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Rugby league history: The all-time great alphabet teams – Letter E

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Roar Guru
18th March, 2019
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And now to the E team.

This team is surprisingly strong at hooker, with two excellent players missing out on the starting side, and has some outstanding backs, but the forward depth is a little light on. Here is the list.

1. Graham Eadie
Honours: ARL Hall of Fame, Rothmans Medal 1974, Dally M Fullback of the Year 1983, Clive Churchill medals (retrospective) 1976, 1978.
Years active: 1971 to 1989.
Clubs: Manly, Halifax (UK).
All games: 424 (144 tries, 2569 points).
Representative Career: Tests: 20, NSW: 14.
Nickname: Wombat.

Let’s start with one of my personal favourites. Graham Eadie was a game changer at fullback, with his intimidating size combined with surprising speed creating havoc.

After the retirement of Graeme Langlands, Eadie was the premier fullback in the game. He was also a prolific goal-kicker and was the premiership’s leading point-scorer for three years in a row.

Upon his retirement Eadie held the premiership’s career point-scoring record and he still holds this record for Manly.

Eadie won four premierships with the great Manly side of the 1970s, one of his finest matches being in the 1978 grand final replay where he single-handedly destroyed Cronulla by scoring a try, setting up two others for Russel Gartner and kicking three goals and a field goal.

On the international scene Eadie went on two Kangaroo tours, participated in two World Cups and was a member of the 1979 Australian home Ashes side that established a dominance over the English that still exists to this day.

After three years in retirement Eadie joined the UK club Halifax in 1986. He went on to score a club record 16 tries at fullback that year and helped Halifax to victory in the 1986-87 Championship title and 1987 Challenge Cup.

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In the latter victory Eadie won the Lance Todd Trophy as man-of-the-match. He is one of the very few to own both a Clive Churchill Medal and Lance Todd Trophy.

Just like with Mick Cronin during his career, the Wombat misses out on kicking duties because of…

2. Hasim El Masri (goalkicker)
Years active: 1996 to 2009.
Clubs: Canterbury.
Club games: 317 (159 tries, 891 goals).
Representative Career: Tests: 1 (plus 3 for Lebanon), NSW: 1.
Nickname: El Magic.

This E team will certainly have no problem kicking goals. Hasim El Masri has claims to be the greatest goal-kicker the game has seen. But he was much more than just a sharp shooter.

Over 317 games for the Bulldogs – a club record which included a competition record 174 games in a row – El Masri scored 159 tries to go with his 891 goals at a success rate of just under 82 per cent.

His tally of 2418 points placed him as the top point scorer in competition history on his retirement. He topped the competition points scoring for a record six seasons and his tally of 342 points in 2004 remains a record.

He also kicked a record 35 consecutive goals in 2003 and kicked at least 100 goals in four different seasons. Amazingly El Masri was not even his club’s first choice goal kicker during his first five seasons.

El Masri played only one Test for Australia in 2002 and in 2007 played his sole State of Origin match for NSW. Despite scoring a try and kicking three goals in NSW’s victory, El Masri was never selected again. El Masri also captained Lebanon in the 2000 World Cup.

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3. Andrew Ettingshausen
Honours: ARL Hall of Fame. Dally M Centre of the Year 1994 and 1996. Cronulla Team of the Half Century.
Years active: 1983 to 2000.
Clubs: Cronulla, Leeds (UK).
All games: 485 (257 tries, 1030 points).
Representative Career: Tests: 29 (4SL), NSW: 27 (3SL).
Nickname: ET. Roy & HG nickname: The Nudist.

Andrew Ettingshausen was a supremely talented centre and fullback for Cronulla, NSW and Australia. While possessing great pace and balance, ET’s strength, defence and toughness were also underrated.

ET remained loyal to the Sharks throughout his career, scoring 165 tries for the club, which at the time was the second most in premiership history. At the time of his retirement ET held the record for most premiership games for a single club.

At representative level, ET was equally at home at fullback, wing or centre. He went on two Kangaroo tours and was the top try-scorer on each of them, the only player to do so.

On his first tour he scored hat tricks in his first two games. He also toured Great Britain and France with the 1997 Super League national team.

Andrew Ettingshausen

Andrew Ettingshausen in Australian colours on the 1990 Kangaroo tour. (Photo by Getty Images)

After a rocky start to his NSW career in the late 1980s, ET became a mainstay of the NSW teams that dominated much of the 1990s. At the time of his retirement, ET’s 27 career games for NSW (excluding Super League) was a record.

4. Steve Ella
Honours: Dally M Centre of the Year 1982, 1984 and 1985.
Years active: 1979 to 1989.
Clubs: Parramatta, Wigan (UK), Wakefield Trinity (UK).
Club games: 196 (113 tries, 122 goals, 8 field goals).
Representative Career: Tests: 4, NSW: 8.
Nickname: The Zip Zip Man.

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Steve Ella was an elusive, speedy centre three-quarter who formed part of the champion Parramatta backline of the 1980s. Ella won four premierships with the Eels, scoring nearly 100 tries from the centres, including tries in each of the 1981 and 1982 grand final wins.

A superbly gifted player with abundant pace, great anticipation and remarkable ball skills, Ella toured with the 1982 Kangaroos and scored 21 tries in 13 matches (no Tests) including four tries against Wales and seven tries against Villeneuve.

In all, Ella played four Tests, three from the bench due to his versatility and speed against tiring defences.

Ella was the top try-scorer in the 1985 premiership with 21 tries and at that point he held the Eels try-scoring record at 92.

He then moved to England to play for Wigan and scored 21 tries in 23 games, including 11 in only two games. In 1988 he played five-eighth for a Rest of the World Team that played England at Headingley.

Ella’s career was nearly over before it started, as he suffered a serious knee injury in his first season and was told he would never play again. He made it back into first grade 23 months later.

5. Trevor Eather
Years active: 1946 to 1947.
Clubs: Boggabri, Western Suburbs.
Representative Career: Tests: 1, NSW: 1.

Hopefully Trevor Eather, a dashing five-eighth or centre, can adapt to the wing, otherwise ET might have to push out to the edge.

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The centre from Boggabri (population 850) made his NSW debut in 1946, scoring a try, before partnering Australian captain Joe Jorgenson in the third Test against Great Britain in 1946.

Although this was to be his only Test appearance, Eather later came to Sydney with his cousin Merv and they played a season with Wests.

Incredibly, Eather missed Wests’ semi-final match against Balmain when he tripped over a spectator’s foot on the grassy section in front of a grandstand and was ruled out of the game.

This followed his withdrawal in 1946 from the NSW team to play QLD after an injury while mustering sheep in Boggabri – his horse fell on him.

The unlucky Eather came from a long line of rugby league players. In the early years, Boggabri teams were composed almost entirely of members of the Eather family (up to 11 at one point), and Eathers still play in various leagues up and down the central coast.

“Eathers must have been as plentiful as rabbits before Myxomatosis in Boggabri,” the Gosford Times wrote in 1958.

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6. Mike Eden
Honours: Rothmans Medal 1983.
Years active: 1981 to 1989.
Clubs: Manly, Western Suburbs, Parramatta, Gold Coast.
Club games: 112 (26 tries, 296 goals, 7 field goals).

Mike Eden was known for his deadly accurate goal-kicking and an ability to kick in general play with either foot. Eden used to kick left and right-footed, depending from which side of the goal posts he had to take the conversion.

After debuting with Manly, Eden switched to Easts in 1983 – Easts offered him $25,000, Manly had offered him $3000 – and he finished the season as the game’s leading point-scorer with 256 points and winner of the Rothmans Medal as the year’s best player.

Eden also spent time playing for Parramatta and in 1988 he ventured to the newly founded Gold Coast Giants where he scored the club’s first ever try.

Eden played half of his first grade matches at five eighth, but also spent time at fullback, halfback, centre and wing.

“I was an attacking player,” Eden reflected on his career.

“I did a lot of chips over the top and regathers, or kicks for my centres. I liked to set up plays. I liked to think I threw the last pass in a lot of movements for people to score tries. That’s how I remember it, anyway… the older I get the better I was.

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“First game picked in first grade against Canberra in ’82, we were losing at half time. ‘Arko’ (Ken Arthurson) cleared the dressing room and said we would walk home if we lost. We won thankfully”.

7. Arthur Edwards
Years active: 1924 to 1933.
Clubs: Valleys (QLD), North Sydney.
Representative Career: Tests: 1 QLD: 37.
Nickname: Fatty.

The original ‘Fatty’, Edwards was a solidly built halfback who played for Brisbane Valleys. He took over the halfback role for Queensland from the legendary Duncan Thompson in 1924 and made the position his own during the late 1920s.

He was a member of Queensland’s 1926 and 1928 teams which were victorious in the annual interstate series against NSW.

Edwards made his only Test appearance in the opening match of the 1928 Ashes series. Australia lost the match narrowly, 15-12, and Edwards was replaced by the great Eric Weissel for the remainder of the series.

Edwards toured England with the 1929-30 Kangaroos but played in just nine minor tour matches. He later ventured to Sydney where he had a season as captain-coach of Norths in 1933 but was forced to retire due to injury midway through the season.

According to team manager Harry Sunderland, on the sea voyage over for the 1929 Kangaroo tour at the stop over at Honolulu, Edwards was the best of a bad lot when they tried their hand at surfing.

8. Greg Eastwood
Years active: 2005 to present.
Clubs: Brisbane Broncos, Canterbury, Leeds (UK).
Club games (to 2018): 263 (32 tries)
Representative Career: Tests: 26 (NZ).
Nickname: Beast.

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Greg Eastwood has played over 230 games in the NRL as well as representing NZ between 2007 and 2016, mostly as an impact player from the bench.

A surprisingly light stepper for a big man, Eastwood played 65 games for the Brisbane Broncos between 2005 and 2008 which even included a start on the wing and two in the centres.

Eastwood was a member of the 2008 World Cup-winning New Zealand Kiwis team and played in all of their matches, including the final win against Australia.

In 2011 Eastwood suffered an ankle injury from stepping on his son’s toy car as he got out of bed.

After a brief stint in the UK, Eastwood signed with Canterbury where he played for nine seasons, including the 2012 and 2014 grand final losses.

His 2018 season was nearly ended in the pre-season when he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, but he returned to win a premiership with Canterbury’s Intrust Super side. Eastwood has joined Newtown in the same comp for 2019.

9. Ben Elias (captain)
Honours: Dally M Hooker of the Year 1985, 1988 and 1992.
Years active: 1982 to 1994.
Clubs: Balmain.
Club games: 234 (36 tries, 4 goals, 33 field goals).
Representative Career: Tests: 14, NSW: 22.
Nickname: Roy & HG “Back Door” or “The Crimea Look”.

Benny Elias was an extremely skilful hooker and great competitor for Balmain during a strong period for the club in the late 1980s when they reached two grand finals in a row.

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Benny Elias

Benny Elias leads the Balmain Tigers onto the field in 1994. (Photo by Getty Images)

Along with Wayne Pearce, Paul Sironen and Steve Roach, Elias and his Balmain team-mates formed one of the best forward packs of the modern era. Elias helped revolutionise the role of the modern hooker with his playmaking ability from dummy-half and strong kicking game.

Elias was also an integral part of the NSW teams of the era, winning five out of seven series, and his clashes with Queensland hooker Steve Walters were immense. He was first picked in 1985, the first ever series win by NSW and went on to play 22 games, including captaining the side in the 1990 and 1991 series.

He won three State of Origin man of the match awards – only Peter Sterling and Andrew Johns have won more for NSW. In 2005 he was named one of the 25 greatest ever NSW Origin players.

Elias made two Kangaroo tours and was vice-captain for the 1990 tour. He also was a member of the 1988 World Cup team.

Two images stand out from Elias’ career. Firstly the hooker for NSW in 1992, covered in blood, being embraced by his mother after a victory. And secondly, Elias hitting the crossbar with a field goal attempt in the 1989 grand final against Canberra, which the Tigers lost in extra time.

Elias admitted on The NRL Footy Show in 2007 that during the 1986 semi-final between Balmain and Souths, he was successful in getting Mario Fenech sent off when he bit his own hand and then claimed the bite was done by Fenech. Without Fenech, Souths were knocked out of the finals race with Balmain winning 36-11.

Elias never left his beloved Balmain, playing 234 matches for the club. His quality over a long period of time is demonstrated by winning the Dally M Hooker of the Year three times over a seven-year period. It is a little surprising that he is not in the ARL Hall of Fame.

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10. Steve Edmed
Years active: 1988 to 1997.
Clubs: Balmain, North Queensland Cowboys, Sheffield (UK).
Club games: 157 (Australia only) (6 tries).

Steve Edmed was a decent quality front rower for Balmain and played in both their losing grand finals in 1988 and 1989.

His main claim to fame was receiving a huge $725,000 for a three-year contract during the Super League war to join North Queensland in 1996. To be fair, Edmed gave some value as he won the club’s player of the year that season.

Prior to this Edmed had needed to work full-time while playing for the Tigers. After more than 150 career NRL appearances he spent a final season playing the English Super League.

11. John Elford
Honours: Western Suburbs Team of the 1970s.
Years active: 1966 to 1976.
Clubs: Western Suburbs.
Club games: 116 (14 tries).
Representative Career: Tests: 4, NSW: 1.
Nickname: Snoozer.

John Elford was a surf lifesaving sprint champion before starting his professional league career. He came to Wests in 1966 as a winger and played in the game that year when St George were beaten at Kogarah for the first time in 12 seasons.

Elford was later shifted to the forwards where he remained the rest of his career, playing 116 games for the club.

Elford made his representative debut for NSW in 1972 and although he was sent off he was selected for the Australian national side that same year, scoring two tries in a match against New Zealand.

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He was selected for the Australian side in the 1972 Rugby League World Cup held in France but broke his arm in a warm-up fixture prior to the tournament and could not take part. Elford went on to break his arm twice more during his career.

Noel Kelly said Elford was the best player for Wests in the late 1960s. Noel recalled a game at Belmore Oval when ‘Snoozer’ Elford scored a try against Canterbury. Noel said Elford beat the whole Canterbury team using his famous running fend.

As an aside, his older brother Owen was a fair footballer and was selected to play for NSW Country but due to his wife burning his footy boots he missed the chance to play. Darryl Chapman took his place and went on to tour with the 1959 Kangaroos.

12. Gareth Ellis
Honours: RLIF Lock of the Year 2008, RLIF Second Rower of the Year 2009 and 2010.
Years active: 1999 to 2017, but apparently going around again in 2019.
Clubs: Wakefield Trinity (UK), Leeds (UK), Wests Tigers, Hull FC (UK).
Club games (to 2018): 392 (82 tries, 2 goals).
Representative Career: Tests: 33 (UK).

Gareth Ellis was one of the greatest English imports to ever play in Australia. Ellis played over 400 games of professional rugby league and was an integral part of the Wests Tigers from 2009 to 2012.

This included the club getting within one point of the grand final in 2010, losing 13-12 to eventual premiers St George Illawarra, and making the finals again in 2011.

Ellis was named the Tigers’ player of the year for each of his first three years with the club and was described by coach Tim Sheens as, “In my time here, dollar-for-dollar, he’s been the best buy this club has had.”

In England Ellis won the 2007 and 2008 Super League titles with the Leeds Rhinos, defeating St Helens on each occasion. He also played in the 2005 World Club Challenge where the Rhinos defeated Canterbury.

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After returning to England from Wests, Ellis captained Hull FC to back to back Challenge Cup titles in 2016 and 2017.

Gareth Ellis

Gareth Ellis lifts the 2017 Challenge Cup. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Ellis represented England or Great Britain over 30 times and enjoyed two victories over the Australian team. And after all that Ellis has apparently come out of retirement and is again playing the UK.

13. John Elias
Years active: 1983 to 1994.
Clubs: Newton, South Sydney, Western Suburbs, Canterbury, Eastern Suburbs, Balmain, Souths (QLD), Leigh (UK), Avignon, Toulouse Olympique, Limoux Grizzlies (all France).
Club games: 134 (NSW only) (14 tries).
Representative Career: Tests – 1 (Lebanon).
Nickname: Gaddafi.

He may not be the greatest footballer of all time, but John Elias is certainly one of the most notorious.

His autobiography Sin Bin is well worth a read. Any book that starts with “I’m going to die” makes you want to read on.

But in amongst the betting scandals and crime, Elias was a decent enough back-rower who played over 130 games across six Sydney clubs as well as spending a season with Wayne Bennett in the Brisbane competition and finishing off with some time in the UK and France.

He also captained the Lebanon team in the 1997 World Sevens and in a game against France.

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A football highlight was his man of the match performance in the BRL grand final in 1985, when his team Souths Brisbane held off a star-studded Wynnum side including such players as Wally Lewis, Gene Miles, Colin Scott, Greg Dowling and Gary Coyne.

To be fair, Souths also had Gary Belcher, Mal Meninga, Peter Jackson and Chris Phelan – the BRL was fairly strong in those days.

“In 1985, I played in Brisbane Souths,” Elias recalled.

“I went there to get away from my Sydney lifestyle, I knew it would lead me to go back to jail. I remember the grand final night, I got man of the match and I’m thinking, ‘How good is this?’ Twelve months earlier, I’m there pointing a gun at someone’s head and saying ‘if you don’t pay, you’re finished’.

“Life couldn’t get any sweeter for me. But I was offered a contract to come and play for the Bulldogs in 1986. I didn’t want to leave but it was like Pandora’s Box was there. Something inside me couldn’t wait to come back to that lifestyle in Sydney.

“My double life was stand-over work, gun runnings, trots fixing.”

Bench

14. George Evans
St George, 1962 to 1968.

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The halfback played in grand final wins from 1962 to 1965. Very unlucky to miss out.

15. Mark Ellison
South Sydney, Cronulla and St George, 1984 to 1991.

Goal-kicking utility who played over 100 games in first grade.

16. Steven Edge
St George and Parramatta, 1973 to 1984; NSW: 1 Origin.

One of the game’s finest ever captains led his two clubs to four grand final victories. Played in the first State of Origin. Unlucky to miss out to Ben Elias at hooker.

17. Michael Ennis
Newcastle, St George Illawarra, Brisbane, Canterbury and Cronulla, 2003 to 2016. NSW: 8 Origins.

Another great hooker starting with E. Two-time Dally M Hooker of the Year and instrumental in turning the porch light off for Cronulla in 2016. Member of Cronulla’s Team of the Half Century.

Honourable mentions
None. Maybe Jack Elsegood (wing).

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And there you have the E team. Full of hookers and with plenty of points out wide, but a lack of forward depth may be an issue.

Next time we look at the Fs, a team with an all-star back line and some tough forward workers.