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18th July 2018, 11:00 | steve_mascord
THE NRL is to be congratulated for adding its first non-Australian, Kiwis great Mark Graham, to its Hall Of Fame.
The hard-as-nails back rower played 149 games for North Sydney and his body of work in what was then the New South Wales competition suggests to me he is the finest New Zealander to ever cross the Tasman full-time and as such is the perfect initial Shaky Islands inductee.
The Hall of Fame has now inducted men whose best rugby was played overseas, in Brian Bevan and Albert Rosenfeld, and an overseas player whose best work was in Oz. As the Warriors are now part of the competition, it is logical some men who played for them and never moved away from Auckland will now also be eligible.
So far so good; but it does make the criteria somewhat confusing. This confusion is mostly a result of the NRL Hall Of Fame evolving from Australian rugby league’s formal 100 Greatest Players list - the reason Graham is the first inductee who was never available for Australia.
But If Graham is there because of his contribution to game in Australia, then why are Bevan and Rosenfeld there, given they played almost all of their careers in England?
Also, as an aside, Graham is now eligible to be the first non-Australian Immortal, given that concept is now procedurally linked to the NRL Hall Of Fame.
But the central issue to be explored now is: if Australians who played most of their careers overseas and foreigners who made significant contributions to domestic rugby league Down Under are now to be recognised, how far back should we go and who should be inducted as a result?
Does history need a smidgeon of rewriting?
And more specifically for readers here, if Graham is the most deserving New Zealander to be the first foreign inductee, who should be the first British player inducted.
MALCOLM REILLY played 89 games for Manly and two of them were grand final triumphs, one of these the club’s first-ever premiership win. He was only the third Englishman to take part in an Aussie grand final-winning team.
In half a decade with Sydney Roosters, ADRIAN MORLEY managed 114 appearances despite numerous bans. He won the 2002 premiership with the tricolours and also helped them to a World Club Championship.
DICK HUDDART was the first British Test player to win a competition in Sydney, making himself a key member of the all conquering St George side of the mid-sixties after joining the club in 1964.
Not only player but captain-coach in the early seventies when Cronulla enjoyed a period of success, TOMMY BISHOP remains revered in Sutherland Shire - as does his blue chip signing CLIFF WATSON.
JOHN GRAY played 138 games for Manly and North Sydney and is on the bench in the Bears’ Team of the Century.
There are countless more. Mike Stephenson was at Penrith in the tough times but has made many contributions to the sport in both hemispheres since he retired.
And there is obviously a strong current crop of Brits in the NRL, led by Sam Burgess - the guy who took South Sydney to their first premiership in 43 years back in 2014 and who commands respect where-ever he goes.
James Graham, at the time of writing, has played exactly as many games on Oz as his Kiwi namesake! Players become eligible for the NRL hall of fame five years after their retirement.
In the 1980s, the likes of Ellery Hanley, Garry Schofield, Martin Offiah, Lee Crooks, Sean Edwards, Hugh Waddell and more all plied their trade south of the equator - although whether they were there long enough to be ranked as contributors alongside Mark Graham is hard to say.
Who do you think should be the first British inductee into the NRL Hall Of Fame? Tweet the hashtag #NRLhof