Tonight the next Immortals will be announced in what has been a very stringently organised system.
The Immortals was originally created by the recently deceased magazine Rugby League Week back in 1981, aimed at naming the most elite players of Post war Australian Rugby League, in conjunction with a sponsor to help shift bottles of port.
The four men named Immortals then were Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, John Raper and Reg Gasnier.
In 1999, 2 more players were added to the original four; Wally Lewis and Graeme Langlands.
Arthur Beetson was then added in 2003 and Andrew Johns was somewhat controversially added in 2012.
When the magazine folded, the NRL bought the Immortals concept from them and have since attached it to their revamped Hall of Fame and completely rewriting the Immortals concept, so that it includes all players since 1908.
This idea was being bandied about within the NRL for some time, well before the closure of the Rugby League Week magazine. However the opportunity is ripe now to push ahead, especially with the opportunity to maintain and persist with the Immortals theme.
While the system put in place is thorough, exhaustive, intelligent and respectable, it is best suited to deciding future post war Immortals.
2018 should’ve been used as an opportunity to appoint all pre-war Immortals, solely. There is plenty of footage, reports and eyewitness accounts still available for post war players, but those from the first 4 decades are largely being represented by historians, statistics and rarely reported public opinions.
These pre-war players should be the first to be Immortalised under the new system and then use the current system in place to determine Immortals from each decade, starting with the 50’s in 2019, the 60’s in 2020, the 70’s in 2021, the 80’s in 2022.
In 2024 anoint the Immortals from the 1990’s. In 2027 the Immortals from the 2000-2009 period should be added and in 2030 add in players from 2010-2019.
From this point onwards, Immortals could be announced at the end of every decade, with a decade gap, for example the Immortals from 2020-2029 would be announced in 2040.
The system being used currently is brilliant and should be persevered with, but with the above mentioned amendment.
Further to this, the Immortals should extend beyond players. Administrators, coaches, referees and officials should all be considered.
The League Digest podcast, which should be a part of everyone’s podcast listening routine, have their own system for Hall of Fame players, which automatically installs the 22 men who played for NSW against the All Golds at the start of their 1907-08 tour. This is an idea that I believe not only has merit, but should be fully adopted by the NRL. These are the 22 men who risked their sporting careers to help ensure Rugby League’s birth in Australia.
These men need not be Hall of Famers or Immortals, but a separate entity unto their own, possibly named “The First” or something similar (I’m not in marketing, clearly):
This entire system, I feel, produces the best system moving forward, while fully recognising players against their peers from the same era, which would be more accurate and much fairer.