With the sport of Rugby League now entering its 126th year, we wanted to reflect on some of the great memories stirred by last weekend’s 125th anniversary celebrations – and specifically the series of Legends debates that were carried on our digital channels through the week.
A distinguished panel came together to share their contrasting experiences of the game, and offer candidates to be rated as the Greatest in five categories – British Player, Overseas Player, Coach, Match and Try.
This followed a series of polls that the RFL had run through the year with a panel of 125 Super Fans.
It is fair to say that both methods of selection have provoked plenty of debate!
The Legends Panel was given additional gravitas by the inclusion of the distinguished Rugby League historian Tony Collins, the BBC’s Rugby League correspondent Dave Woods, the Leeds Rhinos legend Jamie Jones-Buchanan, and Kath Hetherington, who has been immersed in the game for more than six decades and became a trailblazing female President of the RFL in 1985.
After lively debates in each of the categories, their conclusions were as follows:
Greatest British Player – Neil Fox MBE – Rugby League’s all-time leading points-scorer, and an outstanding centre for Wakefield Trinity and Great Britain
Greatest Overseas Player – Brian Bevan – the Australian wing wizard, who scored a world record total of 796 tries, most of them for Warrington
Greatest Coach – Roy Francis – the Welshman who came north to play Wigan, then became a visionary with Hull FC and Leeds
Greatest Match – Rorke’s Drift – the Third Test of the 1914 Ashes series at the Sydney Cricket Ground, as a Northern Union team reduced to 10 players held on for a 14-6 win
Greatest Try – Wide to West – Chris Joynt’s dramatic late winner for St Helens against Bradford Bulls in an early Super League play-off
Callum Jones, the RFL’s Digital Manager, said: “Throughout the year, we’ve been determined to recognise and celebrate the wonderful history of Rugby League. Setting up our Legends Panel was a big part of that, and we are hugely grateful to our panellists for giving up their time and sharing their vast knowledge.
“As Dave Woods stressed at regular intervals, everybody has their own opinions, and there are no right answers. But we hope Rugby League supporters will have enjoyed listening to the debates, and the chance to wallow in some nostalgia – as well as to salute some true greats of the game.
“We were especially grateful to Tony Collins, for allowing us to serialise some extracts of his new book, ‘Rugby League: A People’s History’, which you can buy now here."