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
Next up, the second-rowers:
SECOND-ROWER – GORDEN TALLIS
NRL ERA STATS
Brisbane (1998-2004): 141 games – 46 tries (184 points).*
Queensland (1998-2003): 15 Origins – 4 tries (16 points).*
Australia (1998-2003): 13 Tests – 9 tries (36 points).
SECOND-ROWER – NATHAN HINDMARSH
Parramatta (1998-2012): 330 games – 60 tries, 1 goal (242 points).
New South Wales (2001-02, 2004-07, 2010): 17 Origins – 1 try (4 points).
Australia (2000, 2004-07, 2009): 23 Tests – 6 tries (24 points).
Among the most destructive ball-running forwards in rugby league history, the intimidation factor Gorden Tallis brought to the table in attack and defence rendered him one of the game’s top players of the late-1990s and early-2000s.
He started out as an impact player at St George, but became a vital cog of Brisbane’s premiership-winning sides of 1997-98 and 2000, winning the Clive Churchill Medal in the inaugural NRL grand final.
An Origin icon, Tallis skippered Queensland in his last 10 Origin appearances, while he scored nine tries in 13 Tests for Australia – including a record-equalling haul of four against Papua New Guinea. The aggressive game-breaker fought back from a serious neck injury at the height of his career in 2001 to finish with 66 tries in 214 first grade games, averaging almost seven a season from 1998 onwards.
Although his hot-headedness sometimes boiled over into detrimental territory, the psychological edge of having ‘The Raging Bull’ in the Broncos, Maroons and Kangaroos line-ups was undeniable – he was like a terrifying hybrid of Les Boyd and Noel Cleal, while no forward has been able to replicate his impact since.
Tallis was named one of David Middleton’s Top 5 Players of the Year in the Official Rugby League Annual from 1998-2000, won the Dally M Second-rower of the Year gong in 1999, and was rated the game’s best in his position each year from 1998-2003 in Rugby League Week’s Players’ Poll besides the injury-ruined ’01 campaign, when he was edged by Nathan Hindmarsh by one vote.
Hindmarsh also topped that poll in 2005 and ’06. The Parramatta workhorse won the Dally M Second-rower of the Year award a record five times between 2000 and ’06, collected Rugby League Week’s Player of the Year honour in 2004 and ’06, and won the fan-voted Provan Summons Medal five times between 2005 and ’11.
He was a three-time top-five finisher in the Dally M Medal – including a runner-up effort in 2006 with a massive 30 votes – and polled at least nine votes in the last eight seasons of his career, a tangible indicator of his wholehearted efforts year in, year out.
Unlike Tallis, Hindmarsh made his bones on industriousness rather than impact, but his value can’t be understated, becoming the first player to make 10,000 career tackles since stats have been kept. His hit-up numbers were only slightly less astronomical, and while not exactly an attacking weapon, his ball skills were underrated and he found his way over the stripe 60 times at NRL level.
The Robertson product has the unenviable record of playing the most first-grade games without winning a premiership – a fact that is mercilessly brought up for comic effect in his various media roles – but few have deserved one more; he has loser’s medals from 2001 and ’09 to show for his relentless toil in the blue-and-gold jumper.
After debuting in Round 10 of the 1998 NRL season, Hindmarsh missed just 33 games in 15 seasons – with 13 of those coming in a 2003 campaign wrecked by a three-month layoff. Five years after his retirement, he still sits eighth on the all-time appearances register.
St George, Brisbane (1992-2004): 214 games – 66 tries, 1 goal (266 points).
Queensland (1994-2003): 17 Origins – 4 tries (16 points).
TOP 20 SECOND-ROWERS OF THE NRL ERA (1998-2017)
1 Gorden Tallis
2 Nathan Hindmarsh
3 Craig Fitzgibbon
4 Steve Menzies
5 Sam Thaiday
6 Matt Gillett
7 Simon Mannering
8 Ryan Hoffman
9 Luke Lewis
10 Anthony Watmough
11 Sonny Bill Williams
12 Andrew Ryan
13 Bryan Fletcher
14 Ali Lauiti’iti
15 Boyd Cordner
17 Michael Crocker
18 Beau Scott
19 Brad Thorn
20 Stephen Kearney