The sport of rugby has often been credited with helping integrate the New Zealand Maori and Pakeha (white) communities.
I was elated to hear, when watching the 2009 John Eales Medal, that at long last Trevor Allen was an inductee of the 2010 Hall of Fame Class, along with the reliable Andrew Slack, and the tactical Johnny Wallace.
As I noted earlier this year, Trevor Allen has long been the most deserved player not then inducted into the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame.
It was also nice to see Wallace get in.
It was Spiro Zavos who once informed me that Wallace once coached a New South Wales side to victory over the 1937 Springboks – later to be called the best side that ever toured New Zealand.
It made me wonder whether the Hall of Fame selectors will remember to select the Wallaby greats from the first half of the 20th century, or move toward selecting more famous players.
As Andrew Slack was called to the podium, he made mention of the names ‘Eales’ and ‘Horan’, who both will be eligible next year to be inducted. He humbly noted he felt lucky to get in this year before their ten year gap expired (players must be retired 10 years to be eligible).
It made me wonder what will happen next year with the Hall of Fame selectors.
In 2003, before the World Cup, a poll was conducted asking Australians to rank who they felt were the greatest Wallabies of all time.
John Eales came first (Campese should have got it though). Tim Horan came third.
If John Eales isn’t selected to be placed in the Hall of Fame next year, is that an insult to the man some Australians regard as Australia’s greatest ever rugby player? The same logic applies to Horan.
How can these men not be selected once their time is up?
It feels to me, that if these fellows aren’t placed in the Hall of Fame immediately, it would almost feel like a stain on their legacy. It would be like saying, “They’re great, but not as great as these men we’re selecting this year.”
On the other hand, the Hall of Fame selectors still haven’t placed Michael Lynagh, Simon Poidevin, Peter Johnson, and most of all the brilliant Alan Jones (who isn’t eligible but should be).
I’ll say it again: Alan Jones should be in the Australian Rugby Hall of Fame.
It seems to me that 2011 will be, by far, the hardest year for the Hall of Fame selectors. On the one hand you don’t want to forget players of the past like as Peter Johnson and Rob Heming. Then you don’t want to forget great players like Simon Poidevin, the brilliant Topo Rodriguez, and Michael Lynagh.
But what about the legacy of John Eales as Australia’s greatest ever player? Do you forget about him the first year he is eligible? What about Tim Horan, the man of the tournament in the 1999 World Cup? Can you forget him at first instance?
Only three players can be inducted each year.
Here’s my list of people I’d like to see inducted (in order):
1. Alan Jones – first coach
2. John Eales – too important for Australians to leave out!
3. Simon Poidevin – can’t have too many backs in there (Horan can wait one year)
4. Michael Lynagh
5. Tim Horan
6. Topo Rodriguez – still Australia’s greatest ever prop (and Jon White is already in the HOF)
7. Peter Johnson
8. Rob Heming
I feel bad placing the two oldest players on that list at the bottom.
But Poidevin means so much to the Australian jersey. He was Wallaby pride personified. Lynagh is still regarded as one of the best five-eights around world. And I’d hate to see Topo forgotten, because he was a huge reason why Australia had the best scrum in the world from 1984-1987 (sounds weird to say that).
I think perhaps Horan should wait one year. He had the bad luck of retiring around the same time as Eales. Horan retired in 2000, which means he might sneak in before Eales. While Eales retired in 2001, but not late enough in 2001 for him not to be selected near the end of 2011.
Or maybe Eales should wait a year since he retired in 2001. Maybe Horan should be selected in 2011 and Eales in 2012?
Either way, I’d hate to be a Hall of Fame selector.
Whomever they choose for the Class of 2011, a deserved player (more than any other year) is going to miss out.