Raiders forward Shannon Boyd.
Raiders forward Shannon Boyd. DEAN LEWINS

Who's the strongest in the NRL?

WE'RE looking at raw power.

These blokes are either built like versions of "The Mountain" from Game of Thrones or pound-for-pound freaks of nature.

These are the bar-benders - the crowd-pleasers who can stop a whole gym as fellow athletes watch and admire their jaw-dropping feats.

When it comes to pumping iron, some are affectionately known as "mutants" purely because of the crazy numbers they're throwing up.

Add the fact that these guys are both explosive and endurance athletes who can play 80 minutes of the most intense sport in the world, and their numbers are even more impressive.

We have uncovered just how much tin the game's sturdiest men are throwing around and will reveal, at the end of our story, who is the strongest of them all.

BRONCOS

Powerhouse prop Joe Ofahengaue is the king in Brisbane's gym. The 21-year-old forward regularly bench-presses 175kg.

Keep in perspective that the Kiwi product weighs 112kg. And if you think his bench is impressive, you should see his squat. Ofahengaue regularly squats a whopping 215kg.

RAIDERS

It should come as no surprise that big unit Shannon Boyd dominates the weights room.

While the Raiders weren't able to provide numbers, the 122kg forward has the biggest figures when it comes to the squats and bench, but Luke Bateman and Josh Hodgson are the club's strongest players pound-for-pound.

Eddie Aiono is the best of the backs, with the 23-year-old winger squatting more than 200kg for three repetitions.

"It's pretty impressive for a winger," captain Jarrod Croker said of Aiono's efforts.

BULLDOGS

While the Bulldogs have some big men like Sam Kasiano and David Klemmer, 115kg prop Danny Fualalo is the strongest.

The 22-year-old bench-presses 150kg for three reps, followed by 25 reps of 80kg to improve endurance.

SHARKS

It should come as no surprise that Cronulla's fearless leader, Paul Gallen, is the club's overall strongest player, according to their physical performance manager Andrew Gray.

When it comes to the biggest bench press, Gallen holds the record, but he doesn't completely dominate the gym.

Jayson Bukuya is the biggest squatter and Sam Tagataese holds the record for biggest deadlift this season. To give you an idea of the weight being thrown around, Gallen regularly deadlifts and squats 200kg-plus.

TITANS

He's a new addition to the Titans and he's already turning heads.

Pat Vaivai claims the mantle of strongest in the gym with deadlifts and squats of more than 200kg.

But when it comes to power work, Chris McQueen is a surprise winner.

"He's like Danny Wicks was at Parramatta. He's one of those naturally powerful blokes," Nathan Peats said of McQueen. "He's the only one doing hang cleans. You can tell when he makes a line break, he's still fast as. He's powerful like that."

SEA EAGLES

It should come as no surprise that Marty Taupau is the strongest in the Manly gym.

Outside of rugby league training, he does work in a weightlifting gym where an emphasis is placed on low reps for power. While he boasts a maintenance weight of 160kg for two reps in the deadlifts, he usually sits around 200kg throughout the season.

While he's carrying some serious size on his 111kg frame, the weightlifting isn't slowing him down.

Last year the 26-year-old averaged 64 minutes per game.

 

Martin Taupau of the Sea Eagles.
Martin Taupau of the Sea Eagles. DAN HIMBRECHTS

While he's built like a chiselled statue, in a strange twist, Taupau said his lifting was helping him with his running game.

The forward revealed that he uses breathing techniques when lifting to help him with his fitness work on the field.

"I try and defy the odds. A lot of people say you can be strong but you can't be fast and fit," he said.

"I've been taught to hold my breath in during strength training. Lifting heavy increases my lung capacity to a certain degree. That helps when I run. I can take in a lot of air. Last year I was playing back row and I played 80 minutes and I was doing my strength training."

STORM

Jordan McLean, Felise Kaufusi, Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa- Solomona are Melbourne's best performers in the gym.

All four players have been known to squat more than 200kg during the off-season, while Kaufusi and Bromwich are the heaviest bench-pressers.

"They're probably our biggest and most powerful guys," teammate Dale Finucane said of the four.

"That crosses over into the wrestling. With the size and strength they have, they're able to dominate guys a lot easier."

KNIGHTS

Newcastle's physical performance manager Tony Ayoub has crowned 26-year-old Queensland Origin star Dane Gagai as the club's strongest player.

"Dane Gagai is our strongest player overall, when you combine the lower and upper body lifts," Ayoub revealed.

"He is meticulous with his preparation for each session and ensures that he gets the best out of himself every session."

COWBOYS

Forward Patrick Kaufusi might not be the biggest bloke in Townsville but he's certainly the strongest.

The 22-year-old weighs in at 103kg and holds the record in the Cowboys gym for squat and bench press.

While we couldn't get access to the actual numbers, a source from the club told us Kaufusi squats about 210kg and benches 185kg.

EELS

A 102kg mountain of muscle, Kelepi Tanginoa is by far the most impressive Eel in the gym.

Having earnt the nickname "little Hulk" due to his impressive numbers, the forward has the biggest lifts for the bench, squat and overhead press.

Tanginoa recorded a 220kg back squat for three reps and an overhead shoulder press for five reps at 95kg.

And his bench press? An impressive 180kg.

PANTHERS

Forward Sam McKendry is considered the strongest in the forwards but the Panthers could not provide us with any weights.

In the backline Josh Mansour is the man to watch.

The winger deadlifts 270kg for one rep. Not only is it the biggest deadlift in the backs but it's the biggest at the club.

RABBITOHS

Back-rower Angus Crichton has deadlifted 250kg and squats 200kg.

The 20-year-old isn't the only one pushing big weight on his back with new recruit Tyrell Fuimaono and Cam Murray also part of the 200 club.

 

Rabbitohs player George Burgess in action.
Rabbitohs player George Burgess in action. MICK TSIKAS

George Burgess holds the record on the squat rack with 250kg, while hooker Damien Cook pushed out a whopping 230 during the pre-season.

"The other day I got 230 out on the squat," Cook said. "I don't have to go as low as some of the other boys.

"There's been a few PBs. The other day George Burgess put 250kg on there and got it up well. That was pretty impressive."

DRAGONS

Mose Masoe is the strongest by far when it comes to the bench press.

Weighing in at 120kg, the 27-year-old has had plenty of time to work on his lifting, having been confined to the gym for more than a year due to two knee injuries.

Masoe is also the strongest when it comes to the deadlift and back squat, despite him not playing a game since the 2015 Super League grand final.

ROOSTERS

With the likes of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to compete with, the strongest at the Chooks might surprise you.

Former Penrith forward Chris Smith is one of the biggest lifters at the club.

Deadlifting more than 200kg, the 23-year-old's legs are as powerful as they come.

While most NRL sides only do conventional back squats, the Roosters zone in on the quads and perform the more difficult front squats, which Smith can push out with 160kg on the barbell.

WARRIORS

Warriors head of athletic performance Balin Cupples provided a list of the biggest lifters in the forwards and backs.

Up front it's forward Bunty Afoa who owns the bench press. He can push 1.7 times his body weight. That's a weight of almost 200kg.

In the backs, skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck leads by example, benching 1.8 times his body weight. That's more than 160kg.

 

Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. DAVID ROWLAND

When it comes to putting the bar on his back and squatting down, it's Queensland Origin forward Jacob Lillyman who the team stops to watch.

He can back squat 2.1 times his body weight, or more than 210kg.

Halfback Mason Lino and winger Manu Vatuvei can also back squat 2.2 times their body weight.

TIGERS

Sauaso Sue is one of the strongest forwards at the club.

The 24-year-old boasts a back squat of more than 200kg for his one-rep max.

Tigers head of physical performance Marcus Kain said: "A smart periodised strength program enables our players to lift to their maximum capacity."

In the backline, 93kg centre Kevin Naiqama is throwing around some serious iron.

Naiqama has a one-rep max of 175kg on the bench press.

The Tigers customise all their programs to cater to each player's needs, with a focus on volume training.

With individualised programs, each player has a workout tailored specific to their wants and needs.

"He personalises everyone's program to the individual," new recruit Jamal Idris said of Kain.

"I know what I need to lift that's going to help me most. It's not one size fits all."

AND THE WINNER IS ...

Who else could it be? Marty Taupau.

The Manly muscle farm is as strong as they come.

But what is his heaviest lift?

"310kg deadlift," he revealed.

"I've been doing a few other exercises. I base my training on deadlifts, squat and bench press - all power exercises.

"It's all relevant to rugby league. It's really hard to build your strength. I feel like my strength is there. I just have to find the balance."

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