Hooker (rugby league)
Hooker is one of the positions in a rugby league football team. Usually wearing jersey number 9, the hooker is one of the team's forwards. During scrums the hooker plays in the front row, and the position's name comes from their role of 'hooking' or 'raking' the ball back with the foot. For this reason the hooker is sometimes referred to as the rake.
Hookers have a great deal of contact with the ball, as they usually play the role of acting halfback or dummy half, picking the ball up from the play-the-ball that follows a tackle. Hookers therefore have a lot of responsibility in that they then decide what to do with the ball, whether that be to pass it (and to whom), run with it, or occasionally to kick it. Therefore, together with the two half backs and fullback, hooker is one of the four key positions that make up what is sometimes called a team's 'spine'. A trend of scrum half backs converting into hookers followed the introduction of the 10 metre rule, and many players have switched between these positions in their careers.
The laws of rugby league state that the hooker is to be numbered 9. However, in some leagues, such as Europe's Super League, players can wear jersey numbers which do not have to conform to this system.
One book published in 1996 stated that in senior rugby league, the hooker and stand-off half (five-eighth) handled the ball more often than any other position. In the 2013 NRL season the top six players with the most tackles were all hookers.
Hookers that feature in their nations' rugby league halls of fame are New Zealand's Jock Butterfield and Australia's Ken Kearney, Sandy Pearce and Noel Kelly. The most-capped British international hooker was Wales' Tommy Harris.
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