The Immortals (rugby league)
Established in 1981, the original group consisted of former Test captains Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier, and Johnny Raper. Although Rugby League Week has never held any official affiliation with any of the governing bodies of rugby league in Australia, the release was met with much public respect and admiration for the players listed. To coincide with this announcement, Hunter Valley vineyard Elliots Wines released, in conjunction with Rugby League Week, four bottles of 1977 vintage port as a boxed set. Each player was represented on the label of each of the bottles. Returning eighteen years later, Rugby League Week announced in 1999 its intention to select a fifth member of The Immortals. However, the panel of experts chosen to pick the next Immortal was unable to decide on a sole player; it was then announced that the next additions to The Immortals would be both Graeme Langlands and Wally Lewis. 2003 saw yet another addition to the list of Immortals, with Arthur Beetson becoming the seventh.
Former Newcastle Knights halfback Andrew Johns was inducted as the eighth Immortal at the Men of League Gala Dinner the week of the 2012 NRL Grand Final. The judges who deliberated over candidates were: Wayne Bennett (seven-time premiership winning coach, former Queensland Origin coach), Ray Warren (Channel Nine network television senior commentator), John Grant (Chairman ARL Commission), David Middleton (leading rugby league historian), Ray Hadley (radio and Channel Nine network television commentator), Phil Rothfield (News Limited), Roy Masters (journalist, Fairfax Media), Geoff Prenter (RLW Founding Editor 1970-81), Ian Heads (RLW Editor 1981-87), Norman Tasker (RLW Editor 1988-2000), Tony Durkin (RLW Editor 2001-02), Martin Lenehan (RLW Editor 2003-11) and Mitchell Dale (current RLW Editor). The current living Immortals (Fulton, Gasnier, Raper, Langlands, Lewis and Johns) also got a vote.
Although the tag of Immortal continues to be a highly respected one for any player to obtain, it has been criticised for thus far only being awarded to post-war players. However, it was agreed upon by the first judges in 1981 (Frank Hyde, Harry Bath and Tom Goodman), that they could only judge on players they had seen in action. Furthermore, to overcome entrenched criticism over Johns' admitted use of recreational drugs during his playing career, the rules were altered so the candidates can only be judged on their playing ability alone, and nothing else.
|Immortal||Year Inducted||NRL / NSWRL Premierships / BRL Premiership|
- "Beetson joins league Immortals". Sydney Morning Herald. 22 September 2003. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
- Rugby League Week, 11/4/2012, p.18
- Ian Heads, Rugby League Week 11/4/2012, p. 16-18
- Rugby League Week to publish last issue in March due to commercial realities ABC News 9 March 2017