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I am a huge fan of sports Hall of Fames when they are done correctly. The best example is the NFL Hall of Fame, where induction is almost as prestigious as winning a Super Bowl.
Former Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino once went so far as to say his Hall of Fame induction meant more than a Super Bowl ring ever would have.
Can you imagine a rugby player saying that being placed in the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame is almost as prestigious as winning the Rugby World Cup?
I was looking at the ARU website, and if I were to select a Hall of Fame, the players already there are the ones I would have chosen.
Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop is the only player I would not have in the Hall of Fame, as he only played one Test for Australia. He’s one of the greatest Australians ever, but the ARU Hall of Fame members should be selected based on their contributions to rugby.
So who should be the candidates for the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame for 2016?
The most notable person not in the Hall of Fame is Tim Horan, who is now eligible, having been retired for over ten years.
The other modern players who could be selected are Phil Kearns and Matt Burke – arguably Australia’s greatest hooker and fullback.
However there have been people who are almost as eligible, who have waited longer than Horan, Kearns, and Burke.
The most notable omission from the 1960s are Rob Heming and Peter Johnson. Heming is arguably Australia’s second greatest lock after John Eales, and a necessary link in Australia’s phenomenal success in South Africa in 1963.
Johnson is often regarded as one of Australia’s three greatest hookers, with Kearns and Tom Lawton Jr. His quick strikes were essential in South Africa against a more powerful Springbok scrum.
There are still players from the 1980s who should be considered for induction. Topo Rodriguez is Australia’s greatest ever prop, and completely transformed Australia’s scrum (remember the push-over try against Wales in 1984?).
Roger Gould and Lawton (and possibly Steve Cutler) are the only others from the Grand Slam Wallabies who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Gould should be given preference.
There are two players from the early 20th century who stick out for me. One is Chris McKivat – a duel international and Australia’s first great halfback – and Graham Cooke, a hard-nosed second-rower.
The Hall of Fame also needs to start considering coaches for induction. Players like Johnny Walace and Des Connor were coaches for Australia at some point, and their coaching success adds to the prestige of the Hall of Fame.
In this case, Rod MacQueen, Bob Dwyer and Alan Jones should all be considered. Perhaps Bob Templeton ought to be considered too!
If the Hall of Fame were to select three people to be inducted for 2016 I would like to see Peter Johnson, Tim Horan and Graham Cooke.
I’ve selected Johnson first because the Hall of Fame has no hookers.
If there was an Australian rugby equivalent to rugby league’s Immortals (Inside Rugby tried it with the ‘Invincibles’, but it didn’t catch on), you would need Horan in there (although Inside Rugby didn’t).
Some might think Horan should wait a while, because he hasn’t been retired for long, and other have had to wait longer. But a Hall of Fame lacks credibility when you don’t select the obvious, and Horan is one of Australia’s greatest ever players.
Graham Cooke will be our ‘golden oldie’ choice – a serious contender for any all-time Australian XV.
Here are the men who should be candidates for the ARU Hall of Fame Class of 2016:
Tom Lawton Jr
We have two players from before World War II – in Cooke and McKivat.
We have two players from the awesome 1960s side – Johnson and Heming.
We have three Grand Slam Wallabies from 1984 – Gould, Cutler and Lawton.
We have three player who played in the professional era – Kearns, Horan and Burke.