What makes an NRL club legend?

Jay Ross Roar Guru

By Jay Ross, Jay Ross is a Roar Guru

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    The word legend is probably one of the most overused terms in rugby league. So what factors or characteristics should be used to define the legendary status of a player at the club level?

    It’s a very personal thing, but is there a set of criteria that we can create to determine those worthy of this honour?

    If we take the Parramatta Eels, you wouldn’t get many arguments if you labelled Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny, Ray Price and Mick Cronin as club legends. So why are they club legends?

    They won multiple Premierships for the club and proudly wore the blue and gold for many seasons. They were inspirational figures within the team and made Eels fans proud to be Eels fans.

    But do you have to win a grand final to be a club legend? You could argue that Wayne Pearce, Benny Elias and Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach are Tigers’ legends, but they never won a comp. They made it to the final game of the year, but couldn’t quite get their hands on the ultimate prize.

    All players mentioned so far represented their state and country, so does that help a player become a club legend – as in, they represented their fans at the highest level.

    Or is it longevity? The amount of time they shed blood, sweat and tears for their particular club. If that’s the case, you can’t include Sonny Bill Williams as a club legend for the Roosters, James Maloney for the Sharks or Lote Tuqiri for the Rabbits.

    These players had mini-stints at their respective clubs but managed to contribute to winning an elusive grand final. If you ask Roosters, Sharks and Rabbits fans, they’d probably say that these players are club legends because they made a significant contribution to the history of the club.

    If you take the example of North Queensland Cowboys, both Matt Bowen and Johnathan Thurston are surely classed as club legends. But only one of these players won a Premiership for the Cowboys. So is it more about crowd favouritism?

    Matty Bowen was clearly a fan favourite as he tried his heart out for the club and provided fans with endless entertainment throughout his long career.

    Let’s look at club stalwarts, the unsung heroes – those players who are loyal, hard-working, reliable and humble. Are they legends or one category below legends? Soldiers like Mitchell Aubusson from the Sydney Roosters, Gavin Miller from the Sharks, Ethan Lowe from the Cowboys, Petro Civoniceva from the Broncos, or even Kevin Hardwick from the Tigers – just to name a random few from now and the past.

    Which brings up another question – do legends have to be retired players?

    Maybe another way to try to understand the DNA of a club legend is to analyse someone who isn’t one. Take Jackson Hastings, for example – he had the skills to make junior rep sides, but it seems he’ll never become a club legend – he’s proved to be divisive, selfish and not team-focused.

    Jackson Hastings warming up with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

    (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

    So is a club legend inclusive, selfless and team-centric? Or is that just part of the story?

    There are so many criteria you could use, and it’s so tricky to find a universal set of rules to determine legendary status. Quite simply, different players mean different things to different fans because perceptions and emotions are individual.

    In summary, I’d like to quote the inexperienced lawyer from the famous Aussie movie ‘The Castle’ when his full defence was that “it’s just the vibe”. A club legend is a player who made or makes you feel super proud to be a member of your tribe. One who fought or is currently fighting for your colours like his life (and yours) depends on it.

    Who do you call a legend of your club and why?

    The New South Wales State of Origin team for the 2018 series remains a mystery, with new coach Brad Fittler facing plenty of selection headaches. So we want you to tell us - and all your mates - who should start for Blues in Game 1 with our team picker.

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • May 16th 2018 @ 7:40am
      John H said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Great article!

      It’s interesting to think about those players who are ‘legendary’ without being legends. Roosters winger Todd Byrne comes to mind. He gets run down by a forward in the clear in the GF! During his time at the Roosters, SKD was renown for dropping the ball and popping stupid passes.I think dumb play like that undermines the case for his legend status.

      I don’t like to point the finger, but would John Hopoate be a legend?

      • May 16th 2018 @ 8:03am
        Jay Ross said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        Very funny John H.

        Feel free to point the finger.

        Hopoate could be seen as a club legend for winning Grand Finals, but his classless action demotes him in my books.

        When looking at ‘rocks and diamond’ players like SKD, I think you need to analyse their balance sheet.

        If you take everything into consideration SKD was too sloppy and inconsistent to be a club legend for the Roosters, in my eyes. I also recall him actually losing them a semi-final against the Broncos by offering an intercept in the first play of the game, from the kick-off. That’s an example of the kind of player he is.

        But yes, definitely legendary and memorable players. Just not club legends.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 10:03am
        Paul said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        those of us who don’t particularly like Manly would suggest Hopoate was the ultimate Manly legend! After Bozo of course.

        • May 18th 2018 @ 3:24pm
          Latte said | May 18th 2018 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

          Not sure why Ricky Stuart didn’t pick Eric Grothe Jr on the wing for that GF, he would not have been rundown and if he was he would have sent Sattler into the stands and scored the winning try.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:35am
      Fanta said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Steve Menzies is MAnly club leg / Hoppo is not.

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2018 @ 9:36am
      The Barry said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      Any serious article about club legends can only be taken seriously if it contains the greatest club legend and arguably greatest club footballer of all time!

      Terry Lamb!

      • May 16th 2018 @ 9:40am
        Jay Ross said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Thanks for commenting THE BARRY.

        He was a legend.

        What are your criteria?

        Grand Finals? Fighting spirit? Longevity? All of these?

        Is every Grand Final winner automatically a club legend?

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2018 @ 10:37am
          The Barry said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

          Local junior (not necessary but helps)
          Three premierships (would have been four but for injury) one as captain.
          When he retired he was all time:

          – First for games 350 (still third)
          – Second for tries 164 (still fifth) – amazing for a career 5/8 !!!
          – Sixth for points 1442 (still 19th)

          1 x Dally M
          3 x Dally M runner up
          1 x Dally M third
          1 x Rothmans medal
          3 x Dally M players’ player
          1 x leading point scorer
          2 x leading try scorer
          7 x Dally M 5/8 of the year (more than any player in any position)

          World Cup winner
          Leading tryscorer 86 kangaroo tour
          Part of first origin clean sweep

          …but most of all, put in every week for the Dogs.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 10:42am
            Sammy said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

            • Roar Guru

              May 16th 2018 @ 10:49am
              The Barry said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

              Thanks Sammy!

              That’s brilliant!

              That’s at about 45 years old and after 300+ games.

              All hail the great man!

              • Roar Guru

                May 16th 2018 @ 11:47am
                Matt H said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:47am | ! Report

                So does starting off with the Magpies impact his legend status, or is being a one club player not required? Genuine question. I believe Lamb is an absolute legend of the club (along with Steve Mortimer).

                What ratio of your career has to be with the club to be a legend? For example, Glen Lazarus would have serious claims to be a club legend for Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne.

                I think it is possible to be a club legend but play for other clubs, but it’s a lot harder. Inglis is not a legend for Melbourne in the same was as Smith, Slater and Cronk, but Cronk will still be a Melbourne legend even after playing for the Roosters.

              • Roar Guru

                May 16th 2018 @ 12:07pm
                The Barry said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

                I don’t think there’s a straight answer to that question Matt.

                To me it doesn’t matter that Lamb played at West’s.

                It’s pretty subjective – one mans legend is another mans lunchbox.

                I could understand a Panthers fan calling Fittler a club legend and another calling him a turncoat and considering him a Rooster.

                So to quote The Castle “it’s the vibe…”

              • Roar Guru

                May 16th 2018 @ 12:13pm
                Matt H said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

                Yep it’s the vibe alright.

            • May 16th 2018 @ 2:28pm
              Forty Twenty said | May 16th 2018 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

              The bloke outside Rogers let Lamb thru , Lamb was Rogers man until the second Dogs player came back on the inside. Get it right Sterlo. He was very quick Lamb.

          • May 18th 2018 @ 3:26pm
            Latte said | May 18th 2018 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

            I don’t think awards mean anything to be honest because he was never the first pick for NSW or Australia with Brett Kenny and Wally Lewis around. Peter Sterling picked up a lot of awards too but whether he really deserved them or not is another question.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 10:04am
        Paul said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Sorry TB, but good old Tommy Raudonikis was the ultimate legend. Left absoluletly everything out there, each and every time he played for the Magpies.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 11:41am
          MLR said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

          Good call – what about coaches? Jack Gibson? Phil Gould? Wayne Bennett?

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2018 @ 11:48am
          Matt H said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          But he played a grand final with Newtown. Does that change his legend status? What about John Dorahey and Les Boyd leaving for Manly? What about Ron Coote leaving Souths for Easts?

    • May 16th 2018 @ 10:17am
      Sam said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

      Enjoyed the article.
      I do have 1 question though….Would we be taking about those great (and legendary) Canterbury and Parramatta teams and players of the 80’s if there was a Salary Cap around then??
      Probably not.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 10:29am
        Paul said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        I don’t think the salary cap comes into it Sam. Sure there were teams who were cashed up and we all know about the premierships some Clubs supposedly bought, but there were still legendary sides and players in that era – the Balmain side that lost the ’89 GF, the Wests side of the ’70s and ’80’s that seemed to be a feeder team to Manly, etc. You still had legendary players who were probably not on a lot, simply because their Clubs were strapped – Larry Corowa and Dallas Donnelly are two that spring to mind.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 11:27am
          Sam said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:27am | ! Report

          Hi Paul.
          The two players you mentioned were legends of the NSWRL,even though they never won a Premiership.Partly because they were also great characters (in their own way) that the average person could relate to,something that is seriously lacking in modern RL.And I’m sure they were 1club players,which cements their legendary status.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 6:12pm
          BrainsTrust said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

          Corowa dissapeared then reappeared almost a decade later for Gold Coast was he there long enough.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 10:37am
        The Barry said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        Probably not Parra.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 11:49am
        Matt H said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:49am | ! Report

        I agree it’s harder to maintain legendary status now, because the salary cap tends to force players to move between clubs more.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 10:22am
      Paul said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      It’s an interesting question you pose Jay and I was looking at it from a different perspective.

      There have been a number of players who are classed as “legends” but are they legends for one Club? There are 3 guys who I thought about, Arthur Beetson, Ron Coote and Dean Pay.

      There’s no doubt Beetson was a legend but was he a Club legend, given he played for the Tigers, Roosters and Eels? You could argue he did some legendary things at each Club, but does that make him a Club legend?

      Ditto with Coote, who’s treated as a Souths legend but he played about 40% of his footy with Easts. Can he be a legend at two Clubs?

      Finally Pay, who played less than 200 games and again, went from the Bulldogs to their absolute rivals, the Eels. I would have thought his showing such disloyalty to the Doggies while chasing a dollar, would have caused him to be hated by Canterbury fans, but nope, he’s seen as a “legend” and again, some think he’s a legend at both Clubs.

      The great thing is, the game keeps producing these types of players; those who really gel with fans, for what ever reason.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 10:45am
        The Barry said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        That’s a really interesting take Paul.

        1. Beetson is absolutely a Roosters legend. Skippered then to back to back premierships and heart and soul of the club.

        2. Coote – multiple premierships with both clubs, I think both could claim him.

        3. Pay – definitely a Bulldogs legend. I think he gets a bit of leeway going to the Eels because it was a result of the Super League war. It was unique circumstances and particularly as he turned his back on SL to stay with ARL.

        Pay’s performance for the Dogs in the 95 semi finals series in his last year cemented his place as a club legend. Pay was the leader of the Dogs pack and took it upon himself to challenge (and beat) the oppositions best/toughest forward, including Tallis and Lazarus.

        If Parra fans see Pay as a legend for their club that’s fine but I definitely think of him as a Bulldogs legend.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 11:39am
          Sammy said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

          Ben Kennedy was actually named in Manly’s Dream Team 2006 even though he only played two seasons for the Club.

          I guess he could be claimed as a Club legend for Canberra, Newcastle or Manly.

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2018 @ 10:46am
      Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

      Put simply, IMO, club legends are those who put in every game for a good period of time. Premierships are the result of team efforts and rep honours are not indicative of ability as many greats have had an Hall of Famer/Immortal-to-be in front of them their whole career. A club legend is recognised by their fans for effort over a long period of time.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 11:05am
        kk said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        I like it. Silky, Like Sam Snead’s swing.

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