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Cooper Cronk's retirement signals the end of a magnificent era

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Expert
20th May, 2019
6

Cameron Smith will be the only one left of the five modern day superstars of rugby league when Cooper Cronk hangs up his boots.

Johnathan Thurston was the first to announce his retirement, followed by Billy Slater and Greg Inglis, and yesterday it was Cronk’s turn.

As it stands all five have already played their last Origin games for Queensland, leaving a massive hole in the side.

This has been an incredible era with Thurston on duty for 17 years, Cronk will join Slater on 16, while Inglis chalked up 14.

Johnathan Thurston Cameron Smith Queensland Maroons State of Origin NRL 2017

JT’s farewell tour has continued. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Smith shows the way on 18, and still has a season to go on contract with the Storm, a side that has also had Cronk, Slater and Inglis on its roster over the years.

Thurston is the only one of the five not to benefit from Craig Bellamy’s brilliant coaching, having been premiership winner with the Bulldogs and later the Cowboys.

And there’s no doubt all five will be Immortalised as among the greatest rugby league players of all time.

It’s been a privilege to write about them throughout their illustrious careers, as it was to watch, and then write about the other big five of the 1950-1960s – Reg Gasnier, Ken Irvine, Johnny Raper, Norm Provan and Graeme Langlands.

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The proof of their superstar status was all five were selected in the Australian Team of the Century covering from 1908 to 2008.

The greatest try-scorer in the code’s history, Irvine, is the only one not Immortalised, which continues to be a major blight on the sport.

But it was a dramatically different era in every way.

Most players had jobs, as contract money wasn’t enough to live on.

Games were only played on a Saturday afternoon at suburban home grounds, with the match-of-the-day always at the SCG where the Dragons were virtually a permanent fixture as the best club in the competition during their record 11 successive premiership reign from 1956 to 1966.

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In 1967 the unlimited tackle rule from 1908 was changed to the four-tackle rule to try and curb St George – and it did with the Dragons not winning again until 1977.

In 1983 the four-tackle rule became six, and the try lifted from three to four points, that greatly affected the career points of Irvine’s 275, Langlands’ 178 and Gasnier’s 170.

So let’s compare the two eras of legends with games played, tries, goals, drop goals, and total points:

Ken Irvine (1958-1973)
North Sydney – 176 – 171 – 59 – 1 – 633
Manly – 60 – 41 – 11 – 0 – 145
NSW – 24 – 30 – 4 – 0 – 145
Australia – 31 – 33 – 11 – 0 – 121

Reg Gasnier (1957-1969)
St George – 125 – 127 – 20 – 0 – 421
NSW – 16 – 15 0 – 0 – 45
Australia – 39 – 28 – 0 – 0 – 84

Norm Provan (1951-1965)
St George – 256 – 64 – 1 – 0 -194
NSW – 19 – 4 – 0 – 0 – 12
Australia – 14 – 7 – 0 – 0 – 21

Johnny Raper (1957-1969)
Newtown – 37 – 10 – 0 – 0 – 30
St George – 185 – 47 – 4 – 0 -149
NSW – 24 – 5 – 0 – 0 – 15
Australia – 39 – 9 – 0 – 0 – 27

Graeme Langlands (1959-1976)
St George – 227 – 86 – 648 – 0 – 1554
NSW – 33 – 19 – 40 – 0 – 137
Australia – 45 – 21 – 73 – 0 – 206

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The modern day legends:

Johnathan Thurston (2002-2018)
Bulldogs – 29 – 10 – 0 – 0 – 40
Cowboys – 294 – 80 – 923 – 16 – 2182
Queensland – 37 – 5 – 99 – 2 – 220
Australia – 38 – 13 – 165 – 0 – 382

Billy Slater (2003-2018)
Storm – 323 – 191 – 0 – 0 -764
Queensland – 31 – 12 – 0 – 0 – 48
Australia – 30 – 27 – 0 – 0 – 108

Billy Slater

Billy Slater of the Storm celebrates with team mates after scoring a try (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Greg Inglis (2005-2019)
Storm – 118 – 78 – 9 – 3 – 333
South Sydney – 147 – 72 – 0 – 1 – 289
Queensland – 32 – 18 – 0 – 0 – 72
Australia – 39 – 31 – 0 – 0 – 124

Cooper Cronk (2004-current)
Storm – 323 – 92 – 1 – 0 – 390
Roosters – 34 – 7 – 0 – 1 – 29
Queensland – 22 – 3 – 0 – 2 – 14
Australia – 38 – 16 – 0 – 0 – 64

Cameron Smith (2002-current)
Storm – 394 – 43 – 1151 – 4 – 2478
Queensland – 42 – 5 – 19 – 0 – 58
Australia – 56 – 9 – 67 – 0 – 170

So, what about a comparison between the two groups?

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The 1950-1960s legends
Games played – 1350
Tries – 769
Goals – 798
Drop goals – 1
Career points – 3892

The modern-day legends
Games played – 2020
Tries – 712
Goals – 2534
Drop goals – 48
Career points – 8165

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