Rugby League, a sport known for its fast-paced and physical style of play, has witnessed the rise of numerous exceptional athletes throughout its history. These players have displayed unparalleled skills, determination, and leadership on the field, forever etching their names in the annals of the sport. In this article, we will take a look at some of the best rugby league players of all time. And yes, four of them are Maroons…there must be something in the water in QLD!
1. Andrew Johns
Topping the list is NSW’s sole inclusion – Andrew Johns – widely regarded as one of the greatest rugby league players ever. Known for his exceptional ball-handling skills, strategic playmaking, and speed, he dominated the game during his career with the Newcastle Knights and the Australian national team, winning two NRL premierships and lifting the 1995 World Cup. Johns was also awarded the Dally M Medal three times, further solidifying his place as a true legend of the sport.
2. Wally Lewis
Considered by many to be the best player in the history of the sport, Wally Lewis was a force to be reckoned with. Nicknamed “The King,” the Australian rugby league icon showcased uncanny vision, toughness, and skill during his career. Lewis captained Queensland in the State of Origin series, leading them to a successful streak of victories. His ability to read the game and his calmness under pressure made him a formidable adversary for any team.
3. Darren Lockyer
Another Australian legend, Darren Lockyer revolutionized the game with his versatility. Starting as a fullback, he transitioned into a five-eighth role seamlessly and excelled in both positions. Boasting incredible speed and agility, Lockyer possessed a superb kicking game and set numerous records throughout his career. He led the Brisbane Broncos to four NRL premierships and captained the Kangaroos to victory in multiple Four Nations and World Cup tournaments.
4. Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith’s impact on the game is unrivaled. As the most-capped player in NRL history, Smith’s illustrious career spanned over three decades. The Australian hooker was a master of control and strategy, directing his team with precision and consistently making the right decisions. His ability to read the game was exceptional, his kicking game was sublime, and his tackling technique was second to none. Smith led the Melbourne Storm to multiple premierships and earned numerous personal accolades, including the Dally M Medal.
5. Jonathan Thurston
Jonathan Thurston is widely regarded as one of the greatest halfbacks of all time. His remarkable career, primarily with the North Queensland Cowboys, was highlighted by his exceptional playmaking skills, deft kicking, and incredible clutch performances. Thurston consistently delivered in high-pressure situations, hitting game-winning field goals and displaying unmatched vision on the field. He won four Dally M Medals, multiple NRL premierships, and was instrumental in Queensland’s dominance during the State of Origin series.
Arthur Beetson, Brett Kenny, Billy Slater, Dally Messenger, Clive Churchill, Norm Provan and a plethora of others all deserve honourable mentions. As does a fellow they used to call ‘Sterlo’ – there’s no doubt that Peter Sterling is one of the greatest of all time.
These incredible rugby league players have left an indelible mark on the sport, captivating audiences worldwide with their skill, determination, and unwavering spirit. Their achievements are a testament to their dedication, hard work, and love for the game. While many other exceptional players have graced the field, these five individuals stand out as the best rugby league players of all time, and their names will forever be synonymous with greatness in the sport.