Thank You, Scoop Jackson

Filed in Other by on December 10, 2010

Bucks parties can tend to get weird and heavy very quickly and the bachelor weekend of my attorney was true to script.

Two days of weighty consumption of various drinks ranging from a delicate white wine through to what became known as concoctions (tallboy shots of rum, bourbon, gin, tequila, vodka and red wine, together, at last) left most of the twelve in attendance in a state of haze. The nude match-races offered a chance to wager heavily and exhibit athletic prowess even if the choice of natural Olympic style-dress was strange. Cigars were smoked as if Tony Soprano was there. “King of Beers” confused everybody, particularly when the roulette wheel was bought out. I would offer an explanation on the alleged game but it is believed to have more rules and less consistent application of same than Mornington Crescent.

And that, of course, is to say nothing of the adult entertainment, which The Hound was assured would be “quality”. None of us really believed this would be the case but when an unpleasant ice user who has had more c-sections than Cronulla have had losing seasons arrives with her mother, awkwardness and disgust filled the room. There was also a split vote on whether she was, in fact, pregnant again. All eyes were averted from the proceedings; silent prayers of fear were made, begging for benevolence and an avoidance of any number of awful visions. There was an audible gasp of collective relief when she re-clothed and sauntered off into a night filled with meth-amphetamines, the self-esteem deprivation that comes with selling one’s ass while her mother watches and the continuing story of the slow and weary destruction of any dreams and hopes she may once have held dear before the complexities of her life led her to this latest critical juncture.

It was a mighty weekend.

If it wasn’t for Scoop Jackson, I would be curled in the foetal position, shaking uncontrollably and reciting lines from When Harry Met Sally for the next three to four days after such madness.

Procrastinating like it was breathing, a blank piece of paper staring me in the face with an impending deadline hanging heavy like a looming break-up, your author sought solace in pro hoops. Immersed in NBA scores and stories and stars, I stumbled across some work from Scoop Jackson that answered just the question I was subconsciously asking.

With league season fast approaching and my sense of history piqued for various personal reasons, I was keen to talk club legends. I was keen to weigh up which figures have come to personify certain clubs, those people who stand above all other heroes in the pantheon of greatness among the team’s followers and devotees. It was time to measure the all-time club icons, make decisions and develop arguments, separating the Kobe Beef from the Kobe Lobster, elevating the deserving to their rightful standing as The Ultimate Heroes.

The problem wasn’t the idea but the how. Getting something readable and interesting on paper was causing me a great deal of grief. And then, in the space of a few seconds, Scoop Johnson shone on me like a benevolent deity. Scoop had just written a piece on NBA icons, providing each team with their own personal Mount Rushmore, an idea that provided the grandiosity, limit and clarification I desired.

So here they are, thanks to yours truly and one Scoop Jackson, the Mount Rushmore’s of each of the sixteen NRL clubs. The task was tough and some cuts were heavy but these are the four most important and revered figures of each club, legends who most achieved greatness and shaped history and took their team to their highest peak. They are history’s faces, the faces that define their club.

Brisbane Broncos: Wayne Bennett, Allan Langer, Darren Lockyer, Shane Webcke

Wayne Bennett is the greatest modern day coach and possibly the greatest rugby league mentor in the one hundred year history of rugby league. He coached the Broncos from their inaugural season in 1988 through until the end of last season, guiding the Broncos to six premierships, every finals series from 1992 onwards and a winning strike rate of 63.7%. Langer and Lockyer have been Bennett’s two generals. Langer captained Brisbane to their first four titles while personifying the underdog tag that Queenslanders embraced as their ethos. Lockyer is the consummate professional who has excelled at two positions in becoming Brisbane’s most capped player and has also played a key role in four Brisbane premierships. Both have skippered Australia. Shane Webcke was the anchor in four Brisbane titles, a prop forward whose toughness inspired a generation of Broncos.

Canberra Raiders: Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley, Brad Clyde, Tim Sheens

Mal Meninga was the greatest player to ever pull on the lime green, leading the Raiders to three premierships and five grand finals, scoring 74 tries and 864 points in 166 games for Canberra. The club reached their first grand final two years after Big Mal arrived and has never reached a decider since he retired in 1994. He has a grandstand named after him at Bruce and was named to Australia’s Team of the Century. Daley has a statue of him outside of Bruce Stadium and is regarded as one of the premier five-eighths to ever play the game, playing an integral role in Canberra’s dominance of the early-nineties. Brad Clyde won two Churchill Medals and is regarded as the archetype of the modern day backrower. Tim Sheens is a coaching wonder who guided Canberra through their glory days and provided the residents of Canberra with entertaining football for the better part of a decade.

Canterbury Bulldogs: Peter Moore, Terry Lamb, Steve Mortimer, Chris Anderson

The greatest Mount Rushmore of them all. Peter Moore is rugby league’s greatest club administrator and turned Canterbury around from a team perennially at the bottom of the table to a force in the seventies and the dominant team of the eighties. He single-handedly changed the attitude and approach of the club with the team winning five premierships and making twenty finals series in his twenty-six years at the helm. He ran the Bulldogs with a tight fist and it bought success and stability, something that has been missing since his leaving. He also ensured the survival of the Bulldogs by signing them up with Super League. Terry Lamb did it all at Canterbury. He played in three premiership teams including captaining the mythical 1995 outfit, allowing the Bulldogs to gain the upper-hand with his selfless sin-binning. In 261 matches he scored 123 tries, a club record, and 1,279 points. He won a Rothmans Medal and won Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year 1984, 86, 87, 90, 91 and 92, an amazing achievement in an era of wonderful number sixes. Steve Mortimer became the face of the Bulldogs in their most successful era with his grit and determination personifying the modern-day Bulldogs. He was brilliant to the very end with blue and white coursing through his veins. When Lamb and Mortimer played together for five seasons, Canterbury made four grand finals. Chris Anderson is one of the few modern day coaches to play in and coach the same club to premiership success. A brilliant winger, Anderson was an even better coach, winning 61% of his matches when in charge of Canterbury, guiding the Bulldogs to the 1995 premiership.

Cronulla Sharks: Steve Rogers, Andrew Ettingshausen, Gavin Miller, Tommy Bishop

The Sharks made this relatively easy for me by already naming Rogers, ET and Miller as the three club immortals. It is tough to argue with particularly considering the club is still chasing its maiden premiership after 42 seasons and it is difficult for any sane man to try and measure success at Cronulla. Rogers played 200 games for the Sharks, is the club’s leading all-time pointscorer and played a role as an administrator. ET played more games for Cronulla than any other player has for one club, scoring 165 tries in his 18 years at Shark Park including 5 in a single match twice. Miller won two Dally M Medals and a Rothmans Medal and at any rate, his flattened nose would look just delightful carved into the side of a mountain. Tommy Bishop was Cronulla’s first great player and took the Sharks to their first big dance at captain-coach and may well be the best halfback the Sharks have ever fielded.

Gold Coast Titans: Michael Searle, Anthony Laffranchi, John Cartwright, Scott Prince

The Titans have only been in existence for two years and have yet to play finals football. Searle was instrumental in putting together the successful bid for the Gold Coast franchise. Laffranchi has been the Titans best performed player, leading the team in tries scored and breaking into Origin and Test football during his spell at the Titans. Cartwright has done very well with limited talent in two seasons. Prince has been the most popular player on the Gold Coast with his fitness and form instrumental determining the fate of the team.

Manly Sea Eagles: Steve Menzies, Bob Fulton, Ken Arthuson, Des Hasler

The Beaver is tied for the most top grade games played and has played them all for the Eagles. He is rugby league’s greatest try-scoring forward, a hard tackler who was a lethal runner in his prime, the first of the centre/second-rowers of the modern era. Menzies was there for the 1996 and 2008 premierships as well as grand final losses in 1995, 1997 and 2007. Bozo played a hand in Manly’s first five premierships, playing in the first three and coaching the team in 1987 and 1995. Arthuson played in Manly’s first grand final, coached them in their second and through his role as boss of Manly and the NSWRL, ensured Manly prospered. Hasler starred in the 1987 grand final victory for Manly and has left an indelible mark as coach, guiding Manly back to premiership contention since taking the reins in 2004.

Melbourne Storm: Craig Bellamy, Cameron Smith, Stephen Kearney, Matt Geyer

Bellamy turned the Storm into the most dominant team of the late-nineties by revolutionising tackling techniques designed to slow down the play-the-ball. This has seen the Storm play in the past three deciders with a premiership heading south in 2007. Cameron Smith has been the Storm’s best player since joining the club in 2002, winning a Dally M Medal and the captaincy of Queensland and Australia all before the age of twenty-four. Stephen Kearney played five years with Melbourne and was a dangerous backrower who provided the club with some stability. He joined the coaching staff two years after retiring and has had a key hand in recent successes including his work in managing players from a Pacific Island background. Geyer has played more games for Melbourne than any other player and has been there for both premierships and both grand final losses.

Newcastle Knights: Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus, Paul Harragon, Robbie O’Davis

Joey is just Joey, the greatest player to ever play rugby league. He bought success and two premierships to a rugby league heartland and will forever be treated as a deity in Newcastle. Danny Buderus revolutionised the role of hooker, becoming only the second rake to win the Dally M Medal. The Chief was Newcastle’s first hero and was one of the dominant prop forwards of the early nineties who instilled toughness into the newly formed franchise. Robbie O bled red and blue and though he was never Newcastle’s greatest player, he transcended eras and was there for both premierships. His performance in the 1997 grand final was so grand that he edged out Andrew Johns for the Churchill Medal.

New Zealand Warriors: Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki, Steve Price, Eric Watson

Stacey Jones is the club’s most decorated legend, playing 238 games with the club from 1995 until 2005 and has made a comeback for this season. His brilliance led the Warriors to three finals campaigns from 2001 to 2003 including a grand final appearance in 2002. Ruben Wiki was an inspirational leader on and off the field and added a great deal of toughness and maturity to a team sorely lacking in both. Steve Price is the biggest name Australian player to sign with the Warriors at the peak of his career and with him have come plenty of other talented Australian-born players along with a winning ethos. Watson saved the club by purchasing the key assets after the team seemed destined to die in 2000. The Warriors made the Grand Final only two seasons later.

North Queensland Cowboys: Johnathan Thurston, Paul Bowman, Matt Bowen, Graham Murray

Thurston is a dual Dally M Player of the Year and is without doubt the best player to pull on a Cowboys jersey, leading the team to their only Grand Final appearance in 2005 after virtually a decade of mediocrity before he arrived. Murray also played a critical role in turning the Cowboys from easybeats to premiership contenders when coaching the team from 2002 to 2008. Murray was the first coach to attract quality footballers to the team. Bowman is the most capped Cowboy, playing from their debut season until retiring in 2007. Matt Bowen’s electric style and freakish ability to score tries has seen him become the club’s most popular player.

Parramatta Eels: Dennis Fitzgerald, Jack Gibson, Peter Sterling, Ray Price

Fitzgerald retired as a Parramatta player in 1977 and immediately took up the post of CEO, a position he has used to control the direction of the Eels since. He guided them through their glory days and has never looked like losing power. Gibson was Parramatta’s saviour, bringing the club its first premiership after 33 years in the league when coaching them to the 1981 title in his first season in charge. Gibson then bought premierships two and three in his three year reign, the last team to win a hat-trick of premierships. Sterling and Price were Parramatta’s two most recognisable stars of Parramatta’s only glory period, the early-to-mid eighties: Sterling, the brilliant halfback and general; Price, the hardened and bloody warrior.

Penrith Panthers: Greg Alexander, Royce Simmons, Brad Fittler, Craig Gower

Alexander is Penrith’s greatest ever player, a skilful halfback who scored over 100 tries and 1100 points for the club. He was the most prominent player in Penrith’s glory era of the early-nineties. He returned to Penrith a hero after a brief stint with the Auckland Warriors. Royce Simmons is Penrith’s favourite son and his performance in the 1991 grand final that netted two tries will be recalled as Penrith’s fondest. Penrith’s rise to a premiership force for the first time in their history correlated with Fittler’s arrival, the local junior a star before the age of twenty. Gower played 238 games for Penrith from 1996 to 2007 and captained the team to their second and last premiership in 2003.

St. George-Illawarra Dragons: Ben Hornby, Trent Barrett, Mark Gasnier, Nathan Blacklock

Hornby is the Dragons most capped player and has been the rock amid much turmoil. Barrett was expected to be the Dragons first star and though he never took the Dragons to a premiership, as expected, he did keep them in the finals throughout much of his career in the red and white. Gasnier was regarded as the number one centre in rugby league before selling out to French rugby. Blacklock scored 100 tries in only 114 games and won numerous games on the back of his own brilliance.

South Sydney Rabbitohs: Clive Churchill, John Sattler, Bob McCarthy, Ron Coote

All of Souths players come from a time when the Rabbitohs were actually relevant. Clive Churchill is an Immortal, “The Little Master” and the fullback in Australia’s Team of the Century whose name is honoured on the medal awarded to the best grand final player. Churchill won five premierships for Souths as a player before leading the Bunnies to another four as coach. Sattler captained Souths to their four premierships between 1967 and 1971 including leading the Bunnies in the iconic 1970 victory with a broken jaw he sustained in the opening ten minutes. His courage that day is rightfully viewed as the rugby league benchmark for toughness. McCarthy was another legend of that era and his intercept try that secured the 1967 premiership against Canterbury is recalled again and again by those who bathe in the myrtle and cardinal. Coote was named in Australia’s Team of the Century and was bestowed with the nickname “The Prince of Locks”. He played in the last four South Sydney premiership sides with the Bunnies last premiership coming in his final year before he defected to Easts.

Sydney Roosters: Dally Messenger, Dave Brown, Arthur Beetson, Brad Fittler

Messenger’s influence on rugby league and subsequently the Roosters cannot be underestimated: had he not joined the NSWRL in 1908, rugby league may not exist today. He was rugby league’s first genius, leading Easts to their first title in 1911 as well as titles in 1912 and 1913. The club did not win a title for a decade after Messenger retired that year. Brown was known as “the Bradman of league” and holds nearly every point scoring record at the club despite playing over seventy years ago. In 94 games, Brown scored 93 tries including 38 in 15 games in 1935. Arthur Beetson was named in Australia’s Team of the Century and is regarded as the greatest prop to ever play the game. Beetson played 131 games for Easts and coached them on three different occasions. Fittler was the key figure in the Roosters renaissance in the early part of this decade, leading the team to four grand finals and a premiership.

Wests Tigers: Tim Sheens, Brett Hodgson, Steve Noyce, Benji Marshall

Sheens put some professionalism into the newly formed club rancid with amateurism and in-fighting. His penchant for free flowing football produced the Tigers maiden premiership victory in 2005 in what was one of the great sporting fairytales. Marshall, though injured often, was the guiding force behind that title and who will ever forget that flick pass. Brett Hodgson never had the razzle or the dazzle of Marshall but he was beloved just the same, his commitment and courage adored around the NRL. Steve Noyce oversaw the merger between Western Suburbs and Balmain in 2000, providing for the most successful of the joint ventures and ensuring the survival of two clubs that almost certainly would have died if it weren’t for Noyce’s handling of the amalgamation.

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