Almanac Rugby League – The Immortals: Who’s next?

The NRL will induct two new Immortals tonight, having taken over the concept from the now-defunct Rugby League Week magazine. Dating from 1981, there are currently eight Immortals: Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, Graeme Langlands, Arthur Beetson, Wally Lewis and Andrew Johns. So the big question is, who’s next?


Until now, only post-World War II players have been considered but the NRL takeover of the concept has seen eligibility rules broadened to include players right back to 1908. Ten players are in contention: Dally Messenger, Dave Brown, Frank Burge, Brian Bevan, Duncan Hall, Norm Provan, Ron Coote, Ken Irvine, Mal Meninga and Darren Lockyer. There is an expectation that of the two chosen, one will come from the pre-war timeframe and the other from the post-war period.


As is usually the case with such awards, there has been a bun fight in the background over just who should be on the selection panel. A few noses are out of joint over who is out (eg Alan Jones and Ray Hadley) and who is in (eg Tod Greenberg and Andrew Johns). Your average punter just wants whoever it is to get it right.


For what it’s worth, in my humble ignorance, I think there are three standout contenders – Dally Messenger, Norm Provan and Mal Meninga. That’s not to cast doubt on any of the others as they are all from the very top shelf of the game. Brown and Burge are from way before my time but their status is legendary; Bevan and Hall date from my very early childhood, although Duncan Hall is in the back of my brainbox somewhere as a fearsome and fearless forward; Irvine brings back a memory of speed, skills, thrills and tries aplenty; Coote transformed running forward play; Locky was the most gifted player of his era, a humble man who never forgot where he came from.


Rugby League would not have existed in Australia as early as it did without Dally Messenger. It was his defection from rugby union that gave the hatchling rugby league both credibility and its first pin-up star. ‘The Master”, as he was known, may have been a small man by modern standards (172cm and 76 kg) but he was the giant of the early years of the competition during which time the code established a solid footing that simply grew and grew over the decades. If the history of the game is among the criteria for selection, then Dally is a shoo-in.


Norm Provan bestrode the code like the physical giant he was in his playing days (193cm and 99kg). A 10-time premiership player and 4-time premiership coach with St George, a NSW representative for eight years and a Kangaroo for 7 years, a member of the Team of the Century – it just goes on and on. And the NRL premiership trophy features ‘Sticks’ along with Arthur Summons. Say no more!


Mal Meninga is another colossus of the code. Read Peter Badel’s article in today’s Courier Mail to try to get your head around ‘Big Mal’s’ achievements – over 300 first grade games, 32 Origin appearances for Queensland, 46 Tests for Australia, only player to go on four Kangaroo tours (twice as Captain – the only player to do so), Golden Boot winner, three-time premiership captain, 10 years as Origin coach (winning 9 series), national coach for the past several years. A combination of intimidating physical presence, brute strength, blessed with ball skills and finesse, and to top it all off, a very good goal-kicker. Just this one accolade eludes him. Let’s hope that this is put to rights tonight.


Now we wait…



Ian Hauser counts his blessings that he has seen so many great rugby league players over the decades. He also counts words and their suitability in stories. You can check out his comprehensive editing services here.



About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at

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