Immortals to be rugby league’s top honour

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    NRL boss Todd Greenberg yesterday flagged two new Immortals will be named in August, and six new Hall of Fame inductees.

    Seeing there are only eight Immortals, and 35 Hall of Famers, being in the former category holds the greater recognition.

    For the first time in the code’s history both categories are now owned by the Australian Rugby League Commission, having purchased the Immortal status from the now folded Rugby League Week, the original owners since 1981.

    Both categories have been shabbily treated by owners over the years, so it’s time for the Commission to correct a raft of wrongs.

    RLW named four Immortals in 1981 – Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, and Bobby Fulton.

    But it took 18 long years before adding Graeme Langlands and Wally Lewis, another four with Artie Beetson, and nine more years with Andrew Johns.

    As shabby as that system was, RLW also failed to recognise obvious legends like Ken Irvine, Norm Provan, Ron Coote, Peter Sterling, Mal Meninga, Brad Fittler, and Darren Lockyer on the way.

    Artie Beetson and Wally Lewis

    (AAP Image/Gillian Ballard)

    The Commission must correct those major mistakes.

    But the ARL hasn’t been too flash either, naming its first Hall of Famers in 2002, then adding every year until 2007, before going to sleep with not one new inductee in 11 years.

    Those failings must also be corrected.

    For the record only eight rugby league legends are recognised with the max as Immortals, Hall of Famers, members of the Team of the Century, and among the greatest 100 players of all time: Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, Bobby Fulton, Graeme Langlands, Wally Lewis, Artie Beetson, and Andrew Johns.

    There are also eight Hall of Famers, Team of the Century members, and among the greatest 100 players of all time: Brian Bevan, Frank Burge, Ron Coote, Duncan Hall, Ken Irvine, Mal Meninga, Dally Messenger, and Norm Provan.

    How Noel Kelly has missed being a Hall of Famer as a Team of the Century member, and among the 100 greatest players, is another major mistake.

    There are 20 with the double as Hall of Famers, and among the 100 greatest players of all time: Keith Barnes, Harry Bath, Dave Brown, Brian Carlson, Jimmy Craig, Laurie Daley, Charley ‘Chook’ Fraser, Tom Gorman, Arthur Halloway, Vic Hey, Keith Holman, Harold Horder, Ken Kearney, Chris McKivat, Joe Pearce, Sandy Pearce, Peter Sterling, Duncan Thompson, George Treweek, and Harry Wells.

    And the balance – 61 – are the rest of the 100 greatest players of all time who will become Hall Of Famers in August, according to Greenberg: Vic Armbruster, Jack Beaton, Cec Blinkhorn, Kerry Bousted, Roy Bull, “Chimpy” Busch, Billy Cann, Brian Clay, Arthur Clues, Bradley Clyde, Ted Courtney, Michael Cronin, Les Cubitt, Brian Davies, Dan Dempsey, Graham Eadie, Andrew Ettingshausen, Viv Farnsworth, Brad Fittler, Dan Frawley, Peter Gallagher, Herb Gilbert, Eric Grothe snr, Howard Hallett, Brian Hambly, Les Johns, Brett Kenny, Johnny King, Terry Lamb, Glenn Lazarus, Darren Lockyer, Eddie Lumsden, Bob McCarthy, Frank McMillan, Peter Madsen, Gene Milles, Steve Mortimer, Barry Muir, Herb Narvo, Eddie Norman, Andy Norvar, John O’Neill, Kel O’Shea, Wayne Pearce, Ray Price, Wally Prigg, Tom Raudonikis, Steve Roach, Steve Rogers, Albert Rosenfeld, John Sattler, Herb Steinohrt, Ray Stehr, Arthur Summons, Viv Thicknesse, Ken Thornett, Ian Walsh, Steve Walters, Benny Wearing, Shane Webcke, and Eric Weissel.

    There are some household names among those 61 who are legends in the eyes of many.

    But as is always the case, there are those who travel under the radar, who deserve recognition and haven’t got it.

    Like Max Krilich, Dick Thornett, Benny Elias, Steve Menzies, and Paul Sironen to name a few.

    Hopefully down the track they will get their rightful recognition.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn't get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world's great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (28)

    • March 20th 2018 @ 7:24am
      kk said | March 20th 2018 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      Hopefully the two additions are Dally Messenger and Ken Irvine.

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2018 @ 8:18am
        David Lord said | March 20th 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

        Totally agree kk.

      • March 20th 2018 @ 10:07am
        nerval said | March 20th 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        Brian Bevan is so far and away ahead of every other winger in the history of the game, including an undeniably great one such as Ken Irvine, that it’s not even funny. Indeed, he put on a few when directly up against Irvine for the Other Nationalities side. Somewhere, there’s a quote from Irvine exalting the brilliance of Bevan. If I find it, I’ll stick it on here.

        It’s not merely Bevan’s try-scoring records that set him apart, but the fact that so many of them appear to have been impossibly, staggeringly, unfeasible brilliant.

        Allied to the number and individual brilliance of his tries was the fact that he remains the unlikeliest looking rugby league footballer of all time. For those who wish to know more, here’s a beautiful little essay in the Guardian by the late, great Frank Keating – a self-confessed union tragic who has no doubt that Bevan was without peer in both codes.
        https://www.theguardian.com/sport/story/0,3604,400046,00.html

        But, then again, he wasn’t alone in thinking this – everyone from Clive Churchill to Billy Boston (who terrorised the Kangaroos on successive Lions tours in 58 and 62) agrees; Brian Bevan was the best of the best.

        • March 20th 2018 @ 10:40am
          kk said | March 20th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          nerval, with the greatest respect to your knowledge of the game and to the great
          Brian Bevan himself is not Immortal status based solely on playing performances
          in Australia?

          Bevan’s performances in Australia at the end of his career were good.

          Irvine’s performances over his whole career were consistently brilliant.

          If Immortal status was awarded to Bevan I would applaud. It is a shame that
          Frank Keating did not do a piece on Ken.

          • March 20th 2018 @ 10:51am
            nerval said | March 20th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

            I don’t know what you mean by Bevan’s performances in Australia at the end of his career?

            Bevan’s career played out in England – at a time when they were the dominant rugby league nation. The only chance he had to prove his worth in internationals was when playing for Other Nationalities, where Irvine went on record as proclaiming Bevan’s genius.

            Brian Bevan was a true blue Aussie from Bondi – it was the Second World War and the Australian Royal Navy that took him to England. Surely, his career achievements can’t be diminished because of that?

            • March 20th 2018 @ 11:25am
              kk said | March 20th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

              Memory plays tricks , but I remembered seeing Bevan play for Eastern
              Suburbs and he did not get many opportunities. Perhaps it would have
              been written as performance. I do not doubt his genius in UK as evidenced
              from video replays. I repeat. If BB is granted Immortal status I would applaud.

              • Columnist

                March 20th 2018 @ 5:07pm
                David Lord said | March 20th 2018 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

                Well done Roarers for bringing up the truly remarkable Brian Bevan, the only footballer in history who is both a British and Australian Hall of Famer.

                Yet he only played eight games for Eastern Suburbs in the mid 1940s, and never scored a try.

                But he scored a world record 796 tries for Warrington, which will be as unbreakable as The Don’s Test batting average of 99.94.

                And the flying bald winger, who was held together on the field by yards and yards of tape, is the only player who never played for NSW nor the Kangaroos, yet was chosen in the Australian Team of the Century.

                Logically he must become an Immortal as well.

              • March 21st 2018 @ 5:55pm
                BrainsTrust said | March 21st 2018 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

                Just wait a second the only reference to Bevan playing for Easts again is the following.
                In 1961, he returned to Australia to play for Easts in a seven-a-side tournament for Keith Holman’s testimonial.

    • March 20th 2018 @ 9:43am
      Paul said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      David, it will take time to recognise those who deserve it, but that’s not a bad thing. The system needs tweaking to make sure only those who truly deserve to be there, make it and inductees need to be very clean, both on and off the field. In similar vein, if a player deemed to be worthy of HoF status is later found to have done something serious enough to warrant gaol time, they should be stripped of that honour as well.

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2018 @ 1:58pm
        David Lord said | March 20th 2018 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

        Paul, I salute you. I will be angry for the rest of my life Andrew Johns is an Immortal after he publicly admitted to 2007 to being an ecstacy user during his career, That alone should have slammed the door shut on his Immortal nomination, especially as the likes of highly qualified Immortal contenders like Ken Irvine, Norm Provan, Ron Coote, and Mal Meninga had been overlooked for Johns.

        But in 2012, when Johns was inducted, the Immortal bnef was strictly for on-field performances. That is going to change now the Australian Rugby League Commission owns the Immortal brand for the first time.

    • Roar Guru

      March 20th 2018 @ 9:45am
      Wayne said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      If you have too many immortals, it makes it a meaningless title (in my opinion).

      If I had the balance of authority on matter (I Don’t. But this is my comment field so…)
      Hall Of Fame: Player that has gone above and beyond in their playing career.

      Immortal: A Player that Epitomises a generation.

      Think WWF/E when you say Attitude Era = Immediately think Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock. Someone of that recognition.

      • March 20th 2018 @ 10:59am
        Paul said | March 20th 2018 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        I’m not quite sure what you mean by “epitomises a generation” Wayne?

        I completely agree Immortal status should only be awarded to a select few who have had a profound effect on the game. Guys like JT in years to come should be considered under this heading and Cameron Smith as well, because they materially changed how the game was played in their individual positions and, as a result, the game has improved.

        The other current Immortals all fit that same criterion, whereas Hall of Famers have played at a very high level for years without changing the way the game is played for the better. Guys like Wayne Pearce, Beaver Menzies, etc would fit into this category, outstanding footballers but not quite to the same level as Immortals.

      • March 20th 2018 @ 8:22pm
        Pickett said | March 20th 2018 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

        @ Wayne
        I agree mate.
        Immortals status should be used very sparingly.
        Hall of Famers can be a bit more generous with numbers.

    • March 20th 2018 @ 9:58am
      Alan said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      It’ll be Lockyer and Provan.

    • March 20th 2018 @ 10:34am
      Michael McCosker said | March 20th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      Hi, what about the Immortal Tom Gorman, the first Queenslander to captain australia. If its about Firsts being the immortals then as far as queensland goes he should be in there before Wally, Artie Mal and Locky

    • March 20th 2018 @ 12:04pm
      Big Daddy said | March 20th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

      Summons – Provan trophy.
      That’s what they play for.
      Why not them.

      • Roar Guru

        March 20th 2018 @ 1:22pm
        Matt H said | March 20th 2018 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

        Because Summons was a good player, but not in the immortal class, maybe not even hall of fame. He just happened to captain that team in the mud.

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