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
READ: COMM BOX’S 20-YEAR NRL TEAM: HOOKER
READ: COMM BOX’S NRL 20-YEAR TEAM: SECOND-ROWERS
LOCK – PAUL GALLEN
Cronulla (2001-17): 304 games – 61 tries (244 points)
New South Wales (2006-16): 24 Origins – 1 try, 1 goal (6 points)
Australia (2008-16): 32 Tests – 3 tries (12 points)
Something of a late-bloomer who battled a reputation as an on-field grub for several years, Gallen developed into arguably the game’s best forward and an inspirational leader for Cronulla and NSW, and just shades Brisbane and Queensland champion Corey Parker for the No.13 jersey in our line-up.
The aggressive lock debuted for the Blues in 2006 and won the first of four club Player of the Year awards the following season. Gallen broke into the Australian side in ’08 and was a permanent fixture thereafter, making his 30th Test appearance in the 2013 World Cup final.
A tremendous captain for NSW from 2011-16, Gallen led the Sharks to the finals in 2012-13 and helped negotiate the ASADA scandal, which ultimately left something of a black mark against his name.
Gallen was named Rugby League Week Player of the Year in 2010, has won the Dally M Lock of the Year award three times, and the RLIF Lock of the Year award and the Harry Sunderland Medal twice each. He also collected the Wally Lewis Medal after leading the Blues to a long-awaited series win in 2014, playing the last of 24 Origins and 32 Tests in 2016.
Gallen’s crowning glory was his role as skipper of the Sharks’ maiden premiership-winning side in 2016, while he passed the hallowed 300-game mark for the club this and is set to play on beyond his 37th birthday in 2018.
A phenomenal work-rate, setting new standards for endurance, and an unbreakable will to win have been arguably the greatest attributes for a player that has never found anything close to universal admiration from rugby league’s fan-base, but unapologetically wears his heart on his sleeve and proved himself time and again as one of the most valuable players in the game.
TOP 20 LOCKS OF THE NRL ERA (1998-2017)
1 Paul Gallen
2 Corey Parker
3 Jason Taumalolo
4 Ben Kennedy
5 Sam Burgess
6 Brad Fittler
7 Greg Bird
8 Tonie Carroll
9 Glenn Stewart
10 Dallas Johnson
11 Jeremy Smith
12 Luke Ricketson
13 Ashley Harrison
14 Trent Merrin
15 Greg Eastwood
16 Jason Croker
17 Kevin Campion
18 Alan Tongue
19 Scott Hill
20 Micheal Luck
(Note: Players chosen in the second-rower and prop Top-20s were not considered for this list).
COMM BOX’S NRL 20-YEAR TEAM
1 Darren Lockyer
2 Darius Boyd
3 Greg Inglis
4 Justin Hodges
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Johnathan Thurston
7 Andrew Johns
8 Petero Civoniceva
9 Cameron Smith
10 Shane Webcke
11 Gorden Tallis
12 Nathan Hindmarsh
13 Paul Gallen