To an outsider the role of the rugby league front rower would appear to be pretty simple: as the physically largest players on the field, the props’ job is to grab the ball and smash it up-field as hard as they can, right?
On closer investigation, in the modern game the rugby league front rower needs to be more than a bulldozer. He requires skill, finesse and versatility. In fact, the more points of difference the better, according to rugby league legend Petero Civoniceva.
Inside Sport recently asked the 300-game NRL veteran what it takes to succeed as a prop in the modern game. Turns out it goes well beyond body size and power running …
Civoniceva, a legendary prop himself, hung up his boots in the NRL at the end of the 2012 season, but watches today’s game with great interest. He has noticed several subtle changes that have occurred over the first few years of his retirement.
“Obviously the role and importance of a good front-rower is not lost on the modern game,” said Petero. “Momentum is still everything in rugby league. You can have all the flashy playmakers doing their thing, but at the end of the day they need to be heading in the right direction down the park. You need the big men to be able to do that.
“Certainly the game, with the speed it’s played at now, is requiring our front-rowers to be not only mobile, but to have other elements to their game, whether it’s great footwork on their line, great second-phase play, or the ability to pass before the line; the way James Graham does for the Canterbury Bulldogs.
“There are all these other factors coming into a really good prop’s game now, which is fantastic. It certainly throws up another element to any good team: the potency of a good, front-row attack.”