Its a unique game Rugby League. A true team sport that still allows an individual to take control of a match and make the decisive, game turning play. Over the last 112+ years Rugby League has been blessed with so many champion players right throughout its history.
Here is a look at the finest team ever assembled from the greats that have graces our game as compiled by League Freak:
1. Clive Churchill
The best player in the history of the game, Churchill was a winner as a player, coach and administrator. Churchill was originally from Newcastle and had to be talked into coming down to Sydney to play for Souths. A veteran of 34 tests for Australia, 24 of which he was captain, at one point he played an incredible 99 straight representative games! A player of small stature, Churchill is often described as a fearless defender and an attacking genius. At one point he was offered 10,000 pounds to play for Workington Town in England but the ARL blocked the move. A Grand Final winner as a player on 4 occasions, Churchill was also a Grand Final winner as a coach on 4 occasions as well. A pure winner and a Rugby League genius, in a game of champion player, Churchill is the man that sets the standard.
2. Brian Bevan
To look at him, you would never have thought he was up to a run around the field, let alone playing top class football, but looks were more than deceiving. Fast and with dazzling footwork, Bevans evasive skills saw him score an amazing 796 tries in 703 games! Playing his entire career in England, he manged to score an almost unthinkable 100 try scoring hat tricks during his career. While he didn’t have a full Test career for Australia, his try scoring achievements are second to none.
3. Reg Gasnier
A winner of 6 premierships and the youngest captain in Australian Test history, Gasneir’s career is best summed up by the fact that even after all of these years his name conjures up visions of brilliance. A veteran of 36 tests for Australia, Gasnier’s name to this day still draws huge respect and admiration across the League world. With the huge impact Gasnier has had on the sport its easy to forget that he retired at the age of just 28.
4. Dally Messenger
The superstar that the game in Sydney was built around, many believe the code would not have been a success if not for the signing of the most popular sportsman in Sydney at the time. Messengers amazing skill and his ability to do the unexpected, saw tens of thousands roll up to the new code. Messenger played 7 Tests for the newly formed Australian Rugby League team as well as touring with the New Zealand “All Golds” in 1907. A brilliant goal kicker, Messenger holds the record of scoring 32 points for New South Wales.
5. Ken Irvine
A brilliant Athlete who at one time held the professional record for the 100 yards dash, Irvine’s try scoring record of 212 tries in 242 games is a record that is unlikely to ever be beaten in the Australian game. A veteran of 31 Tests (In which he scored 33 tries!) Irvine was also a top class goal kicker. In 24 games for NSW Irvine scored 30 tries. Irvine won two Grand Final late in his career with Manly, a career that stands out as not just a statistical Mount Everest, but one that was the epitome of brilliance.
6. Wally Lewis
A fierce competitor, Lewis played most of his club career in the Brisbane club competition after a planned move to Manly early in his career was blocked by the QRL. A fierce leader, Lewis was in his element playing for his beloved Queensland in the State Of origin series where he dominated for over a decade. Lewis took the same play into the Test arena and showed his class by moving Brett Kenny out into the centers. Lewis later joined the Brisbane Broncos for their first few seasons in the NSWRL competition and later went on to be captain and coach of the Gold Coast Seagulls.
7. Andrew Johns
From the moment he burst onto the scene Andrew Johns started to change the way the game was played. With bullet like cross field passes, a kicking game the liked of which had never been seen and a strength and toughness no halfback before or since has been able to match, Johns was destined to be one of the games greats. In his first full game of first grade Johns set the Newcastle Knights record for most points in a game with 23. The following season Johns made his State and Test debut ending 1995 as a World Cup winner and player of the World Cup final. He was the key player in Newcastle first Grand Final win in 1997 and the player of the match in their second Grand Final victory in 2001. He held the record as the games leading point scorer of all time when he retired, having set record at all levels in the game.
8. Glen Lazarus
The only player in Australian Rugby League history to win 3 Grand Finals with 3 different clubs. He was the centerpiece of Premiership winning forward packs in Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne, where he captained to Storm its its first premiership victory. One of the first chosen for New South Wales and Australia throughout his career, Lazarus was as mighty on the field as his name would suggest.
9. Ken Kearney
One of the greatest leaders Rugby League had ever known, Kearney was not only tough, but he was also a real thinker on the field and got his teams playing better, smarter football. One of the games greatest competitors, he led St George to five Grand Final victories in a row as captain, the last four of which were as a captain-coach. A veteran of 31 Tests for Australia, he would go on to captain-coach Australia during the 1956 season.
10. Shane Webcke
When people talk about standard setters in the game, Shane Webcke’s name usually comes up when it comes to front rowers. A relentless player who was known to be playing just as well in the 80th minute as he did in the 1st, Webcke was the unstoppable force in the game over the couyrse of his career. A winner of three Grand Finals, Webcke was one of the first picked for Queensland and Australia right up until his retirement in 2006.
11. Norm Provan
A winner of 10 Grand Final, the last 4 of which he was captain coach, Norm Provan is a giant in the history of the game. Provan played 269 games for the Dragons, a phenomenal amount for a forward during that era of the game. A veteran of 14 tests for Australia and a World Cup winner, Provans image was immortalizes along with Aurthur Summonds in the picture “The Gladiators”.
12. Frank Burge
One of the greatest try scorers in the history of the game, and yes, he was a forward! Burge was just 16 years old when he made his first grade debut and was all of 18 years of age when selected to play for New South Wales for the first time. He was the games top try scorer for three years and the games highest point scorer in another. In 213 senior first grade games, Burge scored an incredible 218 tries. Burge still holds the premiership records for most tries in a game with 8. After his playing days were over, Burge went on to become a coach, with stints at Norths, Canterbury, Newtown and Wests.
13. John Raper
Rated by many as the best lock forward of all time, Raper won 8 Grand Finals with the St George Dragons. Raper played 33 Test matches for Australia including captaining his nation to a World Cup win in 1968. A whole hearted player, a smart player, a relentless player and one of the best cover defenders the game has ever seen, Rapers achievements as a player, coach and Australian selector are nothing short of amazing.
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