The Immortals of rugby league in Australia are thirteen players named as the nation's greatest ever. From 1981 to 2017 The Immortals were named by the Australian sports magazine Rugby League Week . From 2018, the National Rugby League took over The Immortals concept.
Rugby league football in Australia has been one of the country's most popular sports since it started being played there in 1908. It is the dominant winter football code in the states of New South Wales and Queensland. In 2009, it was the most watched sport on Australian television eclipsing the AFL nationally for the first time with an aggregate audience of 128.5 million viewers. The elite club competition is the National Rugby League (NRL), which features ten teams from New South Wales, three teams from Queensland, and one team each from Victoria, Australian Capital Territory and New Zealand.
Rugby League Week was the highest selling Australian rugby league magazine, ahead of major competitor Big League. It was published weekly during the Australian rugby league season, which runs from March to late September. The magazine was headquartered in Sydney.
The National Rugby League (NRL) is a league of professional men's rugby league teams in Australia. Run by the Australian Rugby League Commission, the NRL's main competition is known as the Telstra Premiership due to sponsorship from Telstra Corporation and is contested by sixteen teams, fifteen of which are based in Australia with one based in New Zealand. It is the most viewed and attended rugby league club competition in the world.
Established in 1981, the original group consisted of former Test captains Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier, and Johnny Raper. Although Rugby League Week (RLW) did not hold any official affiliation with any of the governing bodies of rugby league in Australia, the release was met with much public respect and admiration for the players listed. To coincide with this announcement, Hunter Valley vineyard Elliots Wines released, in conjunction with Rugby League Week, four bottles of 1977 vintage port as a boxed set. Each player was represented on the label of each of the bottles. Returning eighteen years later, Rugby League Week announced in 1999 its intention to select a fifth member of The Immortals. However, the panel of experts chosen to pick the next Immortal was unable to decide on a sole player; it was then announced that the next additions to The Immortals would be both Graeme Langlands and Wally Lewis. 2003 saw another addition to the list of Immortals, with Arthur Beetson becoming the seventh.
A test match in rugby league football is a representative match between teams representing members of the Rugby League International Federation.
Clive Bernard Churchill AM was an Australian professional rugby league footballer and coach in the mid-20th century. An Australian international and New South Wales and Queensland interstate representative fullback, he played the majority of his club football with and later coached the South Sydney Rabbitohs. He won five premierships with the club as a player and three more as coach. Retiring as the most capped Australian Kangaroos player ever, Churchill is thus considered one of the game's greatest ever players and the prestigious Clive Churchill Medal for man-of-the-match in the NRL grand final bears his name. Churchill's attacking flair as a player is credited with having changed the role of the fullback.
Robert "Bob" Fulton AM is a former professional rugby league footballer, coach and commentator. Fulton played, coached, selected for and has commentated on the game with great success at the highest levels and has been named amongst Australia's greatest rugby league players of the 20th century. As a player Fulton won three premierships with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the 1970s, the last as captain. He represented for the Australian national side on thirty-five occasions, seven times as captain. He had a long coaching career at the first grade level, taking Manly to premiership victory in 1987 and 1996. He coached the Australian national team to thirty-nine Tests and World Cup games. He was a New South Wales State selector and a national selector. He is currently a radio commentator with 2GB. In 1985 he was selected as one of the initial four post-war "Immortals" of the Australian game and in 2008 he was named in Australia's team of the century.
Former Newcastle Knights halfback Andrew Johns was inducted as the eighth Immortal at the Men of League Gala Dinner the week of the 2012 NRL Grand Final. The judges who deliberated over candidates were: Wayne Bennett (seven-time premiership winning coach, former Queensland Origin coach), Ray Warren (Channel Nine network television senior commentator), John Grant (Chairman ARL Commission), David Middleton (leading rugby league historian), Ray Hadley (radio and Channel Nine network television commentator), Phil Rothfield (News Limited), Roy Masters (journalist, Fairfax Media), Geoff Prenter (RLW Founding Editor 1970-81), Ian Heads (RLW Editor 1981-87), Norman Tasker (RLW Editor 1988-2000), Tony Durkin (RLW Editor 2001-02), Martin Lenehan (RLW Editor 2003-11) and Mitchell Dale (RLW Editor).The current living Immortals (Fulton, Raper, Langlands, Lewis and Johns) were also granted a vote.
The Newcastle Knights are an Australian professional rugby league club based in Newcastle, New South Wales. They compete in Australasia's premier rugby league competition, the National Rugby League (NRL) premiership. Playing in red and blue, the Knights joined the top tier competition in 1988, 79 years after the previous Newcastle based team, the Newcastle Rebels had departed the Sydney competition with the formation of a separate league competition based in the Newcastle region.
Andrew Gary "Joey" Johns is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer of the 1990s and 2000s. Hailed as the best halfback in the world for many years, he captained the Newcastle Knights in the National Rugby League and participated in the team's only two premiership victories in 1997 and 2001, playing a club record 249 games for the Knights. Johns also represented his country at two World Cups, and on one Kangaroo tour, playing in total 21 Test matches for the national side. He played in 23 State of Origin series matches for the New South Wales Blues, and played for the Country Origin side in 1995 and 2003.
The 2012 NRL Grand Final was the conclusive and premiership-deciding game of the 2012 NRL season. Played on Sunday, 30 September at Sydney's ANZ Stadium between the minor premiers Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the second-placed Melbourne Storm. Melbourne won the match 14–4 in a tight contest to claim their second premiership title after their 2007 and 2009 titles were stripped due to major salary cap breaches.
Although the tag of Immortal continues to be a highly respected one for any player to obtain, it was initially criticised for only being awarded to post-war players. However, it was agreed by the first judges in 1981 (Frank Hyde, Harry Bath and Tom Goodman), that they could only judge on players they had seen in action. Furthermore, to overcome entrenched criticism over Johns' admitted use of recreational drugs during his playing career, the rules were altered so the candidates can only be judged on their playing ability alone, and nothing else.
Frank Hyde MBE OAM was an Australian rugby league footballer, coach and radio caller. A New South Wales representative three-quarter, Hyde played his club football in Sydney for NSWRFL Premiership clubs Newtown, Balmain and North Sydney. Following his playing career, Hyde enjoyed even greater success as a commentator, earning him Membership of the Order of the British Empire and a place in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and the Australian Commercial Radio Industry Hall of Fame. Hyde's contribution to Rugby League is celebrated each year with the Frank Hyde Shield, a three match tournament played between the Newtown Jets and North Sydney Bears.
Harry Bath, born Alfred Henry Bath, also known by the nickname of "The Old Fox", was an Australian rugby league footballer and coach who was prominent and influential in the mid-20th century. A state and international representative who played 12 matches for Other Nationalities in the International Championship from 1949 to 1955, he played as a second-row and has been referred to as the best Australian rugby league player never to be picked for the Australian national team. Following his retirement, Bath coached in the New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership for two decades, also achieving selection as the Australian national team coach.
With the closure of Rugby League Week in 2017, the concept was taken over by the Australian Rugby League Commission.
The Australian Rugby League Commission is the official governing body of rugby league football within Australia. It was founded, as the Australian Rugby League 'Board of Control', in 1924, jointly by the New South Wales Rugby League and the Queensland Rugby League. Since 1924, all other state and territory Rugby League governing bodies have become affiliated to the League.
On 1 August 2018, a further five players were announced as Immortals, bringing the tally to thirteen. They were Mal Meninga, Norm Provan, Frank Burge, Dave Brown and Dally Messenger. It was the first time that the latter three pre-World War II champions could be considered for this recognition, as it had previously been an award restricted to post-World War II players.
Malcolm Norman Meninga is the head coach of the Australian national team and an Australian former rugby league footballer. Meninga is widely regarded as one of the finest players in the game's history. He enjoyed a long career in both Australia and England, playing mainly as a goal-kicking centre, but also on the wing. After retiring, Meninga has enjoyed success as a coach, and is currently the head coach of Australia.
Norman "Sticks" Douglas Somerville Provan is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer and coach. A giant of a man, he was a second-row forward with the St. George Dragons during their 11-year consecutive premiership-winning run from 1956 to 1966. Named amongst the nation's finest footballers of the 20th century, he was a representative in the Australian national team from 1954 to 1960 earning 14 Test and 2 World Cup cups. In 2018, he was inducted as the 12th Immortal of Australian Rugby League.
Frank “Chunky” Burge was one of the greatest forwards in the history of rugby league in Australia. Later Burge became one of the game’s finest coaches. His club career was with Glebe and the St. George Dragons. He represented New South Wales on eighteen occasions and played thirteen test matches for the Kangaroos and played for Australia in a further twenty-three tour matches.
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The Australian national rugby league team have represented Australia in senior men's rugby league football competition since the establishment of the 'Northern Union game' in Australia in 1908. Administered by the Australian Rugby League, the Kangaroos are ranked first in the RLIF World Rankings. The team is the most successful in Rugby League World Cup history, having contested all 15 and winning 11 of them, failing to reach the final only once, in the inaugural tournament in 1954. Only four nations have beaten Australia in test matches, and Australia have an overall win percentage of 67%.
Arthur Henry "Artie" Beetson OAM was an Australian rugby league footballer and coach. He represented Australia and Queensland from 1964 to 1981. His main position was at prop. Beetson became the first Indigenous Australian to captain his country in any sport and is frequently cited as the best post-war forward in Australian rugby league history. He also had an extensive coaching career, spanning the 1970s to the 1990s, coaching Australia, Queensland, Eastern Suburbs, Redcliffe Dolphins and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. On 1 December 2011, Beetson died after a heart attack, aged 66.
John 'Chook' Raper, MBE is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer and coach. He was a lock-forward for the Australia national team. He had a record 33 test caps between 1959 and 1968 and played in 6 World Cup games between 1960 and 1968. Raper captained Australia on 8 occasions in 1967–68 and played in eight consecutive NSWRFL grand final victories for the St. George Dragons club. He has since been named as one of the nation’s finest footballers of the 20th century.
Paul "Fatty" Vautin is an Australian football commentator and formerly a professional rugby league footballer, captain and coach. He has provided commentary for the Nine Network's coverage of rugby league since joining the network in 1992 and has also hosted The Footy Show since its beginnings in 1994 opposite co-host Peter Sterling, until 2017. An Australian Kangaroos test and Queensland State of Origin representative lock or second-row forward, Vautin played club football in Brisbane with Wests, before moving to Sydney in 1979 to play with Manly-Warringah, whom he would captain to the 1987 NSWRL premiership. He also played for Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, and in England for St Helens.
The Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame honours players who have shown exceptional skill at rugby league, all-time great coaches and referees, and other major contributors to the game who are Australian.
Reginald William "Reg" Gasnier AM was an Australian rugby league footballer and coach. He played centre for the St. George Dragons from 1959 to 1967 and represented Australia in a then record 36 Tests and three World Cup games. He was the captain of the national side on eight occasions between 1962–67.
Brian Earl Bevan, also known by the nickname of "Wing Wizard", was an Australian professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s who became the only player ever to have been inducted into both the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame and British Rugby League Hall of Fame. An Other Nationalities representative wing, Bevan scored a world record 796 tries, mainly for Warrington. In 2008, the centenary year of rugby league in Australia, he was named on the wing of Australia's Team of the Century (1908-2007). Bevan was the only player chosen in the team who had never represented Australia in a test match.
John "Bomber" Peard is an Australian former rugby league footballer and later coach. An Australian international and New South Wales representative Five-eighth, he played for the Eastern Suburbs, St George and Parramatta NSWRFL clubs in the 1960s and 1970s. Peard's nickname, 'Bomber', came from his revolutionary towering punt kick, popularly referred to as a bomb, which terrorised opposition players, especially the Fullbacks and Wingers they were aimed at. It has now became a common feature of the modern game.
Graeme Frank Langlands, MBE,, also known by the nickname of "Changa", was an Australian professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. and coached in the 1970s. He retired as the most-capped player for the Australian national team with 45 international appearances from 1963 to 1975, and captained his country in 15 Test matches and World Cup games. Langlands was the fullback and goal-kicker for the St. George Dragons in the latter half of their 11-year consecutive premiership-winning run from 1956 to 1966.
John Patrick Ballesty in Strathfield, New South Wales is an Australian former national representative rugby union player who also played first-grade rugby league with the Eastern Suburbs club.
The 1975 New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership was the 68th season of Sydney's professional rugby league football competition, Australia's first. Twelve teams, including six of 1908's foundation clubs and another six from across Sydney competed for the J. J. Giltinan Shield during the season, which culminated in a grand final match for the WD & HO Wills Cup between the Eastern Suburbs and St. George clubs. NSWRFL teams also competed for the 1975 Amco Cup.
Frank "Biscuits" Stanton is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer of the 1960s, and a successful club, and national representative coach of the 1970s and 1980s. His playing and club coaching career was with the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. He enjoyed success as coach of the Australian national side from 1978 to 1984, being at the helm in the period when the Kangaroos began to consistently dominate the other rugby league playing nations.
In late 2007, the Australian Rugby League and National Rugby League commissioned 130 experts to select the 100 best rugby league players in the game's 100-year history in Australia. From this list, a limited panel of experts picked a "Team of the Century" - a team of 17 players considered to be the best Australian players of all time. This team was announced in Sydney on 17 April 2008, see Australian Rugby League's Team of the Century.
The 1973 Kangaroo Tour was the thirteenth Kangaroo Tour, and saw the Australian national rugby league team travel to Europe and play nineteen matches against British and French club and representative rugby league teams, in addition to three Test matches against Great Britain and two Tests against the French. It followed the tour of 1967-68 and the next was staged in 1978.
The 2008 ANZAC test, also known as the Centenary Test as it commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first test match between the two countries, was a rugby league test match played between Australia and New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 9 May 2008. Commemorating the first trans-Tasman Test match, which was also played at Sydney on the same day in 1908, it was the 9th Anzac test played between the two nations since the first was played under the Super League banner in 1997. This was the first test played at the SCG since Australia had defeated New Zealand 29-12 in 1986 and the first ever rugby league test played under lights at the ground.