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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.
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?