Love Rugby League has picked out four legends who could become Immortals in the near future.
From 1981 to 2017, the Rugby League Week magazine decided on rugby league’s greatest players known as the Immortals.
To qualify as an Immortal, a player has to have been retired for five years and to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The current Immortals are: Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, Graeme Langlands, Wally Lewis, Arthur Beeston, Andrew Johns, Dave Brown, Dally Messenger, Frank Burge, Norm Provan, Mal Meninga.
In 2018, the NRL took over the concept and in 2022, they will induct two more players so Love Rugby League decided to look at the potential incumbents as well as current players who could become part of this elite group…
Past players who could become the next Immortals…
An undisputed legend of the game, Lockyer played his entire 355-game career at the Broncos and during this time was arguably the world’s best player in his two positions of full-back and five-eighth.
His glittering trophy haul stands up to anyone with four premierships (one as five-eighth) as well as the 2000 World Cup and twice winner of the Golden Boot as the world’s best player, as full-back in 2003 and five-eighth in 2006.
Outside of his club form, he was also a major component at representative level, with a record 36 Origin matches including 20 as Queensland captain.
This included the Maroons dynasty where they won eight successive series between 2006-13 which the Brisbane star started, scoring the match-winning try in the 2006 decider.
Until his retirement, Lockyer was captain for every series of the run apart from the 2008 series which he missed through injury.
Unsurprisingly, the Broncos legend was an important leader for his country too with a record 38 Tests as captain and is their all-time top try scorer with 35 tries.
Known as ‘Freddy’, Fittler also had an outstanding club and representative career, winning two Premierships as well as three World Cups and played State of Origin for New South Wales between 1990-04.
Unlike Lockyer, he played for two clubs. Firstly for Penrith, winning their first ever Premiership in 1991 and he captained Sydney to their 2002 title.
He also played in losing Grand Finals in 1990 for the Panthers and 2000, 2003 and 2004 for Roosters in a career where he played centre, five-eighth and lock.
For New South Wales, he became their most capped player with 31 matches in a period where they were victorious in nine series including the 2004 series where he scored the deciding try, two years after he had initially retired.
For Australia, he had great success in being part of the 1992 World Cup winning side and was captain for their 1995 and 2000 triumphs.
After his retirement in 2004, he eventually went into coaching and was in charge of the Roosters from 2007-09 and then took Lebanon to the 2017 World Cup.
He is the current New South Wales boss, winning his first series in 2018 and again in 2019, making them the first Blues sides to win consecutive series since 2004-05.
The Melbourne hooker will be looking for a third Premiership in 2020 and to extend his records of the most games played and points scored in the NRL.
He has won the Dally M Hooker of the Year seven times, the Dally M for the NRL’s best player twice and two Golden Boots.
The Storm star has played his whole career at the club and as captain since 2006, becoming the first player to reach 400 games in 2019.
Premierships were claimed in 2012 and 2017 and Melbourne were victorious in the 2007 and 2009 Grand Finals but later stripped of them after salary cap breaches.
He played 42 State of Origin matches for Queensland from 2003-2017 which included their record breaking run and a further three straight series wins after New South Wales finally won in 2014.
Since 2012, he has captained the Maroons and Australia where he has won World Cups in 2013 and 2017 with the latter.
Smith is still playing so although he can’t gain the ‘Immortal’ status just yet because he needs to have been retired for five years, not many would be surprised to see his name on the list in years to come.
Chiefly remembered for his golden point drop-goal which sealed North Queensland’s sole Grand Final triumph in 2015, it was quite possibly the moment which sealed his status as a future Immortal.
He had actually previously won a premiership with Canterbury in 2004 which was at the beginning of an impressive career in which he became the first ever four-time winner of the Dally M Medal for the NRL’s best player and the only player to win three Golden Boots.
In a representative capacity, he has shown his undoubted talent when he played in all 24 matches of Queensland’s eight-year State of Origin dynasty and broke the Queensland all-time points scoring record in 2015.
For Australia, Thurston was part of the 2013 World Cup winning side in a career from 2006-2017 where he also set the all-time points scoring record.
Off the field, he has also made a telling contribution as he launched the Johnathan Thurston Academy which encourages Australian youth to access the educational and vocational resources needed to secure meaningful employment.
Thurston only retired at the end of 2018 though, so he can’t get Immortal status just yet due to the five-year rule.
By Sam Harris
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