What does the Immortals title really mean?
Andrew Johns while playing for the Newcastle Knights in 2006. Johns was announced as the eighth Rugby League Immortal overnight (AAP Image/Action Photographics/Grant Trouville)
With the recent induction of Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns onto the ‘Immortals’ list, I thought it worthy to ask why it is we are using a publishing firm’s concept as the major gauge for legends of our game?
The Immortals concept was devised by Rugby League Week in 1981 and the four players listed (Churchill, Gasnier, Raper and Fulton) were all regarded as some of the best to have ever played the game (post WWII). However this still was only a reflection of the then-judges and of course the magazine.
At no stage in its history has RLW or the Immortals been officially recognised. They were not affiliated with the then-NSWRL, never with the ARL and still today have no connection with the NRL or ARLC.
I grew up with the four Immortals as legends of our game; never did I feel that players from my era needed to be added to the list. It was a promotion for the magazine at the time and a very good one at that.
So for me, it really doesn’t mean a lot to have Joey added to this list, as it didn’t when The King, Changa or Big Artie were added.
The Immortals concept I grew up with is no more. It was re-hatched to drive interest and sales and, as such, has lost all its lustre.
I only hope the powers that be realise that this accolade in reality means little and that the Hall of Fame, which promised so much, must be the official means by which legends of our game are recognised.
Rugby league has always been a people’s game; they should be able to walk through a room and admire the feats of their heroes, where the price of admission goes back into the game and not to a publishing firm’s coffers.
Oh, and I would have gone for Norm Provan as the eighth.