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Coates make the cut? We countdown the NRL’s 10 greatest ever tries


NRL, best tries

Throughout its esteemed history, rugby league has witnessed immense feats of human ability. From brute strength to athleticism and aerial prowess akin to gymnasts, NRL stars can do it all.

At the epicentre of these feats of physical exceptionalism is the act of scoring a try. Arguably, there is no more crucial element of a rugby league game. Defence is great but tries, well they’re all fans care about. And over the last decade, thanks largely to the removal of the corner post as being touch-in-goal in 2010, many mind-boggling tries have been scored.

We’re talking mid-air body contortions which are as much poetry in motion as any athletic feat anywhere in the world or runs demonstrating pure strength, agility and technicality ending in four points and unbridled jubilation.

Whittling down the thousands of tries scored in the NRL era is a Herculean effort. For the record, we’ve removed any tries scored at international or State of Origin level. On top of this, we’ve selected tries purely based on the skills on show in the act of scoring them, as opposed to the moment they represent.

So, sorry Nathan Cleary and Kyle Feldt. Maybe there’s another article to celebrate your heroic, Premiership-winning achievements, but it won’t be this one. Without further ado, here are the 10 greatest tries of the NRL era, ranked.

Top 10 best tries of the NRL era

Honourable mentions: Literally any Greg Inglis try ever, Sandor Early v Canberra (2011), Kyle Feldt v Brisbane (2021), Jarryd Hayne v the Tigers (2009), Nathan Blacklock v the Wests Tigers (2001)

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Manly’s Tom Trbojevic is both a great try scorer and a scorer of great tries

10. Tom Trbejovic v North Queensland, 2021

2021 was a special year for Manly’s Tom Trbojevic, capped with his first Dally M Medal victory. In 18 games, he scored 28 times, provided another 27 tries and averaged over 200 running metres. There wasn’t much opposition teams could do to stop him, ask the Cowboys.

And there wasn’t much on when Kieran Foran dumped Turbo the ball on the left side. Faced with a seemingly impenetrable defensive line, he danced back across field, jinking past three Cowboys defenders before running into three more who looked to have him wrapped up.

Until they didn’t and Trbojevic broke free, slithering past a few more Cowboys defenders to score a memorable try in a memorable season.

9. Tui Lolohea v Melbourne, 2015

Nathan Friend, take a bow. A forgettable Chad Townsend bomb looks to be going nowhere until, without much thought for safety, the Warriors hooker launches himself at the ball as if he’s Buddy Franklin taking a mark and tosses it safely into Sam Tomkins’ mits.

A few passes and a Shaun Johnson flick pass later, Tui Lolohea crosses over in the corner, all thanks to Nathan Friends’ sheer bravery.

8. Ben Barba v Newcastle, 2011

Honestly, this Ben Barba effort at the end of the 2011 season probably should be higher, if not for how dubious the finish is. In modern times, this feat of athleticism would’ve been scrutinised and placed under the microscope for hours, likely ending in a no-try.

In 2011, however, it was awarded and Barba’s front flip acrobatics were rewarded. And rightly so, the 2012 Dally M Medallist risked a broken neck, at least, for this superhuman effort, making it worth so much more than four points.

7. Brett Morris v Cronulla, 2014

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Brett Morris soaring high into the Cronulla sky, collecting a cross field chip and planting it down despite every single law of physics dictating he, and the ball, should’ve ended up in the first row of the Shark Park grandstand.

6. Pat Richards v North Queensland, 2005

The Tigers’ 2005 triumph doesn’t quite make the cut in our best Grand Finals of the modern era, but a certain try from that game does. In the grand scheme of things, Pat Richards’ involvement is hardly remarkable. Put any Tigers player in his position and they score.

What is remarkable is Benji Marshall’s contribution. You should be able to picture it without any description; the gliding, slanting run and the near-impossible flick pass, executed with a calmness and confidence usually reserved for pre-season trials as opposed to Grand Finals, onto an onrushing Richards’ chest.

5. Jarryd Hayne v St George, 2009

For a while there, the Hayne Plane was soaring without looking like he’d ever get brought down. Arguably the peak of Jarryd Hayne’s 2009 season was this solo effort against the Dragons in week one of the finals.

Rather than moving away from traffic, Hayne steps three times off his left foot, busting tackles and finding space that previously didn’t exist, before bursting toward the try line, brushing a few more helpless defenders off like they were flies, planting the ball down and shushing a boisterous Kogarah Oval.

In the commentary box, an exuberant Ray Warran described Hayne’s feat as ‘one of the season’s best.’ Adding Hayne was ‘simple dancing, dancing his way through the opposition.’

4. Dom Young v St George, 2023

The human body simply should not contort in the way Dom Young’s did against the Dragons in 2023. For all money, the gigantic English winger looked to be barrelled into the sidelines. Every part of him was cartwheeling, legs pointing skyward, back parallel to the ground, toward the touchline, except for one: his right hand.

3. David Mead v Cronulla, 2011

Another try that simply should not have been scored. Scott Prince’s chip looks destined for a date with the sideline. In most cases, it likely would’ve got there, except in this case. In this case, David Mead is there to scoop it up, control it on his bank and plant it down for four points.

2. Josh Morris v Melbourne, 2012

Very rarely in rugby league does any team go from coast to coast. It’s even rarer that a team does it against the Melbourne Storm. In 2012, the Bulldogs weren’t just any team and Ben Barba wasn’t just any ordinary player.

In Mackay, Barba’s adopted home, he collected the ball barely a metre from his deadball line, broke through Melbourne’s kick chase, avoided a Cameron Smith coathanger and planted a near-perfectly weighted chip kick for Josh Morris to score.

All in all, it was a 110-metre try created by sheer magic from one of the NRL’s best magicians, against a side featuring Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith designed to stifle any opposition magic. On this occasion, they simply had no answer.

1. Xavier Coates v New Zealand, 2024

Recency bias aside, there has been no greater NRL try than Xavier Coates’ effort in round two of the 2024 season. Not only was it a match-winner in a nailbiting clash, but Coates flipped and flew through the air as if suspenders and ropes were controlling him and a mattress was there to cushion his fall.

Coates knew what he was doing, leaping for the line six metres away from the try line and allowing gravity to do the rest.

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Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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