let Brad Dwyer go to Hull FC at the end of the 2022 Super League season considering just how influential the number nine had been at Headingley during his long spell there. In fact, 2021 and 2022 were perhaps Dwyer’s best seasons in a Rhinos shirt, but Leeds’ loss is very much Hull’s gain. With a huge pack to play behind including the likes of Chris Satae and Ligi Sao, Dwyer will have a field day around the ruck against most teams – and watch him fly.

3. Andy Ackers – Salford Red Devils

What a season this man had for the Salford Red Devils in 2022! An ever-present for Paul Rowley’s side, Andy Ackers put in some memorable performances that earned him a cap at the recent Rugby League World Cup as he fought his way into Shaun Wane’s thinking. Ackers was at the heart of everything Salford did well last season and it will be exactly the same going forward into 2023. At 28, the hooker is finding his straps at the right age and will be vital for the Red Devils in their fight for the play-offs next season.

2. Kruise Leeming – Leeds Rhinos

Seriously unlucky not to be called up for the Rugby League World Cup, Kruise Leeming will get his head down for 2023 in a bid to overcome that disappointment. Ever the professional, the Leeds Rhinos number nine is one of the most controlling hookers in Super League with his defensive prowess also a boost for Rohan Smith’s side. Still only 27 years of age, Leeming has plenty of rugby league left in him and it’s likely he will prove Shaun Wane was wrong for not including him in the England squad in 2023.

1. James Roby – St Helens

There really can’t be anyone else on this list but the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) of rugby league, James Roby. Like a fine wine, the St Helens number nine has got better with age and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. That is down to the peak fitness that Roby keeps himself in. Still an important player for Saints, it is likely that England would have fared a lot bette with him in their ranks at the recent World Cup. Though he dithered over potentially extending his career at Saints last season, he signed a one-year deal and could probably go round again after that despite being 37.

Honourable mention must go to Edwin Ipape who has yet to play in Super League for the Leigh Leopards as well as Jez Litten of Hull KR who would likely make this list with a strong 2023.