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Rugby league icons Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer are unanimous in their thinking: Mal Meninga should be crowned the next Immortal.
The debate has begun on who will claim rugby league’s most prestigious honour after the NRL confirmed up to two Immortals are certain to be unveiled later this year.
Lewis, who is already part of the eight, had no hesitation in declaring who would get his vote – and it stems from a career where he often feared the giant centre.
“When you have a look at his record, it’s going to be hard for somebody to get over the top of him,” Lewis said of Meninga.
“If you’re playing against Mal on the field, you were hoping that you were on the other side of him and he was going to be running at somebody else.
“I always used to advise my players, don’t ever upset Mal Meninga. Talk to him, tell him we’ll have a beer after the game, anything along those lines.
“But don’t tell him he can’t play, or you’ve got a better player on your side.
“He was tough, uncompromising and one of those players – if you ever picked a team of players that you wanted to go into battle with, Mal Meninga’s name would be there.”
Lockyer, who has also been widely tipped to join the exclusive group, also believed Meninga deserves the right to be handed the accolade.
“Wally Lewis was my childhood hero, (but) he’s already an Immortal,” Lockyer said.
“So a guy going around at the same time that’s done a hell of a lot on the field, whether it be for Queensland, Australia, Canberra or Souths or Brisbane, it’s hard to go past Mal.”
Lewis said the only other contenders that could go past Meninga were players from the pre-World War II era, who are only now being considered for the honour.
After buying the intellectual property rights from Rugby League Week magazine last year, the NRL opted to stretch its net to players all the way back to the game’s foundation in 1908.
That opens the door for the likes of Dally Messenger and Dave Brown to be recognised.
“(Provan’s) photo and image has been used as a promotion for rugby league for some time. I’m sure rugby league wouldn’t waste a talent like that,” Lewis said.
“And to have such an incredible record like he had certainly deserves a fair consideration.”