NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has announced that the NRL will announce the ninth Rugby League Immortal in 2018.
The NRL obtained the rights to the game’s most elite award and will announce its first immortal who will join the likes of Wally Lewis and Andrew Johns.
Speculation is already running rife as to who number nine might be. Only the game’s elite of the elite have been considered in the past and I can’t see that changing for the 2018 induction.
We’ve run over the names being mentioned and narrowed it down to the three modern-day players who could make the grade. I never saw the likes of Provan, Irvine, Kenny or Rogers play and can only comment on those I have enjoyed playing the game over my 32 years.
Darren Lockyer is a two time Golden Boot winner, an achievement made even more incredible due to the fact he won it playing in two different positions. Lockyer was arguably the game’s best fullback before making the switch into the halves where his legend grew even further.
He was best on ground in the Broncos 2000 Grand Final win and stared in four other grand final victories. He captained arguably the best Broncos side in history from 2005 until he retired in 2011 where he won two Dally M positional awards.
Without doubt, the greatest player not to win a Dally M medal he played over 350 games for the Broncos, 36 times for Queensland (twice more under the Super League banner) and represented the Kangaroos 59 times (plus four in Super League).
His match and series winning try in game three of the 2006 State of Origin series is one of the game’s most iconic moments. It kicked off the concept’s greatest modern day streak of eight series wins, many of which Lockyer played a crucial and starring role in.
If Lockyer is overlooked for the 2018 honours it looks a matter of when and not if the Broncos, Queensland and Kangaroo legend will take up his rightful place in rugby league’s best of the best.
I remember Brad Fittler being an amazing player but his stats are even more impressive than first thought. He played 336 games across stints at the Panthers and then the Roosters while playing 31 times for the Blues and a further 40 times for the Kangaroos.
Fittler captained the Kangaroos to World Cup victories in both 1995 and 2000 while earning a third WC win previously in 1992. When he retired he was the most capped NSW player of all time where he captained on 14 occasions.
He made his Origin and national debut at only 18 years of age. He has a Rothman’s medal as the league’s best player from the 1997 ARL season. He led his Roosters side to three straight Grand Finals including their 2002. This was after also leading the side to the 2000 decider.
Fittler’s contributions were such that the medal for New South Wales best player in an Origin series is named after him.
He also won the Golden Boot award in the year 2000. If Lockyer isn’t the best player to never win a Dally M medal (although he did win the ARL’s best and fairest award in ’97) Fittler certainly is.
Reports indicated that the 2012 vote to induct Andrew Johns into the immortals saw Mal Meninga place second. It will be no surprise at all if Meninga’s name will be heavily discussed when it comes time to vote again in 2018, and nor should it.
My earliest memories of the game include Meninga terrorising the Great Britain defence for the Kangaroos as well as the Grand Final victory over Penrith in 1990. I had to search but the stats indicate Meninga was both top try scorer and goal kicker for the competition for the mighty Green Machine in that year.
Meninga played over 300 games in both Australia and England, while he represented Queensland on 32 occasions and the Kangaroos 46 times. He captained the Roos 23 times, including on two tours. Those who remember those Roos tours of the era will understand how big of an honour that really is.
He held multiple scoring records for both Queensland and the Kangaroos until Johnathan Thurston recently topped them. He’s currently in both the rugby league hall of fame and the Sport Australia hall of fame.
The Raiders, QLD and Kangaroos legend has also been named in both the ARL team of the century and QLD team of the centre at centre. Add to that the 1989 Golden Boot award. There aren’t many awards that Meninga hasn’t yet won, and a spot in the immortals may not be too far away.
In my view, the three eligible players listed above are the best I’ve ever seen (adding Wally Lewis, Andrew Johns, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston). All three could make the grade at some stage but if they were to induct a modern-day player in now, for mine it would be Lockyer.
Please let us know below who you’re expecting to be in the discussion. Are any of the above worthy of the honour, or are there players from an early era you’d place in over them?