MALCOLM ANDREWS reveals the details of a competition to find the best scrum-halves to have played the game in Australia
THE TIMING of the announcement that Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans would perform a back-flip over his contract and become the highest-paid player in Premiership history was ironic.
The headlines over the morals of his decision quickly pushed aside news about a search for the greatest Rugby League scrum-half in Australia’s television era.
The hunt for the Number One Number Seven is the brainchild of the Men of League organisation.
Men of League is the greatest charity group in the Australia arm of the Greatest Game of All and is headed by one of the all-time champions, former Australian captain Ron Coote. It helps people in our sport who have fallen on tough times, usually through illness.
Players, coaches, administrators, even humble canteen workers, no matter how limited their involvement, have been assisted financially.
The Magnificent Seven competition will decide the seven greatest halfbacks of the television era. It won’t be a one-off but an annual event dripping with nostalgia.
Coote and his mates haven’t yet decided who will be targeted in 2016 – maybe the great fullbacks or hookers.
The 14 finalists this year are: Greg Alexander (Panthers & Warriors) 6 Tests (1989-90); Cooper Cronk (Storm): 22 Tests (2007-15); Andrew Johns (Knights): 26 Tests (1995-2006); Stacey Jones (Warriors): 48 Tests for New Zealand (1995-2006); Brett Kimmorley (Knights, Hunter Mariners, Storm, Northern Eagles & Sharks): 20 Tests (1999-2005); Allan Langer (Broncos): 24 Tests (1988-1998); Steve Mortimer (Bulldogs): 8 Tests (1981-84); Barry Muir (Brisbane Wests): 25 Tests (1959-64); Tom Raudonikis (Wests Magpies & Newtown Jets): 29 Tests (1972-1980); Billy Smith (Dragons): 26 Tests (1964-1970); Peter Sterling (Eels): 18 Tests (1982-88); Ricky Stuart (Raiders & Bulldogs): 9 Tests (1990-94); Arthur Summons (Wests Magpies): 9 Tests (1961-64); Johnathan Thurston (Bulldogs & Cowboys): 32 Tests (2006-15).
These 14 will be trimmed to seven to form the Magnificent Seven, who will be announced at the Men of League’s gala dinner on July 16.
The dinner coincides with the NRL’s Heritage Round.
The public is being asked to vote by going to menofleague.com. But there is also going to be a panel of expert judges to ensure the public vote does not turn into a popularity contest.
One of the seven will most definitely be Andrew Johns. He is the only one on the shortlist who is a so-called ‘Immortal’. He became the eighth to be so honoured during the centenary year of Rugby League in Australia, 2008.
I sincerely hope that two from my beloved Wests Magpies make the list of seven. One is that wonderful character Tom Raudonikis, famous these days for his anti-Queensland stance around State of Origin time.
“Tom Terrific” is back in the news. The winner of an Order of Australia Medal (the equivalent of an MBE) has just come back into the limelight after yet another battle with cancer.
And the feature horse race at Sydney’s Rosehill track on Saturday was named in his honour. The winner? Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Yes, it most certainly would.
Summons, of course, will always be remembered. He and Norm Provan are honoured by the sculpture on the Premiership trophy.
Summons will also be recalled as the captain-coach of the 1963-64 Kangaroos, the first all-Australian side ever to win an Ashes series on British soil. He was injured early in the tour and didn’t play in any of the three Tests against Great Britain, but his tactics worked. He remembers he was knocked around in some of the club games but the Aussie forwards looked after him.
“Well, [Magpies team-mate] Noel Kelly liked a fight and the rest did, too,” Summons recalled.
“If there was a blue on they couldn’t get there quick enough.”
Ever a modest man, he reckons he won’t be one of the Magnificent Seven.
“I’ve already picked my seven,” he told the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
“I’d be bulls—ing myself if I thought I’d get in that group.”C
For the record Summons’ seven are Cronk, Johns, Langer, Muir, Raudonikis, Smith and Thurston.
Muir had some epic battles with Britain’s Alex Murphy, the best player from Old Blighty I ever saw in action.
The Queensland half was never as modest as Summons. In fact he was quite the opposite and that’s probably why he and Murphy never saw eye to eye on the pitch. It was a battle of egos as well as a battle of two great talents.
Muir always claimed that Murphy used to get dropped from the Test team after each series in which they clashed. Murphy was never amused by that comment. But, come to think of it … I don’t know how well he is travelling these days, but wouldn’t it be great if somehow Murph could make it to Sydney next month to meet up with all the Australasian Magnificent Sevens?
Surely there is an English sponsor with a healthy wallet somewhere out there!
This article first appeared in Malcolm Andrews‘ column ‘View from the Strand‘ in League Express on Monday 8 June 2015