Party kicks off NRL's centenary

It's not simply the best, its simply the greats.

Rugby league kicked off it's centenary celebrations at Birchgrove Oval on Thursday, the season launched by immortalised legends Arthur Summons and Norm Provan alongside Melbourne champions Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis.

"To stand up there with two true legends of the game is something very special," Smith said.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of such a historical year ... it's something I'll remember forever."

The quartet came together to launch the 2008 NRL season at the spiritual home of league with over 600 guests and a giant Telstra Premiership trophy.

Summons and Provan re-created their famous 1963 grand final embrace for this year's television commercial, with 2007 premiership winners Smith and Inglis joining the celebration.

League's most iconic image features prominently in the 60 second advertising campaign, the commercial featuring more than 80 greats of the game from all eras.

It is a fitting reflection on some of the game's greatest moments and best players, with a musical score from a 22 piece orchestra completed just 10 days ago.

The NRL resisted the urge to re-create the infamous `Simply the best' campaign using Tina Turner, instead creating its own visual feast that will be used for just this season.

Starting with the 1908 kick off by `The Master' Dally Messenger, the ad has old meeting new in state-of-the-art recreations.

There's current Dragons skipper Mark Gasnier passing the ball to his uncle, 1960s icon Reg Gasnier, and current South Sydney halfback Craig Wing stepping into John Sattler's shoes to put flying winger Ron Coote into space at Leichhardt Oval.

NRL director of marketing Paul Kind said the campaign involved over 12 months of work and would create a massive talking point for fans of all generations.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate 100 years," said Kind.

"It aims to remember all the greats from all the eras in the history of the game."

The advertisement is central to the NRL's marketing for centenary celebrations and is a step away from the traditional audio based themes, such as `That's my team', of recent times.

"It is part of our most expensive marketing campaign ever undertaken," said Kind.

"This ad campaign however certainly is not significantly more expensive than previously."

The NRL will officially kick off with round one next Friday with South Sydney and Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium and Gold Coast taking on North Queensland at Skilled Park.