Meninga and Johns demand Immortal status
113 Have your say
Mal Meninga and Ricky Stuart have been letting loose recently (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
In my humble opinoin, Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns is the greatest rugby league player of all time. With such a lofty assessment of his ability and career, it will therefore come as no shock to read that I believe he should be nominated as a rugby league Immortal.
The Immortals are named by the code’s respected Rugby League Week magazine and recognise Australia’s best players of all time.
There are presently seven Immortals: Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, Graeme Langlands, Wally Lewis and Arthur Beetson.
A meeting of eighteen rugby-league powerbrokers, including the living Immortals, will tomorrow decide the eighth member of the exclusive club.
That player will then be announced at the Men of League Gala Dinner during the week of the 2012 NRL grand final.
According to reports, there are three clear candidates: Norm Provan, Mal Meninga and Andrew Johns.
I never saw Provan play and therefore cannot comment on whether or not he is worthy of earning rugby-league’s highest honour.
However, there is a question one has to ask: if Provan was great enough to be considered an Immortal, why wasn’t he included 31 years ago when the Immortals concept was first established?
Seeing as Provan’s last playing year was in 1965, he was either dudded for inaugural selection in 1981 or the standards for inductions are being lowered.
If it’s the former, Provan should be inducted immediately, without further discussion or vote. If it is the latter, then I’m afraid he should miss out once again.
That leaves us to discuss the other favourites for selection, Mal Meninga and Andrew Johns.
These are two players I have watched a lot of and therefore feel more comfortable discussing the merits of their potential selection.
Personally, I think both Meninga and Johns should become Immortals.
I have no idea why just one player will be inducted.
Of the seven Immortals, only Beetson went in alone with four players selected in 1981 and two more in 1999. So why can’t two more be added?
Meninga fears his relationship with the media, specifically in New South Wales, will count against him come vote time. However, a look at the judges indicates he doesn’t have as much to worry about as first thought, barring a few obvious exceptions.
Along with the five living Immortals – Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier, John Raper, Graeme Langlands and Wally Lewis – there will be thirteen other individuals that deliberate over the candidates.
These are Wayne Bennett, Ray Warren, John Grant, David Middleton, Ray Hadley, Phil Rothfield, Roy Masters, Geoff Prenter, Ian Heads, Norman Tasker, Tony Durkin, Martin Lenehan and Mitchell Dale.
I think Meninga will have more than enough support among that group to earn selection and it will be thoroughly deserved. Absolutely no one can question Big Mal’s credentials to join the Immortals.
However, there can also be little argument that Johns deserves the honour as well.
There are only two reasons why Johns should not be considered for the achievement and both can be neutered swiftly.
The first is that Johns only recently finished playing football.
However, seeming as its customary to select players at least five years after they have retired, and Johns last game was in round three in 2007, it’s a complete moot point.
The second reason not to immortalise Johns is because he is a confessed illicit-drug taker. Though not a drug cheat, it’s crucial to point this out.
While this certainly rules him out of any role-model awards, criteria for selecting Immortals states that candidates can only be judged on their playing ability alone.
Rugby League Week has confirmed that ‘on-field achievement’ is the sole criteria for determining entrants into the code’s most prestigious club.
And when it comes to on-field achievement, Johns is without peer.
Like Meninga, Johns’ career achievement list is long and distinguished, but a small sample of his accomplishments provides plenty of evidence for his inclusion:
249 first-grade games, all with the Newcastle Knights
23 State of Origins (six as captain)
24 Internationals for Australia (two as captain)
Eight Country Origin games
Two premierships, in 1997, 2001
State State of Origin series victories
Three Dally M Medals – 1998, 1999, 2002
Two Golden Boots – 1999, 2001
One Clive Churchill Medal – 2001
Four man-of-the-match awards in State of Origin
Second highest point scorer in Australian rugby league history
Judging a player’s standing in the game is fairly subjective.
But considering Johns was also named the halfback for the rugby league Team of the Century and the ‘Best Player of the Last 30 Years’ by Rugby League Week, I’m clearly not alone in my assessment of his greatness.
Darren Lockyer will surely be an Immortal once he has been retired for requisite five years, but both Meninga and Johns should be selected as Immortals now.
However, if it is stubbornly and illogically adjudicated that only one can enter this year, then it should probably be Meninga.
If Johns isn’t the following Immortal, though, then the concept is a complete farce.
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network and NBA Down Under, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.
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