The great thing about Rugby League is we all have an opinion. Debate across pub tables, in the lounge room at home and at smoko at work on deciding who is the best player they have ever seen.
Some fans can reach back to the 60’s and 70’s. But I’d like to debate who is the best player of the modern era.
Four players immediately spring to mind.
Andrew Johns, Jonathan Thurston Darren Lockyer and Cameron Smith.
All four were the most dominant at different times during the era. Everyone has an opinion who was the better player, but I will sit on the fence after enjoying each and every one of them.
All four led their team to premierships and their names sit perched atop most leaderboards, warranting the label of the game's greatest ever. They all had very different strengths, but they shared the same X-factor and will to win.
Behind the top four I would include Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis, Stacey Jones, Brad Fittler, Sam Burgess, Benji Marshall, Billy Slater and Sonny Bill Williams.
Had Williams stayed in Rugby League he could have been one of best we ever got to see. This also applies to 'Big Sam'. We got to see a few great seasons but his defection to Union and then an injury riddled return robbed NRL of what could have been.
Marshall was the most spectacular player the NRL had seen for a few seasons, he dominated games in what was mainly a losing team. What could he have been with a winning team around him?
Cronk is the most impressive. He seemed to will himself to be the winner he was, and what he lacked in natural ability he made up with footy smarts.
Jones was ranked alongside Johns at one point of his career. Fittler was also had that X-factor and footy smarts. He would rank higher but his best football was played in the 90’s.
Inglis' best football was at the Rabbitohs. Although very successful at the Storm, he played out of position for many seasons. When slotted into fullback he was unstoppable when fit.
Slater was the prototype for fullbacks to come, like Tedesco and Trbojevic. Just an out and out quality player. Not bad for a guy they said was too small to make it.
While some have the records, others have the ability, proving their are several strong cases for the NRL's best of the past 20 years.