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

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Roar Guru
8th April, 2019
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Continuing our list of the great alphabet team, we now have the H Team. There is some tremendous try-scoring power here orchestrated by two smart halves – if the forwards, led by one of the toughest, can hold their own.

Here is the list.

1. Howard Hallett

Honours: ARL Hall of Fame, NSWRL Player of the Year 1914
Years active: 1909 to 1924
Clubs: South Sydney
All games: 241 (42 tries, 43 goals)
Representative career: Tests: 6; NSW: 17
Nickname: ;The Rock of Gibraltar’ and ‘Silver Belt’

A minor controversy first up – there is no room at fullback for the Jarryd Hayne Plane. Howard Hallett was the first of the great rugby league fullbacks.

Victorian-born Hallett was originally an Australian Rules footballer, and his marking and kicking skills were put to good use in the days when these were very important facets of fullback play. His defence in the last line was also superb, and because he started as a centre, his running and passing were well ahead of other fullbacks of the era.

After debuting for Souths in 1909 Hallett played in three premiership winning years: 1909, 1914 and 1918. In 1914 Hallett earnt a nickname for life when on a public vote he was declared the best player in the premiership, winning a silver belt from promoters Greenstripe Whisky. He was known from that day on as ‘Silver Belt’.

Hallett was selected for New South Wales in 1911 and that same year toured with the Kangaroos. He was a regular for NSW, touring New Zealand twice, and again represented Australia in the 1914 Ashes on home soil. His representative career thereafter was hindered by the Great War.

2. Harold Horder (goalkicker)

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Honours: ARL Hall of Fame, NSW Sports Hall of Fame
Years active: 1912 to 1926
Clubs: South Sydney, North Sydney, Coorparoo (QLD)
All games: 270 (336 tries, 300 goals)
Representative career: Tests: 13, NSW: 9, QLD: 1
Nickname: ‘The Wonder Winger’

Harold Horder can claim to being the greatest winger in Australian rugby league history. He is certainly the odd man out of the great pre-WWI players as the only one not named an immortal in 2018.

Horder was a tryscoring genius with pure speed to go along with great evasive skills. Across his club and representative career he scored 186 tries in only 162 games, one of the few with a strike rate of better than a try per game. Horder’s try-scoring records were not beaten until nearly 50 years later by Ken Irvine.

From his first game Horder was marked as something special. On debut he stepped and swerved through the entire Glebe team in a 90-metre dash to score one of the greatest individual tries in rugby league history. He went on to be the NSW Rugby Football League’s top try scorer in 1913, 1914 and 1917, and for each of the four seasons 1913, 1914, 1918 and 1922 he was the league’s top point-scorer.

Horder was a key part of the South Sydney team that won premierships in 1914 and 1918. Along with wing partner Cecil Blinkhorn, Horder joined Duncan Thomson at North Sydney in 1920 and helped give the Shoremen their only two premierships, back to back in 1921 and 1922. Horder was captain in 1921 and scored two tries in the 1922 grand final.

Horder’s try-scoring feats were just as amazing at representative level, including scoring an incredible five tries each in consecutive matches against Queensland in 1915, and he kicked eight and seven goals respectively as well. At one point Horder scored at least two tries for NSW in nine games in a row.

When New Zealand toured in 1919 Horder scored nine tries in only four Tests against them. On the 1921-22 Kangaroo tour he scored 35 tries in only 25 matches, an all-time record.

If you need to score a try, this is the man to do it.

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Cecil Blinkhorn: “Champions come and go. You can reel off 100 or so of them. But there’ll never be another winger like Harold Horder.”

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

3. Justin Hodges

Honours: Dally M Centre of the Year 2007
Years active: 2000 to 2015
Clubs: Brisbane Broncos, Sydney Roosters
Club games: 251 (99 tries, 1 goal)
Representative career: Tests: 13, QLD: 24
Nickname: ‘Hodgo’

The H Team is blessed with two of the most annoying centres in rugby league history. Justin Hodges was one of the game’s great competitors. Very strong but also surprisingly quick and evasive, Hodges’s trademark dummy half runs drove defences to distraction. And 99 tries for the Roosters and Broncos in 251 games shows he could find the line as well.

Hodges won premierships with the Roosters in 2002 and the Broncos in 2006, scoring a try from fullback. He also captained Brisbane in their golden point 2015 grand final loss, his final game of rugby league.

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After a horror debut featuring two wayward passes inside his own in goal leading to tries, Hodges was a key part of the QLD Origin dynasty, being a regular in the team from 2006 to 2015. In 13 appearances for Australia between 2006 and 2013 Hodges was never involved in a losing side. But for serious knee, shoulder and Achilles injuries, Hodges would have played many more representative matches. The injury-prone centre made 20 season appearances only once in nine years from 2005.

Justin Hodges

Justin Hodges (AAP)

4. Jarryd Hayne

Honours: Dally M Player of the Year 2009 and 2014, Dally M Winger of the Year 2007, Dally M Fullback of the Year 2009 and 2014, Brad Fittler Medal 2007, 2008 and 2014
Years active: 2006 to present(?)
Clubs: Parramatta, Gold Coast.
Club games (to 2018): 214 (121 tries, 2 goals, 4 field goals)
Representative career: Tests: 12 (plus 10 for Fiji), NSW: 23
Nickname: ‘Hayne Plane’, and Roy and HG’s nickname was ‘Hip Head Hayne’

When I said this team had two really annoying centres, I was thinking of the Manly great Terry Hill; however, after reviewing their careers the case for Hayne was too great to ignore, and he fits the annoying bill almost as well.

While playing most of his career at fullback Hayne has also represented at wing and centre, and a place had to be found for him. His case for a centre position was his form as Australia swept all before them in the 2013 World Cup.

At his best Hayne was the most dynamic runner of the football of his time. His form in the second half of 2009 was as good as anyone in history as he dragged a mediocre Parramatta team into eighth spot and then all the way to an unlikely grand final.

Hayne had announced himself as a freakish talent two years before when in State of Origin 1 he trapped a grubber kick and, with no momentum and facing his own line, Hayne broke a tackle and took off inches inside the touchline, then grubbered past the cover defence to score. But even the year before that Hayne scored 17 tries in just 16 games of his rookie season for the Eels, lifting the Eels from second last in Round 11 to finish in the finals.

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The highlights have been fewer since 2009 but Hayne still has the ability to break games open, as shown by his play in NSW’s 2014 Origin series victory. Hayne reserved some of his best performances for NSW, winning their player of the series three times.

Despite spending time trying to crack the NFL and the Fijian Rugby Sevens team, Hayne has found the time to rack up over 200 NRL games for more than 120 tries.

Jarryd Hayne NSW Blues State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017

Jarryd Hayne in his NSW Blues kit (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

5. Valentine Holmes

Honours: Cronulla Team of the Half Century
Years active: 2014 to present(?)
Clubs: Cronulla
Club games (to 2018): 105 (66 tries, 51 goals, three field goals)
Representative career: Tests: 11, QLD: 5

This was a very tough decision. Valentine Holmes wins out over two greats of the game. Michael Hancock was one of my favourite all-time players, with 14 Tests and 120 tries for Brisbane. And then there is Eric Harris, the ‘Toowoomba Ghost’, who scored 391 tries in 383 games for Leeds in the 1930s.

But Valentine Holmes is (or maybe was) very, very special. As at January 2019 Holmes had scored 25 tries in only 18 appearances for QLD and Australia, including a record six in one game against Fiji – and that was after scoring five in his previous match! Holmes took to State of Origin like he was born to it, and by the end of 2018 had scored a try in every single appearance for Queensland.

Holmes was a key part of Cronulla’s maiden premiership in 2016 and his speed and evasion skills are invaluable. He has mainly played on the wing, but his performances in 2018 show that he will likely develop – if he returns – into one of the great fullbacks.

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What are the odds of two NFL players (almost, sort of) in the one letter team?

Valentine Holmes

Valentine Holmes of the Queensalnd Maroons (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

6. Vic Hey

Honours: ARL Hall of Fame, Australian Sports Hall of Fame. NSW Sports Hall of Fame. Western Suburbs Team of the Century
Years active: 1933 to 1949
Clubs: Western Suburbs, Toowoomba (QLD), Ipswich (QLD), Leeds (UK), Dewsbury (UK), Hunslet (UK), Parramatta
All games: 319 (144 tries, 5 goals)
Representative career: Tests: 6, QLD: 4, NSW: 12
Nickname: ‘The Human Bullet’

After his career finished, Vic Hey was acknowledged by many around the world as the greatest player of all time, and yet he rarely receives the same accolades as others. As recently as 1992 he was ranked by RLW as No. 8 in their greatest players of all time.

Hey’s achievements are many. They include a premiership with Western Suburbs in 1934 – taking them from the wooden spoon the year before, the only team to ever do so – resulting in Hey being named in the club’s team of the century despite playing only three seasons with them. He was selected for a Kangaroo tour in 1933-34 after only his first season in first grade.

Hey’s value was recognised when he was paid a then record transfer fee to join Leeds in 1937. He repaid that faith as Leeds won back-to-back Challenge Cups in 1941-42. Upon his retirement he was acknowledged in England as the greatest five-eighth the world had seen.

Playing at 86 kilograms, Hey was both a mighty defender and a devastating attacking player. He could employ a sidestep or a swerve to evade the defence or, if necessary, use a crashing shoulder or hip to burst straight through.

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Frank Hyde: “He will go down as great a five-eighth as Australia has produced.”

Hey on retiring: “Norths second-rower called Kirkwood drove the shoulder into me and put me down. He said to me ‘it’s about time you gave it away baldy’ and I thought he was probably right.”

7. Arthur Halloway (captain)

Honours: ARL Hall of Fame
Years active: 1908 to 1920
Clubs: Glebe, Balmain, Eastern Suburbs
All games: 264 (88 tries, 3 goals)
Representative career: Tests: 10, NSW: 27, QLD: 1
Nickname: ‘Pony’

Before there was Andrew Johns vs Johnathan Thurston or Allan Langer vs Ricky Stuart – or for the elderly among us, Tommy Raudonikis vs Steve Mortimer – there was Chris McKivat vs Arthur Halloway.

Arthur ‘Pony’ Halloway was one of the smartest operators to ever play the game. He won a whopping seven premierships, firstly with Easts and then the great Balmain side of the era, and the last four as captain-coach. He also coached the great Easts side of the 1930s to four more.

Halloway had a long representative career, often competing for spots with former Wallabies captain McKivat, the other great halfback of the day. Halloway played in the first representative matches against the New Zealand All Golds in 1907, went on two Kangaroo tours and captained Australia to New Zealand in 1919.

A fierce competitor – more Raudonikis than Mortimer – Halloway was a tough tackler for a small man and was known for his courage. Halloway once turned up for a match after severing part of a finger at work that morning.

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8. Duncan Hall

Honours: ARL Hall of Fame, Nominated for rugby league Immortal 2018, ARL Team of the Century, QRL Team of the Century, QLD Sports Hall of Fame, BRL Player of the Year 1954
Years active: 1944 to 1957
Clubs: Rockhampton (QLD), Valleys (QLD), Home Hill (QLD), Toowoomba (QLD), Wests Brisbane (QLD)
All games: 177 (65 tries)
Representative career: Tests: 22, QLD: 24

Duncan Hall was a colossus of Queensland and Australian rugby league in the postwar years. Hall’s stature in the game is such that in 2018 he was nominated for immortal status.

Hall made his name playing his entire career in Brisbane and QLD Country. He went on two Kangaroo tours, the first after his first year in Brisbane, and he was a mainstay of the Queensland and Australian sides for eight years. Hall was considered the premier prop of the era and Australia won the Ashes twice with him in the team. He was tough, surprisingly quick and had silky ball skills. Nine tries in 23 Tests is a fair strike rate for a front rower.

Hall was Queensland’s player of the year in 1951 when he captained them to victory in the interstate series for the first time in a decade, scoring a double in the decider. He also won the Bulimba Cup four times, two with Brisbane and two with Toowoomba. Hall won a premiership with Wests Brisbane in 1954 and was named best player in the competition that year. Every club team that Hall ever played in qualified for finals, and in addition to his Brisbane premiership he won three in Rockhampton.

Duncan Thompson described him as “the ultimate footballer, with the perfect balance of brains and brawn”.

9. Jason Hetherington

Honours: Dally M Hooker of the Year 1998. Ron McAuliffe Medal 1999
Years active: 1993 to 2002
Clubs: Gold Coast Chargers, Canterbury, London Broncos (UK)
Club games: 173 (25 tries)
Representative career: Test: 2, QLD: 8
Nickname: ‘The Horse’

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We have the Pony at half and the Horse at hooker. There could be arguments here for Josh Hodgson and even for Des Hasler, who played a season at hooker, but in the end I went with tough-as-nails Canterbury and Queensland hooker Jason Hetherington.

After starting his career on the Gold Coast as a five-eighth, Hetherington joined Canterbury and was moved to hooker. This proved to be a wise decision as Hetherington carved out a successful career for Canterbury and Queensland. He won a premiership with the Bulldogs in 1995 and played in Canterbury’s 1994 and 1998 grand final losses.

Hetherington was named Dally M hooker of the year in 1998 and represented Queensland and Australia between 1998 and 2000, including a man of the match performance in State of Origin 1 in 1999. His test appearances were limited, missing out in 1999 due to poorly timed suspension and injuries. Hetherington left the Bulldogs in 2001 to finish his career in England as captain of the London Broncos.

Hetherington was renowned for his toughness and country sense of humour. One year when he was asked about Darryl Halligans goal-kicking record he said, “The way he’s kicking them, I’d hate to be his dog”.

Steeden Rugby League Generic

(Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

10. Paul Harragon

Honours: Nominated for ARL Hall of Fame 2018, Order of Australia Medal, NSW Sports Hall of Fame, Newcastle Team of the Century, Dally M Prop of the Year 1996
Years active: 1988 to 1999
Clubs: Newcastle
Club games: 169 (19 tries)
Representative career: Tests: 20, NSW: 20
Nickname: ‘Chief’

The Chief is one of Newcastle’s favourite sons and was arguably the best NSW prop since Glenn Lazarus. Harragon was an inspirational leader who never took a backwards step, and his massive defensive hits and clashes with another enforcer, Mark ‘Spud’ Carroll, are the stuff of legend. He is also remembered for a lopsided fight in his favour against Martin Bella in the 1993 Origin series.

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Despite his reputation as an enforcer, the only player ever sent off in an Origin match was Craig Greenhill for a swinging arm on the Chief. Through all of this it is hard to believe that he started out as a winger.

Harragon joined the Knights for their first NRL season and played his whole career at the club. He was captain for the club’s first premiership in 1997 and led the club from 1995 until his retirement. He was an inaugural member of the club’s hall of fame.

Harragon was a regular for Australia from 1992 to 1998, although his appearances were often curtailed by injury, and he won three man-of-the-match awards playing for his country. In contrast he played 20 consecutive Origin matches for NSW from 1992 to the second game of 1998, including a man of the match performance in the first ever Origin in Melbourne in 1994. Through that period NSW only lost the 1995 and 1998 series.

In 2007, his single That’s Gold debuted at No. 8 on the ARIA singles chart.

11. Brian Hambly

Honours: ARL Hall of Fame, Parramatta Hall of Fame Legend
Years active: 1956 to 1969
Clubs: South Sydney, Wagga, Parramatta, Lithgow
All games: 251 (35 tries, 243 points)
Representative career: Tests: 21, NSW: 11
Nickname: ‘Grumpy’

Brian Hambly played a couple of seasons with Souths and then at only 21 moved to captain-coach the Wagga Magpies. Unusually, it was from Wagga after leaving Sydney that Hambly was recognised and made his representative debut for NSW and Australia in 1959.

In 1961 Parramatta paid a then record transfer fee of £2500 to secure Hambly, and he played with them for seven seasons. After being near the bottom of the ladder, having claimed eight wooden spoons in the previous ten years, Parramatta made the finals from 1962 to 1965 after securing Hambly and other stars such as Dick Thornett and Ron Lynch.

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Hambly made the 1959 Kangaroo tour and played all six Tests. He was the preferred lock for the first two Tests, but after Johnny Raper emerged, Hambly played the remainder of his representative games in the second row. Hambly also toured for the 1960 World Cup and again in the 1963-64 Kangaroo tour. He played five Tests on tour but was injured and missed the ‘Swinton massacre’ when Australia thumped Great Britain 50-12.

Ian Walsh: “A great cover defender, a powerful runner of the ball and a good team man.”

12. Nathan Hindmarsh

Honours: Dally M second rower of the year 2000-2001, 2004-2006; Parramatta Hall of Fame Legend
Years active: 1998 to 2012
Clubs: Parramatta
Club games: 330 (60 tries, 1 goal)
Representative career: Tests: 23, NSW: 17
Nickname: ‘Hindy’. nicknamed ‘Money Box Man’ by Roy and HG

What a legend. Nathan Hindmarsh is a five-time winner of the Provan-Summons Medal for the most popular player in the game with fans. He is also a five-time winner of the Dally M second rower of the year.

A model of hard work and consistency throughout his career, Hindmarsh ran out for his beloved Eels 300 times, a record for the club, the tenth most of all time and the fourth most by a one-club player. He also set a world record for the most tackles made in a single game – in Round 23 of the 2007 NRL season he made 75 tackles against the Melbourne Storm. That sort of output barely wavered over a career that made Hindmarsh the first player in history to make 10,000 career tackles.

Hindmarsh never did win an elusive premiership with the Eels, coming close in 2001 and 2009 when the club went down in grand finals. Over 45,000 fans turned out for Hindmarsh’s farewell game.

Hindmarsh first represented Australia in 2000 and was on the bench for their World Cup victory over New Zealand. Injuries restricted further appearances, but by 2004 Hindmarsh was a fixture in the NSW and national teams. He played second row in back to back Origin Series victories in 2004 and 2005. Hindmarsh only lost two games in his career in the green and gold and was still a fixture in the 2009 Four Nations, playing lock as Australia took the title.

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He was described by coach Brian Smith: “He is a machine. He hasn’t got an ideal body. He’s got a sway back and fat gut and funny bum. But physiologically he’s got something inside him and he keeps going and going.”

13. Scott Hill

Years active: 1996 to 2008
Clubs: Canterbury, Hunter Mariners, Melbourne, Harlequins RL (UK)
Club games: 245 (65 tries, one goal)
Representative career: Tests: 12 NSW: 5

This was a tough one and I would have given it to the No. 14 in this side except that he played less than 50 NRL matches and carelessly ran headlong into a stiff arm in the 1988 grand final that cost his team the premiership.

So instead I am going with Scott Hill, one of the smartest rugby league players I’ve seen. After being graded at Canterbury and getting his chance with the ill-fated Hunter Mariners, where he holds the record for most games for the club, Hill joined Melbourne for their first season and was a fixture in their side for the next nine years. He played exactly 200 NRL games before moving to England to finish his career.

Hill was unfortunately ruled out of their 1999 grand final win through injury, but he showed enough class to be selected for NSW and Australia from 2000. Although he played most of his club football at five-eighth, eight of his 12 appearances for Australia were at lock and he never lost an international game playing there.

Scott was a fixture at lock for the 2000 World Cup and represented again in 2002 and 2004. He was also at lock for NSW’s 2000 State of Origin whitewash of Queensland.

Scott on life after football: “If I hadn’t have learnt the principles of what they’ve got at that Club [Melbourne], discipline, sacrifice, commitment, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

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Bench

14. Ellory Hanley
Played for Bradford Northern (UK), Wigan (UK), Balmain, Wests, Leeds (UK); played between 1978 and 1997; played in 37 Tests (UK); nickname: ‘The Black Pearl’ and ‘Mr Magic’

Centre, lock, five-eighth – one of Great Britain’s greatest players and Golden Boot Winner in 1988. He scored tries in four consecutive finals to take Balmain to a grand final but could not get past Terry Lamb’s stiff arm.

15. Keith Holman
Played for Western Suburbs; played between 1949 and 1961; played in 35 Tests, 25 for NSW; nicknamed ‘Yappy’

Halfback. ARL Hall of Fame. The greatest half of the 1950s and a Magpies icon. Desperately unlucky to miss out. Jean Dop (French opponent in 1955 Tests) rated Holman “head and shoulders” above any of the halves in England and France.

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16. Les Heidke
Played for Ipswich (QLD); played between 1928 and 1946; played in nine Tests, 40 for Queensland; nicknamed ‘Monty’

Second row and prop, Heidke is a long-serving Queensland legend. He was ruled out of the 1933-34 Kangaroo tour with a poisoned leg caused by (reports vary) either a kick in the shin or a bite from a redback spider.

17. Ryan Hoffman
Played for Melbourne, Wigan (UK), New Zealand Warriors; played between 2003 and 2018; played in six Tests, 14 for NSW; nicknamed ‘Hoff’

Second row. Hard edge running Melbourne stalwart.

Honourable mentions

There were many players who deserved a spot in this team, none more unlucky than the following

Des Hasler (halfback, 13 Tests), Michael Hancock (wing, 14 Tests), Karmichael Hunt (fullback, 11 Tests), Mark Harris (centre, 11 Tests), Terry Hill (centre, nine Tests), Rohan Hancock (prop, three Tests), Henry Holloway (prop, three Tests), Ron Hilditch (prop, three Tests), Josh Hodgson (hooker, 15 Tests (UK)), Kevin Hastings (halfback), Rodney Howe (prop, five Tests), Johnny Hunter (fullback, 332 games for Huddersfield (UK)), Eric Harris ‘The Toowoomba Ghost’ (wing, 391 tries in 383 games for Leeds (UK)).

And there you have the H Team. Hard nuts across the front row and a three quarter line oozing brilliance.

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Next time we look at the Is. It was a bit of a struggle, but if they can get the ball wide, they might be a chance.