Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater caught up in NRL debate over Immortal 'farce'

The two modern day greats can be considered for the next NRL Immortal group.

Johnathan Thurston reacting during State of Origin and Cameron Thurston carrying Billy Slater.
Modern day greats Johnathan Thurston (pictured left) and Billy Slater (pictured right) have been deemed eligible for consideration in the next NRL Immortal group, sparking a huge debate. (Getty Images)

The NRL world has erupted in debate over the code's next Immortal after both Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater have been deemed eligible for consideration having been retired for five years. Joining the elite group of stars that have played Rugby League is one of the highest individual honours a player can receive after their career.

NRL fans always enter a fierce debate on who should be the next inducted into the elite group with a number of legends such as Brett Kenny, Glen Lazarus and Ron Coote waiting their turn. Many believe modern day greats such as Darren Lockyer and Brad Fittler should be among the names considered.

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This week it has been revealed the NRL put together sub-committee to determine the next legends to enter the elite group. And it just so happens the announcement comes five years after Maroons legends Thurston and Slater retired from the NRL.

This means they are eligible to be selected to become an NRL Immortal. This will only make the debate more fierce between diehard fans with Thurston and Slater representing the best players from the modern era.

Thurston won the Dally M award an equal-most four times and stands as the Kangaroos' highest-ever point scorer. The halfback was part of the Maroons' State of Origin dynasty - having played from 2005-2017 - and dominated the arena in an unprecedented fashion alongside Slater and Cameron Smith.

Slater is considered by many as the best fullback to ever play the game. The Melbourne Storm No.1 was dominant at club level having scored 190 tries in 323 games. He also won two Wally Lewis medals in the State of Origin arena and finished with two premierships (two NRL premierships stripped after the Melbourne Storm scandal). Another modern day great who will be in the conversation is Smith, but the No.9 hasn't been retired for five years to be eligible for the current nomination.

Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater embrace.
Johnathan Thurston (pictured left) and Billy Slater (pictured right) are eligible to be considered in the next group of NRL Immortals having been retired for five years, while Cameron Smith (pictured middle) is not. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

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With the duo officially entering the esteemed group of players considered to be an NRL Immortal, fans have begun the debate. The Daily Telegraph reporter Dean Ritchie has called for Coote to be the next in line. This was backed by long-time NRL broadcaster David Morrow.

NRL commentator Andrew Voss was also firmly behind Coote becoming an Immortal. He also took a dig at the concept if modern day players jumped the queue, which could result in legends such as Coote once again left waiting. "It is time to draw a line in the sand and say the next Immortal, or Immortals, are only ones before 1990. Or 2000," he said on SEN Radio. "Once we have reached that, then we can go past 2000. We have to decide if there are any players pre-2000 that haven't been made Immortals already.

"It's a farce if they miss out this time and remain in contention next time. I think that is not treating people like Ron Coote with respect...Are there candidates there that should be considered right now. That's where we need to go...before we start speaking about Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith or Billy Slater."

Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater celebrate.
Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater will be in the future NRL Immportal conversation, but Andrew Voss believes it is too soon. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Maroons great Wendell Sailor weighed-in on the debate and called for Parramatta Eels legend Peter Sterling to be next in line. He also called for Maroons halfback Alfie Langer to join him in the extended group. Fans jumped in on the debate with the next announcement surely set to fire up the NRL community once again.

The Rugby League Week initially announced the immortals since 1981. Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier and Johnny Raper were all among the original. Only four other names were added in 37 years, until 2018. The NRL took over and added another five Immortals in 2018.

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