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Our League expert picks his top 10 edge forwards ahead of the new season


They’re the flashiest of forwards, with an unmatched combination of strength and speed, but as the 2024 season approaches, who are the best edge forwards in the NRL?

A great attacking edge forward is a must for every team, hosting the skills of reading the defence to run great lines, having game-breaking strength, and a try-scoring nous like no other forward.

It’s also critically important that they provide reliability in defence, with many of the players on our top 10 list of edge forwards having a greater than 90% tackle efficiency during the 2023 season.

Now having already looked at our choices for the best 24 players for 2024, along with our top 10 rankings in every other rugby league position, it’s time to turn our attention to the edge forward spot.

With season 2024 now our focus, what better way to get properly prepared for the action than with our top 10 list?

Whatever top 10 we settle on, we’re aware debate will rage. But please acknowledge we’re determined to build a more balanced and logical list than what you’ll find in other click-hungry publications.

NRL best edge forwards for 2024
Where does Cronulla’s Briton Nikora rank amongst the NRL’s best edge forwards?

The 10 best edge forwards in the NRL for season 2024

Here are our top 10 best NRL edge forwards as we build into the 2024 season. Note that we’ve considered 2023 form generously, along with what we know they’re capable of, based on previous output.


1. David Fifita

Topping our list for the best edge forwards in the NRL as we enter the 2024 season is Gold Coast Titans and Queensland second-rower David Fifita.

Practically unstoppable at his best, an injury-free Fifita played some of the best rugby league of his young career during the 2023 season, scoring tries and rampaging through defences weekly.

His statistics were incredible; crossing for eight tries, averaging 145 metres per game, and totalling 130 tackle breaks. One area Fifita can continue to improve in is his defending, he is below par among his peers, averaging 26.5 per cent tackles per game at 90% efficiency.

2. Briton Nikora

Nikora is arguably the best edge forward in the game. His efforts at times go under the radar because of his Kiwi roots — and therefore ineligibility to show the world what he’s capable of in the Origin arena.

He elevated his game to new heights in 2023, with a strong work rate and an impactful running game on the right of Cronulla’s ruck. At 26 years of age, he’s hit the peak of his powers.

What Nikora does so brilliantly is dominate both sides of the game. His ability to find the try-line is matched only by his effective defence. Nikora scored eight tries in 2023 and averaged 35 tackles per game at 92.5% efficiency.

3. Haumole Olakau’atu

If you could ask for the perfect second-rower build it would have to be modelled off Haumole Olakau’atu — 6-foot-4, roughly 110kg and just a flat-out damaging player.

Last season Olakau’atu was brilliant for Manly, scoring the most tries out of any back rower in the competition (10) while amassing the third most run metres (126).

Similarly to Fifita, Olakau’atu is more of an attacking player who most defences can’t match, but when he hasn’t got the ball in hand he’s fairly ‘middle-of-the-pack’ making just under 30 tackles a game on 91% efficiency.

4. Keaon Koloamatangi

Barring any injuries, Keaon Koloamatangi will bring up his 100-game milestone this season. It’s incredible to think he hasn’t reached it already, that just highlights how meteoric his rise has been.

Crazily, Koloamatangi only debuted in 2020, meaning he’s entering his fifth NRL season. He has quickly become an integral part of South Sydney’s side and has started to be involved with Origin camps in the past couple of seasons.

His game is built on being intimidating on both ends. Koloamatangi’s crash-bash attack saw him run for 126 metres a game and make 37 tackle breaks all year, while defensively being strong making 30 tackles on 93% efficiency.

5. Liam Martin

Rounding out our top five has to be three-time premiership winner Liam Martin who has pretty much kept the last two players listed above out of the New South Wales side because of his consistent ability to rise to the occasion.

Martin doesn’t necessarily fill the stat sheets, only scoring six tries last season, while running just 100 metres per game. His specialty is leading from the front, bringing intensity to whatever team he’s playing for – Penrith, Australia or New South Wales.

An absolute wrecking ball in attack, Martin broke 55 tackles in 2023, ranking him sixth amongst back rowers in the competition.

6. Isaiah Papali’i

It was somewhat of a lean year try-wise for first-season Tiger Isaiah Papali’i.

You can clearly understand why a player would struggle to score tries when they play for the Wests Tigers, a club hoping to avoid a third straight wooden spoon in 2024. With another off-season in the books at Concord, we can expect a lot from him this year.

With the mountain of defending the Tigers had to do, Papali’i showed his capabilities on that side of the game making 33 tackles a game on 93% efficiency. He was still decent in attacking statistics running for 115 metres on average whilst breaking a total of 67 tackles across the season, third overall for second rowers.

7. Villiame Kikau

His first season at the Bulldogs didn’t go according to plan, picking up an injury early on in the year that kept him sidelined until round 22, which was already officially season over for Canterbury.

His previous three seasons at Penrith show that, when Kikau’s on the paddock, he is arguably the competition’s best second-rower, running rampant on the left edge and busting through defences like they aren’t there.

Alongside Matt Burton, it’s expect Kikau will return to his best this season, barring any injury setbacks.

8. Jacob Preston

There’s an argument starting to be mounted that Jacob Preston could be the better edge forward at the Bulldogs over Kikau after one of the best rookie seasons we’ve seen in a while.

Preston was damaging on both sides of the game, scoring six tries on a strong average of 94 metres a game, while being a lockdown defender — 95.5% efficiency on 38 tackles a game.

By the end of 2024, Jacob Preston could be one of the best second-rowers in the competition, but for now, it’s crazy enough that he’s in the top 10 off of one season.

9. Nat Butcher

The Roosters have been through a bit of turmoil in the second-row position in the past few seasons with players retiring, moving on to new clubs and dealing with off-field issues. But through all of it, Nat Butcher has been solid.

Where he shines the most is in his defence prowess, making a career-high 1,062 tackles in 2023 (44.3 per game) on a ridiculously good 95.5% efficiency.

10. Hudson Young

Canberra Raiders second-rower Hudson Young snags the final spot on our top 10 best edge forwards list as we enter the 2024 season.

Young has broken out as a star for the Raiders in the last few seasons, scoring plenty of match-winning tries to accompany his top-notch tackle-breaking ability. It will be interesting to see how Young fares without Jack Wighton, with 2024 promising to be a test of just how good he is.

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