Historical greats join Lockyer, Meninga on Immortals shortlist

Steve Zemek

Rugby league pioneer Dally Messenger, record tryscorer Ken Irvine, St George legend Norm Provan and Brisbane great Darren Lockyer headline the shortlist of contenders to be inducted later this year as Immortals.

The NRL on Wednesday announced a 10-man list of those in the running to join rugby league's most-illustrious club.

Pre-World War II greats Frank Burge and Dave Brown also feature on the list along with Brian Bevan, Duncan Hall, Ron Coote and Mal Meninga.

In August, the NRL will induct up to two new Immortals to join Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier, Graeme Langlands, Johnny Raper, Wally Lewis, Arthur Beetson and Andrew Johns.

Since the first announcement of Churchill, Fulton, Gasnier and Raper as Immortals in 1981, inductions have been sporadic.

But after the NRL took over the Immortals concept following last year's closure of previous owner Rugby League Week, the governing body announced it could make regular inclusions and also consider players from past eras.

Former Broncos, Queensland and Australian skipper Lockyer had been touted as the front-runner to be the next inductee, however the NRL's decision to consider greats from bygone decades clouds the field.

Lockyer at one time held the record for most club (355) and State of Origin games (36) before being passed by former Queensland teammate Cameron Smith for both.

He still holds the record for most Australian appearances with 62.

"To be in the conversation that you might potentially be a part of that group, it's flattering, it's humbling, it's all those things," Lockyer told Fox Sports' NRL 360.

"It's pretty hard to describe."

Future Immortals? Pic: Getty

Messenger is considered one of the most-important figures in rugby league's history with his defection from rugby union in 1908 proving the catalyst for the early growth of the game.

The game's highest individual honour, the Dally M, is named after him.

Provan was an integral part of the Dragons' side who won 11-straight premierships from 1956-66, serving as player and coach.

Former North Sydney and Manly great Irvine still holds the record for most tries scored with 212 - a mark that stands despite retiring in 1973.

"The calibre of players to be shortlisted for Immortal status is quite simply incredible," NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said.

"These are unquestionably the elite rugby league players - representatives with thousands of matches between them and thousands of tries.

"And quite fittingly, we have a group which has collectively played in every single decade since rugby league was formed in Australia.

"All these players deserve their place in such an esteemed group.

"Clearly having players eligible for induction from the pre-War era has opened up the prospect of some wonderful players, and some of the game's pioneers, joining Immortal status."