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

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Roar Guru
12th May, 2019
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And now to the much anticipated L team. This is one of the contenders and certainly one of the cleverest sides so far.

1. Darren Lockyer
Honours: Immortal nomination 2018, ARL Hall of Fame, QRL Team of the Century, Golden Boot 2003 and 2006, Sport Australia Hall of Fame, Clive Churchill Medal 2000, Dally M Fullback of the Year 1998, 2001 and 2002, Dally M Five-eighth of the Year 2004, 2006, 2007
Years active: 1995-2011
Clubs: Brisbane
All games: 472 (174 tries, 1597 points)
Representative career: 63 Tests (4 Super League), 38 Queensland Origins (2 Super League).

Darren Lockyer is the only player to be anointed the best in the world by winning the Golden Boot in two different positions.

At one time Lockyer held almost every record in the book for most games at club (355), state (38) and national (63) level. This included a record 38 games as captain of his country.

The ultimate clutch player and an inspirational captain, Lockyer presided over the dawn of a Queensland dynasty.

After suffering injuries and making a move for his team, Lockyer transformed himself into a great organising five-eighth whose vision and game management were second to none.

It is easily forgotten that before this period he was a truly devastating attacking player, still holding the record for most tries for Australia (35), with electrifying pace and a brilliant swerve. He was the best support player since Terry Lamb.

And he was an exceptional goal-kicker as well, still holding the record for most points in a season for Brisbane. In fact, Lockyer won the Dally M medal for best fullback and best five-eighth three times each.

The highlights of a great career are too numerous to mention, but a couple stand out.


Lockyer won four premierships with Brisbane, the last at No.6, captaining a limited Broncos team to an upset over Melbourne.

He took over as Australian captain in the 2003 Kangaroo tour and produced three brilliant displays in three last-gasp victories over the British.

He also produced the perfect half of football in the 2004 Tri-nations final, with Australia thrashing the British 44-4.

Lockyer came up with another perfect half of football in the Broncos’ 2006 semi-final against Canterbury. Down by 14 at half time, Lockyer finished off a 60-metre try that he started and had a major hand in three others and kicked a field goal as Brisbane piled on 31 unanswered second half points.

He was the captain and deciding try-scorer in 2006 to bring Queensland victory in State of Origin, and then presided over five of the first six years of the streak. In total, Lockyer captained Queensland to six series wins and was his state’s player of the series three times.

In his final match in 2011, he kicked a last-minute field goal to win a semi-final for Brisbane over St George Illawarra, while suffering a broken cheekbone.

Such was Lockyer’s standing that when the ARL Hall of Fame was started in 2008 by naming the game’s top 100 players of all time, Lockyer was the only non-retired player to be included. What a footballer.

Cameron Smith recalls his first game against Lockyer. “Locky took a long cut out pass on his chest,” Smith told journalist Steve Mascord.


“Just before he took off, he glanced up and looked straight at my eyes… I don’t know what I was thinking, holding my distance, almost inviting him to come to me.

“Locky could hardly believe his luck. He just went ‘bang’ and took off towards the touchline. Without slowing even a little, he straightened and was past me, on his way to the tryline before I knew what had happened. I had never had anyone do that to me… not even in under eights mod league.”

Darren Lockyer scythes through the defence

(Colin Whelan ©

2. Eddie Lumsden
Honours: ARL Hall of Fame, NSW Country Team of the Century
Years active: 1955-66
Clubs: Manly, St George
All games: 265 (211 tries, 681 points)
Representative career: 15 Tests, 19 NSW

Eddie Lumsden was a powerful winger during the St George golden era of the 1950s and ’60s.

After a very brief stint at Manly (he had to move due to residency rules), Lumsden went on to score 136 tries for St George in only 158 matches – one of the best try-scoring rates of all time.

Lumsden played in nine winning grand finals, making him one of the most successful players in history.

He also has the distinction of scoring hat tricks in two grand finals, in 1959 and 1961. His eight tries in all grand finals remains a record to this day.


Despite scoring four tries on debut for NSW in 1957, Lumsden had to wait until 1959 to represent Australia.

Lumsden’s best moments for the national team were on the 1959-60 Kangaroo tour where he played in all six Tests and 21 minor tour matches scoring 25 tries in total, topping both the try-scoring list and tally for most matches played by an Australian on the tour.

Fellow St George winger Johnny King said: “He was the strongest winger I have ever seen. When Eddie got the ball within 20 yards of the try line the rest of us would start walking back to halfway.”

3. Graeme Langlands (goal-kicker)
Honours: Rugby League Immortal, ARL Hall of Fame, ARL Team of the Century, NSWRL Team of the Century. NSW Sports Hall of Fame
Years active: 1963-76
Clubs: St George
All games: 425 (170 tries, 2694 points)
Representative career: 45 Tests, 33 NSW

Langlands could have easily been fullback in this team but his great versatility means he can slot into the centres.

The great Graeme Langlands was a truly elite player, equally brilliant at fullback and centre, and with one of the game’s greatest ever sidesteps.

After first representing NSW from Wollongong, he moved to Sydney in 1963 and was a key part of St George’s continuing premiership run in the 1960s.

In all, Langlands scored over 1500 points for St George in a 14-season career.


He was also a stalwart for his country, after being selected during his first year in first grade in 1963.

Langlands went on three Kangaroo tours – one as captain-coach – and captained his country 15 times. He also became the first player to score 100 points for Australia.

One of his highlights was scoring a record 20 points in the Swinton massacre in 1963, which brought the Ashes back to Australia. Langlands continued to represent NSW and Australia for 12 more years. His 33 games for NSW is second on the all-time list.

Langlands almost single-handedly won St George the 1964 grand final to keep their streak alive. Chang set up the only try and kicked four goals in the 11-6 victory.

That try saw Langlands tiptoe down the touchline to grab a penalty kick on the full from beyond touch, then set off on a diagonal run to set up winger Johnny King (via Billy Smith) to score on the opposite side of the field.

Langlands ‘scored’ one of the most famous non-tries in history. In the 1972 World Cup, Chang flashed through to score from a kick but the referee called him offside, his reasoning being that he believed no one could have got to that ball from an onside position. Video shows Langlands was onside, but his great anticipation and acceleration got him there.

And whatever happened to the infamous white boots from the 1975 grand final, where a pain-killing injection gone wrong turned Langlands into a passenger?

After the 1975 World Cup in England they were left tied to a set of goalposts at their training ground.


“Chang was the greatest rugby league player I’ve ever seen,” John Sattler told the Daily Telegraph.

“He didn’t have a weak link – he amazed all who played with or against him.”

4. Jamie Lyon
Honours: Super League Man of Steel 2005, Dally M Centre of the Year 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014
Years active: 2000-16
Clubs: Parramatta, St Helens (UK), Manly
Club games: 359 (168 tries, 739 goals)
Representative career: 8 Tests, 10 NSW

Jamie Lyon burst onto the scene for Paramatta in 2000 as a prodigiously talented centre.

By the end of 2001, Lyon had forced his way into the Australian team, had scored two tries in the Eels’ 2001 grand final loss and played centre in all Tests on the 2001 Kangaroo tour at only 21 years of age.

After injury-interrupted seasons in 2002 and 2003, Lyon sensationally turned his back on the NRL in 2004 and went home to Wee Waa, where he won the 2004 premiership with his local club.

After sitting out the season, Lyon went to the UK where he became the key player for the champion St Helens team, winning the Super League player of the year award in 2005 and scoring 46 tries and 610 points for the club in only two seasons.

St Helens won the Super League competition in 2006 and the Challenge Cup that same year, with Lyon scoring a try and kicking seven goals.


After two years in the UK, Lyon returned to the NRL for Manly and became a club stalwart, playing 226 matches for the club, scoring over 1400 points and captaining the side for six years.

Lyon was Dally M Centre of the Year four times and captain of the year twice, while the club made four grand finals, winning the premiership twice.

Lyon retired from representative football in 2010, otherwise he would have made many more appearances for NSW and Australia, given his standing as arguably the premier centre in the game for a decade.

Lyon joined the Ballina Seagulls as captain-coach for 2019.

“It was just phenomenal what Jamie could do,” Saints team-mate Paul Wellens told the St Helens Star.

“He was really skilful and super quick. I don’t think people realised how quick he was, but once he got away, nobody caught him.”

5. Bobby Lulham
Years active: 1947-53
Clubs: Balmain
Club games: 85 (85 tries, 45 goals)
Representative career: 3 Tests, 9 NSW

Bobby Lulham burst onto the scene for Balmain in 1947 after moving from Newcastle.


During that year he broke the record for the most tries in a debut season and most tries in a season for Balmain (28) before being a member of their grand final-winning side.

Lulham continued to be a prolific try-scorer with 85 tries in as many games for Balmain, one of very few players to maintain a career strike rate of at least one try per game.

Lulham debuted for Australia in 1948 in the third Test of the Kangaroo tour and also played two Tests against France. He played nine times for NSW, scoring eight tries.

Lulham retired in 1953 after being involved in a notorious case where his mother-in-law – with whom he was having an affair – allegedly tried to poison Lulham with thallium. She was found not guilty, but the case led to Lulham being divorced by his wife.

6. Wally Lewis (captain)
Honours: Rugby League Immortal, ARL Team of the Century, QRL Team of the Century, ARL Hall of Fame, Golden Boot Award 1984, Australian Sports Hall of Fame Legend, Queensland Sports Hall of Fame Legend, Member of the Order of Australia
Years active: 1978-92
Clubs: Valleys (QLD), Wakefield Trinity (UK), Wynnum-Manly (QLD), Brisbane, Gold Coast
All games: 441 (197 tries, 854 points)
Representative career: 34 Tests, 38 Queensland

‘The King’ Wally Lewis was arguably the most significant player in the history of Queensland rugby league.

Along with a golden generation of players in the 1980s, Lewis almost single-handedly ensured State of Origin was a success and ushered in a dominant Maroons era. He has been named an Immortal of the game.

After starring for the Australian Schoolboys in rugby union, Lewis played league for Brisbane Valleys, winning the BRL competition in 1979.


By the time 1980 and State of Origin came around, Lewis was ready to make his mark. While Lewis was very successful at club level in Brisbane – winning a further two premierships with Wynnum-Manly, including as captain-coach – it was in the representative arena that his legend was formed.

Lewis played 30 State of Origin games, most as captain, and was man of the match a record eight times – twice the number of any other player to that time – including four from five games in 1983 and 1984.

His most memorable moment was scoring a 30-metre solo try in 1989 to lead his 11-man team to a famous victory.

Lewis was a master game manager and manipulator. He controlled field position with his kicking and passing game, and dominated with his talk, vision and ability to distract both the opposition and officials.

During his time, Queensland won nine of 12 series contested.

In 1984, Lewis captained his club side to a 42-8 grand final victory, led a combined Brisbane team to win the mid-week Amco Cup against the cream of Sydney club sides, garnered two man of the match awards as Queensland won the State of Origin Series and captained Australia to an Ashes clean sweep, being name man of the match in the opening Test.

Lewis also captained Australia from 1984 to 1989 in 23 consecutive Tests, including leading the undefeated 1986 Kangaroo tour – the first Queenslander to do so since Tom Gorman in 1929-30.

In all Lewis won 29 of 34 Tests played and was man of the series in the 1988 Ashes.


Ex-QRL boss Ron McAuliffe described Lewis as “The high priest of the spectacular.”

Wally Lewis brings the ball up for Queensland.

Wally Lewis and Allan Langer together for Queensland. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

7. Allan Langer
Honours: QRL Team of the Century, ARL Hall of Fame, Sports Australia Hall of Fame, Rothmans Medal 1992, Dally M Medal 1996, Dally M Halfback of the Year 1988, 1994 and 1996, Clive Churchill Medal 1992, Member of the Order of Australia
Years active: 1986-2002
Clubs: Ipswich (QLD), Brisbane, Warrington (UK)
All games: 457 (160 tries, 685 points)
Representative career: 25 Tests (1 Super League), 37 QLD (3 Super League)

Who better to partner the King than his partner in crime and successor as Queensland’s favourite son, Allan ‘Alfie’ Langer?

Langer is sometimes forgotten when discussing rugby league’s greatest halfbacks but his record is second to none.

Langer was initially thought to be too small for the highest level when selected for Queensland out of Ipswich in 1987, but he rapidly proved his doubters wrong, with a brilliant running and organising game and possibly the best short kicking game yet seen.

Queensland won the series with Langer named man of the match in the deciding game.

By the end of 1988, Langer had won back-to-back State of Origin series, had been selected for Australia to score two tries in each of his first two Tests and being named man of the match on debut, and had stood up to the rigours of the NSWRL in the Brisbane Broncos’ inaugural season.


Over the next decade or more, Langer was the premier halfback and captain in the game, leading Brisbane to four premierships, including a man-of-the-match performance in their maiden victory in 1992.

That year he was named the premier player of the competition. In early 1993 Langer led the Broncos to victory over UK club Wigan in the World Club Challenge, the first Australian team to win the title on UK soil.

The 1998 season was one of Langer’s finest and arguably one of the greatest for a player in any single year. Langer and Wayne Bennett became the first captain and coach combination to win a club premiership, State of Origin Series and Test series in one year.

Langer played 25 Tests and 37 State of Origins as well as over 300 club games.

His finest moment came in 2001. After losing motivation and quitting the Broncos for the UK Super League in 1999, coach Wayne Bennett brought Langer back to represent an underdog Queensland team coming off a three-nil thrashing the previous year.

Langer duly delivered a stunning series victory for the Maroons and backed it up with a final man-of-the-match performance in 2002, 15 years after his first.

Wayne Bennett said: “Pound-for-pound… he was rugby league’s top performer of the 1990s. Day in, day out. Year after year… His career stacks up with anyone who has played the game.”

8. Glenn Lazarus
Honours: NSWRL Team of the Century, ARL Hall of Fame, Dally M Prop of the Year 1992
Years active: 1987-99
Clubs: Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne
All games: 353 (29 tries, 118 points)
Representative career: 22 Tests (1 Super League), 22 NSW (3 Super League)


Lazarus has a solid claim to be the player of the 1990s.

Lazarus was the rock upon which three clubs built their success, as well the core of a golden era for NSW. In this team with Lockyer and Langer above, the Ls may claim to have the most ‘nearly Immortals’ in their list.

Lazarus rose through the ranks for the great Canberra Raiders side of the late 1980s, winning two from three grand finals between 1989 and 1991.

After running into salary cap trouble, Brisbane swooped, seeing Lazarus as the missing piece of the puzzle for their star-studded team.

And they were right, with the club winning the 1992 and 1993 premierships with Lazarus in the engine room, giving him five grand final appearances in a row.

This would have been enough to secure Lazarus’ place in history, but then in 1998 he was lured to Melbourne to become their first ever captain.

Within two years the club had become the quickest since 1908 to taste maiden premiership success, defeating St George in 1999. Lazarus became the only player to ever win premierships with three different clubs.

Meanwhile, with Lazarus in the pack for 22 games, NSW won six series from seven attempts and in his 22 Tests including two Kangaroo tours he only lost three times, and never once when he was in the starting side.


Lazarus was the greatest winner the game has seen since Ron Coote.

Ricky Stuart dubbed Lazarus: “The best front-rower ever to play the game of rugby league”.

9. John Lang
Honours: Dally M Hooker of the Year 1980
Years active: 1969-80
Clubs: Easts Brisbane, Eastern Suburbs
Club games: 222 (2 tries for Easts Sydney)
Representative Career: 8 Tests, 19 QLD, 1 NSW

John Lang was a tough and crafty hooker out of the Brisbane competition.

Lang debuted for Easts Brisbane in 1969 and went on to win three premierships with the club in the 1970s including the 1972 grand final win over Valleys, which was considered one of the greatest in BRL history.

Lang debuted for Queensland that year and by 1973 his reputation was such that he was one of only two Queensland players to be selected for the 1973 Kangaroo tour, where he debuted in the first Test victory over France.

Lang played a further seven Tests, including five in the 1975 World Cup. Further appearances were curtailed by competition from Elwyn Walters, George Piggins, Max Krilich and George Peponis.

Lang was a mainstay for Queensland during the 1970s, before finally being lured to Sydney in 1980 to finish his career for Easts.


It was here that his quality was further recognised by NSW, with the club reaching the grand final and Lang being named Dally M Hooker of the Year.

In that year Lang played hooker for NSW in the traditional interstate match, winning man of the match in the victory over Queensland, before being named for Queensland for the first ever State of Origin.

Despite being at the top of his game, Lang retired to take up coaching for Brisbane Easts, where he won two premierships, before returning to Sydney for a distinguished coaching career highlighted by two Dally M Coach of the Year awards and taking Penrith from last in 2001 to a premiership in 2003.

10. Gary Larson
Years active: 1987-2000
Clubs: North Sydney, Parramatta
Club games: 250 (34 tries)
Representative Career: 9 Tests, 24 QLD

The North Sydney workhorse Gary Larson was one of the most durable players for club and for Queensland during the 1990s, playing more than 230 games for the Bears.


Larson’s career coincided with a last hurrah for the Bears, when they made four preliminary finals (1991, 1994, 1996 and 1997) but couldn’t quite get over the line into a decider.

Larson was a tackling machine as well as an underrated metre-eater. He played eight Tests for the ARL during the Super League war but his value was felt most by Queensland, for whom he played a then record 24 consecutive matches between 1991 and 1998.

Larson was player of the match in the second match of the 1995 series when the severely depleted ARL Queensland team wrapped up one of the most improbable series wins of all time and was also man of the series that year.

11. Bob Lindner
Honours: Nominated for ARL Hall of Fame 2018, Queensland Sports Hall of Fame, QRL Team of the Century, Dally M Second-rower of the Year 1993
Years active: 1983-94
Clubs: Souths Brisbane (QLD), Wynnum Manly (QLD), Castleford (UK), Parramatta, Gold Coast, Western Suburbs, Illawarra, Oldham (UK)
Club games: 146 (excludes Brisbane) (41 tries)
Representative Career: 24 Tests, 25 QLD

Bob Lindner struggled to impose himself at Sydney club level, but once he pulled on a representative jumper, there was nobody better.

Lindner played for eight different clubs in a 12-year career but was always first picked for Queensland and Australia and gave excellent value.

Lindner came onto the scene in the Brisbane competition for Souths, playing in their grand final loss in 1984. He then switched to the champion Wynnum side who ironically lost the 1985 decider to Souths. Lindner finally got his premiership with Wynnum in 1986.

After being lured to Sydney, Lindner played for a number of struggling clubs and a series of leg injuries meant he never played 20 games in a season, totalling only 97 games across seven seasons, with a single finals match for Wests in 1992.


In State of Origin, Lindner was selected whenever available from 1984 to 1993 and at the time of his retirement had played more matches and scored more tries than any other forward.

His most memorable moment was playing on with a broken leg in the Queensland’s famous victory in Origin Two 1989, when the Maroons won the game despite finishing with 11 fit players.

Lindner earned two man-of-the-match awards, was man of the series in his final year in 1993 and was named at lock in Queensland’s Team of Century in 2008.

Lindner played 24 times for Australia from the 1986 Kangaroo tour until 1993, defeating Great Britain in four Ashes series. He was named player of the 1990 Kangaroo tour.

Lindner has also been a qualified optometrist since 1985. He actually had to miss team bonding session in both 1984 and 1985 due to his study commitments.

12. Luke Lewis
Honours: Dally M Lock of the Year 2010, Clive Churchill Medal 2016.
Years active: 2001-18
Clubs: Penrith, Cronulla
Club games: 324 (122 tries)
Representative Career: 16 Tests, 17 NSW

Luke Lewis has enjoyed one of the longest careers in the NRL and is a bona fide legend for two different clubs.

After starting his career as representative-class winger/centre for Penrith – winning the 2003 grand final and touring with the Kangaroos that year – Lewis transformed himself in later years into an elite second-rower for Cronulla, NSW and Australia, winning his second premiership 13 years after his first.


His Clive Churchill medal for man of the match in the Sharks’ first ever premiership means his name will never be forgotten.

Lewis was a highly versatile player, representing Australia or NSW at wing, lock and second row and also covering for his clubs at centre, five-eighth and halfback.

At the end of 2018 Lewis had amassed 324 club games across 17 years, scoring 122 tries.

For NSW Lewis tasted series success in 2004 as a winger/centre. He was then not selected for five years before becoming a regular from 2010, culminating the Blues’ 2014 series victory.

Reflecting on his career, Lewis said: “The game has given me so many great mates and memories, it’s given me the absolute world to be honest.”

Luke Lewis

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

13. Ron Lynch
Honours: Nominated for ARL Hall of Fame 2018
Years active: 1960-73
Clubs: Forbes (NSW), Parramatta, Penrith
Club games: 238 (excluding Forbes) (38 tries)
Representative Career: 12 Tests, 17 NSW

Ron ‘Thirsty’ Lynch was a tough lock who represented NSW from Young and Forbes in Western NSW before joining Parramatta.


Despite playing in the same era as Johnny Raper and Ron Coote, Lynch was good enough to represent Australia in his first year in Sydney and go on to play 12 Tests for his country.

Lynch missed out on the 1963 Kangaroo tour due to a dislocated shoulder but was selected for the 1967 tour. In 1966 Lynch was selected at lock as Australia won the second and third Tests to win the Ashes from Great Britain, scoring a try in the decider.

Lynch played for Parramatta in nearly 200 games over a decade, including stints as captain and captain-coach. He then moved to Penrith where he captained the club for two seasons. He is a member of the Parramatta Hall of Fame.

Despite Ray Price spending his whole career staring at the cross bar during penalty goals, it was Lynch – the other great Parramatta lock forward – who scored a try in 1963 when a poorly taken goal attempt hit the cross bar and fell at his feet for him to stroll across for a try.

14. Cliff Lyons
Norths, Leeds (UK), Sheffield (UK), Manly – 1985-99, 6 Tests, 6 NSW

Five-eighth in the ARL Hall of Fame, two-time Dally M Player of the Year, Clive Churchill Medal 1987. Supreme ball-playing pivot. Steve Menzies was called Jesus because he ran off the right hand of God.

15. Terry Lamb
Wests, Canterbury – 1980-96, 8 Tests, 7 NSW

Seven-time Dally M Five-eighth of the Year, a record for any one position. The ultimate competitor and one of the greatest support players of all time. Played every game on the 1986 Kangaroo tour.


16. Issac Luke
South Sydney, Warriors – 2007-19, 42 Tests (NZ)

Hooker. NZ mainstay during a highly successful era.

17. John Lomax
Canberra, North Queensland, Melbourne – 1993-2000, 16 Tests (NZ)

Prop. Uncompromising NZ front-rower, provided Canberra with post-Lazarus grunt.

Honourable mentions
Jimmy Lisle (five-eighth, 6 Tests, played for Australia after only one club game), and Eric Lewis (second-rower, 9 Tests).

And there you have the L Team. One of the best back lines of any side.

Next time we look at the Ms, with an Immortal centre pairing and a back row of try-scoring machines.