Mal Meninga poses for photographers after being inducted as the 13th rugby league Immortal in Sydney on Wednesday night. Picture: Brendon Thorne/AAP
Mal Meninga poses for photographers after being inducted as the 13th rugby league Immortal in Sydney on Wednesday night. Picture: Brendon Thorne/AAP

NRL gets a big golden tick for Immortals night

IF GOLD medals were bestowed on awards nights, one would now be sitting in the NRL trophy cabinet as recognition of Wednesday night's Immortals/Hall of Fame induction event.

The black-tie function, telecast live on Fox, was all class. And the nominees and award recipients, without exception, spoke with dignity, passion and humility.

As a former Immortals judge and someone who has covered the game for almost four decades, I felt extremely proud of "my" game. And believe me, that sense of pride has not always bubbled.

But I didn't feel pride just at the slick, professional presentation of the evening or the classy repartee of the honoured guests.

I was proud the selection panel, finally, went back to the past and three virtual pioneers of the game were Immortalised. Previously, as members of the voting panel, we were told we could not consider those we had not seen play. And that cut-off period was pre-World War II.

Thankfully - and sensibly - the NRL has seen the folly of not recognising those who helped coin the phrase "the greatest game of all".

The late, great Dally Messenger has finally received his due.
The late, great Dally Messenger has finally received his due.

That the legendary Dally Messenger has at last been acknowledged as an Immortal of the game, along with the somewhat fabled Dave Brown and Frank Burge, is a giant tick for the current administration.

But the great thrill for me was the announcement of Norm Provan and Mal Meninga as the 12th and 13th Immortals.

Of my 3, 2, 1 votes for the eighth Immortal in 2012, they were my top-two preferences, in that order.

And while not keen to vent an "about time" expression, that is certainly the case with Big Norm. He is battling health issues, including dementia, and if his outstanding deeds were ever to be immortalised, now was the time.

Norm was unable to make the trip from the Sunshine Coast to Sydney for the function, or watch the live telecast. But yesterday morning, when his wife Lindy told him of the honour bestowed, a grin covered his widely recognised face.

Meninga was just as worthy. Here is a man who was once a follower and, suddenly, the penny dropped. He has become one of the great leaders of our game - in fact, it's arguable there is no more influential leader now than Big Mal.

Immortals, indisputably.



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