The Eels have one of the top three halves pairings in the game after their charge to the 2022 grand final.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have a potentially devastating duo ready to rise up the ranks, while the Knights and the Titans seem to have more questions than answers with their halves pairings.
Read on for every NRL halves pairing for 2023 ranked.
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Halves: No.6 Tyson Gamble, No.7 Adam Clune
Analysis: The signing of Tyson Gamble has offset the departure of Anthony Milford to the Dolphins somewhat. Milford was hardly in the best physical shape or form, but his career body of work trumps Gamble at this stage. Still, the former Broncos playmaker Gamble has the potential to take his opportunity if given more time in the saddle at NRL level. Jake Clifford is reportedly set to be released to join the Super League, with rumours persisting Luke Brooks is on his way to the Hunter to be the Knights’ halfback. The club have failed to adequately replace Mitchell Pearce after letting him go to join Catalans in the Super League. Adam Clune, Clifford and Phoenix Crossland were all tried at No.7 last season with little success. Clune is the obvious choice in the current squad to start at No.7 next season, but he has shown he is more of a handy back-up than bona fide NRL star at this stage in his career. Unless they can land Brooks it could be a long year for the Knights halves and they may have to consider switching Kalyn Ponga to five-eighth.
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Halves: No.6 Anthony Milford, No.7 Sean O’Sullivan
Analysis: The NRL’s new boys have failed to land a marquee signing in the halves, which means former Knights veteran Anthony Milford and former Panthers back-up Sean O’Sullivan are likely to get first crack. Milford needs a big off-season after failing to fire in his return to the NRL in 2022. Wayne Bennett believes he can get the best out of his former Broncos playmaker, but Milford is yet to show the commitment required to consistently produce results in the modern NRL and has arguably struggled since he last played for Queensland in 2017. O’Sullivan proved one of the buys of the year for the Panthers winning most of the 12 games he played last season as a back-up to Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai. However, there is still a question mark as to whether O’Sullivan can be the main man for an NRL team, especially one in its first season in the competition. Former Panthers teammate Isaiya Katoa, who has starred for Tonga at the World Cup is a prodigious talent and will push hard for a starting role in the coming seasons and if Milford struggles, the 18-year-old could be fast-tracked into first grade in 2023.
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Halves: No.6 Matt Burton, No.7 Kyle Flanagan
Analysis: The Bulldogs look to have missed out on the services of Dragons young gun Jayden Sullivan at least for now, which means Cameron Ciraldo is likely to start his first season in charge with the same halves pairing as last year. Matt Burton is a lock for the No.6 jersey for the foreseeable future after his breakout season in 2022 for club, state and country. However, the 22-year-old still has a lot of development ahead of him to become a premier playmaker in the NRL and was guilty of drifting in and out of games last season. Burton wasn’t helped with the constant changing of his halves partners with Jake Averillo and Brandon Wakeham both tried without much success before Kyle Flanagan was finally brought into the team. As it stands Flanagan is the best option at No.7 the Bulldogs have on their books, but he has been down on confidence since being dropped with the club showing little faith in him early in his Bulldogs career. Flanagan got better as last season wore on, but the Bulldogs still look a little light on for competition in the halves, especially at No.7.
Halves: No.6 AJ Brimson, No.7 Kieran Foran
Analysis: Conjecture surrounds the Titans’ halves pairing going into 2023 with AJ Brimson and Toby Sexton failing to light the world on fire last season. New recruit Kieran Foran is certain to be one of the halves, but who partners the veteran playmaker is less obvious. At this stage it appears Foran will play halfback alongside Brimson at five-eighth with Jayden Campbell at fullback and Sexton missing out. Sexton struggled in the halfback role last season and will likely have to bide his time and learn from Foran. However, if Brimson again fails to cement the No.6 jersey he could find himself back at fullback with Foran shifting to his customary five-eighth role and Sexton given another chance in the No.7 hot seat. But given the unknowns heading into the season, the Titans halves will start the year in the bottom four for the rankings.
Halves: No.6 Te Maire Martin, No.7 Shaun Johnson
Analysis: The retirements of Chanel Harris-Tavita and Ashley Taylor sees star recruit Te Maire Martin at five-eighth in a new look scrumbase partnership with Shaun Johnson. Martin resurrected his career at the Broncos at fullback, but fellow Warriors signing Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad looks set to get first crack at the No.1 jersey. However, Nicoll-Klokstad could also be used in the centres, which would see Martin shifted to fullback and Luke Metcalf come into contention for the No.6 role. Johnson’s form struggles in 2022 sees his career at a crossroads and unless he performs from the get go in 2023, Ronald Volkman could come into contention for the No.7 jersey. However, if Martin and Johnson can get it right the Warriors could field one of the surprise packet halves pairings in the NRL next season.
Halves: No.6 Adam Doueihi, No.7 Luke Brooks
Analysis: Rumours Luke Brooks is on his way to the Knights won’t go away, but as it stands he is the best man to wear the Tigers’ No.7 jersey next season. Should he switch to Newcastle Jackson Hastings would come in at halfback after finishing last season at lock. Adam Doueihi is the odds on favourite to wear the No.6 jersey and could find himself as captain as well. Another option would be to use Doueihi at centre or fullback with Brooks and Hastings in the halves, but that seems unlikely at this stage. Doueihi and Brooks are potentially a very solid halves pairing, but until they translate that into consistent wins for the Tigers they won’t climb up the rankings in a hurry.
Halves: No.6 Ezra Mam, No.7 Adam Reynolds
Analysis: At times last season Adam Reynolds and Ezra Mam looked destined to be the Broncos halves for the next three years at least, but Brisbane’s late season wobbles saw the five-eighth dropped for their Round 25 clash with the Dragons as they narrowly missed the finals. However, Mam is still young and will only benefit from another pre-season under his belt. Reynolds is a lock at halfback and captain, but all eyes will be on the ageing veteran as he looks to lead the Broncos back to the finals. If Reynolds struggles with form or injury, then Souths’ decision to let him go will become smarter the longer his Broncos career goes on. The departure of Tyson Gamble and Albert Kelly sees Mam as the frontrunner for the No.6 jersey, but he will face competition from recruit Jock Madden who has made the switch from the Tigers. Still, Mam and Reynolds compliment each other’s games perfectly and if they can stay fit and get it right the Broncos halves have a scary amount of potential as a pairing.
Halves: No.6 Talatau Amone, No.7 Ben Hunt
Analysis: Ben Hunt bounced back into form in 2022 with his best season in the No.7 jersey since coming to the Dragons to finish third in the Dally M Medal race. The Dragons skipper earned a two-year contract extension and looks set to be the club’s halfback until 2025 at least. However, the decision by young gun halfback Jayden Sullivan to ask for a release to join the Bulldogs could see Hunt moved to hooker where he stars for state and country in the coming seasons. The signing of injury prone Jacob Liddle to vie with veteran Andrew McCullough and Moses Mbye for the No.9 jersey will help the hooker stocks, but on paper Hunt is the best No.9 at the club. However, at this stage he is also their best No.7 option until Sullivan matures. Talatau Amone showed plenty of promise in his first full season at No.6, but he still found himself in and out of the team in 2022. Amone could face pressure from Jack Bird as he did last season, but should benefit from another pre-season in the saddle and be ready to hit the ground running in 2023. The Dragons halves have the potential to be one of the best in the NRL, but unfortunately there are too many holes elsewhere in their squad at this stage.
Halves: No.6 Jack Wighton, No.7 Jamal Fogarty
Analysis: The way the Raiders finished last season they have potentially one of the more solid halves combinations in the NRL. Jamal Fogarty missed a large chunk of his first season at Canberra due to injury, but slotted in seamlessly with Wighton for the Raiders’ charge to the finals. Wighton is a lock at five-eighth and with another pre-season under their belt, he and Fogarty can prove to be an excellent scrumbase duo. Matt Frawley is a versatile back-up for his ability to cover both halfback and five-eighth should injuries strike. It remains to be seen if the Wighton-Fogarty combination can take the Raiders deep into the finals, but there are a number of clubs in the NRL who would love to have two solid halves of this calibre.
8. SEA EAGLES
Halves: No.6 Josh Schuster, No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans
Analysis: The departure of veteran playmaker Kieran Foran to the Titans will see Manly field a new look halves pairing in 2023, with young gun Josh Schuster set to make the switch from back row to the No.6 jersey. Schuster has plenty of experience at five-eighth in the juniors, but has less than a handful of games at NRL level in the position. On potential Schuster can be one of the most devastating five-eighths in the competition, but it will take him time to develop the fitness and a combination with skipper Daly Cherry-Evans. The Maroons and Kangaroos halfback is still one of the best playmakers in the NRL and a lock for the Manly No.7 jersey for the rest of his career. How quickly Cherry-Evans and Schuster develop their combination will be a huge factor in the side’s bid to turn around their horror finish to last season. But on potential they can be one of the best pairings in the game and their game’s compliment one another nicely. Still, Foran is a massive loss and Manly look light on for depth if injuries strike in the halves.
Halves: No.6 Cody Walker, No.7 Lachlan Ilias
Analysis: They may have led the Rabbitohs to a fifth straight preliminary final, but that was more down to the strength of the Souths squad as a whole than their halves pairing. At his best Cody Walker is up there with the best players in the game, but he was a fair way short of that in 2022 as he struggled in life after Adam Reynolds’ departure to the Broncos. Walker was required to do more organising and kicking, which played away from his strengths as a broken field runner and ball player. Ilias was solid in his first full season of NRL and will only get better with another full pre-season under his belt. However, Ilias still has a lot of work to do on his kicking game and could face pressure from Dean Hawkins if Souths get off to a slow start again next year. Still, with another year of experience Ilias could fire and potentially form a devastating combination with Walker in 2023.
Halves: No.6 Matt Moylan, No.7 Nicho Hynes
Analysis: There were plenty of question marks hanging over the Sharks halves heading into last season, but Nicho Hynes answered most of them in style on his way to a record win in the Dally M Medal race. Hynes made a successful transition from fullback at the Storm and is now arguably one of the best halfbacks and players in the game. Matt Moylan put his injury struggles behind him to wind back the clock and cement the No.6 jersey and was rewarded by signing a two-year extension. The form of Hynes and Moylan as a duo was one of the keys behind Cronulla’s charge to a top two finish last season. The next step is for this pair to make a deep finals run after the Sharks were bundled out in straight sets in 2022. Cronulla also have handy back-up in Braydon Trindall and Connor Tracey should injuries strike in the halves.
Halves: No.6 Luke Keary, No.7 Sam Walker
Analysis: The Roosters halves struggled to light the world on fire early last season in a slow start, before a mid-season switch ignited the pair and the club. Luke Keary has played the bulk of his career at five-eighth and Sam Walker has played most of his life at halfback, with the pair looking far more comfortable in their preferred positions. Keary put his injury troubles behind him to finish 2022 strongly and at his best he is still one of the game’s premier five-eighths. Walker is a freak of nature and will only get better with more experience at NRL level. The Roosters also have the luxury of playing Joseph Manu in the halves should injuries strike. Keary and Walker have the potential to be one of the best pairings in the NRL and can lead the Roosters back to premiership contention next season.
Halves: No.6 Tom Dearden, No.7 Chad Townsend
Analysis: The Cowboys halves went into last season as two halfbacks at opposite ends of their careers, but blossomed into one of the best halves pairings in 2022. Chad Townsend produced his best season since leading Cronulla to a drought-breaking premiership in 2016 and answered his critics after arguably his worst season in 2021. Tom Dearden was one of the best stories of the season after coming to the club low on confidence after being let go by the Broncos mid-season in 2021. Dearden had a breakout year to help lead the Cowboys to a top three finish and a preliminary final, while his Origin debut will go down in folklore. It remains to be seen if this pair can take the Cowboys all the way to a premiership, but on what they produced last season they are one of the best halves duos in the game heading into 2023.
Halves: No.6 Dylan Brown, No.7 Mitchell Moses
Analysis: Dylan Brown produced his most consistent season in first grade in 2022 to help lead the Eels to a first grand final since 2009. The knock on Brown is that he can drift in and out of games, but those performances were few and far between last season. Mitchell Moses also produced the best season of his career at halfback to guide the Eels to the decider. On paper Moses and Brown can be the Eels halves for the next six years at least and the club will be desperate to re-sign them when they come on the open market on November 1. However, there remains doubts Brown and Moses can take the Eels to their first premiership since 1986, especially after the departures of six of their grand final team from last year. Still, almost every club in the NRL would trade their halves for this pair as they enter their prime years in the NRL.
Halves: No.6 Cameron Munster, No.7 Jahrome Hughes
Analysis: Now that Cameron Munster has joined Jahrome Hughes in committing his future to the Storm long-term, the duo can push Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai for the status of best halves pairing in the game. The Storm playmakers are arguably better than the Cleary and Luai combination already, but it is hard to argue with the form of the Panthers halfback and the two premierships the Penrith duo have won in a row. Still, Munster is coming off a career best season and at times early in 2022, the Storm looked like premiership favourites before injuries struck. Munster is arguably the best player in the game and Hughes is the only halfback that comes close to Cleary in the NRL. The international pair can catapult the Storm back into title contention next season despite the loss of some key forwards up front.
Halves: No.6 Jarome Luai, No.7 Nathan Cleary
Analysis: Jarome Luai is clearly the Andy Lee to Nathan Cleary’s Hamish Blake, but like the comedic duo, the Panthers playmakers are a box office success as a partnership. Cleary and Luai have played together from a young age, compliment each other’s games perfectly and are a big reason for Penrith making three straight grand finals and winning the last two premierships. Granted Cleary does a fair bit of heavy lifting for the partnership as he dominates almost every aspect of the game, but even Batman needed Robin and Luai has proved an excellent scrumbase partner. Munster has Luai covered and Cleary has Hughes beat, but the two straight titles are the tie breaker that makes the Panthers duo the best halves pairing in the NRL until someone can knock them off their perch.