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Simply the Best: Smith v Buderus for hooker award

They're the players that get their hands on the ball more than any other, but which hooker has been been the best of the past 30 years?

NRL.com recently launched the search for the Simply The Best players from 1990 to now to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the iconic Tina Turner promotional campaign, which was again featured in this year's advertisement for the Telstra Premiership, and is calling on the fans to have their say.

You can no longer vote via the poll in this article – we have trimmed the 10 candidates down to the two frontrunners with polls on the official NRL Instagram and Facebook accounts deciding once and for all which player is Simply The Best between Storm stalwart Cameron Smith and Knights legend Danny Buderus.

The NRL.com newsroom initially narrowed the race to be the best hooker to a shortlist of 10.

That's meant current stars like Jake Friend and Andrew McCullough and former guns Michael Ennis, Luke Priddis, Kerrod Walters and Monty Betham have missed out.

Simply The Best hooker nominees

(in alphabetical order)

Danny Buderus - Hall of Fame

Danny Buderus

A premiership-winner with Newcastle in 2001, Buderus went on to become one of the game's best leaders – captaining his club, state and country in a career featuring 21 Origin appearances for NSW and 24 Tests for Australia. Buderus shares the record for most games as NSW captain, with 15 – level with Paul Gallen and one ahead of Brad Fittler. He won the Dally M Medal in 2004 and was named Dally M Hooker of the Year three times.

Cook sparks a long range try to Gagai

Damien Cook

Lightning quick and capable of breaking through any defensive line, Cook made his NRL debut with the Dragons in 2013 then spent two seasons at the Bulldogs, but it wasn't until the final rounds of the 2017 season that he was given a big-minute role at Souths and really exploded onto the scene. The following year he played for NSW and Australia, was named the Dally M Hooker of the Year and won the Provan Summons Medal as the fans' player of the season.

Origin Rivalries: Benny Ellias v Steve Walters

Benny Elias

Crafty with the ball in hand and tireless in defence, Elias played 19 State of Origin matches for NSW – starting with the Blues' first series win in 1985 – and played 13 seasons for the Balmain Tigers, setting a club record of 232 matches. He played six Tests for Australia and won the Dally M Hooker of the Year award three times, in 1985, 1988 and 1992.

A look back at the best of Robbie Farah

Robbie Farah

Farah played 303 matches in a career spanning from 2003-2019 mainly with the Wests Tigers apart from a brief stint at Souths. An 80-minute rake with the skills of a halfback, Farah played 16 Origins and 13 Tests (eight for Australia, five for Lebanon), was named the Blues' best player in 2012 and was twice named Dally M Hooker of the Year.

Jason Hetherington played for Gold Coast, Canterbury, Queensland and Australia.
Jason Hetherington played for Gold Coast, Canterbury, Queensland and Australia.

Jason Hetherington

The 1998 Dally M Hooker of the Year played eight State of Origin matches for Queensland and two Tests for Australia between '98 and 2000, and was the Maroons' player of the series in the tied 1999 series. He won played in three grand finals for the Bulldogs including their premiership win in 1995.

Nothing but magic from Hodgson

Josh Hodgson

Hodgson didn't make his NRL debut until 2015 but he'd already played 136 matches in the English Super League and made his international debut by then, and he quickly established himself as one of the premier hookers on the planet. The Raiders rake is one of the few No.9s who can genuinely claim to be his team's main playmaker, with a superb sense of picking apart defensive weaknesses and an eye for a 40/20 or a one-on-one strip.

Blair offloads to Luke

Issac Luke

Now playing in his 14th season in the NRL, Issac Luke emerged as a weapon with the Rabbitohs in the late 2000s – a nuggety No.9 who perennially led the league for dummy half runs and metres, and kicked goals to boot. The 2013 RLIF Hooker of the Year, Luke has played 43 Tests for New Zealand.

Storm captain Cameron Smith breaks the all-time scoring record in 2019.
Storm captain Cameron Smith breaks the all-time scoring record in 2019. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Cameron Smith

Captain of Melbourne, Queensland and Australia and one of the most successful leaders at club and Origin level in modern rugby league history, Smith's list of individual honours are hard to beat. A two-time Dally M Player of the Year, Smith is a five-time Captain of the Year, eight-time Hooker of the Year, four-time Representative Player of the Year and twot-time Golden Boot winner. He's also played more NRL and State of Origin matches than any other player.

Walters Brothers highlights

Steve Walters

Part of the Raiders side that won the 1989, 1990 and 1994 premierships, Walters represented Queensland 17 times and Australia 19 times. He was named the game's hooker of the year in 1991, 1993 and 1995 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

Kangaroos star Craig Wing in 2004.
Kangaroos star Craig Wing in 2004. ©NRL Photos

Craig Wing

The one genuine utility player in this list, Wing played at five-eighth, halfback, lock, centre wing and off the bench (and that's just in his first season) but his explosive work out of dummy-half – especially as a "super sub" off the interchange – was his bread and butter at rep level. He played a dozen Origin matches and 16 Tests for Australia, starring in the Blues' three-year Origin domination in the early 2000s.