Ageing like fine wine: Picking a best 17 of NRL players on the wrong side of 30


For a ‘young man’s game’, the NRL certainly has a host of players on the wrong side of 30 who are carving up. Here’s a team of players over 30 years of age who, with more than 4,900 games between them, are still running rings around their younger opponents week after week.

(Games include representative and ESL games where applicable).

1. James Tedesco (Age 31, 283 games) – Some say his form is on the wane, and that repeated head knocks are taking their toll, but he remains the Roosters’ favourite son and key to their success this year.

Luai sets up Tedesco! ????#Origin

— NRL (@NRL) June 5, 2024

2. Jordan Rapana (Age 34, 230 games) – Tough and ruthless, he competes for the full 80 minutes every time he takes the field, and has been one of Canberra’s best in 2024.

3. Dane Gagai (Age 33, 313 games) – Gagai is one of those players who can find that extra gear when needed and he just loves to make his opponents’ life as uncomfortable as possible.

4. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Age 31, 224 games) – Many thought that RTS wouldn’t recapture his best form after a couple of years in the rugby union wilderness, but his power running and strong defence have been a feature of the Warriors’ performances this season.

5. Daniel Tupou (Age 32, 283 games) – Seemingly ageless, Tupou is now in his 13th season on the Roosters left wing, doing his job to perfection week in, week out, and without any fuss.

6. Cody Walker (Age 34, 212 games) – Walker seems to be getting crankier as he gets older but is still arguably Souths’ most consistent performer and one of the most dangerous attacking players in the game.

The Universe ???? Cody Walker#NRLTitansSouths

— NRL (@NRL) June 8, 2024

7. Daly Cherry-Evans (Age 35, 364 games) – DCE is now in his 14th season with Manly and is still good enough to be leading the Queensland Origin team. Say no more.

8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Age 35, 344 games) – Loved by his teammates and fans but seemingly unpopular with everyone else, JWH’s reputation as a ruthless enforcer continues to grow.

9. Ben Hunt (Age 34, 362 games) – Hunt is one of the first players picked for QLD, and with good reason, and he leads the NRL for try assists this year.

10. Jesse Bromwich (Age 35, 365 games) – Bromwich has been a rock throughout his career with both Melbourne and now the Dolphins, and has provided the strong leadership to have his team in the top four throughout the first half of the season.

11. Elliott Whitehead (Age 34, 402 games) – A tough and uncompromising performer, Canberra’s recent resurgence has coincided with his return to the team from injury.

12. Tohu Harris (Age 32, 248 games) – Harris combines brute force with ball-playing skills and has been the Warriors’ best forward since he joined the club in 2018.

13. Jack de Belin (Age 33, 226 games) – De Belin has been the Dragons’ most consistent forward, both in attack and defence, since returning from his enforced stand-down in June 2021.

14. Damien Cook (Age 32, 225 games) – Cook may have lost a yard of the blistering pace that once characterised his game, but he’s still a very clever dummy half and critical to Souths’ hopes of heading up the competition ladder.

15. Jack Wighton (Age 31, 279 games) – While a move from Canberra to Souths probably hasn’t worked out how he wished, Wighton is still one of the best centres in the NRL.

Wighton grabs his first try as a Rabbitoh! ????#NRLSouthsBulldogs

— NRL (@NRL) March 29, 2024

16. Thomas Burgess (Age 32, 318 games) – Put simply, Souths forwards just don’t look competitive unless the big Englishman is on the field knocking defenders out of the way.

17. Felise Kaufusi (age 32, 224 games) – Wayne Bennett knew what he was doing when he signed the rugged enforcer in 2023 and Kaufusi has been playing well enough to still find himself in the Maroons team.

Have I missed anyone?

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