Born: 9 October, 1989 – Huntly
Test record: 7 Tests (2011, 2017) – 1 try (4 points)
Tours: 2011 Four Nations, 2017 World Cup
Huntly-born front-row enforcer had two stints in the Kiwis set-up – in 2011 after helping the Warriors to a grand final appearance and in 2017 while at St George Illawarra, resurrecting his career after a tumultuous period off the field.
The Levin Lions junior represented Junior Kiwis and New Zealand A in 2006, and New Zealand Under-18s in 2007, before being part of the Warriors’ inaugural NYC campaign in 2008. At just 18 years of age, Packer was blooded by first-grade coach Ivan Cleary during 2008 with five mid-season appearances off the bench.
The aggressive tyro cemented an NRL spot during the club’s trying 2009 season and missed just one match in 2010 as the Warriors returned to the finals.
Packer again played all but one of the Warriors’ games in 2011, playing an integral engine-room role in a front-row rotation with Jacob Lillyman, Ben Matulino and Sam Rapira that laid the platform for an unforgettable charge to the NRL grand final, which Manly won 24-10.
He was subsequently named in New Zealand’s post-season squad and made his Test debut against Australia in Newcastle a week after his 22nd birthday. But the milestone was overshadowed for a high shot on Kangaroos skipper Darren Lockyer in the 42-6 loss that incurred a one-match ban. He played one further match during the Four Nations, starting at prop in a 28-6 defeat to England in Hull.
Packer played every match for the struggling Warriors in 2012 to bring up a century of NRL games for the club, but injury stymied his 2013 campaign before he signed a four-year deal with Newcastle. The Knights terminated his contract in January 2014 after Packer was convicted of a serious assault and sentenced to two years in jail.
Upon his release, Packer returned to rugby league with the Dragons’ feeder team, Illawarra Cutters, in 2015 and earned a place in the NSW Cup Team of the Year. The Saints assisted in Packer’s rehabilitation program and signed him to a two-year NRL contract.
Packer played 41 games for St George Illawarra in 2016-17, receiving a Kiwis recall after a six-year absence during the latter season. He started in the front-row during the last Anzac Test – a 30-12 defeat in Canberra – before coming off the bench in all four matches of their disastrous World Cup foray, scoring a try in the landslide win over Scotland in Christchurch.
The 28-year-old reunited with Cleary at Wests Tigers on a lucrative deal in 2018. After a reasonable initial season at the joint venture – in which he was one of Cleary’s five rotating co-captains, leading the team on five occasions – injuries severely hampered his form and availability and he eventually hung up the boots at the end of 2021 with 184 NRL appearances to his credit.