The NRL is far more celebratory of their Hall of Fame than we are in Super League. Within the Hall of Fame though there is an even higher accolade that can be bestowed on an inductee which is regarded as the pinnacle of not only an NRL players’ career, but their life: The Immortals.
Rather than being a selection of crime-fighting comic book characters, The Immortals are the best 13 players from the 110 who are currently in the Hall of Fame. By this definition, The Immortals comprise the greatest list of Rugby League players of all time in the NRL. The players in the Hall of Fame are selected from the entire existence of Rugby League in Australia, not just since 1997 when the modern-era NRL was created, much like our own Hall of Fame in Super League. To be eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame and therefore to become an Immortal, the respective player needs to have played at least ten years in the Australian competition and would need to have been retired from playing for five years.
However, things like Hall of Fame and Immortal selection cannot be rushed. It doesn’t matter when discussing the subject of the next Immortal if the players that come up are not in the Hall of Fame yet. It also doesn’t matter if they aren’t even eligible for the Hall of Fame full stop yet! The thing to remember is that an Immortal selection is something that only happens once in a while and the next Immortal selection could be years away, meaning many more players could be in the mix than there are right now. Below are three players who, in time, could be considered as the next Immortal based on the individual performances they gave in their careers and not on the successes of the teams they played in.
The former Melbourne Storm-turned-Rooster, Cooper Cronk has a good case to be the next Immortal even though he may be a surprise selection to some over the likes of Darren Lockyer for example. Whilst it is true that Lockyer was the face of Australian Rugby League for a time and scored 1,195 points (far surpassing Cronk’s) he did not win as many personal accolades. To be an Immortal, you feel like this must be the main criteria as it is the true mark of being recognised, and standing above, your peers. Nevertheless, Cronk is still regarded as one of the best players to play the game and an induction into the Hall of Fame is guaranteed to be somewhere down the line. This is a list of his achievements away from team success:
Dally M Player of the Year- 2013 and 2016
Dally M Halfback of the Year- 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2016
Clive Churchill Medal Winner- 2012
Golden Boot Winner: 2016
A consistent force throughout the 2010s, with a name that once heard you never forget, Cooper Cronk is the best opposition to the remaining players in this list that the NRL has to offer. The fact that he is a well respected Fox League pundit who is also rumoured to be taking up a coaching role with the Melbourne Storm this year, Cronk will still be a face within the game even though his days of being on the field are over.
Spending most of his career as a North Queensland Cowboy, with a brief two-year stint at the Bulldogs at the start of his career, it would be fair to say that Canterbury rued the day they let this man go. This is just a snapshot of his awards in a stellar playing career:
Dally M Player of the Year: 2005, 2007, 2014, and 2015
Dally M Half-back of the Year: 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2015
Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year: 2012, 2013, and 2014
Clive Churchill Medal Winner: 2015
Wally Lewis Medal Winner: 2008
Dally M Representative Player of the Year: 2014
Golden Boot Winner: 2011, 2013 and 2015
You can be assured that the Golden Boot listing is not a typo, Thurston really was that good! To be able to witness a player of this calibre simply doesn’t happen every day. It cannot be argued with that he was the true star of the Cowboys in the 13 years he played for them and it is alarming that since then, the men from North Queensland haven’t exactly played their best, finishing third from bottom last season. He was the definition of a talismanic player and when he retired in 2018, a true star of the NRL went out. It will be a long time before anyone even resembling Thurston graces the NRL again.
With how long Cameron Smith has been playing it could be argued that he has reached the immortality level already! Like The Rolling Stones, Smith can never be sure when to call it a day. From the back end of last season and the interim between the comp restarting in 2021, rumours had been circulating of his retirement, his signing for the Brisbane Broncos, then the Gold Coast Titans, then staying at Melbourne as a coach, then as a player and so on and so forth. So even though he had left fans in limbo in recent months about his upcoming plans before finally retiring this week, let’s turn to matters that have always been set firmly in stone:
Dally M Player of the Year: 2006 and 2017
Dally M Hooker of the Year: 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020
Wally Lewis Medal Winner: 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2016
Dally M Representative Player of the Year: 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2016
Golden Boot Winner: 2007 and 2017
It is clear that Cameron Smith possesses one of the greatest award crib sheets in Rugby League and this doesn’t include his wealth of team success with the Melbourne Storm. He also holds many records including most matches played in NRL history (433), the most points scored in NRL history (2810), most tackles made in NRL history (16917), most Grand Final points scored in NRL history (44) and the most career wins in NRL history (310). What else is there to say? As a result, Cameron Smith is surely the next man to be inducted into The Immortals within the NRL Hall of Fame.