By Dominic Brock (NRL.com)
They're the men capable of playing big minutes in the middle of the park, tackling the house down when needed and adding that extra bit of spark in attack. The lock is one of the busiest positions in rugby league and these five players are the best of the bunch heading into the 2016 season, according to the writers at NRL.com.
5. Jason Taumalolo
2015 stats: Metres per game - 154; tackles per game - 21; tackle breaks - 75; offloads - 11
One of the hardest men to stop in rugby league, it's no surprise Taumalolo notched more tackle breaks in 2016 than the other names on this list. The Kiwis and Cowboys big man may not have the ball-playing game or defensive work rate of some No.13s but his explosive power game proved to be a massive boost to North Queensland last season, helping the Cowboys dominate up front alongside Kangaroos props Matt Scott and James Tamou.
4. Simon Mannering
2015 stats: Metres per game - 104; tackles per game - 45; tackle breaks - 29; offloads - 48
Captain for club and country, Mannering is beloved by New Zealand fans and for years has been the one reliable constant in an otherwise talented but erratics Warriors side. His switch from the second row to lock saw Mannering take on even more responsibilities in the middle of the park in 2015, frequently leading the tackle count for his side and creating second-phase opportunities for teammates with numerous offloads.
3. Paul Gallen
2015 stats: Metres per game - 216; tackles per game - 33; tackle breaks - 29; offloads - 38
He's got his critics but the NSW skipper simply produces numbers that few – if any – rival players can match. The all-action Sharks veteran leads from the front, literally – with more than 200 metres per game in 2015 he appears to be a one-man forward pack at times, with the ability to break through tackles, score tries and pop offloads as well.
2. Sam Burgess
2015 stats: N/A
Arguably the most anticipated story to come out of the NRL next season will be the return of Burgess – already a South Sydney legend after guiding the Rabbitohs to a long-awaited premiership in 2014 before leaving for a stint in English rugby union. His time in that code would have only made him more keen to get back to the NRL, where his superb power game makes him one of the game's elite players. It's only the potential rustiness of being out of the game for a year – and the remarkable form of one of the game's best veterans – that means Burgess misses out on top spot in this list.
1. Corey Parker
2015 stats: Metres per game - 142; tackles per game - 34; tackle breaks - 46; offloads - 46
Brisbane veteran Corey Parker will turn 34 during the 2016 season. He's also arguably better than ever. A deserving winner of the Wally Lewis Medal as the best player of the State of Origin series as Queensland regained the shield in 2015, Parker was also a major factor in the Broncos' resurgence under Wayne Bennett. Adored by NRL Fantasy coaches, Parker simply does it all – he's a tireless workhorse in defence, a strong ball-runner, arguably the game's best offloader and a quality goal-kicker to boot. He's a big reason why the Broncos are set to start the season as premiership favourites.