League's Team of the Century
Team of the Century
Notes on the Team of the Century
It was the legendary Ray Stehr who tagged Clive Churchill the Little Master, while the original Master, Dally Messenger, said simply: Churchill is the Greatest. Just 76kg and 168cm tall, Churchill, with his courage and will to win, towered over the game through the forties and fifties.
He revolutionised the fullback position and was as fierce in defence as he was brilliant in attack. Clive would later turn his hand to coaching and guide Souths to four more Premierships (67, 68, 70 and 71).
Clubs: Eastern Suburbs 194246; Warrington 194562; Blackpool Borough
Brian Bevan is the only member of the side not to represent Australia. He played just seven games for Easts before heading to England ironically his only points in Australia came from a goal.
In the UK a legend was born as Bevan set a still unbeaten world record for the most tries scored in a career, 796 in 688 first class appearances; he topped the English try-scoring lists five times and seven times scored more than 50 tries in a season as he and fellow Australian Harry Bath inspired Warrington to trophy-winning feats in the 1940s-50s.
Clubs: North Sydney 195870; Manly 197173
Ken Irvine was the fastest player of his age. His tally of 212 premiership tries is almost 50 tries more than second-best and his final count of 33 tries in 31 Test matches is another record that is likely to stand the test of time.
Irvine played for 13 seasons with the North Sydney club and scored 171 tries from 176 games before heading to Manly in search of a Premiership. He would finish with two and through it all remained one of Leagues most popular figures.
Club: St George 195967
Puff The Magic Dragon scored 219 tries in 223 first-class games. He remains Australias youngest captain against Great Britain (23 years, 28 days, in the first Test of 1962), was a three-time Kangaroo, and a member of eight premiership-winning sides with St George. He retired aged just 28, due to a broken leg, after captaining Australia on the 1967-68 Kangaroo tour.
Clubs: Souths Brisbane 197985; St Helens 198485; Canberra 198694
A State of Origin pioneer, Mal Meninga is the only player to have toured four times with the Kangaroos and the only player to make two tours as captain. His endless list of achievements is testimony to the strength and perseverance displayed over a magnificent 16-year career.
As well as overcoming anyone who dared stand between him and the try-line, the giant centre had to overcome the pain and frustration of four broken arms on the way to spearheading Canberra to its first Premiership and a place as one of the finest attacking teams of the modern era.
Clubs: Brisbane Valleys 197883; Wakefield Trinity 198384; Wynnum-Manly
198487; Brisbane Broncos 198890; Gold Coast 199192
Lewis embodied State of Origin football. A young lock forward in the inaugural Origin game in 1980, he made 30 appearances as five-eighth and captain between 1981 and 1991, winning eight man-of-the match awards. No one could control a big match like The King.
Lewis made his Test debut in 1981 and was unchallenged as Australian captain from 1984 to 1989. He also dominated Brisbane club football in the 80s, with Valleys and then Wynnum-Manly before being the Brisbane Broncos first captain then finishing his career on the Gold Coast.
Clubs: Newcastle 19932007; Warrington 2005
Johns is the highest scorer in Australian first-grade premiership history with 2176 points. He has won every major award the game has to offer: the Dally M Medal (for a record three times), the Clive Churchill Medal and the Golden Boot.
His daring and genius delivered Newcastle their first ever Premiership and his brilliant captaincy and skill delivered their second. His kicking and passing skills changed the game for ever while his courage in defence was an inspiration.
Clubs: Newtown 195758; St George 195969; Wests Newcastle 197072; Kurri
After starting his career at Newtown, Raper played in eight premierships with St George, 33 Tests, made three Kangaroo tours and was the victorious Australian captain at the 1968 World Cup.
Raper wrote the book on tackling and was famous for his scything low dives and his sheer physical strength. Often forgotten is the beautiful instinct he had for doing the right thing with the ball in his hands every time. His endurance was remarkable in days when footballers played 80 minutes.
Clubs: South Sydney 196471; Eastern Suburbs 197278
From his debut with South Sydney in 1964, the rangy Coote was hailed as the heir apparent to the great Johnny Raper as a lock. A tall and gifted athlete, Coote possessed many of Rapers qualities he was a superb cover-defender and fast and powerful with the ball in hand but when he made the Test side it was as second-rower, with Raper having a mortgage on the lock jersey.
He captained Australia in the 1970 World Cup, twice won the Harry Sunderland Medal (best in a series against Great Britain) and played in nine grand finals in the space of 11 seasons with Souths and Easts (winning six times).
Club: St George 195165
Provan was a giant of the game in every respect. Apart from his imposing stature (he stood 193cm), Provan was a towering figure for St George in their record run of premiership wins and for Australia in 18 Test and World Cup appearances.
He played in 10 of St Georges 11 successive grand final victories, the last four as captain-coach. He bowed out in 1965, when the Dragons triumphed 128 over Souths in front of a record 78,056 spectators.
Clubs: Christian Brothers Rockhampton 194547; Brisbane Valleys 194849;
Home Hill 1950; Newtown, Toowoomba 195152; Brisbane Wests 195457
Hall has long been regarded as one of Australias greatest post-war front-rowers. He rose to prominence in the period immediately following World War II, toured twice with the Kangaroos and played in two Ashes-winning series for Australia (and was robbed of a third tour by a knee injury).
He was the forward mainstay of Australian teams for seven years, contributing mightily to Australias Ashes triumphs in 1950 and 1954. Hall played his entire domestic career in Queensland.
Clubs: Roma Cities 1963; Redcliffe 196465, 1981; Balmain 196670; Hull
Kingston Rovers 196868; Eastern Suburbs 197178; Parramatta 197980.
After starting his career in Roma as a back, Beetson became the greatest ball-playing forward of all-time.
He moved to Sydney to play for Balmain, made the Test team in his first season as a second-rower and in 1971 switched to Eastern Suburbs (and the front row) where he would go on to lead one of the greatest club teams of all time to consecutive Premierships in 1974-75. Playing in the twilight of his career at Parramatta he would change the face of interstate football forever as he returned to lead Queensland in the first ever State of Origin game in 1980.
Clubs: Ipswich Brothers 195859; Ayr 1960; Western Suburbs 196169;
Noel Ned Kelly made two Kangaroo tours as hooker and one as a prop. The Queensland-born tough mans career began at Ipswich and included a nine-season stint with Wests in Sydney where his side had to regularly play second fiddle to the might of St George.
Kelly played 25 Tests in the Australian engine room at a time when Rugby League was at its roughest and toughest. Kelly became a Test prop alongside another hard man from the bush, Ian Walsh, and remained equally effective in both positions. At Wests, he was a natural leader, taking over as captain-coach in 1966.
While predominantly a fullback for his club, Langlands played most of his Test football in the 1960s in the centres. In truth he was a genius anywhere on the field and would rank as one of the games greats in either position.
Changa had an amazing side-step, pace and an ability to read the game like few others before or since. He was Saints captain from 1970 to 1976, captain-coach from 1972-76, first-choice Australian captain from 1970 to 1975 and captain-coach of the 1973 Kangaroos.
Fulton was known as the master of the unorthodox, a brilliant individualist who could single-handedly turn a game with a burst of acceleration, a step or a jinking run.
The force that drove Bob Fulton was a competitive spirit that coursed through every vein in his body, and it propelled him to great heights as a player and later as a coach at club and international level. Fulton holds the unique distinction of winning premiership titles and Ashes series as a player, captain and coach.
Herbert Dally MESSENGER
Club: Eastern Suburbs 190813
Herbert Henry Dally Messenger was known throughout Rugby League as The Master. He was the games first true champion and helped secure the future of the fledgling code when he signed on in August 1907.
Messenger stood close to 5ft 8in (172cm) and at his peak in Rugby League played at around 12 stone (76kg).He was a free spirit, renowned for his unorthodoxy and referred to often as a rover rather than a traditional centre or a winger. He was also the peerless goalkicker of his day. He developed the skill of passing the ball over the heads of opponents and regathering - a move which was later outlawed.
Position: Lock/Second row/Front row
Frank Burge, a first grader at 16, had few peers when it came to forward play in the early years of Rugby League. Time after time over the long years after his retirement, he was called the greatest forward Australia has produced.
He scored tries at a phenomenal rate for a forward, maintaining an average of better than a try per game in a career that lasted 17 seasons. He holds the record for most tries in a premiership game: eight for Glebe against University in 1920. He scored 33 tries in 23 tour matches for the Kangaroos in 192122 and by the end of his career had amassed 218 tries in 213 senior matches.
Jack Gibson was the man who would revolutionise the position of coach. The former Easts, Newtown and Western Suburbs front-rower kicked if off with a bang in 1967. The Roosters hadnt won a game in 1966 when the slow-talking Jack put them in the fast lane to the semi-finals in his first year.
He made numerous trips to the United States, bringing back the latest coaching technology and a seemingly endless supply of laconic one-liners.
His Roosters teams in 1974-75 and the Parramatta sides of 1981-83 are regarded as some of the most brilliant club teams ever assembled. Each had its share of talent but each included selection gambles that set Jack apart from everyone in his era. He would finish with five Premierships from six grand finals.