An answer to NRL's Immortal question

Norm Provan.
Norm Provan.

HAS there been a more debated topic in 2015 than who will be the next Immortal? Almost weekly another name was thrown into the mix of candidates to become rugby league Immortal No.9.

As Johnathan Thurston carved triumph after triumph into his championship belt - including an honorary doctorate - it became patently obvious that he is the runaway favourite among Gen Y fans to be the next inductee.

But sadly for that fan base, Dr Jonathan is ineligible. The basic qualifying decree is that a player has to have been retired for at least five years.

Those a little older than Gen Y - and with a longer memory span - are of the opinion someone of the ilk of Norm Provan or Mal Meninga deserves to be the next rugby league great to be honoured with immortality.

And few with memories going back to the respective playing eras of those two giants of the game would argue against either selection.

But over the award-winning hot smoked salmon pizza at his Augello's restaurant in Mooloolaba last week, Queensland icon and footy fanatic Billy Moore produced a practical solution to this on-going conjecture. He reckons nine new Immortals should be inducted - and each at the same time.

His plan is to honour those members of the ARL Team of the Century who are not already an Immortal. Rather than ponder over a myriad of big names for the next decade or two, Billy says recognise them now.

The Team of the Century was named in April 2008, to commemorate 100 years of rugby league in Australia.

The 17 players were selected from a list of 100 greats who had been nominated by a commissioned college of 130 rugby league experts.

The 17 were: Clive Churchill, Brian Bevan, Reg Gasnier, Mal Meninga, Ken Irvine, Wally Lewis, Andrew Johns, Duncan Hall, Noel Kelly, Arthur Beetson, Norm Provan, Ron Coote, Johnny Raper, Graeme Langlands, Dally Messenger, Bob Fulton and Frank Burge. The eight existing Immortals - Churchill, Gasnier, Lewis, Raper, Johns, Beetson, Langlands and Fulton - were in that Team of the Century.

Moore says respect should be paid to those regarded as the cream of the first 100 years of the game, and due deference also given to this historic chapter of rugby league. And, as a member of the judging panel that inducted the past four Immortals, I concur.

Then, and only then, should we seriously consider the next generation - the likes of Peter Sterling, Allan Langer, Brett Kenny, Mick Cronin, Laurie Daley, Brad Fittler, Glenn Lazarus, Darren Lockyer and Shane Webcke - before the outstanding crop of current superstars inevitably joins the line-up.

And while Billy's notion is from left field, it is a ripper and palatable food for thought.

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