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

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Roar Guru
31st March, 2019
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Following the F Team, our attention now moves to the G Team.

The tactics for this team will be simple: bash them silly up the middle with the hardest tacklers in the business and then get the ball to the three quarters as quickly as possible and let them weave their magic.

Here’s the list.

1. Kurt Gidley (goalkicker)

Honours: Brad Fittler Medal 2010
Years active: 2001 to 2017
Clubs: Newcastle, Warrington (UK)
Club games: 306 (95 tries, 568 goals, four field goals)
Representative career: Tests: 12; NSW: 12
Nickname: Roy and HG nicknames included ‘Giddy-up Gidley’ and ‘Newcastle’s finest slicer’

Despite being maligned in some quarters for his period as New South Wales captain, when he was used poorly, Gidley has had an enviable career at club and international level and is one of the most versatile players of recent times.

Joining older brother Matt at Newcastle, Gidley finished with over 250 games for the club and 123 as captain. After playing one game in their 2001 premiership year Gidley was a key member of the club for the next 14 years, scoring over 1200 points.

Reflecting his versatility, Gidley played 12 Tests, including 11 from the bench. He only ever played in one loss – the Four Nations final in 2010 against New Zealand.

Gidley played in the State of Origin series between 2007 and 2011, which unfortunately coincided with a period of Queensland dominance. He was made captain for 2009 and 2010 and was controversially selected as captain from the bench for games two and three of 2010. Despite this, Gidley was still named as New South Wales’s player of the series.

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Gidley finished his career with Warrington in the English competition where his team were runners-up for both Super League and the Challenge Cup in 2016. In 2017 Gidley made history by becoming the first rugby league player to wear a playercam during a match.

Kurt Gidley in action for the Knights

Kurt Gidley playing for Warrington (Naparazzi, Flickr)

2. Herb Gilbert

Honours: ARL Hall of Fame. Centre in South Sydney ‘Dream Team’ 2004
Years active: 1911 to 1921
Clubs: South Sydney, Hull FC (UK), Eastern Suburbs, Western Suburbs, St George
All games: 285 (128 tries, nine goals)
Representative career: Tests: 7; NSW: 8

Normally a centre, Herb Gilbert is pushed to the wing in this side. Gilbert was a dual national, playing three rugby union Tests against the All Blacks in 1910 – they won the series and he scoring three tries from the wing – before switching to league in 1911. He was selected for the Kangaroo tour that year and topped the try-scoring when the Kangaroos won the Ashes for the first time.

Gilbert was a strong runner and a noted defensive player. He was a monster back for his time at six foot tall and 86 kilograms. His performances in England led to him signing with Hull FC for a then record fee of £450. Gilbert played for Hull for three seasons and in 1914 became the first overseas player to captain his English club to a Challenge Cup trophy.

On returning to Australia Gilbert moved between Souths and Wests and then joined St George for their inaugural season.

In 1920 he played a leading role in Australia’s defeat of England for the Ashes, captaining the team for the final two Tests.

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Back in 1910, the pro-rugby union press of the day boasted Gilbert was a greater asset to the union than Dally Messenger had ever been, which much have made his defection the following year a bitter pill to swallow.

3. Reg Gasnier

Honours: Rugby league immortal; ARL Team of the Century; NSWRL Team of the Century; ARL Hall of Fame; NSWRL Player of the Year 1962, 1963 and 1965; Australian Sports Hall of Fame Legend; NSW Sports Hall of Fame Legend
Years active: 1959 to 1967
Clubs: St George
All games: 269 (231 tries, 759 points)
Representative career: Tests: 39; NSW: 16.
Nickname: ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’, ‘The Prince of Centres’

There has probably never been a more naturally gifted runner of the football than Reg Gasnier. In a relatively short eight-year career – he retired at only 28 due to injury – Gasnier achieved everything the game had to offer and was universally acclaimed as an original rugby league immortal. League president Harry Flegg in 1950, with 52 years experience in the game, had no hesitation in declaring Gasnier “the greatest player the League has known”.

Gasnier played his entire career for the St George Dragons and during that period the club only failed to win the premiership in his final year. Gasnier scored 127 tries for the club and set up countless more attacking raids for his wingers using his unparalleled acceleration, swerve and evasive skills. Including all club and representative teams, he scored 231 tries in 269 games. He was the competition’s player of the year three times.

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In only his first season in first grade Gasnier scored four tries in his fifth game, scored a hat-trick of tries on debut for New South Wales and played for Australia, scoring a hat-trick in his second Test. Gasnier went on three Kangaroo tours and is still Australia’s youngest ever captain.

A highlight was the 1963-64 Kangaroos tour during which Gasnier scored three tries in the first Test and backed up with a double in the second – the so-called Swinton Massacre – to help Australia secure the Ashes in England for the first time since 1911.

Keith Barnes said, “There was no better sight in rugby league than when he threw his head back and left them standing”.

4. Tom Gorman

Honours: ARL Hall of Fame, QRL Team of the Century, Australian Sports Hall of Fame
Years active: 1918 to 1930
Clubs: Toowoomba Brothers (QLD), Brisbane Brothers (QLD)
All games: 126 (43 tries, 188 points)
Representative career: Tests: 10; QLD: 34
Nickname: ‘Gentleman Tom’

Tom Gorman was one of the greatest centres of all time. His contemporary, the great halfback Duncan Thompson wrote of Gorman that, “Tommy Gorman was an artist … he shunned such crudities as power and beat men with acceleration and swerve that was just sheer grace. Having once seen him, I knew I had seen greatness”.

Gorman was part of the famous Toowoomba team of the 1920s that was undefeated between 1921 and 1925. During that period they beat all comers, including New Zealand (twice), New South Wales (twice), Great Britain and Sydney rugby league premiers South Sydney. He later moved to Brisbane and won a premiership in 1926.

Gorman played all of his club football in Queensland, never being tempted to Sydney, unlike many of his contemporaries. In the 1926 season Gorman captained sides to the BRL premiership, Brisbane to the Bulimba Cup and Queensland to victory over New South Wales, scoring in two of the state’s three victories.

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Gorman became the first Queenslander to captain a Kangaroos team on the 1929-30 Kangaroo tour, when the Australians came within a notorious ‘Chimpy’ Busch no-try of taking the Ashes. In all, Gorman appeared in ten consecutive Ashes Tests.

He was also a mainstay of the Queensland side during a strong era. Between 1922 and 1928 Queensland with Gorman won six from seven series (their first ever), won 14 and lost only six games to New South Wales. He captained the 1928 series-winning team.

The depth in quality centres in this team is ridiculous. In addition to the two above plus Gilbert on the wing, there are four more who have played over ten Tests for their country.

5. Eric Grothe

Honours: ARL Hall of Fame
Years active: 1979 to 1989
Clubs: Parramatta, Leeds (UK)
All games: 218 (131 tries)
Representative career: Tests: 8; NSW: 9
Nickname: ‘Guru’

Moving on from grace and speed, we come to sheer power. Eric Grothe was the most intimidating winger of his time and possibly all time. Blessed with speed and power, Grothe had an amazing ability to break tackles. Once he was up and running there was simply no stopping him.

Grothe was on the end of the famous Parramatta backline that won four premierships between 1981 and 1986. One of Grothe’s most famous tries came in the 1983 preliminary final when he found the line after beating six Canterbury players in a phenomenal solo effort. A year before this famous try, Grothe scored after an equally spectacular effort in the 1982 preliminary final against Easts, running 90 metres to score while fending off three would-be defenders.

Knee injuries plagued Grothe and he played only 150 games across a ten-year career, only twice playing 20 games in a season. He missed many representative opportunities; however, he did go on the 1982 undefeated Kangaroo tour and played eight career Tests for Australia, scoring a try in every single test he played. He also scored two tries on debut in the 1981 State of Origin game, one being a 90-metre effort that he finished on his hands and knees.

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Peter Sterling said, “The Guru at his top might just have been the most dynamic runner of the ball that the game has ever seen”.

6. John Gleeson

Honours: QLD Sport Hall of Fame
Years active: 1953 to 1968
Clubs: Chinchilla (QLD), Toowoomba (QLD), Wynnum-Manly (QLD), Brisbane Brothers (QLD)
Representative career: Tests: 10; QLD: 24
Nickname: ‘Swivel Hips’, ‘Dookie’

John Gleeson was a dangerous half from Queensland Country who was part of some of Australia’s finest rugby league moments. After first being selected for Queensland while playing in Toowoomba in 1961, in 1963 Gleeson moved to Brisbane to join the Wynnum-Manly club. He was selected for the Kangaroo tour that year, playing in the two Tests against France.

In 1966, after missing selection in the first game of the home Ashes, he returned for games two and three, both won by Australia. He then played in all three Tests of the 1967 whitewash tour of New Zealand.

Finally he toured with the Kangaroos in 1967-68, playing all three Tests against Great Britain. In the second Test he moved to half-back for the injured Billy Smith and played a significant part in one of the great Ashes upsets after Australia had lost the opening game. Australia went on to win the decider and claim the Ashes in England for the second time. In his ten Tests for Australia, Gleeson lost only once.

In 1966 Gleeson captained the Brisbane representative side to their first victory over a touring Great Britain team in 34 years.

Gleeson played in three BRL grand finals with Brisbane Brothers, winning in 1967 and 1968. In 1966 Norths coach Bob Bax later admitted he instructed his five-eighth Grant Mould to take Gleeson out to ensure premiership victory. In the 1967 grand final, played against the same opposition as the previous year, Gleeson had six of his bottom teeth broken off at the gums but stayed on the field to help his team to victory.

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After his retirement Gleeson was named on the bench for the Toowoomba and South-West Team of the Century.

7. Hector Gee

Years active: 1930 to 1947
Clubs: Tivoli (QLD), Wigan (UK), Leeds (UK), Batley (UK)
Club games: (Wigan and Batley) (83 tries, 3 goals)
Representative career: Tests: 3; QLD: 10; other nations: 3

Hector Gee was a Queensland halfback who went on to star for Wigan in the English rugby league competition for a decade. Gee first gained selection for Queensland from Ipswich in 1930 and played ten games for his state, including the 1931 and 1932 series victories over New South Wales.

He was selected for the 1932 Ashes and played all three Tests, scoring two tries in the Australian’s second Test win, the ‘Battle of Brisbane’, regarded as the bloodiest game of rugby league ever on Australian soil. During the match Gee sustained a cut upper lip, which required stitches, and was then stretchered off with a concussion. He returned to the field to score the matchwinning try after Eric Weissel had picked up a loose ball and run 75 metres on a broken ankle.

That year Gee moved to England and commenced a great career for Wigan, which included highlights such as the 1934 and 1944 championships and a win for the club over the French national side in 1934. Gee played 351 games for Wigan in total. He also played three representative matches between 1935 and 1937 against France (these sides were made up of the best imports in the British competition at the time).

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8. Peter Gallagher

Honours: ARL Hall of Fame
Years active: 1957 to 1967.
Clubs: Brisbane Brothers (QLD)
All games: 283 (48 tries)
Representative career: Tests: 17; QLD: 18
Nickname: ‘Pedro’

Peter Gallagher was a favourite son for Brothers in Brisbane. A tough man and fierce competitor, Gallagher played in six grand finals for the club, including three as captain, and won in 1958 and 1967. The Brothers pack at the time was known as the ‘terrible six’.

A great clubman, while away on his first Kangaroo tour the Brothers club voted to pay him £800 for the forthcoming season. When he returned Gallagher reportedly told the club: “You can’t afford that. Make it 400 quid”.

Gallagher was selected for two Kangaroo tours, in 1963 and 1967, both won by the Australians. He captained the Kangaroos for the second Test in 1967, leading Australia to a crucial victory after injuries ruled out tour captain Reg Gasnier and vice-captain Johnny Raper. Gallagher’s nose was broken during the Test due to an ill-directed high shot from one of his own teammates.

Gallagher was sent off only once in a Test after freely trading punches with Maunga Emery of New Zealand, yet the two were sharing a beer after the game when the judiciary was convened to rule on their altercation.

Gallagher was a mainstay of the Queensland sides between 1962 and 1967, his final match in 1967 being his first victory over New South Wales. He was a two-time winner of Queensland’s player of the year.

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9. Craig Gower

Honours: Dally M Hooker of the Year 2000, Penrith Hall of Fame
Years active: 1996 to 2013.
Clubs: Penrith, London Broncos (UK), Newcastle
Club games: 289 (63 tries, 31 goals, 5 field goals)
Representative career: Test: 23 (5SL); NSW: 8 (2SL)
Nickname: ‘The Man in the Taxi’, as per Roy and HG

Utility Craig Gower wins the dummy half spot for the Gs. Emerging for Penrith in the mid-1990s, Gower played his first international match at only 18 years old for the Australian Super League side. After reunification Gower was first selected for State of Origin in 1999 and played hooker in the Australian team’s 1999 tri-nation victory over NZ. In 2005 Gower captained Australia in a Test against France.

Gower captained the Panthers between 2002 and 2005, including for their grand final victory over the Roosters in 2003. He would have won the Dally M Medal in 2003 but the event was cancelled over a dispute between players and the NRL.

Gower spent four years playing rugby union and represented Italy in the Six Nations. He then played for the London Broncos in the UK Super League before returning to Australia for his swansong with Newcastle.

Panthers recruitment officer Jim Jones said, “He was a little bull, you could just see how determined he was – he was a winner. He wanted to win every game, win every run, score every try.”

Steeden Rugby League Generic

(Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

10. David Gillespie

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Honours: Dally M Prop of the Year 2013, Bulldogs 70 Year Team of Champions
Years active: 1984 to 1997
Clubs: Canterbury, Hunslet (UK), Western Suburbs, Manly
Club games: 253 (Australia) (17 tries)
Representative career: Tests: 19; NSW: 15
Nickname: ‘Cement’

David Gillespie has the reputation as one of the hardest tacklers of the modern era and he formed an integral part of the famed ‘dogs of war’ Canterbury pack of the 1980s.

After coming off the bench in the Bulldogs’ 1985 grand final win over St George, Gillespie broke into the New South Wales side the following year. He then suffered a severed finger in a workplace accident, which prevented him from touring with the 1986 Kangaroos, and he also missed the Bulldogs’ grand final loss to Parramatta.

Gillespie scored a try in Canterbury’s 1988 grand final win and became a fixture in the New South Wales and Australian teams in the early 1990s, including selection for the 1990 Kangaroo tour.

In 1991 Gillespie moved to Western Suburbs via the short-lived draft system. He then joined Manly and played in the 1995 to 1997 grand finals for the club, winning in 1996.

Gillespie holds the dubious honour of putting on the (legal) shot that finally forced Peter Sterling’s shoulder to give way for good.

Gillespie said of his reputation for big hits that, “I’d rather talk about the tries I’ve scored, but I haven’t scored that many.”

11. Mark Graham (captain)

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Honours: ARL Hall of Fame, Dally M Second Rower of the Year 1981 and 1982, New Zealand player of the Century 2006, New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, Norths Brisbane Team of the Century, North Sydney Team of the Century
Years active: 1975 to 1988
Clubs: Otahuhu (NZ), Norths Brisbane (QLD), North Sydney, Wakefield Trinity (UK)
All games: 253 (58 tries, 199 points)
Representative career: Tests: 28 (NZ)

Mark Graham was considered by many to be the greatest second rower of his era. After starting his career in New Zealand, Graham was lured to Brisbane Norths by Kiwi coach Graham Lowe, and the team won the 1980 grand final. He made such an impression that he was named in the club’s Team of the Century despite playing only two seasons there.

Graham moved to Sydney and played eight seasons with North Sydney. He was named Dally M second rower of the year in each of his first two seasons with the club and in 1992 led the club into their first finals series in 17 years.

Graham played 28 Tests for New Zealand, including 18 as captain. He was the first New Zealander to captain two tours of England and France. In 1988 he captained a Rest of the World side against Australia.

12. Matt Gillett

Honours: Dally M Second Rower of the Year 2016 and 2017
Years active: 2010 to present.
Clubs: Brisbane Broncos
Club games (to 2018): 180 (54 tries)
Representative career: Tests: 12; QLD: 18

This was a photo finish with Mark Geyer and Trevor Gillmeister, but the claims of Matt Gillett could not be ignored. Gillett started as an attacking wide-running second rower, and while maintaining those qualities he has turned himself into one of the best try line defenders in the game.

Gillett has played 18 Origin games so far during a golden era for Queensland. There is no doubt that being unable to play in 2018 due to a serious neck injury contributed to the Maroons’ series loss. Unaware of the stable fracture in his neck, the Queensland and Australian international played every minute of the next four games after being injured.

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Gillett has also played 12 Tests to date, including in the 2016 Four Nations final win over New Zealand and in the 2017 World Cup final. He was also man of the match in the 2017 Anzac Test win over New Zealand. He is yet to lose a match in Australian colours.

In 2008 as a teenager Gillett was picked up by the Broncos for the last six rounds of the NYC competition, but his local club, Wests Arana, made their grand final that year, so Gillett walked out the Broncos to play with his local team, winning the competition with his mates. The following season he had to work his way back into the NRL via the Intrust Super competition.

Gillet then got an offer from the Broncos but also substantially better one from the Roosters. He elected to stay in Brisbane because he would have had to live in a unit in Sydney, and he needed a yard for his Siberian husky.

Matt Gillett takes it to ground in Origin 2 (Photo: @NRLPhotos)

Matt Gillett (NRLPhotos)

13. Paul Gallen

Honours: Dally M Lock of the Year 2011 and 2012, Wally Lewis Medal 2014, Cronulla Team of the Half Century
Years active: 2001 to present
Clubs: Canterbury, Cronulla
Club games (to 2018): 327 (62 tries)
Representative career: Tests: 32; NSW: 24
Nickname: ‘Gal’

Paul Gallen is the grand old man of New South Wales rugby league. After 15 years of hard slog for his beloved Sharks, Gallen finally captained them to their first ever premiership in 2016. Many thought he may have retired at that peak, but the man just keeps on going.

Gallen was a true 80-minute player in an era of interchange, racking up amazing metres and tackles through the middle of the park. He was the first player in NRL history to run for 50,000 career metres.

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After debuting for New South Wales in 2006 Gallen had the misfortune to play his entire representative career against the record-breaking Queensland team of the era. However, he did captain New South Wales to a drought-breaking series win in 2014. Gallen captained his state 16 times from 2011.

Gallen has played 32 Tests for Australia and won the Harry Sunderland Medal for the Kangaroos best player on Tour in 2010 and 2011. e also has nine wins from nine bouts as a professional boxer.

Shane Flanagan said, “As far as competitiveness and preparing for games goes, Gal’s number one”.

On being voted the most unpopular NSW player in Origin history by a Queensland newspaper, Gallen said, “I don’t care less what the two heads up there think of me and, secondly, I must have been doing my job right.”

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14. James Graham
Played for St Helens (UK), Canterbury, St George; played between 2003 and present; played in 44 tests; nicknamed ‘Bupa’.

A tough and skilful English warrior at prop.

15. Mark Gasnier
Played for St George; played between 2000 and 2011; played in 15 Tests, 12 for New South Wales; nicknamed ‘Gaz’ by fans, ‘Shimmy, shimmy, whoosh’ and ‘Fire up B…’ by Roy and HG.

A supremely talented running back at centre.

16. Mark Geyer
Played for Penrith, Balmain, Western Reds; played between 1986 and 2000; played in three Tests, three for New South Wales; nicknameed ‘MG’ by fans, ‘The Tap’ by Roy and HG.

An intimidating player who lived on the edge on the second row.

17. Ryan Girdler
Played for Illawarra, Penrith; played between 1991 and 2004; played in 14 Tests, ten for New South Wales; nicknamed ‘Girds’ by the fans and ‘No sex please, I’m Ryan Girdler’ by Roy and HG.

A talented centre and prolific points scorer. He holds the record for most points in a Test and most points in an Origin match. He kicked at an unbelievable 92.68per cent in the 1997 Super League season.

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Honourable mentions

This team was blessed with depth, particularly in the centres: Bob Grant (half, two Tests), Matt Gidley (centre, 17 Tests), Dane Gagai (wing/centre, five Tests), Geoff Gerard (prop, six Tests), Trevor ‘The Axe’ Gillmeister (second row, three Tests), Nick Geiger (hooker, four Tests), Noel Gallagher (hooker, two Tests) and Johnny Greaves (centre, 12 Tests).

And there you have it: the G Team. An all-time best centre pairing and intimidating pack, they could turn some heads, although their spine is not as well known as some.

Next time we look at Team Hs, with skilful centres putting away wingers who are try scoring machines and a forgotten ‘best ever’ at No. 6.