Friday 24 November 2017 / 04:55 AM

COMM BOX’S NRL 20-YEAR TEAM: HOOKER

The 2017 premiership was the 20th season since rugby league emerged from the rubble of the Super League war and came back together under the NRL banner.

Commentary Box Sports is taking the opportunity to celebrate the milestone by selecting a ‘Team of the NRL Era’ line-up – the best of the best from the past two decades.

As for the criteria, longevity, accomplishments at club and representative level, leadership, individual awards and – above all – the ability to influence the outcome of a match all hold significant sway. Achievements prior to 1998 will not be taken into consideration.

And to ensure each spot is filled by a genuine master of each position, we’ve set a minimum of 100 NRL games or a combined 30 Test and Origin appearances in that position to be eligible for the final line-up.

READ: COMM BOX’S NRL 20-YEAR TEAM: FULLBACK
READ: COMM BOX’S NRL 20-YEAR TEAM: WINGERS
READ: COMM BOX’S NRL 20-YEAR TEAM: CENTRES
READ: COMM BOX’S NRL 20-YEAR TEAM: HALVES
READ: COMM BOX’S NRL 20-YEAR TEAM: PROPS

Now to reveal our No.9:

HOOKER – CAMERON SMITH
Melbourne (2002-17): 358 games – 42 tries, 1007 goals, 3 field goals (2,185 points).
Queensland (2003-17): 42 Origins – 5 tries, 19 goals (58 points).
Australia (2006-17): 52 Tests – 9 tries, 51 goals (138 points).*
*Current as after Australia v France, RLWC 2017.

Cameron Smith is a contender for the title of the most dominant player of the NRL era and usurped Steve Walters and Danny Buderus as the greatest of the modern hookers many years ago.

An effective and tireless defender, incredibly durable, a superb organiser from dummy-half and a wonderful kicker – both in general play and from the tee – Smith possesses the playmaking class of the game’s top halves, while ranking as one of the greatest leaders the game has known.

The Logan Brothers junior debuted for Melbourne in 2002 and has collected a plethora of individual awards: he won the Dally M Medal in 2006 and ’17, finished in the top-three in 2007-08 and 2016, and top-five in 2012-13; he was the 2007 Golden Boot recipient – an award he seems assured of collecting again this year; and is a four-time winner of the Wally Lewis Medal as the player of the State of Origin series (2007, 2011, 2013 and 2016).

Smith’s 42-and-counting Origin appearances may never be approached, while he has broken the all-time first grade games record and Darren Lockyer’s Test appearances mark is in his sights; he broke Clive Churchill’s record for consecutive Tests when he led Australia out against France last Friday.

The fact he became just the fifth player to bring up 2,000 points (and the first ever to kick 1,000 goals) at first grade level this year is almost an afterthought, such is his all-round influence. A seven-time winner of the Dally M Hooker of the Year gong, Smith has somehow managed to produce the greatest season of his career as a 34-year-old, capping it with a fourth grand final win in six decider appearances as captain. A second World Cup triumph as skipper also beckons in the coming weeks.

The personification of consistency, Smith’s contribution to the dominance of Melbourne, Queensland and Australia over the past 12 seasons has been colossal, and Immortal status seems a fait accompli – many already regard him as the greatest player in the history of the game.

TOP 20 HOOKERS OF THE NRL ERA
1 Cameron Smith
2 Danny Buderus
3 Robbie Farah
4 Michael Ennis
5 Craig Wing
6 Issac Luke
7 Matt Ballin
8 Jake Friend
9 Luke Priddis
10 Andrew McCullough
11 Dean Young
12 Nathan Friend
13 Geoff Toovey
14 PJ Marsh
15 Simon Bonnetti
16 Shaun Berrigan
17 Craig Gower
18 Jake Granville
19 Richard Swain
20 Mark Riddell

[YouTube – BJL6 Montages]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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