The Autumn International Rugby Scene is back and in full flow. And watching these giants of men in both the League and Union codes colliding on these cold wintery afternoons is a sight to behold. But it was actually the domestic scene where Harlequins captain James Horwill caught the eye. Anyone who has seen the gruesome injury he received at the weekend would be forgiven for recoiling in horror, but the fact he just got strapped up and continued playing beggars belief. With this in mind The MALESTROM takes a look at eight of the toughest sportsmen to ever enter the arena. Enjoy.
Martin Johnson (Rugby Union)
Martin Johnson would make it onto a toughest list of anyone let alone sportsmen. An unflinching, uncompromising leader of men Johnson would run through brick walls for the Red Rose of England and also his beloved Leicester for that matter. Career highlights include winning the World Cup down under, leading the Lions on two tours and winning in South Africa. During the 1997 tour Jonno left the field of play to get a nasty looking eye injury stitched up, before heading back into action. But for all the tales of an intimidating figure who lead from the front, his sheer bloody mindedness can probably best be summed up in this clip.
Chris Nilan (Ice Hockey)
It might be an unfamiliar sport to many, but one thing most sport fans know – in the world of Ice Hockey they like a good dust up. And nobody liked it more than Chris Nilan, this dude is one tough cookie, he wasn’t the biggest and he wasn’t the best, but you wouldn’t tell him that right? Pound for pound he’s one of the toughest sportsmen you’ll come across in the history books. This guy would drop his gloves at the drop of a hat.
The Brownlee Brothers (Triathlon)
You may not automatically think of triathletes as tough as nails, superhumanly fit yes, but tough, maybe not. Johnny and primarily Alistair showed they’re just that this year in one of the most remarkable and indeed heartwarming moments you will ever see in the world of sport. At the end of the Triathlon World Series in Mexico this year an extremely exhausted Brit Johnny tried to tough it out to the line wobbling and grimacing in pain before he was pretty much carried to the finish by his brother Alistair, losing out on winning the race in the process. An amazing display of selflessness and sportsmanship from a man metres away from victory after his own gruelling 1.5k swim, 40k cycle and 10k run. The fortitude of both men can’t be questioned.
Wayne Buck Shelford (Rugby Union)
Most men will concede that getting kicked in the nether regions is about as painful as it gets – so the thought of having your testicle ripped from your scrotum and left hanging in the breeze as it was described, might leave you having sleepless nights. Step forward New Zealand rugby legend Buck Shelford who stands out in a land of rugby legends for exactly that reason. Shelford left the field and asked the physio to stitch him up before returning to continue the match which was against France in what was only his second test match. He also lost four teeth and was later concussed in a blow to head. Now that’s a match you won’t forget in a while, or maybe that should be remember.
Stuart Pearce (Football)
Stuart Pearce was one of those footballers that mixed talent, enthusiasm, hard work and perhaps more significantly random acts of violence against the opposition. Good enough to play at the top until the ripe old age of 41 (making his final appearance for England aged 37) and tough enough to have mixed it in any era. Stuart Pearce was a seriously hard tackling left back who could hit a bullet of a free kick. While playing for West Ham in his later years he famously tried to shake off a broken leg before being forced to leave the field. But he’ll be most fondly remembered for the clip below and his moment of redemption.
Brian Close (Cricket)
Brian Close who passed away last year, makes his way onto this list for his heroics for England in the 1976 series against a West Indies team that had a bowling attack led by Michael Holding and included Wayne Daniel and Andy Roberts. At the time Close had been recalled to the England setup at the age of 45. This alone tells you as much as you need to know about Close’ reputation as a tough character, the selectors obviously felt he was a man who could step up to the challenge of facing one of the most fearsome bowling attacks you’ll likely ever come across. With no helmet Close stood his ground taking the majority of the regular short deliveries to his body. He was later pictured covered in bruises, and earned respect throughout the game. Not nearly the most talented but certainly the toughest. For more fascinating tales from that period and the West Indies era of dominance Fire In Babylon is a must read.
Anquan Boldin (American Football)
Boldin is an American Football wide receiver who won the Super Bowl in 2012 with the Baltimore Ravens. However it was during his time with the Arizona Cardinals that he found himself on the receiving end of a violent collision with Eric Smith of the New York Jets. Boldin was out cold and had numerous fractures to his face including the sinus membrane. During surgery 7 metal plates and 40 screws were needed to put him back together. Most remarkably Boldin only missed two games and was back out playing a mere three weeks later.
Sam Burgess (Rugby League)
Slammin Sam has had a difficult time in the last year, an unsuccessful switch of codes with Bath and a disastrous World Cup with England left a bitter taste and thoughts of what might have been. In fact Burgess was by no means the biggest culprit in the English ranks, and in many ways was made a scapegoat for a lacklustre tournament. Back in the environment where he’s most comfortable, competing for South Sydney Rabbitohs in the brutal heat of the NRL, Burgess is doing what he does best. It was here of course where his name became the stuff of legend, in the season Grand Final in 2014 Sam led his team to victory despite suffering a broken cheekbone in the first tackle of the match. He played on regardless and became the first Rabbitohs player in 43 years to win the Clive Churchill Medal for his man of the match display.