He has been one of the games elite players for over ten years. He is universally respected and one of the gentlemen of the game.
He is a premiership winner, he has captained Canberra and the New Zealand Warriors and been an inspirational leader at both clubs. He in one of only 6 players in history to amass 300 first grade games in the National Rugby League and is the first New Zealand player to reach the milestone.
He was the first picked for New Zealand for over ten years, was the best New Zealand captain in the countries history and has played more Rugby League Test matches than any other player in the history of the game…..a remarkable feat when you consider his career spanned a time when Test football became an afterthought for a while.
At 35 years of age, Ruben Wiki’s career stands as one of the games best. He deserves every accolade he gets.
Thats why something that happened last year is still really pissing me off!
Last year the shambolic New Zealand Rugby League celebrated its 100th year of existence in the same way that Tasmanian Tiger is still alive and well.
During these celebrations, which no doubt were all about lavish functions and free hotel stays for NZRL officials, it was announced that Stacey Jones was the best New Zealand Rugby League player of all time.
Now at the time I blew up about it. New Zealand has a long history of amazing Rugby league players that have achieved so much, and even just in my lifetime (Only being 11 years old mind you!) the likes of Gary Freeman, Jarrod McCracken and Ruben Wiki have been regarded as the best in the best for extended periods of time.
When you match up Wiki’s career alongside that of Jones, well, its not much of a comparison.
You can start and end with the fact that one has a Premiership, and the other doesn’t. You can also throw in that one player lead some great teams, and some terrible teams, to the finals year after year and yet the other, in a team stacked with talent and who at one point actually was found to be breaking the salary ca, only managed to play in the finals twice.
One of these players was considered a great player for over a decade, the other, for five minutes.
One player bled for his country. He was always the first to put his hand up to play for New Zealand no matter what the situation, no matter how long his season had been, no matter who the coach was and no matter what toll it took on his body.
The other liked to pick and chose when to play and quit on the Kiwi’s no fewer than on four separate occasions.
How was the vote for the best New Zealand player of all time even close?
In the games desperate need to have a halfback, five-eight or hooker from New Zealand with even an ounce of talent, Stacey Jones was given accolades he simply did not deserve.
The same thing happens with British players. People want them to be good, and so when any of them show a tiny bit of form, people start elevate them way beyond their actual standing in the game, almost in a desperate need to have someone outside of an Australian who can be considered a top class Rugby League player (Stuart Fielden, come on down!).
What this leads to is retrospective embarrassment when you look back and see some of the awards handed to these type of players.
New Zealand Rugby League was blessed to have an out and out champion like Ruben Wiki. He is one of the most respected Rugby League players of all time.
There is no doubt at all that he is the best New Zealanders to ever play the game, no matter what a bunch of wishful thinkers at the NZRL had to say last year.