The Strongest Player in Rugby League


The Strongest Player in Rugby League

By Keegan Smith

If there is one thing that has changed that stands out above all else when you look at the modern game compared to 30, 20 even 10 years ago it’s the physical development of rugby league players.

The average modern player is a Goliath of a man weighing in around 97kg capable of moving massive amounts of weight while also possessing scintillating traits of blistering acceleration and footwork. Granted every player is a different blend of these traits – the OUTLIERS of the group weigh in at 72kg (Rob Burrow’s one Super League’s most consistent top performers) up to giants of the NRL like Dave Taylor and Jamal Idris.

What is increasingly clear is that the need for speed is more important than it has ever been, more about that soon.

If you asked me who is the strongest player at the Roosters  I could give you 10 names all of which would be true for a given lift. If you pressed me for a straight answer then the player I would go for would be the guy who can lift a lot of weight from the floor, lift it quickly and maybe even run with it.

How do these guys get to this level?

Lets take a step back into the shoes of lot of young talents out there. Imagine you’re an average junior rugby league player with good skills but nothing special in terms of speed, power and strength. You may even be a little undersized.

If you pick up Arnold Schwarzenegger’s weightlifting bible and work with the basic programs and stick to it to the letter you could find yourself 10kg heavier in a year or two! Unfortunately you would probably be slower than you were before you invested hundreds of hours and dollars in training and food.

So how do you get to being NRL strong?

The traditional test of a man, the deadlift, is the fastest way to know if you’re dealing with a bull or a cow.

How much weight are we talking?

If you’re under 100kg and you can’t get twice body weight (200kg for a 100kg player) off the floor then chances are you’re going to spend more time on your back and the bench than signing autographs and big contracts.

Does this mean we deadlift everyday at the Roosters? No way. I agree with Dan Baker (the long standing strength coach of the Bronco’s), deadlifting heavy often is suicide as a strength coach. In fact I believe that Dan doesn’t have his players deadlift at all because the lift is so demanding.

The best test the title of rugby leagues strongest man I could suggest is to do a twice body weight (body weight in each hand) farmers walk for max distance. Keep in mind you could ask people off the street to pick those big boys up all day with no luck.

Lots of NRL players would also meet their match with this challenge. My guess is the winner would be a hooker weighing in around the 90kg mark and he would go marching with those things for about the length of the football field. It could also be a centre of similar build.

Who would I  say is the strongest player in the NRL? That’s too hard. If I had to nominate strongest at the Roosters  I could give you plenty of names and be right every time!


Keegan is the Current strength and power coach for the Sydney Roosters NRL and NYC teams. His approach to training and life is to know your purpose and consider the “bigger picture” when determining your path to success. He’s studies lots of different disciplines from farming to nutritional medicine to help get the most out of life.