These post-iso haircuts are a hot mess
It's been labelled the nation's second pandemic; NRL's bonkers haircuts.
From Viliame Kikau's flying "top deck" mop to Jai Arrow's "Joe Exotic" mullet, players' post-isolation locks are leaving fans bewildered, with many decrying 2020 the year of the worst NRL haircuts.
Experimentation has become so radical, old-school Souths coach Wayne Bennett banned his first grade players from peroxide last month after some turned up to training with bad bleach jobs, including playmaker Cody Walker.
"He likes crew-cut, military-style, I think he'd be pretty happy if he could shave everyone's head," Walker said.
While wild haircuts are a fun distraction after months of shutdowns, a player's appearance can have a serious effect on their future in the game.
Teenage Sharks centre Bronson Xerri, one of the hottest prospects in the game before being suspended last month after a positive drug test, had his sights set on a different club.
But Phil "Buzz" Rothfield, the Telegraph's sport-editor-at-large, revealed Xerri's plans did not pan out.
"His father was ringing the Roosters saying: 'He's keen to come and play with you guys'. But with his bleached hair and tattoos everywhere, they dropped off him because of that," Buzz said.
With a powerful board, including Mark Bouris and led by Nick Politis, as well as sponsors at the top-end of town with deep pockets, the Roosters unashamedly ensure their players won't appear on lists like this.
Just ask former wild hair man Angus Crichton.
"When Crichton came to the Roosters from South Sydney last year - go and have a look at his haircut when he was playing at Souths, it was shocking," Rothfield said.
"It was spiked in the middle, it was shaved here and there, so he got a message from the Roosters saying you'll have to get your hair cut before you get here."
Burwood Man Cave barber Noah Obierzynski said whole teams used to have the same hairstyle but now cuts are all over the shop and, in some cases, "it looks like someone gave a toddler some clippers".
"Now one has blonde, one has a mullet, one's shaved, one has a crazy line on his head," he said. "People are just going back 10 years to mullets, into the future with these crazy hair styles, there's too much going on, you look at some of them on the field … it looks like my grandma cut it.
"They would have been better to let their wives do it with a butter knife."
Cronulla Sharks have come in for a heavy ribbing in recent weeks, after mullets became their default style with Josh Dugan, Andrew Fifita and Royce Hunt's cuts leaving fans wondering if lockdown training included giving each other a trim.
Meanwhile, tidy undercuts and Peaky Blinder-style fades are the rage among the Roosters and Dragons, with many sporting little more than a crop on top of near-bald back and sides.
Viliame Kikau, whose hair is the most talked-about this season, has vowed to keep growing his extravagant 'do, described by NSW coach Brad Fittler as a "big, blonde squidgy mop", in defiance of critics - including his parents.
But, with the Panthers sitting clear at the top of the NRL ladder at the moment, it's tough to argue with him.
BEST OF THE BUNCH
Rats-tail to die for: Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly), Junior Paulo (Eels)
Top decks (blonde on top, brown): Apisai Koroisau, Viliame Kikau (Penrith), Dylan Brown (Eels); Tino Faasuamaleaui (Storm), Maika Sivo (Eels).
High top fades: Waqa Blake (Eels), Kenneth Brown (Storm)
Outstanding mullets: Jai Arrow (Titans), Cronulla Sharks' Josh Dugan, Andrew Fifita, Sione Katoa, Royce Hunt; Nathan Cleary (Penrith), Bryce Cartwright (Titans), Judda Turahui (Storm)
Fades of Glory: James Tedesco (Roosters), Paul Vaughan (St George), Stephen Crichton (Panthers), most of St George Dragons, Corey Horsburgh (Raiders) Zac Lomax (St George)
Originally published as NRL's post-iso haircuts are a hot mess