Wednesday 22 November 2017 / 12:56 AM

COMM BOX’S NRL 20-YEAR TEAM: PROPS

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

It’s time to name our props:

PROP – PETERO CIVONICEVA
Brisbane, Penrith (1998-2012): 309 games – 25 tries (100 points).
Queensland (2001-12): 33 Origins – 1 try (4 points).
Australia (2001-11): 45 Tests – 2 tries (8 points).
Fiji (2013): 5 Tests – 0 points.

PROP – SHANE WEBCKE
NRL ERA STATS
Brisbane (1998-2006): 220 games – 14 tries (56 points).*
Queensland (1998-2004): 21 Origins – 1 try (4 points).
Australia (1998-2004): 25 Tests – 2 tries (8 points).

Despite a wealth of worthy candidates, picking the front-row duo for our NRL 20-Year Team was the most clear-cut of any position – and fittingly, these bookends played together hundreds of times at club and rep level.

Brisbane great Shane Webcke challenged Glenn Lazarus’ mantle as the finest prop of the modern era and was unanimously regarded as the best in his position for the majority of his magnificent career.

After gradually asserting himself in the Brisbane pack and playing a key role in the 1997 Super League grand final win after Lazarus went down with injury, Webcke truly began his ascent to greatness during 1998, starring in triumphs at club, Origin and Test level.

Webcke would play 21 consecutive Origin matches for Queensland from his debut in ’98 until his representative retirement in 2004 – including the Ron McAuliffe Medal in ’02 and one game as captain in ‘04 – and represented Australia in 25 Tests, while his ability to defy serious injury to continue playing was awe-inspiring.

The Darling Downs product made a preliminary final comeback in 2000 just five weeks after breaking his arm, while during the 2004 finals series he backed up just a week after suffering a serious knee injury.

The three-time Dally M Prop of the Year (2000-02) was the pack anchor of the Broncos’ 1998, 2000 and 2006 premiership successes, retiring in triumph after the ’06 Grand Final, his 254th first-grade appearance. In all but one of his NRL campaigns (1998-2006), Webcke played 23 games or more.

Webcke’s set benchmarks for relentless go-forward, toughness and courage that arguably no other front-rower has attained since. He was named the game’s best prop in Rugby League Week’s Players’ Poll every year from 1998-2005, while he was included in David Middleton’s Official Rugby League Annual Team of the Year each season from 1998-2004.

An unwavering, hard-hitting front-row workhorse, Fiji-born Petero Civoniceva achieved all-time records for most Tests (45) and Origins (33) for a forward – testament to his supreme durability and the quality and consistency of his play.

The tall, raw-boned prop featured in Brisbane’s 1998 and 2006 grand final victories, before an admirable four-season stint as captain of a young Penrith outfit. He finished his career with the Broncos in 2012, becoming the first career front-rower to play 300 first grade games.

Civoniceva won the Harry Sunderland Medal in 2006 and was named Queensland’s Players’ Player in ’08 and ’11, while he enjoyed a fitting swansong as Fiji’s captain at the 2013 World Cup after a season at Redcliffe.

One of rugby league’s genuine nice guys and one of its finest ambassadors, few players are as universally admired as big ‘Pet’, who was named Dally M Prop of the Year and RLPA Player of the Year in 2008, his first season with the Panthers.

He was also named as one of Middleton’s Top Five Players of 2006 in the Official Rugby League Annual, and was included in that publication’s Team of the Year from 2006-08.

*Career Total – Brisbane (1995-2006): 254 games – 18 tries (72 points).

TOP 20 PROPS OF THE NRL ERA
1 Shane Webcke
2 Petero Civoniceva
3 Matt Scott
4 Steve Price
5 Jesse Bromwich
6 Luke Bailey
7 Brent Kite
8 James Tamou
9 Nate Myles
10 Andrew Fifita
11 Jason Ryles
12 Nathan Cayless
13 Willie Mason
14 Ruben Wiki
15 Mark O’Meley
16 Roy Asotasi
17 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
18 Ben Matulino
19 James Graham
20 Ben Hannant

[YouTube – OriginClips]

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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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