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By Danielle Smith
There have been some absolute legends to play the greatest game of all, but who was the best in their position to play in the NRL?
We've put together a team of champions to create who we believe is the Greatest Team from the NRL Era.
Now before you start screaming about who didn't make the team just remember, with the NRL's inception in 1998, many greats of the game did not meet the criteria. To make this list, you must have played ONLY between 1998 and now.
This means no Arthur Beetson, no Peter Sterling, no Mal Meninga, no Andrew Johns, no Darren Lockyer.
Don't worry, these criteria hurt me as well!
Fullback - Billy Slater
So many talented fullbacks to choose from, but there was one clear winner.
Slater exploded onto the NRL scene in 2003 and never looked back.
Playing 319 matches and scoring 760 points for the Melbourne Strom, he went on to win 2 Grand Finals with his one and only club.
A smart fullback with lightning pace, Slater's talent was seen across all levels of league, representing his beloved Queensland 31 times and Australia 43 times.
Over his career he was awarded three Dally M fullback of the Year awards, one Dally M Player of the Year award, one Golden Boot, two Clive Churchill medals and two Wally Lewis medals.
Wingers - Brett Morris and Josh Addo-Carr
The lightning-fast Morris began his NRL career in 2006 and has been a favourite of many ever since. Playing 276 games across three clubs - St George Illawarra Dragons, Canterbury Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters.
His 16-year career saw him score 176 club tries, take out 2 premierships, play in 15 origins for NSW and represent Australia 23 times.
His illustrious career was tragically cut short last year, when an ACL injury forced him into retirement.
Addo-Carr has become a cult hero throughout the game.
The electrifying and acrobatic winger made his debut for the Wests Tigers in 2016, but it was once he joined the Storm in 2017 that his career took full flight.
He has won two premierships with the Storm, played 12 origins for NSW and represented the Indigenous All Stars twice.
He took home the Dally M award for Best Winger in 2020.
In his 127 games so far, Addo-Carr has scored 102 tries. Bulldogs' fans are hoping for his tally to continue to rise as fast as he can run, now that he will be wearing blue and white from this season.
Centres - Greg Inglis and Mark Gasnier
While also known as a great fullback and five-eighth, Inglis will forever be remembered as a legendary centre. Debuting in 2005, Inglis spent six years with the Melbourne Storm and nine years with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, scoring 149 club tries during his 15-year career. Winning two Grand Finals with the Storm and one with the Bunnies, Inglis took home the Clive Churchill medal during the Storm's premiership in 2007. Inglis played 32 matches for Queensland and represented Australia 48 times. He also played for his beloved indigenous side in five All Stars matches.
Along with his Clive Churchill medal, Inglis also took home one Dally M Player of the Year award, two Dally M positional Player of the Year awards, one Wally Lewis Medal, one Golden Boot Award and one Provan Summons Medal.
And "The Goanna" is still one of the coolest post-try celebrations ever.
His centre partner debuted for the Dragons in 2000 and remained at the club for his entire 12-year career.
Playing 174 games for the Red V, and scoring 92 tries, Gasnier was able to make a name for himself and not just be known as the nephew of an Immortal.
He played 12 origins for NSW, 15 tests for Australia and won the Dally M Centre of the Year award twice.
Despite a career that was riddled with injuries, Gasnier was able to become one of the most dominant centres of the NRL era.
Five Eighth - Johnathan Thurston
I could just have written his name with no description and that would have been enough of an explanation.
Known as both a five eighth and halfback, I've got JT wearing the 6 today.
Debuting in 2002 for the Canterbury Bulldogs and winning a premiership with the club in 2004, Thurston won the hearts of many after offering his Grand Final ring to captain Steve Price who missed the game due to injury.
But it was during his 14 years at the North Queensland Cowboys that Thurston reached legendary status.
Scoring 2182 points for his club, none more famous than his golden point field goal to secure a 17-16 victory over the Brisbane Broncos in the 2015 Grand Final.
Thurston represented his state, country and heritage, playing for Queensland 37 times, Australia 47 times, and the Indigenous All Stars 6 times.
He won the Dally M Player of the Year 4 times, same for the Dally M Halfback of the Year. He also claimed a Wally Lewis medal, Clive Churchill medal and 3 Golden Boot awards.
While his legacy speaks for itself, Thurston will also be remembered for his incredibly infectious laugh.
Halfback - Cooper Cronk
Again, another player who doesn't need much explanation.
Debuting for the Melbourne Storm in 2004, Cronk turned into a superstar, and became one of the smartest and toughest halfbacks to play the game.
He played 14 seasons with the Storm where he won two premierships, and when he made the move to the Roosters in 2018 for his last two seasons, he also won back-to-back titles.
Cronk represented Queensland 22 times and Australia 48 times. He took home 4 Dally M Halfback of the Year awards, 2 Dally M Player of the Year awards, 1 Clive Churchill Medal and 1 Golden Boot award.
Props - Petro Civoniceva and Matt Scott
Civoniceva debuted for the Brisbane Broncos in 1998 and was a coach's dream defender from day one.
Epitomising what a front rower should be, he spent a decade with the Broncos causing mass destruction. He joined the Penrith Panthers for 3 seasons but returned to Brisbane in 2012 to play out his final year where it all began.
He played for Queensland in 33 Origins and represented Australia 48 times and his native Fiji 4 times.
He played 309 NRL games and was named Dally M Prop of the year and RLPA Player of the Year.
His highest honour came in 2019 when he was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame.
Another tough as nails front rower.
Debuting for the Cowboys in 2004, Matt Scott became known for being one of the toughest and hardest men on the field.
He spent 16 years in North Queensland and captained them during their thrilling 2015 grand final victory.
He played 22 origins for Queensland and represented Australia 27 times.
He has been awarded Dally M Player of the Year, RLIF Prop of the Year as well as Dally M Captain of the Year.
Hooker - Cameron Smith
This one hurts. One of my all-time favourite players Danny Buderus played just one 1 game during the 1997 ARL season, which makes him ineligible for this team.
So, Smith will have to do. (Sigh)
Debuting for the Melbourne Storm in 2002, Smith was a one club man for his entire 19-year career.
Joining the elusive "400 club" Smith played 430 games for the Storm, crossed for 48 tries, holds the record for kicking the most goals with 1295, and scored a whopping 2786 points for his club.
He captained the Storm for 15 years and led his team to 3 premierships.
He went on to captain his state and country, playing for Queensland in 42 Origin games and Australia 73 times.
He won Dally M Player of the Year twice, Dally M Captain of the Year 5 times and Dally M Hooker of the Year 8 times.
Yeah, I guess he was ok.
Second Rowers - Boyd Cordner and Nathan Hindmarsh
Another one club man who captained his team, state and country, Cordner was a certainty in this team.
A champion leader, hard tackler and absolute workhorse, Cordner became a favourite for many supporters of any club.
Debuting for the Sydney Roosters in 2011, Cordner played 181 games for the chooks, 16 origins for NSW and represented Australia 27 times.
He was named Dally M Second Rower in 2013.
After a career of putting his body on the line, Cordner had to put his heath first and announced his retirement last year due to a number of concussions.
His fellow second rower in this team was another workhorse, and someone who seemed to always forget to tie his shorts up properly.
Hindmarsh debuted in 1998 for the Parramatta Eels and played 330 games for his beloved blue and gold. He wore his heart on his sleeve every time he ran on to the field.
He played for NSW in 17 Origins and represented Australia on 28 occasions. He also won the Dally M Second Rower of the Year Award and the Provan Summons medal 5 times each.
While a premiership eluded him (as he is constantly reminded) he did get to kick his only ever goal during his last ever NRL match. So, you know, same same.
Lock - Paul Gallen
Love him or hate him, no one can deny the player Gallen was.
Debuting in 2001 for Cronulla, he remained at the club for his entire 19-year career.
Tough as nails, Gallen would leave it all out on the field every game.
He played 348 games for the Sharks and captained them to their maiden premiership in 2016.
He represented NSW 24 times and Australia 43 times.
He won Dally M Lock of the Year an RLIF lock of the Year 3 times and was awarded the Wally Lewis Medal in 2014.
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