Every year for the last 11 years the National Rugby League (the organising body of Australia’s professional rugby league competition) has propagated racism with its Indigenous All Stars match. The match usually played before the start of the regular season, pits the best aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander players against an opposition team which this year is made up of people who identify as NZ maori.
In the early years of this racist football fixture the aboriginal team faced off against a team of All Stars from all around the world. That concept was eventually fazed out as the World All Stars team was often cast as unmotivated and disinterested. That fact alone highlights the inherent racism involved in the match, and it also highlights the facade of government slogans promoted by public broadcaster SBS that, “it’s our differences that make us the same.”
Now and since 2019 we have had one team full of players that identify as aboriginal/Torres Strait Islanders and another that identifies as NZ maori. This is said by the NRL as celebrating the contribution of indigenous people to the game of rugby league. It doesn’t occur to the NRL that the act of picking a team of seventeen-odd rugby league players with the condition that they’re all of the same race is actually racist? This is despite all the virtue signalling from the organisation that they are about inclusion and diversity.
But it’s with this special category of exemption that the NRL has built for itself – with the approval of federal and state governments (or else the match would have been slurred for the racist exercise that it is), that Big Kooka has put together his subjective collection of the best white Australian rugby league players of the last 40 years.
Unfortunately this group of players won’t be able to play a match in front of admiring fans or get together with their white brothers, as Blake Ferguson bragged of the Indigenous All Stars’ opportunity. All these men can do is tell their friends and family that an anonymous blogger recognised them as one of the best rugby league players of their ethnicity.
- Darren Lockyer – The Queensland born fullback is also recognised as one of the best five-eighths in the last 40 years. Lockyer – who has the surname of one of Australia’s early explorers Edmund Lockyer – was inducted into the rugby league Hall Of Fame after retirement. It was recognition for his 472 first class matches including 67 matches for Australia and 38 for Queensland. Lockyer was a prolific try-scorer but Big Kooka always questioned his defensive abilities.
- Rod Wishart – This product of the New South Wales south coast was a bundle of muscle that would often run straight over the top of his opposition, rather than run around them like conventional rugby league wingers. Wishart grew up in Gerringong south of Wollongong so when he was given an opportunity to play for his local first grade club the Illawarra Steelers he jumped at the chance. The stocky winger played 22 times for NSW and 17 times for Australia. Sadly his club the Steelers don’t exist in their previous first grade sense, having been virtually swallowed up in the unfair merger between themselves and the St.George Dragons. But Wishart will always be the record holder for top try-scorer at the Steelers with 68 tries.
- Matt Gidley – The tall three-quarter was a pioneer of the flick pass, often drawing in extra defenders with his size before squeezing out a deft flick pass to his winger. He played 17 times for Australia and 11 times for NSW. Gidley was one of those centres that was difficult to put down in a ball and all tackle, so creating an overlap was almost a cliche and he was a huge part of the premiership winning Newcastle Knights team that crashed Parramatta in the Grand Final of 2001.
- Brad Fittler – Freddy – as he was affectionately known – burst not the scene as dazzling, side stepping machine at Penrith. Fittler was high school student when he made his first grade debut with the Panthers and was instrumental in the club’s first ever Premiership win in 1991. Fittler went on to play for the cashed up Eastern Suburbs Roosters for 9 seasons from 1996 to 2004. He starred in the Roosters’ Grand Final win of 200? when the Bondi club defeated the Auckland Warriors. He played 31 times for NSW and a total of 62 times for Australia, many of his Aussie caps were tour matches from the old Ashes Tours that used to be a part of Australia v Great Britain Test Series’. In his early career Fittler had a sad knack of disappearing in matches only to reappear at the most opportune times giving Big Kooka the impression he was lazy. But the final 3-4 years of Fittler’s career were his most consistent. So often when the five-eighth took on the defence within ten metres of the line he would simply put on the faintest of shimmies and crash through to the try-line with his bulky but mobile frame.
- Andrew Ettingshausen – E.T. was one of rugby league’s original pin-up boys. The exciting three-quarter was equally as dangerous at centre or wing, and it was his willingness to strengthen his defence that made him an Australian team regular. Ettingshausen is also a Hall Of Famer playing 30 times for NSW and 44 times for Australia. Just like Fittler E.T. played in two Ashes tours. The Cronulla Sharks stalwart played 485 first class matches with 257 tries to his name. Despite never winning a premiership Ettinghausen made a huge mark on the game, with his speed, athleticism, good looks and his consistency – the latter being one of those typical traits of successful white Australians.
- Wally Lewis – King Wally was simply the best. Lewis was Queensland’s Mister Perfect. He was picked as a lock in Queensland’s first State Of Origin team he went on to completely dominate the annual series. He played 31 Origin matches, winning Man Of The Match 8 times. Lewis was an onfield General and big game player. Using his brilliant tactical kicking game he turned many a match and his tiny sidekick Allan Langer was the perfect foil in the second half of his Queensland Origin career. The King played 55 times for Australia and one of his most memorable moments was his bone crushing tackle on NZ fullback Darrel Williams (link to video here. Big hit at 3.50) Lewis could do it all, he was never going to score a length of the field try, but he had enough speed off the mark to make him dangerous with the ball under his arm and he would have set records for try assists too. But the King’s bravery – another trait of great whites – was his greatest asset. He was the type of player whom as an opponent you should not antagonise. Cheap shots and late tackles against this lion, only brought out the best in him. Watch the full doco on the King below:
- Allan Langer – Alfie was renowned for his short kicking game and his almost illegal tackling technique. Often when nothing was happening for his club side the Brisbane Broncos, Langer would put an ugly looking grubber kick in just behind the defensive line, scooped it up himself and score or put a team-mate over the line instead. He was an annoying phenomenon for New South Wales, defying his diminutive size – he definitely didn’t look like a rugby league player – and adding trickery and guile to an already lethal maroons line-up. He played 37 times for Qld and made 47 appearances for Australia. One of the greatest moments of Alfie’s career was turning up for the 3rd State of Origin match in 2001, causing the childish NSW press to claim it was illegal for a player based in England (Langer was playing with Warrington in the UK) to play for Queensland. Of course the maroons won that series and Langer played like the prodigal son that he was. This Hall Of Famer’s long career included 4 premiership titles with his beloved Brisbane Broncos.
- Shane Webcke – a prop with a work ethic and an uncanny ability to provide an offload. Webcke played 24 times for Queensland, and 28 times for Australia. The Leyburn, Queensland product played a massive 315 first class games winning 3 grand finals with the Broncos along the way. Far from being the stereotypical NRL prop forward Webcke was a true leader, speaking openly of his disgust at the way some of his fellow professionals behaved off the field. Post career, his biography ruffled so many feathers at the Broncos that he quit his assistant coaching duties at the Broncos in 2009.
- Cameron Smith – The celebrated hooker and match manipulator, Smith is considered the best hooker of all time, and possibly the greatest player of all time. Another one of those players that is annoying to be opposing, not just for his skill and work ethic, Smith is cunning too. Constantly in the ear of referees, a common label put on him by losing fans is that Smith is the 3rd referee. The 37 year old has won 5 Grand Finals with his only club Melbourne Storm, and in 2018 called an end to his representative career. Presumably to extend his club career. Smith played 42 times for Queensland has played 56 times for Australia.
- Mark Carroll – This straight forward prop rarely wavered from running straight at opponents and attempting to steam roll them with his sheer size and mobility. In a career including State Of Origin representation and Australian jerseys, Mark ‘Spud’ Carroll played with three NRL clubs. Early and almost forgotten years with Penrith, South Sydney 1990-93 and Manly from 1994-97 before returning from England for a season with South Sydney in 1999. Carroll’s career was illustrated by high speed collisions and unsurprisingly he went into boxing post-rugby league. Carroll won his only premiership with Manly in 1996 when the Sea Eagles crushed perennial chokers the St.George Dragons.
- Paul Harragon – The Chief was another typically tough second rower from the Hunter/Newcastle region of New South Wales. Harragon was surprisingly mobile for a man of his large stature, he played for Australia 17 times and lined up for NSW on 20 occasions. But Paul ‘the Chief’ Harragon’s footy career is most famous for his rivalry with Mark Carroll. The pair’s head on collisions were regularly used for promoting the sport and it also helped to build club rivalry between Newcastle & Manly which had its ultimate battlefield in the 1997 Grand Final cliffhanger. Harragon was part of the first ever premiership winning Newcastle Knights team. Post rugby league the Chief made a media career appearing on the Footy Show and in typical ‘White Australian’ style took the mickey out of himself at every opportunity.
- Nathan Hindmarsh – When Hindmarsh was playing first grade rugby league for the Parramatta Eels, you knew what you were going to get from him. If there was an image befitting the term workaholic it would display the energetic, mobile figure of Nathan Hindmarsh. Possessed of uncanny speed like many of his counterparts in the ‘Great White Rugby League Select Seventeen‘, Hindmarsh played 330 first grade matches also representing NSW 17 times and Australia 23 times. ‘Hindy’ would often be that guy chasing down an opposing centre of winger, and somehow managing to pull off a try-saving tackle. An immensely team oriented and unselfish player the second-rower never got his treasured Grand Final victory, losing to Newcastle in 2001 and Melbourne in 2009. Another White Australian capable of laughing at himself Hindmarsh has made a post NRL career ‘taking the piss’ appearing next to Brain Fletcher and constantly highlighting his lack of a Grand Final winner’s ring. Hindmarsh has produced four sons with larrikin names: Archie, Buster, Rowdie and Dodge.
- Bradley Clyde – The original mobile lock from the 1990s when the game of rugby league was at its aesthetic peak, Clyde was another White Australian with an unbelievable work rate. The Canberra lock also had a reputation for offloading in the tackle, which was an integral part of the entertaining and successful Canberra Raiders line-up of the early 1990s. Clyde won three premiership titles with the Raiders, 1989, 1990 and 1994. He missed the 1990 Grand Final due to injury but his contribution can’t be denied. Unfortunately Clyde’s career was stymied by injury but he set a template for the ideal lock/second rower for the future of rugby league.
Danny Buderus – raised in the Hunter, NSW township of Taree, Buderus was initially recruited to the Newcastle Knights as a half-back. He was soon moulded into a hooker and he never disappointed the rabid Newcastle rugby league fans with his speed out of dummy-half and tackling ability. Buderus played 21 times for NSW and 26 times for Australia. He had a short stint in England before returning to Australia after arrogant coach Brain Smith departed the Knights. Buderus is admired just as much off the field as on with for his traditional White Australian values of humility, mateship and community spirit.
Craig Fitzgibbon – The second rower/lock that was a more than capable goal-kicker was indispensable at the Easts Roosters – not forgetting his first two years in first grade at Illawarra and St.George Illawarra. Fitzgibbon was part of the Roosters’ Grand Final winning team in 2002 and earned the Man Of The Match award in that fixture. A typically mobile ‘White Australian’ back-rower Fitzgibbon appeared 11 times for NSW and 19 times for Australia.
Kurt Gidley – Another product of the Hunter region, Gidley was a bundle of energy and had the versatility to play anywhere in the backline. Blessed with speed off the mark he was lethal around the ruck playing off the interchange bench in may representative matches. Gidley racked up 12 NSW appearances and 12 appearances for Australia. Though he played around the halves at times, he was not in the mould of an organising half, Gidley’s edge was his energy and work-rate.
Glenn Lazarus – The threatening prop was an ever-present in representative teams throughout the 1990s and also took out 5 premiership winners rings at three clubs. Lazarus was originally part of the dominant Canberra Raiders team of the early 90s before moving to the Brisbane Broncos and bringing premiership glory to the Queensland club. He ended his career at Melbourne where in 1999 he won his fifth Grand Final. He played 22 times for NSW and 43 times for Australia. The importance of a great prop-forward is often forgotten in pub-talk about footy but Lazarus’ ability to bring relentless momentum to his teams is the perfect illustration of the purpose of big prop forwards.
As most people who followed rugby league over the last 40 years will likely ask why Andrew Johns was not included in this team, Big Kooka does not doubt Joey’s talent, but his off-field indescretions are not indicative of one who possesses the traditional ‘White Australian’ values required to make the cut in the Great White Rugby League Select Seventeen.
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