There's no Immortals without Messenger, Brown and Burge

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What is it to be an Immortal? Of all the men to play the Australian version of the game since 1908, only eight can lay claim to the most prestigious individual honour rugby league can bestow.

It is a privilege and it's a club most will never enter.

That's how it should be and that's how it should stay. Until, off course, the NRL announced this week that it would be giving the Immortal concept a facelift. Chief Executive Todd Greenberg announced that two new Immortals would be added in August along with six fresh additions to the Hall of Fame. 

"This is a significant occasion for our game as we celebrate the history of rugby league and recognise those who have shaped it," Greenberg said.

"Without question, one of the biggest topics in rugby league revolves around comparisons between heroes of our game - whether it's players from decades ago or those from the modern era.

"This year, we will induct an additional six players into a new NRL Hall of Fame. 

"They will join the 100 Greats - named in our Centenary year 10 years ago - who gain automatic induction into the NRL Hall of Fame as the Charter Class.

"We will also re-launch the Immortals, with up to two players being given the ultimate honour in our game, every four years.

"And the first of those new Immortals will be chosen this year."

All well and good but the biggest blight on the Immortal class since it began as a Rugby League Week promotion in the 1980's is that only players from the post-World War II era were considered. That's like discussing champion racehorses but not including Phar Lap. The first thing the NRL needs to do is pay respect to those like Dally Messenger, Dave Brown and Frank Burge. With all due respect to guys like Darren Lockyer and Mal Meninga but they are way down the list behind Messenger, Brown, Burge, Norm Provan and Ron Coote.

Messenger changed everything when he switched from rugby union. Most believe he'll be one of the two men chosen to join the Immortal list.

Dave Brown - known as the ‘Bradman of League' - dominated for Eastern Suburbs in a blistering career that included 38 tries from 15 games in the 1935 season, premierships as a player and coach, captained Australia at 22, played for New South Wales at 18, captained Easts at 19, scored six tries in a match against England (in the snow) and even acted as an ambassador for the game in South Africa in retirement.

And then there's Burge. A devastating try scoring forward who would go on to become one of the best coaches of his time. In 167 first grade games, Burge bagged 146 tries. He made his first grade rugby union debut at just 14 and after switching to league debuted for Glebe at 16. He played for New South Wales at 18 and scored 7 tries for Australia in 13 appearances. Burge was a professional ahead of his time training all-year round to keep in shape. The Darlington-native scored eight tries in one club game and consistently topped the season's try scorer's and points scorer's lists. He was regarded at the time of his death by some as the best player rugby league has ever produced.

We know more of Provan and Coote.

Should they be there? Yes. But the Immortals doesn't stand on its own two feet without including men like Messenger, Brown and Burge. They deserve to be there before anyone else.

Meninga and Lockyer can wait their turn.

Just like Provan and Coote have been patiently doing.


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