The GooseStep – The Sinister Squad

Welcome back to the Goosestep!
All the avid readers out there love a bit of rugby league banter and opinions, and we go for the positive sides here at the GooseStep columns.

But we get to have some more fun with this. A list of 10 of the most intimidating players to lace up the boots here in WA in the last 5 years. Don’t get me wrong. Charlie Burkhardt and Wellington Tuliloa were extremely scary characters and dominated teams in their time, but we wanted to be a bit more current.

Just to be clear, intimidating doesn’t always mean physical strength. It can be the ability to put the opposition off. The ability to impose their will on a game and just take it away from their opponent. Mainly, its that feeling of dread when you see that player on the other team with that look in their eyes.

Remember this is not a complete list and couldn’t put down everyone.
So here we are in no particular order….

10. Layna Nona Busch – Ellenbrook Rabbitohs – Lock/Second Row

On her day Layna is one of the most devastating free runners in the competition. Ultra fast, with great balance and a perfect build for rugby league, she can terrorize a defensive line with her speed and physicality. Injury has played its part in her career and kept her from consistently playing in the league, but whenever she lines up that little bit of fear enters the psyche of the opposition team. She’s already represented the Indigenous All Stars, and if she recaptures that kind of form, look out.

9. Jordan Jacobs – South Perth Lions – Winger

The Tornado from PNG, Jacobs on his day was one of the most daunting players to play against. Ultra fast and strong, a player once summed up that trying to tackle Jacobs was “Like trying to tackle a 100kg medicine ball, that was quicker than you, had better footwork, and was made out of cement”. Topping out at probably a modest 5 foot 7, he is just a ball of pure muscle and power. Again injury and work commitments have not been his friend, much to the opponents relief, but when on his game, the zip zip man could run over you or around you, it made no difference.

8. Josh Houghton – Joondalup Giants – Prop

Big. Physical. Fast. Josh Houghton may contain the best 10 minute stint in the game here in WA. An impact player at his best, he can single handedly, and has in the past, change the momentum in a game. Ask him and he will tell you he is actually a five-eight with an amazing kicking game, but the physical attributes of this dominant forward cannot be understated. Strong with a controlled aggressive streak, his team mates come to life after one of his noted charges or shots on his opponent. A great team mate.

7. Cheyenne Campbell – Willagee Bears – Centre

Another one of these smiling assassins in the Women’s game, I actually had the pleasure of coaching Cheyenne in a Kiwi vs City game at one time. My instructions to her, just do your thing. She decided that meant just destroying everyone in a City jersey along with running over anyone in her way. The ability to blindside a ball carrier in defence is an art, and Campbell is ‘Monet’. And her speed with the ball allows her to just basically run over multiple players in succession. A shining light for the Bears for years.

6. Takaroa Peneha – Fremantle Roosters – Prop

Takaroa came out of nowhere to basically stamp himself as one of the most dangerous props in the game in 2020. He is strong, determined and plays big minutes in the middle with the big boys. But it is his ultra speed that sets him apart. Super fast for a front rower, there are games where he breaks the first line and then just chooses to run around the fullback in a comical display of footwork and acceleration. With a great fend and swerve, you can normally see him getting a massage before a game. With muscles on muscles, that massage takes a while.

5. Keelyn Tuuta-Edwards – Rockingham Sharks – Lock

The overwhelming winner of the Ken Allen and Players Player in 2023, don’t let Keelyn’s smile and easy going nature fool you. On the field his opponents know only too well that he can do it all. Quicker than his frame gives him credit for, he can ball play like a halfback, run like a front rower and hot foot it like a centre if he is of a mind too. And while he is an intimidating presence for his opponents, he also has the opposite affect on his own team mates, who believe they are in with a shot every time he takes the field.

4. Kieran Tarrant – North Beach Sea Eagles – Forwards

Known as “Fedz” to his mates, it seems like the Sea Eagles enforcer is someone you wouldn’t want to be caught in a dark alley with. One of the actual nice guys, he hides his smile behind some serious facial hair that belies his confrontational nature on the field. Always the first to put his hand up, and putting himself at the apex of the spear for North Beach, he is one of the toughest players this competition has seen ever. Very direct, he loves a tough line into the defence, and puts the confidence in his team mates with his “get behind me” attitude to the game.

3. Delane Edwards – Fremantle Roosters – Anywhere

If you’ve played Premiership or Harmony Cup in WA in the last 10 years, at one point or another you’ve put some of your defensive strategy on combating the mind and physical abilities of Delane Edwards. A thorn in the side of every coach and player, I can tell you from personal experience how frustrating and difficult it is to contain Edwards for a full game. Limiting his influence is a better goal and even then its tricky. Smart, fast and physical, with all the determination, fitness and ability he can muster, its an interesting one when his own team mates are afraid of him.

2. Valuese Tiakia – Joondalup Giants – Lock/Front Row

One of the nicest people you will meet off the field, ‘Ese’ is probably the most devastating ball runner the Women’s game has ever seen in WA. Close to the line she is almost impossible to stop, and she is actually much quicker than she looks. To go with this devastating ability, she is a stout defender who goes all game long and makes ball carriers feel the carnage of her defensive hits every single time. A previous winner of Player of the Year and Player’s Player, the Giants are always asking her to come back to play.

1. Trent Trotter – North Beach Sea Eagles – Hooker

There may not be a better player for a single position in the last 5 years than Trotter. A super talented hooker, his ability to play his role to perfection has frustrated every single opponent at one stage. While diminutive in stature, it cannot be understand how much of a dominant player he can be on a fixture. We only need to look back at last weeks game between the Sea Eagles and the Lions to watch how the game changed when he was injected. Tough as nails as well, he leads the defensive line every tackle and is always ready to go for a snipe from dummy half from anywhere on the field.

Well there we have it folks! I know we have had some notable admissions but we couldn’t fit everyone on here!
Let us know your thoughts on who should be in the Sinister Squad for NRL WA!